For my dad’s birthday back in November, he requested chocolate, and we settled on German chocolate cake for the big celebration. German chocolate cake is not German, despite the name. Emerging out of the heart of America in the 1950s, the recipe was actually named after Samuel German, founder of the Bakers Chocolate company. And of course I have borrowed the recipe from my favourite American in Paris, David Lebovitz. This cake has a few more extra steps than you’re probably used to (unless you do stuff like this all the time, in which case I bow down to you), so be prepared to devote quite a bit of time to it. Hopefully yours will turn out a bit better than mine did.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Butter two 9″ round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. I didn’t have my handy-dandy kitchen compass (it’s still in Newfoundland) so I had to wing it.
In a double boiler or in your microwave, melt together 2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, with 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, also chopped, and 6 tablespoons water. Set that aside and let it cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 cup room temperature butter with 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar until fluffy, about five minutes.
Separate 4 eggs into two small bowls (one for the whites, one for the yolks, natch). Beat your melted chocolate into your butter, and add your 4 egg yolks, one at a time.
In a measuring cup, sift together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.
Mix in half the dry ingredients into the creamed butter.
Add 1 cup buttermilk and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
***TIPS AND TRICKS INTERRUPTION***
If you don’t have buttermilk you can make an easy substitution here: plop a tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice (I used lemon here) into a measuring cup.
Top it up with milk to equal 1 cup.
Allow it to sit for about five minutes to curdle and you’re all set.
***END INTERRUPTION ***
Add in the rest of the dry ingredients and mix.
In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the 4 egg whites until they are at the soft peak stage.
Beat in 1/4 cup granulated sugar and keep going until you get stiff peaks.
Fold in your egg white mixture until there’s no trace of it visible.
Divide your batter into the two prepared pans and bake for about 45 minutes, until your toothpick test comes out clean.
Place the pans on racks to cool completely.
While your cakes are cooking and cooling, you can make the coconut pecan custard filling, the rum syrup, and the chocolate icing. Mmm!
If the oven is free, or if you had the foresight to do this ahead of time, spread 1 cup finely chopped pecans on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and toast, turning halfway through, for 10 minutes in your oven at about 400°F. Do the same with 1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut. Allow them to cool.
In a medium saucepan, mix together 1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream), 1 cup granulated sugar, and 3 large egg yolks.
Cut 3 oz room temperature butter (that’s 6 tablespoons) into small pieces and place them in a bowl with the cooled coconut and pecans. Okay, so my pieces aren’t that small. Sue me.
Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom, until the custard thickens and coats the back of your spoon.
Pour the hot custard immediately into the coconut and pecan mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool to room temperature.
In a small saucepan heat together 1 cup water and 3/4 cup granulated sugar until the sugar has completely melted and the liquid is clear.
Remove the pan from the heat and add in 2 tablespoons dark rum. I of course used Screech.
Chop up 8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and plop it in a bowl. Add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup and 3 tablespoons butter. [Ali’s note: I found that using corn syrup in this particular ganache made my icing runny and hard to apply. I would probably not use it next time.]
In a small saucepan heat 1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream) until it just begins to boil. Pour that sucker over the chocolate and let it stand for a minute.
Stir until totally smooth and let sit until it’s room temperature.
Ease your cooled cakes out of the pans and peel off the parchment paper. Using a serrated knife (like a bread knife) cut both cake layers in half horizontally.
I also cut off the tops of my cakes to make them more level. Lots of bubbles in this here cake.
Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with your rum syrup. Don’t be shy — there’s plenty.
Spread 3/4 cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges.
Plop another cake layer on top, and then repeat the syrup and filling process, even on the top.
Use your chocolate icing all up the sides of the cake. This will seal in all the moisture. I tried to do the decorative piping of icing around the edges of the top, but as I said, my icing was too runny, so I ended up just dribbling it everywhere. Make sure you use all of it, no matter what happens to its consistency.
I chilled the cake to set the icing. If your icing is normal, then you won’t need to worry.