National German Chocolate Cake Day: the perfect recipe for the perfect day
Any occasion to bake a cake
I look for any occasion to bake a cake. When I found out that 11 June was National German Chocolate Cake Day, I got so excited.
Like so many people, I thought German chocolate cake came from Germany. It turns out that the Germans have nothing to do with German chocolate cake. Instead, it’s named after Samuel German, an Englishman known as “Sammy”, who had made his way to America in the 1800s.
Sammy got a job at the Baker’s Chocolate Company in Dorchester, Massachusetts (first American chocolate factory). Sammy German developed a special type of chocolate for Baker’s that had more sugar than the other chocolate the company was selling at the time. According to the history of the company, “Walter Baker bought the recipe for $1,000 and began marketing it as Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.”
In 1957, Mrs. George Clay published a cake recipe in the Dallas Morning Star using Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. Most sources say her recipe was called German’s chocolate cake, but somewhere along the way, the name was changed to German Chocolate Cake and the (’s) was lost forever.
The cake was so popular that it caused a noticeable increase in chocolate sales for Baker’s. In 1964, the company redesigned the wrapper for German’s sweet chocolate bar and included the recipe right on the label, and it’s still there today. Since German chocolate cake was named after Sammy German, the word German is capitalized. This has caused confusion not just for me, but a lot of other people as well.
Join me in honoring Mr. German this month by baking this traditional cake.
- 4 oz sweet (German) chocolate, coarsely chopped 115 grams
- 1/2 cup boiling water or brewed coffee 4.15 ounces/120 grams
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour or 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 9 ounces/250 grams
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter or vegetable shortening, softened (65 to 67°F) 2 sticks/8 ounces/225 grams
- 2 cups granulated sugar or 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup packed light brown sugar (14 ounces/400 grams)
- 4 large egg yolks ¼ cup + 2 teaspoons/2.5 ounces/75 grams
- 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice plus milk to equal 1 cup) 8.25 ounces/240 grams
- 4 large egg whites ½ cup/4.25 ounces/120 grams
- 1 cup evaporated milk or heavy cream 8.5 ounces/245 grams
- 1 cup granulated sugar 7 ounces/200 grams
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter 1 stick/4 ounces/115 grams
- 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten 3½ tablespoons/2 ounces/60 grams
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 cups grated coconut 3.5 ounces/100 grams
- 1 cup pecans, lightly toasted and finely chopped 4 ounces/115 grams
- Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (325°F for a convection oven). Grease three 9- by 1½-inch round cake pans, two 8-inch by 2-inch square pans, or one 13- by 9-inch pan, line with parchment paper or waxed paper, and grease again.
To prepare the chocolate
- Place the chocolate in a medium bowl, pour the boiling water over top, and stir until melted. Let cool. Stir in the vanilla.
To make the batter
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Increase the speed to medium, gradually add the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
- Stir in the chocolate.
- Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk (4 portions for the flour; 3 portions for the milk) beginning and ending with the flour, until smooth. The batter will be rather thick.
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites on low until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until stiff but not dry, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Fold one fourth of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites.
- Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly touched, 30 to 35 minutes for 9-inch rounds; 45 to 50 minutes for the 8-inch squares; and 45 to 50 minutes for a 13- by 9-inch.
- Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes to wire racks and let cool completely, at least 1½ hours. The cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
To make the frosting
- In a medium saucepan, cook the milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks, and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbly and thickened or 170°F, about 12 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Let cool, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to spread, about 30 minutes.
- Place a cake layer on a serving plate, spread the top with one third of the frosting. Arrange a second cake layer on top, spread with one half of the remaining frosting, top with the remaining cake layer, and spread the remaining frosting on top. Or for a sheet cake, spread the frosting over the top and sides; or cut the cake lengthwise into thirds and layer.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Do not freeze.
Mrs Clay’s Original Recipe 1957 the Bakers Chocolate Company