Wednesday, June 18, 2008

German Chocolate Cake

I have actually made and blogged about this cake once before -- but the first time I made the recipe as written, using almonds, and this time I made it the more traditional way using pecans. I have to say, I like the pecans better. Don't get me wrong, the cake is excellent either way, but pecans are one of my favorite nuts, and the coconut/pecan combination is one that I have a hard time resisting.

The first time I made it I blogged that it took at least 20 minutes for the custard-like frosting to come together. This time it came together in 10 minutes, just like the recipe said it would. I have no idea what happened the first time, but I'm glad it didn't happen this time. The consistency of the cake batter was just as mousse-like as I remembered and happily, the flavor was also just as rich and dense and sweet as you could possibly want from a cake.

Actually, the only "complaint" that I have about this cake is that it's just not that attractive. The frosting doesn't exactly spread you can really only put it on the tops of the cake, leaving gloppy, goopy, pieces hanging off the sides. I felt that way the first time I made it, and now I feel like that again. Actually, I'm tempted to just use the coconut pecan custard as filling, and cover the whole thing with chocolate ganache or frosting to make it pretty. The probably with that of course is that the balance of flavors will be a bit off -- more chocolate than coconut/pecan goodness.

When I made it this time, I was actually making it to bring to work as a going away cake. I knew I wouldn't get a chance to take pictures of the cut cake, and that Chris would likely miss out, so instead of making 3 9-inch cake layers, I made 3 8-inch layers and 2 4-inch layers so that Chris and I could enjoy a little mini-cake of our own. For... um... testing... yeah... testing... :)


8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Custard Icing
1 1/2 cups chopped, toasted pecans
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups sweetened cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350. Line the bottom of three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper rounds, grease with butter, and dust with flour.

Place the chocolate in a small saucepan, pour the boiling water over, and stir until the chocolate has dissolved completely. If it doesn't dissolve completely place the pan on the stove top over low heat and stir until it does. Remove from the heat to cool.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks and beat on medium-high for 1 minutes. Stir the baking soda in the buttermilk until it dissolves. Add half of the buttermilk mixture alternately with the half of the flour, mixing on low speed after each addition. Repeat with the remaining buttermilk mixture and flour. Stir in the salt, chocolate mixture, and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate chips.

In a clean medium bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed, using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate batter using a large rubber spatula.

Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Stagger the cake layers on the oven racks so that no layer is directly over another. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Cool the cakes on the pans for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto racks and cool completely.

To make the icing:

Arrange the pecan slices on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast them for 3-6 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic (watch them closely they will burn quickly.) Cool the nuts completely.

Heat the milk, cream of coconut, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until the butter has completely melted. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly pour 3 tablespoons of the hot milk mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the yolk mixture, whisking briskly until the yolks have absorbed the hot liquid. (Pouring in a little of the hot liquid helps temper the eggs, which keeps them from curdling.) Slowly pour the tempered yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture still set over medium heat, whisking constantly. Continue whisking about 7 to 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens, takes on the consistency of custard, and seems thick enough to spread. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Let the icing cool for 15 minutes.

Place 1 cake layer on a serving platter and cover the top generously with frosting. Add the second and third layers, frosting the top of each. Do not frost the sides of the cake, but it's okay if some of the icing oozes out.

Wrap the cake well if you do not plan to serve it within a few hours. It can be refrigerated up to 3 days.

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