German Chocolate Cake

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.

The Cake

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!

The Filling

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.

The Syrup

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.

The Icing

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.

Cake Construction

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.

Serve and enjoy!

Vanilla Ice Cream

Dear David Lebovitz,

You are awesome.  I think we should be best friends.  We should hang out and stuff.

Sincerely,

Ali

p.s. My husband loves your ice cream.

Have I mentioned recently that I am in love with David Lebovitz and the magic he makes in his tiny Paris kitchen?  If you haven’t been reading his blog, you probably should.  It was from him that I got that amazing Devil’s Food Cake recipe with the coffee in it.  Mmmm …

The Pie came to visit me for Thanksgiving, so I wanted to make sure to make all of his favourite things for when he was here.  Because one of our family friends always brings  her amazing pumpkin pie to our Thanksgiving dinner, I figured what better complement to the dessert than a home-made ice cream?  And vanilla is the Pie’s favourite.  I’ve never made a “cooked” ice cream before but I have recently learned that all the things that used to intimidate me about cooking are not as hard as I once thought them to be.  So here we go.

This recipe, of course, is adapted from David Lebovitz.  You should read his post about it for all the interesting information about vanilla and where it comes from and how you can store your used beans. 

Start with 1 cup whole milk.  I used half whipping cream and half 1% milk, because that’s what I had.

Grab yourself as well 3/4 cup sugar.

Heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan.

Split a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the milk and add the pod as well.  My vanilla bean was dried out so it kind of disintegrated on me, but that’s okay.

Remove the milk from the heat, cover it, and allow it to infuse for about an hour.

Set up an ice bath

Place a smaller bowl (at least 2L) in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water.  Set a strainer over top of the smaller bowl.

Pour 2 cups heavy cream (whipping cream) through the strainer.

Separate eight eggs and reserve the yolks (I used the whites to make chocolate meringues).

Stir the yolks together.

Re-warm your infused milk and gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly.

Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly (and I mean constantly) and scraping the bottom of the saucepan with a spatula, until the custard (because that’s what it is) thickens enough to coat the spatula.  It won’t take long so keep an eye out.

Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir over the ice in the bath until it’s cool. 

Chuck the vanilla bean pod back into the mix.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

I also added here 3 tablespoons Screech rum.  Lebovitz says that adding a little bit of alcohol to your ice cream will make it softer after it’s made.

When you are ready to freeze your ice cream, take out the vanilla bean pod and freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Store in an airtight container in your freezer until thoroughly frozen.

Serve.  So very creamy …