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German Chocolate Cake from scratch - worth the trouble?

  • m

My son's birthday is coming up and he wants German Chocolate cake with the traditional coconut pecan frosting. We did a test run of the canned frosting yesterday and, I have to say, I was pretty disappointed. Is there a great recipe out there for coconut pecan frosting other than the one on the German Chocolate baking bars? Should I just make the cake from a mix or go homemade with that, too?

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  1. Make the recipe on the back of the German Chocolate bars. Make 1 1/2 times the icing recipe if you want to cover the sides of the cake.

    My Mom makes this, and it's fantastic.

    IMHO, you should never make a cake from a box ever, for any reason. Scratch is 20% more trouble and 200% better. Have fun and good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: danna

      My brother makes this recipe and it's a lot of work but the results are incredible.

    2. The recipe for German's Chocolate Cake in the 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking is very good. The icing is tricky though. It's very loose. I think I should have let it cool a bit before spreading it on the cake. I kept putting the cake in the fridge to let the icing set and taking it out again to put on more.

      1. And if you're going through the trouble of "scratch", I'd get some freshly grated coconut for the icing, too.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Hungry Celeste

          I love fresh coconut too, but depending on your sweet tooth, you might have to adjust the level of sugar in the icing recipe. Honestly, in all that goo...I'm not so sure fresh coconut wouldn't be wasted to a degree.

          1. re: danna

            But it's more about the texture than the taste: I find pre-shredded coconut to taste like mulch...or wood chips...fresh is always better!

        2. For some strange reason, German Chocolate Cake is a popular request for birthdays. I just had a request from a friend who turned 60. The best version I've made is from the Time-Life Foods of the World Series, American Cooking: The Great West. It is a big 3 layer cake that will serve a crowd. It seems less sweet and the cake is more moist than the recipe from the German chocolate bar. If you like the recipe, let me know.
          The frosting is tricky because it is so soft and gooey. Chilling and stirring it a few time to firm it up really helps.

          4 Replies
          1. re: PBSF

            I'd love the recipe, thanks.

            1. re: Mimi

              German Chocolate Cake from Time-Life Foods of the World, American Cooking: The Great West. Makes one 9 inch three layer cake.
              For the cake:
              1⁄2 cup water
              6 oz German’s sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
              2 1⁄2 cups CAKE flour, sifted before measuring
              1 teaspoon baking soda
              1⁄2 teaspoon salt
              1⁄2 lb butter, softened
              1 3⁄4 cups sugar
              4 eggs, separated
              1 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
              1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
              additional butter and all- purpose flour for preparing the cake pans

              Preheat oven to 350 degree.
              Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line them with parchment rounds and flour the sides. Set aside.
              Heat the water in a small saucepan and remove from heat. Stir in the chocolate until melted and smooth.
              Sift together the cake four, baking soda and salt.
              In an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg YOLKS, one at a time. Then the vanilla extract.
              Turn the mixer to low and beat in the melted chocolate in a stream.
              On lowest speed, incorporate the flour mixture with the buttermilk into the batter in three additions, starting with the flour mixture and ending with the buttermilk.
              In another bowl, beat the egg whites to almost stiff peak. Fold about 1⁄2 cup of the batter into the egg whites to lighten it up, then fold the egg whites into the batter.
              Divide the batter among the three cake pans.
              Bake in the middle of the oven for about 35 minutes; test it with a toothpick a few minutes before.
              Cool the cakes for a few minutes and unmold. Remove the parchment, invert cakes back to upright and cool on racks.

              Frosting:
              4 egg yolks
              1 cup sugar
              1 cup evaporated milk (canned)
              12 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces and softened
              2 ounces German’s sweet chocolate, finely chopped
              1 teaspoon vanilla extract
              1 1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
              1 cup coarsely chopped pecan

              Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a saucepan until thick, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, butter in pieces and chocolate.
              Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it is smooth and thick enough to lightly coat a spoon, about 5 minutes. Might take a little longer, but do not let mixture come to a boil or the egg yolks will scramble. Remove pan from heat and stir in the vanilla, coconut and pecan.
              Let the frosting cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate until thicken but not quite solid, stirring it couple of times. This will take about 1 hour.

              To frost the cake:
              Spoon about a third of the frosting on top of one cake. Spread it out almost to the edge. Place a second cake on top of the frosting, repeat with another third of the frosting. Place the last layer on top and frost just the top of the cake, letting a little drizzle down the sides. The frosting is too fragile and soft to frost the sides.

              1. re: PBSF

                I made this yesterday and it is HEAVEN. THANK you to the poster!

                1. re: romdeussen

                  romdeussen, was the cake chocolatey? I usually find German Chocolate cakes to be a little weak on the chocolate flavor, but love the overall combo.

          2. It's very worth it to make it from scratch. I'd rather have two scratch cakes a year than 12 boxed-mix ones - especially German Chocolate!

            2 Replies
            1. re: bayoucook

              I agree that homemade cake makes all the difference. However, German chocolate is one of those cakes where (gasp) I think canned icing tastes comparable to the homemade. I made a cake with scratch icing for my brother's birthday last year, and it was not noticeably better than canned. (Never thought I'd say that about canned frosting, but in this case, it was true. I usually hate the stuff.)

              I used the Hershey's recipe for icing and cake ( http://www.hersheys.com/recipes/recip... ) which turned out fine, but I prefer a very light, barely sweet buttermilk-y chocolate cake to offset the super-sweet icing. This was not it.

              1. re: ChristinaMason

                I had a wonderful German Chocolate cake in 7th or 8th grade and managed to track down the recipe from a friend's aunt many years later. I love facebook.

                This is the Platonic ideal cake seared in my memory:

                CAKE
                1 pack (4 oz) Baker's sweet chocolate
                1/2 cup boiling water
                2 cups sugar
                1 teaspoon vanilla
                1 teaspoon baking soda
                1 cup buttermilk
                1 cup butter
                4 egg yolks
                2 1/2 cups cake flour
                1/2 teaspoon salt
                4 egg whites, beaten (stiff? doesn't specify)

                Melt chocolate in boiling water; cool. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Blend in vanilla and chocolate. Suft flour with baking soda and salt; add alternately with buttermilk to chocolate mixture, beating after each addition until smooth. Fold in beaten egg whites. Pour into three 9 inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

                COCONUT PECAN FROSTING

                1 cup evaporated milk
                1 cup sugar
                3 slightly beaten egg yolks
                1/2 cup butter
                1 teaspoon vanilla
                1 can coconut (again, doesn't specify)
                1 cup chopped pecans

                Combine evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla; cook and stir over medium heat until thickened, about 12 minutes. Add coconut and pecans. Cool until thick enough to spread