Monday, November 13, 2017

German Chocolate Cake


Once in a while, a writer gets backed into a corner.

On one hand, you have an editor who has cleared her calendar to spend time reading your next great masterpiece, and expects the manuscript in her email inbox on a certain date.

On the other hand, you actually have a life outside of writing. And that life includes family birthdays!

I first posted this recipe (which I still love, by the way) four years ago. Since then our two oldest children have gotten married, and they chose well. The new members of the family have a July birthday and a November birthday.

Why is this important? Just keep reading.

Meanwhile, I'll be working on my story....

German Chocolate Cake

Jan, the Mid-Westerner, here, with another birthday cake. At our house, we have birthdays in three months of the year: May, July and November. And today is my husband's birthday!

The bison at Custer State Park were enjoying the sunshine on Saturday.

We celebrated last night, since everyone was going to be at home.

I'm serious. You try getting six adults together when four of them either work two jobs or work plus go to school full time. We're rarely all in the house at the same time.

But Sunday night, after church, we're usually all here.

A Pronghorn buck - the ladies were on the other side of the hill.

Now, my husband's favorite cake is German Chocolate. He loves the blend of chocolate and coconut...and I've found the perfect recipe. I've made it every year for the last five or six years.

The original recipe is from the 1980 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. My copy was a bridal shower gift from a co-worker, and every time I read the inscription I think of her.

"Many happy years of cooking and eating for both of you! Clara 5/9/82"

Do you inscribe books you give as gifts?

Anyway, I've tweeked this recipe, like I do most of the ones that have been around for a few years, and here's the current version:

German Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup Ghiradelli 60% Cocoa Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup water

1 2/3 cup cake flour (Swan's Down, Wondra or Soft as Silk)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs, separated
2/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk

Coconut Frosting - recipe follows

Making a cake from scratch is a worthwhile skill to learn. It isn't hard, but it does take time and care.

The results, however, are worth every minute you spend :)

If you've ever watched a cooking show on television, you know how the cooks always have their ingredients pre-measured before they start cooking. Don't they make it look easy?

Well, we're going to do the same thing - it's prep time!

Let's take this step-by-step:

1) Bring the butter to room temperature in the mixing bowl.

2) Melt the chocolate with 1/3 cup water - I use the microwave. Thirty seconds is usually enough. Stir until it's nice and smooth.

3) Measure the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium size bowl. Stir to combine.

4) If you don't have buttermilk, make sour milk by combining 1 teaspoon lemon juice with your 2/3 cup milk. Let sit for five minutes.

5) Prepare your cake pans. I grease them with coconut oil, then lay a piece of parchment paper on the bottom.

6) Separate your 3 eggs. Put the yolks in a small dish, and reserve the whites.

7)Preheat your oven to 350°.

Now that the preliminaries are done, it's time to start making the cake.
Cream the butter for 30 seconds, and then gradually add the sugar and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition.
Beat in the melted chocolate.
Add the dry ingredients and the milk alternately, about 1/3 of each at a time, beating well after each addition.

Now comes the part that makes a lot more dishes to wash.... You need to beat the egg whites.

In case you don't know this, egg whites and fat of any kind don't mix, so you need to use clean beaters and a clean bowl to beat them.

Transfer you cake batter to a large bowl, and wash your mixer's bowl and beaters.
(The reason my mixer looks so strange is because it's a Bosch. Don't laugh. I can make six loaves of bread at a time with this puppy! He's a workhorse. Makes great smoothies, too, with his blender attachment.)

Now that your mixer is clean, beat those egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Fold the egg whites into your cake batter, and then pour the batter into the pans.

Bake in a 350° oven for 30-35 minutes.

If you want a refresher on the method for making a cake from scratch, there's another version - a different birthday and a different cake - here.

After the cake is baked, and while it's cooling, it's time to make the frosting. This is what makes this a German Chocolate Cake!

