German Chocolate Cake: Inside-out

April 5, 2009

My sister celebrated a birthday recently, and since we both believe that sending a card or present across the country for this event is necessary, I’ve been trying to think of other ways to celebrate.  You know — it’s the thought that counts sort of thing.  Two years ago, I posted a tribute to her.  Last year, my husband and I held a candle and snapped a photo in mid, “Happy Birthday to You…” and this year?  I thought I’d make her a cake.

When I first thought of this, I really didn’t think she liked any type of cake, but I asked to make sure.  After all, if someone who doesn’t really enjoy cake is going to have to appreciate a cake they’ll never get to taste, then it should at least seem appealing to them, don’t you think?

Not only did I get a response from her, I got three:  Angel food, German Chocolate, and cheesecake with coffee.  The mention of angel food brought back memories of a cake she introduced me to, and that’s saying quite a bit because my sister doesn’t really enjoy cooking.  So I thought about recreating that cake, but decided to save it for another time.  Cheesecake is something I adore and make several times a year, so I passed on that one quickly.  But German Chocolate cake?

Really?  Call me completely surprised!  My thinking about German Chocolate cake is wrapped in memories of a gooey exterior hiding a dry cake that isn’t chocolate enough.  It always seemed rude that the frosting promised something quite flavorful inside, yet it never lived up to my expectations.  But I seem to be in the minority because no sooner had I begun to mention that I was going to make a German Chocolate cake, that I found out it’s not only enjoyed my many — it’s a favorite.

Another surprise was finding out there’s nothing actually German about this cake.  It’s named after Sam German who created Baker’s Sweet Chocolate.  A Texas homemaker sent the now familiar recipe for German Chocolate Cake to a newspaper in 1957, and General Mills sent the recipe to newspapers all over the country.

My search for the perfect recipe sent me to David Lebovitz’ site first, but after a quick scan of the ingredients listed, I realized I didn’t have buttermilk.  Next stop was epicurious.  I couldn’t get past the idea of what they described as an “inside out” cake.  Evidently, a few people had decided it was a darn good cake since there were 236 reviews, most of which were raves.

The problem I had with that recipe was the Dutch-processed cocoa.  I can’t tell you how many stores I’ve searched in and have just decided to not deal with it anymore.  Yes, there’s a conversion for using regular cocoa, but it’s not advised.  And when it comes right down to it, there are just about as many recipes for chocolate cake out there as there are renditions of German Chocolate cake.

So guess what?  I made it my own, of course.  Sheer chocolate-coconut-dulce-de-leche-almond-crunchy-but-moist heaven.

Seriously.

Happy Birthday Lori!  This is your birthday song — it isn’t very long…

Inside Out German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake:  Inside Out

Cake Ingredients

2 c. sugar

1-3/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. natural unsweetened cocoa
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 lg. eggs
1 c. whole milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. boiling water

Filling Ingredients

7 oz. sweetened shredded coconut (about 2 c.)
4 oz. chopped almonds (about 1 c.)
14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 T vanilla
1/4-1/2 c. heavy cream

Topping Ingredients

2-1/2 sticks unsalted butter (1-1/4 c.)
10 oz. semisweet chocolate
3 T light corn syrup

