Cakes & Frostings · Desserts · Recipes

German Chocolate Cake (My Dad’s Birthday Request Each Year)


I am about to reveal my most treasured recipe book, a recipe book of chocolate cakes no less. I might add that cake is not usually my favorite dessert . . . But this book of chocolate cakes is amazingly delicious, decadent and absolutely foolproof. I don’t even remember where I got because I’ve had it that long. Since junior high, at least. Besides my mom and grandma teaching me the basics of baking (how to measure and add ingredients in a certain order to create the correct consistency), this book is what got me interested in making what you might call “fancy desserts.” In turn, this chocolate cake recipe book made baking my first love. 

Michele Urvater is a genius at baking a variety of cakes. Her book has all sorts of cakes and different levels of difficulty so if you’re a first time baker like I was in junior high, it isn’t totally overwhelming. Who knew I’d learn how to temper eggs to create a creamy custard-like frosting just by reading this book and fearlessly trying it out in my college years. Learning how to temper eggs allowed me to have the confidence to make homemade creme brûlée. Once I learned how to make creme brûlée, I kept it on hand in the freezer (most of my college career) so all I would have to do is thaw, add a bit of sugar on top and torch it to perfection! Yes . . . It is still my absolute favorite dessert to make! 

Growing up, my mom always decorated and made homemade cakes for our birthdays. Her tradition has made an impact on me throughout the years. For me, a homemade birthday cake is so much more special and memorable. And now my mom has passed on this cake-making tradition to me. ❤️ 🎂 

My dad requests this particular German Chocolate Cake on his birthday each year. His birthday was during planting season, so I am a bit late on posting pictures of his cake. Better late than never though. He turns 70 next year, so I might have to make more than one of these cakes if he has a few more friends and family invited to his birthday bash. That’s okay because I feel that I have this cake down to a fine art.

My dad’s birthday party at their house surrounded by their grandchildren

Check out Michele Urvater’s German Chocolate Cake  for an undeniably rich moment of chocolatey goodness that you’ll want to make again and again! Maybe I’m biased, it’s the best German Chocolate Cake I’ve ever had! (See my own recipe notes below the cake and frosting directions below.) 

Excerpted from Michele Urvater’s Chocolate Cake book: 

One of my fondest college memories is of having afternoon tea with my friend Iris. On those weekly occasions she would buy cookies or bake a German chocolate cake. 
German chocolate cake is not part of any Teutonic culinary repertoire. Rather, the cake is named after Mr. Sam German, an American who developed a bittersweet chocolate, called German’s Sweet Chocolate. This chocolate is still marketed under that name, and the recipe for the cake appears on the package. This cake became “Michele’s German Chocolate Cake” because I added espresso powder to make the layers less sugary, used unsweetened coconut milk in the cake batter, and completely changed the filling. The cake is so delicious that it has become one of the few my husband and daughter (tasting, at one point, an average often cakes a week) refused to let me give away.

Makes one 9-inch, 3-layer cake; Serves 12

CAKE

  • 4 ounces German’s Sweet Chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (15 ounces) superfine sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

FILLING

  • 1 cup packed (7.5 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 4 ounces German’s Sweet Chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) toasted pecans, finely chopped

TO MAKE THE CAKE

In a small saucepan, combine the chocolate with the milk and espresso coffee. Over low heat, bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring. Remove from the heat and transfer it to a bowl to cool to room temperature.

Position the oven racks so they are both as close to the center of the oven as possible. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter and flour three 9 x 2-inch round cake pans, tap out the excess, and line the bottoms with parchment or greased and floured waxed paper circles.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt twice, and set it aside.

With an electric mixer on low speed (or with a stationary mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat the butter for 1 minute, or until light. Slowly add the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, and when all of it has been added, continue to beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping down the beaters and sides of the bowl as needed. The mixture will look fluffy, like something between mayonnaise and whipped cream.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating for 10 seconds between additions, then add the vanilla and cooled chocolate and beat for a few minutes longer, or until the mixture is smooth.

With a rubber spatula, fold the sifted ingredients into the batter in three additions, alternating with the coconut milk in two additions. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute, or until blended.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pans, smooth the tops, and rap the pans sharply on the counter to break up any large air bubbles. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out dry. (After the first 20 minutes of baking, rotate the pans from back to front and top to bottom so they bake evenly.)

Cool the cakes to room temperature in their pans on a wire rack. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cakes from the sides of the pans. The layers shrink quite a bit once they cool down. Unmold and peel off the paper circles just before filling.

TO FILL AND FROST

Set aside 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar with the cream, butter, and espresso and bring to a simmer, stirring. Remove from the heat.

Combine the egg yolks with the reserved 1/4 cup brown sugar. Slowly drizzle some of the hot cream and sugar into the yolks, whisking constantly so the eggs don’t curdle. Add about half the hot liquid to the yolks, then return the yolk mixture to the saucepan. Stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, bring the liquid to a simmer and cook over very low heat until it has thickened and steam rises from the pan.

Pour the filling through a sieve into a clean bowl and whisk in the chopped chocolate until it melts. Cool to room temperature, then add the coconut and pecans.

Center one cake layer, upside down, on a cardboard round cut slightly larger than the cake. Frost it with 1/3 of the filling. Set the second layer turned upside down over the filling and frost it with 1/3 more of the filling. Top with the last layer, set upside down and spread with the last of the filling, leaving the sides unfrosted.

Storage: Keep in the refrigerator, wrapped airtight in plastic, and eat within 3 days.

My recipe notes: Unlike the pictures shown,  I usually make a double batch of the frosting.  However, this time I stayed true to the recipe just for this very post on my blog. But truthfully, I enjoy the cake to be fully encased in the frosting. For one, it keeps the cake even more moist by practically creating a sealant of rich chocolate lusciousness. And two, I have just enough left over (about two cups) to put into a container, pop in the freezer so I can pull it out whenever and scoop a couple spoonfuls in a bowl, microwave about 15 seconds and add a bit of ice cream for an over-the-top sundae. Not bad for a quick indulgence! 

I also prefer bittersweet chocolate instead of the sweet German Chocolate. I know . . . not super traditional for a cake like this, but the intensity of dark chocolate is by far my favorite. And even my dad with a major sweet tooth enjoys the bittersweet chocolate version. The sugar seems to balance it nicely without overpowering. 🍫 

As pictured, I used two round cake pans instead of three. Mine are about one inch bigger in diameter than what Michele recommends, so I bake the batter for the full 45 minutes and it turns out great. 

My dad loves have leftovers of this cake because it freezes wonderfully, making his birthday celebration last a touch longer. 😉

Hello lusciousness!


Yummy chocolate filling with toasted coconut and pecans mixed in
Don’t forget to add frosting to the cake platter’s center so your cake doesn’t slide around



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