Contrary to popular belief, German chocolate cake did not originate in Germany. Its roots can be traced back to 1852 when American chocolatier, Samuel German, developed a type of sweet baking chocolate for the Baker’s Chocolate Company. The brand name of the product, Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, was named in Mr. German’s honor.
And this delicious cake, which I prefer to serve as a sheet cake, is the ultimate result of Mr. German’s hard work. (And we all thank him to this day.)
And yes, I prefer sheet cakes to layer cakes. Why you ask? Very simple. We entertain large groups of quests in our home, and sheet cakes are simply easier to build and easier to serve than a layer cake. (Since entering “the golden years”, I’ve started pulling the “I’m not getting any younger” card to give myself permission to take a few steps here and there to make life easier for myself. And one of those “steps” is to mainly serve only sheet cakes and reserve time consuming layer cakes for very special occasions.)
Now I don’t want you to think that just because this recipe doesn’t call for 3 layers, each frosted with the wonderful caramel pecan and coconut frosting we have all come to love over the years that you will somehow feel cheated. Not going to happen. You are still going to get plenty of that fantastic frosting. So no need to worry. And truly, if you just can’t abide the thought of German Chocolate cake as a sheet cake, by all means, knock yourself out and make a layer cake. (3 – 8-inch pans should work just fine.)
But whatever shape you decide upon, be it the lazy person’s way (mine) or the traditionalist’s way (someone younger with more stamina), you are going to love serving this cake to your family and friends. You know the term “oldie but goodie”, well whoever coined that phrase must have had this enduring cake in mind. Because this cake has been around since I was a kid, and as everyone knows, that was a long time ago.
Actually, the first published recipe for German’s chocolate cake appeared in the Dallas Morning Star newspaper on June 13, 1957 as their “recipe of the day”. It was created by a Texas homemaker, Mrs. George Calay. The recipe was so delicious that it quickly spread to other newspapers and cookbooks, and soon became everyone’s “special” cake for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. And just so you know, June 11th is National German Chocolate Cake Day in America. (The things you learn on this site. Amazing, huh?)
And I know, everyone already has a recipe for German Chocolate Cake. But mine is a tad different. (Now there’s a surprise I bet you hadn’t thought possible.) Chuckle chuckle!
- 4 oz. German sweet chocolate, chopped
- ½ c. water
- 1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 c. granulated sugar
- 4 eggs, room temperature, separated
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2½ c. cake flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 c. buttermilk
- 4 lg. egg yolks
- 1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
- 1½ c. granulated sugar
- ¾ c. unsalted butter
- pinch salt
- 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 T. dark rum, opt.
- 2 c. sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
- 2 c. toasted pecans, chopped
In your microwave oven, melt the chocolate with water; stir until smooth. Set aside to cool. In the bowl of your mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the chocolate mixture and vanilla. Whisk the cake flour, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter.
Spread batter evenly in a buttered and floured 9 x13-inch baking pan. Bake in a pre-heated 325 degree oven (if using a glass baking pan) or a 350 degree oven (if using a metal pan) for 35-40 or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting. When the cake is cool and the frosting is ready, carefully spread the frosting over the surface of the cake. Let sit for a few hours before cutting into desired sized pieces.
Whisk the egg yolks and evaporated milk together in a large heavy saucepan. Add the sugar, butter, and pinch of salt; cook over medium heat for about 12 minutes or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly. (170 to 180 degrees on a candy thermometer.) Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, rum, coconut, and toasted pecans. Let stand, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until cooled and the mixture is a good spreading consistency.