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Spread the coconut on one baking sheet, and the chopped nuts on another.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until coconut is just beginning to brown and nuts are aromatic.  Remove from oven, and stir, then set aside.
  3. Turn the oven temperature up to 350 degrees F.
  4. Prepare two 8″ x 3″ cake pans by lightly oiling, lining the bottoms with parchment, oiling again, then lightly dusting with flour.  Set them on a large cookie sheet if you can.  Heat some water to the boiling point — you’ll need to add it to the batter.
  5. In a large bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, and salt.  Whisk a few times to blend well.  Add the eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla to the dry ingredients, and beat  at medium speed for  2-3 minutes.  Pour the boiling water into the mixture and mix well.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared cake pans and place them in the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center is clean after removed.
  7. Cool the layers in the pans on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove them and cool on the racks completely.  When the layers are completely cool, cut each in half horizontally to create four layers.  Remove all parchment.
  8. To prepare the filling, after removing the cake layers from the oven, turn the temperature up to 425 degrees F.  Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a casserole dish that will fit inside a larger pan.  Pour hot water into the larger pan to reach half way up the sides of the casserole.  Cover the entire set up with foil and seal well.  Bake for 45 minutes.  At that point, remove the foil with extreme caution as steam will be released, and check the water level.  Add more hot water to reach half way up the sides of the casserole again, seal well with foil and place back in the oven for an additional 45 minutes.  The milk should be thick and the color of a rich caramel.  Stir,  and keep warm and covered.
  9. To prepare the topping, melt the butter in a sauce pan.  Remove it from the heat and add the chocolate in small pieces, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Stir in the corn syrup.  Reserve 1 cup in a bowl and place it in the fridge to thicken, about 1 hour.  Stir well occasionally until it reaches a spreadable point.  Keep the remainder of the chocolate mixture at room temperature.
  10. To assemble the cake, mix the dulce de leche, most of the coconut (save some for decoration if you wish), nuts and vanilla and stir well.  The mixture must be spreadable.  Pour in just enough heavy cream to achieve the desired consistency and mix well.
  11. Place the first cake layer on a piece of cardboard cut for the cake, or the removable metal bottom of a cake pan and place it over a baking rack set above a baking sheet to collect excess glaze when the topping goes on.  Divide the filling into three equal quantities.  Mound 1/3 of the filling onto the first layer and spread with an offset spatula that has been dipped in water.  Continue until all layers are assembled.
  12. Cover the sides and top of the cake with the chilled chocolate.  If it’s too firm, put it in the microwave for 5 seconds and stir until it softens, but do not over use the microwave or you’ll ruin the chocolate.  Make sure the warm chocolate is pourable, reheating over an extremely low flame briefly, and then stirring until glossy and smooth.  Pour over the center of the cake, and with an offset spatula, gently push it to the sides and over, smoothing as you go as little as possible.  Warm water to dip the spatula in works wonders for this.  Allow to sit until the chocolate is finished dripping, and remove to a cake platter then refrigerate until serving.  To slice, warm a knife in hot water.

IMG_2589

Undercoat Chocolate Leaves

 

A printable version of this recipe is available here.

Inside Out German Chocolate Cake
Recipe Notes

  • I used the chocolate cake recipe on the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa box because I’ve also read that it’s the perfect chocolate cake.  If it’s not perfect, then it’s pretty darn close.  Unbelievably moist.  More dense than light and fluffy so it worked quite well with the rich, heavy filling.
  • If you don’t have the 8″ pans, then use 3-9″ pans and you won’t have to split the layers.  The baking time will be shorter:  30-35 minutes.
  • The filling was yet another experiment.  Essentially, you’re making dulce-de-leche in the original recipe and I’ve done this several different ways, but primarily putting a closed can in a pan of water for an extended period of time.  So I decided to try this waterbath method.  It worked quite well, but with the timing of putting together all the parts of this cake (which I’ve adjusted in the directions above to make it easier to do…) my dulce-de-leche cooled too much and therefore, thickened.  Plus, adding the coconut and nuts made it even thicker, so I decided to add the heavy cream bit by bit, stirring well between additions, and stopped when I liked the consistency.  This softened the caramel taste a bit which was nice, and allowed the filling to spread over the layers more easily.
  • On the coconut:  7 ounces is quite a bit of coconut.  I did brown almost that much, but ended up not using all of it.  Again, I judged by the consistency of the filling.  Plus, having some left over allows for additional creativity.
  • I used almonds because that’s what I had on hand.  Besides, I love Almond Joy candy bars, and the almond-coconut-chocolate combo is always great to me.  Make sure you chop the almonds well as larger chunks will make slicing the cake more difficult.
  • Definitely take the time to do that first coating of chocolate.  I filled my cake the night before and wrapped it well, keeping it at room temperature until the next morning when I frosted it.  The chocolate in both cases was too firm to do anything with, but I was able to reheat it easily to spread and then pour over.
  • On the chocolate leaves:  While the chocolate is warm, use a small paint brush to coat the top of clean camellia leaves and then freeze until firmly set.  With very cold fingers, carefully peel away the leaf and immediately put the chocolate leaf back on the cold tray.  If necessary, freeze until time to decorate the cake.  Technically, this particular chocolate isn’t the best for making leaves because of the butter and corn syrup.  It softens.  Normally, melting semi-sweet chocolate by itself works just fine.
  • I didn’t get any complaints about this cake at all.  My husband shared at the office and said everyone liked it.  I shared it at dinner with friends and plates were empty.  What do I think?  I loved the cake.  Loved it.  The filling was very good as well, but it is very, very rich.  The chocolate glaze sends it over the edge for me, though.  I enjoyed two pieces and in each case, some of the frosting was left on the plate.  Truly a delicious, but very decadent dessert to slice in very small pieces.
  • I think this would make excellent filled cupcakes…

