Not Your Grandma's German Chocolate Cake

16 servings
40 min

Close your eyes if you’re only here for the health food. But don’t forget to follow me for a little bit of everything. This is quite possibly one of the most “fun” cakes in my repertoire, and the reasons are all gleaming back at you 🤩It began by me baking a birthday cake every year for my Grandpa—his favorite? German Chocolate Cake, a very traditional and one might say “classic” cake. I, on the other hand, looked for a way every year to give his traditional cake an artistic glow-up. This is the first year with my Grandpa gone 😌, but I thought of him when I baked this up for my uncle, who's visiting from out of town. A big thank-you to @toriavey for the cake recipe (linked in bio). If you’re used to the normal boxed German chocolate cake recipe, then you’re in for a treat with this one. The result is a fudge, moist cake, with a fabulous depth of flavor. The homemade coconut frosting is 😚😚😚 (is that a word?), and the chocolate buttercream swirls not only up the photogenic value, but offset the sweetness of the frosting perfectly.

Not Your Grandma's German Chocolate Cake

Recipe details

  • 16  servings
  • Prep time: 10 Minutes Cook time: 30 Minutes Total time: 40 min
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Ingredients

German Chocolate Ingredients

  • 4 oz sweet (German) chocolate, coarsely chopped 115 grams
  • 1/2 cup boiling water or brewed coffee 4.15 ounces/120 grams
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Batter Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour or 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 9 ounces/250 grams
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter or vegetable shortening, softened (65 to 67°F) 2 sticks/8 ounces/225 grams
  • 2 cups granulated sugar or 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup packed light brown sugar (14 ounces/400 grams)
  • 4 large egg yolks ¼ cup + 2 teaspoons/2.5 ounces/75 grams
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice plus milk to equal 1 cup) 8.25 ounces/240 grams
  • 4 large egg whites ½ cup/4.25 ounces/120 grams

Coconut-Pecan Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 cup evaporated milk or heavy cream 8.5 ounces/245 grams
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 7 ounces/200 grams
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter 1 stick/4 ounces/115 grams
  • 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten 3½ tablespoons/2 ounces/60 grams
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups grated coconut 3.5 ounces/100 grams
  • 1 cup pecans, lightly toasted and finely chopped 4 ounces/115 grams

Mocha Buttercream Ingredients

  • 3/4 C butter
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 3/8 C cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee
  • pinch of salt

Chocolate Drip Ganache Ingredients

  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1 tsp instant coffee

Instructions

To prepare the German chocolate

Place the chocolate in a medium bowl, pour the boiling water over top, and stir until melted. Let cool. Stir in the vanilla.

To make the batter

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (325°F for a convection oven). Grease three 9- by 1½-inch round cake pans, two 8-inch by 2-inch square pans, or one 13- by 9-inch pan, line with parchment paper or waxed paper, and grease again.Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Increase the speed to medium, gradually add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
Stir in the chocolate.
Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk (4 portions for the flour; 3 portions for the milk) beginning and ending with the flour, until smooth. The batter will be rather thick.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites on low until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until stiff but not dry, 5 to 8 minutes.
Fold one fourth of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites.
Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly touched, 30 to 35 minutes for 9-inch rounds; 45 to 50 minutes for the 8-inch squares; and 45 to 50 minutes for a 13- by 9-inch.
Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes to wire racks and let cool completely, at least 1½ hours. The cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.

To make the coconut frosting

In a medium saucepan, cook the milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks, and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbly and thickened or 170°F, about 12 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to spread, about 30 minutes.

To make the mocha buttercream

Whip softened butter until it is light and fluffy.
Add remaining ingredients and beat until it lightens from a dark brown to a medium brown and is fluffy.

To make the chocolate drip ganache

Heat all ingredients in glass bowl, either in microwave in 30-second increments, or over double boiler. Stir consistently until chocolate begins to melt. Remove from heat and whisk until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth and glossy. If ganache is too thick, add melted butter gradually until it reaches a "dripable" consistency.

To assemble

Place a cake layer on a serving plate, spread the top with one third of the frosting. Arrange a second cake layer on top, spread with one half of the remaining frosting, top with the remaining cake layer, and spread the remaining frosting on top. Or for a sheet cake, spread the frosting over the top and sides; or cut the cake lengthwise into thirds and layer. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Do not freeze.

Toppings

I use a different variety of toppings each time, but they included:
Glazed pecans
Various malt balls (from my local bulk food marketplace)
Chocolate-covered pretzels
Chocolate meringues (Trader Joe's)
After assembling them on top of the cake, I use the remaining Mocha buttercream to pipe swirls in "random" places around the cake, as well as wherever there are gaps/toppings need a little extra "glue".

Tips

  • Yields one 9-inch round 3-layer, 8-inch square 2-layer, or 13- by 9-inch sheet cake, 12 to 16 servings
  • You will also need: Non-stick cooking spray, three 9- by 1½-inch round cake pans, two 8-inch by 2-inch square pans, or one 13- by 9-inch pan, parchment or wax paper, sifter, mixing bowls, hand mixer, medium saucepan

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