Coconut-Pecan Frosting
or, if you don't have Pecans - just Coconut Frosting

1 egg
2/3 cup evaporated milk (a 5 1/3-ounce can)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
dash salt
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a saucepan, beat the egg slightly. Add the milk, sugar, butter and salt. Over medium-low heat, stir until the butter is melted. Cook and stir for twelve minutes more, or until the frosting is thickened and bubbly. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Cool thoroughly.

This is enough frosting for the tops of two 9-inch layers, or one 9"x13" pan.

We've all seen commercial German Chocolate Cakes with rich, brown frosting. Well, mine always turns out this lovely yellow color. Maybe I could add food coloring, or cook it differently so the sugar browns somewhat...but it tastes so good, I hate to mess with it.

Frost the top of one cake layer, put the second layer on and use the rest of the frosting on it. Don't frost the sides of the cake - German Chocolate Cakes don't have frosting on the side.

But, you know, this cake is so rich, you won't miss that extra frosting at all.

And it's so tasty, I wasn't able to get a picture without parts missing!

Another favorite thing for my husband on his birthday is going up into the Hills. Saturday was the perfect day. We drove up on the Iron Mountain Road and then down to the prairies in Custer State Park. 

Every corner we turn, we just say, "I love living here!"

Mt. Rushmore from an angle you don't often see.

Harney Peak, with the Black Elk Wilderness in the foreground.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Back to 2017!

I'm sorry to say that I didn't make hubby's favorite cake for his birthday this year. Yes, the pending deadline was part of the reason, but the biggest reason is that my oven isn't working.

What will I do for Thanksgiving? Call the repairman, of course! But he can't come until after I've turned in this book.

Yes, I'm running that close!

But while you're here, let's talk! What is your favorite kind of birthday cake?


  1. Oh man... You know I use this frosting on my oatmeal cake, and I remember trying the homemade German Chocolate cake and it was sooooo good, Jan! But it was only ME eating it...

    Well, you know the end of that story. Zippers won't close!!!!

    But I'll testify to its deliciousness!

    Busyness of deadlines, stories, and a broken stove... mine went down last November and it was maddening... because I had kid projects and cooking to do, just like you. But the appliance place sent Yuri to fix it, and Yuri is about the the smartest appliance repairman ever. And he ordered the part and had it back in time to get us up and running.

    Yuri is from Romania and when he's here we talk faith and love and hope... and if my appliances (all fairly new) never broke down, I would have never gotten to know Yuri! So that's the blessing of the down time, a new friend.

    Jan, I'm praying for that deadline as I chug through revisions here... and I know the book will be beautiful.

    1. Send Yuri my way! I'll feed him!

      And yes, I love this story. I don't often say that this close to the deadline when I've been eating, sleeping, and living the book for weeks, but it has such potential!

      I'm already anxious to see my editor's revision notes - that's the step that makes a story shine, isn't it?

  2. Replies
    1. Yum to both! And of course, they have to be homemade.

  3. Praying deadline blessings upon you! As to birthday varies but we often choose a pie over a cake. Strawberry is my daughter's go-to. Apple would be mine (with a generous dollop of cream -- very Irish dontchyaknow?)

    1. My family teases each other about having pie instead of birthday cake. But if it's Thanksgiving...or any other time...pie is on the menu.

      And yes! Apple pie with cream! Not whipped cream, not ice cream, but thick, sweet cream. (I have a touch of the Irish in me, too!)

  4. My family leans toward pies. My husband gets a homemade lemon meringue pie for his birthday every year while my girls want cheesecake and my son wants ice cream. But your recipe sounds amazing and can't wait to try it!

    1. With my oven troubles, we ended up with a cheesecake from the store this year for hubby's birthday. It's good, too, but I missed the traditional German Chocolate Cake!

      You'll have to try this LeAnne - it's delicious!

  5. Jan I just made a german chocolate banana cake. I had some bananas to use and a cake mix that needed to be used so I went to the power of google to find what I needed! Not a large fan of the frosting myself, but when I got the mix I got the frosting at someone else's request. ;) Maybe some of the cake will show up at your door.

  6. I missed yesterday!! I'm glad I came back. This cake looks amazing, Jan! Thanks so much for sharing.