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German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate CakeOnce again, the topic for this week’s Spin Cycle is recipes, and I’m participating every day until Friday.  Just thought I’d get that out of the way.

I asked Beloved what kind of a dessert he’d like me to make recently, and to my surprise the answer was not carrot cake. However, it didn’t really surprise me when he said, “German chocolate cake.”

I was more than happy to comply – I love German chocolate cake, myself. In fact, I only know three people who don’t, and all three of them are my offspring or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Oldest Son dislikes coconut, Jolly dislikes nuts and coconut and The Young One dislikes just about everything.

It’s okay; I love them anyway.

In years past, I’d have made a chocolate cake from a box and topped it with the German chocolate cake frosting from a can, but unless I’m in a pinch and/or hurry I try not to make anything pre-prepared or from a mix these days.  That being said, I’d never really made coconut-pecan frosting from scratch and now I’m kind of peeved with myself, because it’s not hard.

Now, I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I chose the recipe from Rose Levy Berenbaum’s newly published Rose’s Heavenly Cakes to make, because her recipe called for sweetened condensed milk.  I was a bit taken aback, actually, because sweetened condensed milk has such a distinctive flavor – one I’d never really tasted in any coconut-pecan frosting before.  But I’m nothing if not thorough, and knowing that sweetened condensed milk is just evaporated milk that’s been cooked with sugar to a thick consistency, I did a little research and found that almost all coconut-pecan frosting recipes call for evaporated milk cooked with sugar to a thick consistency.

To say that I was astounded would be an understatement:  Mrs. Berenbaum, whose recipes are known for the exactness of their ingredients (she weighs her ingredients within a tenth of a gram), took a shortcut.  You could have knocked me over with a feather.

At any rate, I took her recipe for the frosting and tweaked it a bit to make it my own, but her cake recipe just turned me off; I’ve had some experience baking her cakes and they are not only extraordinarily exacting but, sadly, are often dry (I’m sure the fault is mine).  While the original recipe for this cake calls for Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, modern recipes seldom do; here is mine – it is a moist, tender cake so make sure your coconut-pecan frosting is very soft (refrigerate the cake and heat the frosting slightly if you have to) or it will tear up the cake when you spread it.  I also bake it in a 13″ x 9″ pan, instead of layers and leave the cake in the pan when I frost it; it just makes it easier to serve (and keep) unless you’re making it for company or an “occasion” – in that case, I’d bake it in layers, spread the coconut-pecan frosting between the layers and on top, then frost the edges with a good chocolate ganache.

Note: the recipe calls for Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa, which is a blend of regular and Dutched cocoa; I like the taste it gives recipes calling for cocoa.  If you can’t find it or don’t want to use it, regular cocao will be fine.

German Chocolate Cake

makes 10 – 14 servings


2 cups sugar

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13″ x 9″ x 2″ pan (or 2 – 9″ round pans).

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pan(s).

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pans to wire racks, if making layers. Cool completely.


1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1 – 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

3 large egg yolks

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1″ cubes

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add the butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a thin, plastic or silicone spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom and edges of the pan.  When the mixture starts to simmer (just under a boil), lower the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes, continuing to stir constantly, or until thickened enough to pool slightly on the surface before disappearing into the mixture when dropped from the spoon or spatula (it will still be pourable).

Stir in the vanilla, coconut and pecans and continue to cook on low heat while stirring continuously for about 1 more  minute.  Scrape the mixture into a large bowl; cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to cool to room temperature; this will take about 2 or 3 hours.  If you make it ahead and need to refrigerate, it will need to be softened over hot water or heated in a microwave for a few seconds to make it spreading consistency.

Spread over the cooled cake (and between layers if making a layer cake) and serve.  Refrigerate leftovers.


Erin says:

Seems lovely… but can’t partake. WW point and pesky tree nut allergies. I used to love to bake cakes. Sigh.
.-= Erin´s last blog ..who are you and where is your husband? =-.

Michele says:

You had me at coconut and pecans.
.-= Michele´s last blog ..Gaby Suntan Lotion – Wordless Wednesday =-.

Oh, my mouth is watering just reading this!
.-= Maureen@IslandRoar´s last blog ..Spin Cycle: Recipes =-.

Jane Gaston says:

Oh, this so reminds me of a deceased aunt that was famous for her cakes, especially German Chocolate! She had a talent that, were she still alive today, would have her own TV show like Paula, Rachel, etc.
.-= Jane Gaston´s last blog ..Mercedes is a bit much… =-.

I LOVE German Chocolate Cake. I only wish that I loved to bake. Of course with H’s egg allergy, it becomes even more challenging. Sigh.
.-= Nothing Fancy´s last blog ..I Saw God Yesterday =-.

Mary Anne says:

The Mailman likes to cook, and he went through a phase of trying to bake cakes from scratch, but they always turned out dry, too. Maybe I’ll give this one a try, although the pecans will have to be out. No allergies, I just don’t like them 🙂
.-= Mary Anne´s last blog ..RTT – still waiting to want to kiss him full on the lips =-.

Yes! Yes! Yes!
Oh, sorry, trying to contain myself.
I’m not a fan of coconut, but I can’t see this cake without it. Yum!
You’re linked!
What are you making tomorrow? 🙂
.-= Sprite’s Keeper´s last blog ..Skin Deep =-.

LPC says:

Oh I just cannot bake. I could make the drinks, though, if you are having a party?
.-= LPC´s last blog ..What Is It About Little Black Dresses? =-.

This brings back memories. My mom always used to make it. I never do. Why not?
.-= Twenty Four At Heart´s last blog ..Brazilian Bikini Wax – Take Two =-.

I am the 4th person you know who doesn’t like German Chocolate cake. I think it’s the coconut part. I like coconut, but not in chocolate. And my grandmother made german chocolate cake every year for my birthday. With Coffee Mocha ice cream. BLECHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Of course, I shared my birthday with my dad and grandpa, so she must have been making it for one of them, cuz it sure as heck wasn’t for me.
.-= Margaret (Nanny Goats)´s last blog ..Interview with Uma Thurman. Yes THAT Uma Thurman =-.

Lord, have mercy! German Chocolate cake is MHS’s favorite. Please send him a slice.
.-= Smart Mouth Broad´s last blog ..I’M BECOMING MY MOTHER =-.

lildudesmama says:

Do you think I can make this recipe into cupcakes?
.-= lildudesmama´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

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