Inside Out German Chocolate Cake

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

MyKitchenInHalfCups April 5, 2009

Growing up and into my adult years, the original on the German Chocolate box, this is the cake my aunt always had waiting for me when I visited.

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MyKitchenInHalfCups April 5, 2009

Continue:
Yours looks wonderful and I’ll happily try it out too. Certainly like the dulce-de-leche idea! Wooow!

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Laura Rebecca April 5, 2009

Oh, I am drooling. Your cake looks spectacular.

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Judy April 5, 2009

Looks incredible!!! I love German Chocolate cake and this way looks so amazing!

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Peter April 5, 2009

Like…WHOA! I’m stuffed from dinner but I could sneak in a wedge of this cake. While I’m at it, I’ll go put on some elastic waistband pants.

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Erin April 6, 2009

This looks delicious! I love German Chocolate Cake. Dutch-process cocoa is hard to find around here, but Hershey’s makes a great Special Dark which is a wonderful substitute.

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lo April 6, 2009

It’s absolutely GORGEOUS! And I’ll bet it tasted twice as good as it looks. I’m pretty sure a slice of that German chocolately goodness would seriously hit the spot right now.

Love the chocolate leaves!

(as a side note, I’ve given up on Dutch process cocoa… regular cocoa retains so many additional health benefits, I can’t even bring myself around to it now that I’ve found it!)

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Bellini Valli April 6, 2009

This is just too darn good for words.

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Olga April 6, 2009

OMG, that looks amazing.

You did such a marvelous job icing it!

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Chantal April 6, 2009

When I saw the picture of this cake on tastespotting I went into a trance and all I could say was ouh! pretty! ouh! pretty!….my cousin gave me the you’re psychotic stare so I had to stop.

It looks absolutely scrumptidelicious. Your sister should be happy: all this deliciousness minus the calories ;)

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Peabody April 6, 2009

Come to me oh yummy looking cake! My dad loves German Chocolate Cake. He comes on Thursday, I think I will be rolling this out for him.

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Karen@Mignardise April 6, 2009

This is the ultimate, perfect birthday cake. If only I had a sister who baked like you!

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Elle April 6, 2009

Always liked the filling, but not the cake in traditional German Chocoalte Cake…this is the perfect solution and quite gorgeous, too.

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alice April 6, 2009

Simply beautiful!

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RecipeGirl April 6, 2009

Wow, that is one gorgeous cake Kelly!!! I love how you swirled the top too. Nice job.

So it sounds like you used the oven method for the dulce- were you happy w/ how that turned out? The filling sounds amazing!

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lauren April 6, 2009

this looks amazing. I can’t wait to try it out!

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Fenke April 6, 2009

It’s funny to see, when in other countries food appears that is assumed to be very traditional for your country and you have never heard of that before. See, I did not know, that a chocolate cake is something traditionally german :-)

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siri April 6, 2009

How fantastic! It looks so professional- I love the texture on the outside and the leaves. Wish you were my sister…

Thanks for sharing,
Siri

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tara April 6, 2009

This is a stunning, stunning cake. Love the simple decoration on the top – I have a few birthdays coming up and you’ve truly inspired me! Thanks!

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grace April 6, 2009

oh kelly. “Sheer chocolate-coconut-dulce-de-leche-almond-crunchy-but-moist heaven.” yes, please! good grief, it looks so dense and delicious. that filling. apparently, i can barely form complete sentences, it has me so rattled. perfect frosting job, too. bravo, and bravo.

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Helen April 6, 2009

This cake looks like a daunting task but your gorgeous pictures has made me determined to give it a try!

