German Chocolate Cake, an American classic, popularized in the heart of Texas, may not win any beauty contests (at least not my cake 😉 ) but this moist, tender chocolate cake, filled and capped with thick, sweet Coconut Pecan Icing is a treat for all to behold. Here is my take on this beloved cake with a couple of my own twists which make it easier and tastier than ever before!German Chocolate Cake typically gets it chocolate flavor from German’s sweet chocolate which runs a tad bit sweeter than semisweet chocolate. In this cake I decided to use a nice milky chocolate with a rich flavor profile (Luker Cacao Claro de Luna 37% ). If you cannot get your hands on a high quality milk chocolate I would opt for semisweet. I also have included natural cocoa powder to boost the mild chocolate notes without overwhelming delicate flavor. Adding cocoa powder also provides extra structural support to this typically fragile cake.
In the original German Chocolate Cake recipe the eggs were separated and the whites were beaten and folded in separately from the yolks. I am not a fan of beating egg whites for cakes for two reasons.
- It’s a pain. You have to pull out a new mixing bowl or rewash the one you are working in, which is a hassle. And the extra step adds time to the overall process.
- It is actually bad for cake structure. In previous experiments I have done, the cakes which had their whites beaten and folded in were more dense than the ones mixed in whole. The reason for this is that beating egg whites causes the egg proteins to denature or unfold and then crosslink with other neighboring proteins. This is akin to what happens when eggs are cooked. If you beat your egg whites ahead your are essentially precooking them and you lose some of the structure they would have conveyed as they unfolded and linked in the baking process.
So, I mixed the whole eggs into the butter and sugar in the traditional way rather than separating and folding in the beaten whites.
Instead of using buttermilk, which is found in the original recipe, I chose to use coconut milk which adds moistness and marries with the coconut in the icing.
I also switched from cake flour to all-purpose flour to add a bit of protein to boost the stability of the cake. The cocoa powder adds enough of a starchy element that the cake stays tender and soft without the cake flour.
In the Coconut Pecan Icing I chose to use unsweetened coconut because it gave me a little more control over the sweetness of the icing and I prefer the finer texture of the desiccated coconut. This is not necessary though and you can easily use the typical (and less expensive and easier to find) sweetened flaked coconut.
This was my children’s grandfather’s birthday cake and since grandpa cut the cake it got a little mangled but I wanted you to see how light and moist the crumb of this cake is. Delicious! This is a wonderful all-around mild chocolate so don’t relegate it to only use with Coconut Pecan Icing. It would be wonderful for all manner of chocolate cake needs. Try out this beautifully textured cake.
- 4 ounces (114 grams) high quality milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate*
- 1 ounce (28 grams) natural cocoa powder- 1/3 cup (I like Scharffen Berger or Hershey’s)*
- 4 ounces (120 milliliters) boiling water- ½ cup
- 8 ounces (240 milliliters) coconut milk- 1 cup
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) vanilla extract
- 8 ounces (228 grams) unsalted butter, softened- 1 cup
- 14 ounces (396 grams) granulated sugar- 2 cups
- 4 large eggs
- 8 ounces (227 grams) all-purpose/plain flour
- ½ teaspoon (3 milliliters) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon (4 milliliters) salt
- 8 ounces (240 milliliters) heavy whipping cream- 1 cup
- 10 ½ ounces (298 grams) granulated sugar- 1 ½ cups
- 4 large egg yolks
- 4 ounces (113 grams) unsalted butter- ½ cup
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) vanilla extract
- 6 ounces (170 grams) unsweetened desiccated coconut- 1 ½ cups*
- 4 ½ ounces (128 grams) pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped- 1 ¼ cups
- Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C). Spray three 8-inch round cake pans with Baker’s Joy or grease and flour.
- In a medium bowl combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and boiling water and carefully whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the coconut milk and vanilla until fully incorporated. Set aside to cool to room temperature
- In a mixer bowl beat the butter and sugar for 2 minutes on medium-high power until light and fluffy; add the eggs one at a time with the mixer on medium until they are incorporated. Sprinkle in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and mix to just moisten, about 15 seconds. With the mixer on low speed, gradually pour in the chocolate mixture. Once it is all added, beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Scrape the bottom of the bowl and beat for 30 seconds more until smooth.
- Pour into cake pans and bake for 28-32 minutes. Do not under bake or this rich cake will be over-moist and unstable. The cake should begin to settle back on itself on the edges (about 2-3 minutes beyond when a toothpick comes out clean). Let cool in pans for 10 minutes and then turn out to a cooling rack to cool completely or wrap in plastic wrap until needed. Top and fill with Coconut Pecan Icing or other icing and filling. Enjoy!
- *Much of the character of this cake depends on the type of chocolate and cocoa powder that you use; for a mild milk chocolate flavor use milk chocolate and natural cocoa. For a deeper, darker take on this cake use a bittersweet or dark chocolate and use Dutch processed cocoa powder.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cream, sugar, egg yolks; add the butter and salt and heat over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is bubbly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 more minutes. Stir in the coconut and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla and pecans. Cool for 1 hour before filling and topping the cake. The mixture will thicken as it cools and the coconut absorbs moisture.
- *If you cannot find desiccated coconut or don’t care to use it, you can use sweetened flaked coconut. Remove ¼ cup of sugar is using sweetened coconut.