Monday, October 11, 2010

German Chocolate Cake (My 26th Birthday)

Today is my birthday, so happy birthday to me! I had dreams of a relaxing and yet fun birthday weekend that totally flew out the window when my cat got sick, the first version of this cake broke coming out of the pan, and my computer died. How’s that for some First World problems? But after a 6 mile run at Percy Warner Park, I was feeling a lot better about life. To add to my feeling better about life, Joe gave me my present right before we left for dinner. I closed my eyes while he went to go get it, and when I opened them, this was sitting right in front of me:


I was SO surprised and had no idea that he was getting it for me for my birthday. It’s even nicer than I thought it would be, plus it matches our kitchen. If only I had had it for making this cake! Now I have to plan what the first thing I’ll make with it will be. I’m tempted to just beat some egg whites or some whipping cream without much of a plan for it, though I’m thinking pizza dough or even just chocolate chip cookies might be the more logical plan.


German chocolate cake and I go way back. Growing up in Dallas, there was a phenomenal bakery up the road from our house called Stein’s, and they had the best German chocolate cake and the best cheese pockets. When I was in boarding school in Michigan, my dad brought up a Stein’s German chocolate cake for my birthday which happened to fall on Parents’ Weekend, maneuvering airport security and flying with said cake.

With no Stein’s German chocolate cake in my near future, I attempted to make my own, trust David Lebovitz to guide me. Of course, I changed a few things, namely omitting the chocolate ganache frosting. Stein’s cake was just the cake and the filling. Most other German chocolate cakes are far too chocolate-y for my taste. That might be a heresy in some circles, but for me, there IS such a thing as too much chocolate. I was also afraid to cut the layers in half, so it’s just a two-layer cake.

The final verdict: this was a pretty good substitute. The Stein’s version has more of a milk chocolate color and taste to the cake, but the texture was very similar. In fact, this was the best textured cake I’ve ever made, in my opinion. The filling was spot on. Taking the time to toast the pecans and coconut makes a world of difference. Like Annie, I also had to add more coconut to the filling to get it to thicken to the right consistency. It might not be Stein’s, but it was extremely delicious.


German Chocolate Cake
source: David Lebovitz via Annie’s Eats

For the cake:
2 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 tbsp. water
4 large eggs, separated
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar, divided
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the rum syrup:
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
2 tbsp. dark rum

For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
6 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
½ tsp.  salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 1/3 cups sweetened coconut, toasted

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.  Butter and flour the sides of the pans; set aside.

Using a double boiler or the microwave, melt the bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate with the water, stirring until smooth.  Set aside, letting the mixture cool to room temperature.

In a clean, dry bowl beat the egg whites on high speed with a handheld mixer until they form soft droopy peaks.  Slowly add ¼ cup of the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.  Transfer the egg whites to a separate bowl and return the mixer bowl to the mixer base.

In another bowl, combine the butter with 1¼ cups of the sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Beat in the melted chocolate.  Mix in the egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture on low speed just until incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk and vanilla extract until combined.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold about a third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it.  Then fold in the remaining egg whites just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the cake pans for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cakes are cooling, make the rum syrup.  Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and heat until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in the rum.

To make the filling, combine the cream, sugar and egg yolks in a medium saucepan.  Put the butter, pecans and coconut in a mixing bowl; set aside.  Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon (170-175° F.)  Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted.  Cool completely to room temperature.  The mixture will thicken as it cools.

To assemble the cake, cut the two cake layers in half horizontally to yield four layers.  Set the first layer on a cake circle, cut side up.  Brush well with the rum syrup.  Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach the edges.  Set another cake layer on top of the filling.  Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top.