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Jenny April 6, 2009

OMG that looks amazing. (You should have save this and made it a DB challenge, including the make your own dd.)

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Blond Duck April 6, 2009

That frosting is exquisite! And I LOVE the handpies below! I love the combo of apples and blueberries! :)

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Margie April 6, 2009

German chocolate is my favorite, and I thought I had my favorite recipe already, dang! Now I am going to have to try yours, it’s looks fantastic!

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Anna at Mediocre Chocolate April 7, 2009

Oh, yum. That looks positively irresistible. I love coconut and chocolate together. If you ever do decide you want to bother with Dutched cocoa, I can always find it at Cost Plus, if you have one of those near you. Last time it was Droste brand. Beautiful cake either way!!

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Baking Soda April 7, 2009

Not going to show this pic to my sons… NOT. If I make this one it is my ticket to the best mom ever-award.
Kelly, would you like me to send you some Dutch cocoa? I’ll be happy to, just let me know!
bakemyday AT gmail DOT com

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Esi April 7, 2009

It’s so magnificent, I can’t stop staring. Glad to hear it tastes as good as it looks.

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Kristen April 7, 2009

That is the damn best looking German Chocolate Cake I have ever seen. Agreed most are not chocolaty enough! This was my mom’s favorite cake growing up, so we had it often. I hated it. I think that I could actually like your cake, not to mention that it is absolutely gorgeous! Well Done!

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Ben April 8, 2009

Oh how nice of you to bake a cake for your sister that she will never eat. That’s mean! LOL I’ve made a German chocolate cake that is very similar to this recipe. I don’t like the ones that are dry and tasteless inside, but yours deserves an award! :-p

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Allen of Eating Out Loud April 8, 2009

It’s so beautiful – my mouth dropped open when I looked through the photos … now THAT is a german chocolate cake!

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Nicisme April 9, 2009

That is one awesome looking cake!

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kellypea April 11, 2009

Thanks — I’m sure we’ve all gained 10 lbs. just having it in the house!

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Kevin April 10, 2009

That chocolate cake looks so good!

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Deborah April 10, 2009

This looks AMAZING!! German chocolate cake is one of my favorites. I can’t find dutch processed, either. I finally found a mix of dutch and regular (go figure that I can find that but not dutch processed straight!) and it works ok, but I’d love to get my hands on some of the real stuff!

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kellypea April 10, 2009

Thanks Deborah! I seriously considered going with the conversion, but thought that when it comes to messing around with baking powder and soda in a cake — I’m not that adventuresome. Worried that it wouldn’t have turned out and been a huge waste of time & ingredients.

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Erin April 12, 2009

This cake should be framed! It’s simply too gorgeous to eat.

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Danielle July 13, 2009

Just wanted to show you what mine looked like – it tasted amazing!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/manyfires/3715240177/

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Danielle July 13, 2009

Oh, one thing I did want to mention – in your directions, you say “In a large bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, and salt…”

But the 2 c. sugar never makes an appearance in the written-out part of the recipe… just the ingredient list. Wasn’t hard to also figure out I needed to add the sugar, but just wanted to point that out so that no one misses it.

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Nastassia(LetMeEatCake) March 1, 2010

I just clicked on this post from a link on your Chocolate cupcake post…um hello decadent heaven! I want to bite right into that cake. It looks so plump and delicious. You are quite the cake maker!
.-= Nastassia(LetMeEatCake)´s last blog ..Foodbuzz 24 24 24: A Glimpse Inside The Foodie Underground =-.

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Jen March 13, 2010

OMY GOSH… I made this cake for my birthday a couple of days ago and HELLO! It was chocolate heaven!!! I cannot believe how freaking amazing it tasted and I’m still in shock that I was able to produce such a thing!!! I normally SUCK at baking. Period. I rush the process. This time, however, I took my sweet time. It was the happiest cake I have ever made, and now I have requests for future birthdays. Believe me, I am skipping store bought cakes and forever making your version of german chocolate cake. Now I only wish to perfect my frosting skills because the first coating of chocolate was great on top but on the sides -well, let’s just say it I did my best. It ended up looking I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E I just wish I knew how to make it not bumpy. Is it because I had to trim the cake around? Anyway, thanks!!

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