It may surprise you to learn that German chocolate cake is not actually German. (But don’t worry, it’s still a lot of chocolate and still a lot of cake.) And it’s very Texan too.
Historically, pecans have not been part of the German diet, but Texans love them. Buttermilk – which is mixed with chocolate in the cake – is also a Southern staple. It turns out that the cake is an American creation, which was not brought to us by German immigrants as many have thought.
After researching the origins of the cake, each bite and snack brought us back to a recipe that ran into The morning news from Dallas in June 1957 called German Sweet Chocolate Cake.
Ms. George Clay of Southeast Dallas submitted her recipe to the culinary pages of our journal – Julie Benell’s Recipe of the Day column – using Baker’s German sweet chocolate, which still exists today. It was called “German’s” chocolate after Samuel German, who invented sweet chocolate while working for Baker’s Chocolate, then owned by General Foods. (It is now owned by Kraft). It’s a chocolate that contains sugar, which is a shortcut for bakers.
According to What’s Cooking America, the 1957 recipe was picked up by other newspapers across the country, and sales of Baker’s chocolate soared with the popularity of the cake.
Confusion over the origins of the cake persisted. In 1963, according to a story in The morning news from Dallas, even President Lyndon B. Johnson served the cake at his Johnson City ranch for lunch with German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard. We can’t find any reports of whether Chancellor Erhard liked the cake or whether he realized that it was wrongly made in honor of his home country.
What’s in a cake?
So what is German sweet chocolate cake? This is usually three (sometimes two) layers of chocolate cake made from melted sweet chocolate and buttermilk, topped with egg cream frosting and sugar mixed with coconut and pecans. . The frosting is also sandwiched between the layers. It’s decadent, sweet and chocolatey. It’s not exactly pretty, but hey, there was no Instagram in the 50s and 60s.
Plano and frequent recipe developer Dallas Morning News Contributor Rebecca White tested the original recipe for us, in addition to the recipe we ran in 63 from the Johnson City ranch, which was slightly different.
The first thing she noticed about the recipes was the limited number of instructions, which leads us to believe that home cooks of the 1950s were a bit more adept in cooking.
“If one is not a seasoned baker, some instructions will not be clear, such as ‘create the shortening and the sugar, and the egg yolks and the melted chocolate’,” she says. “This makes the novice baker wonder 1. What does cream mean? 2. How long does it take to cream the shortening and the sugar? 3. When should I add the egg yolks and melted chocolate? 4. How to melt chocolate? “
White combined what she thought were the best parts of each recipe into a modernized version, which we’ve included below.
The original version used shortening in the cake, while the Johnson City version used butter. White liked the flavor and texture of the shortening better. For the frosting, the Johnson City version used evaporated milk instead of whipping cream. White preferred milk to cream because it made the frosting feel thicker and creamier.
Try our modernized version below and let us know what you think.
German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Frosting
2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
4 ounces of Baker’s German Sweet Chocolate
1 cup of shortening
2 cups of sugar
4 egg yolks
1 cup of buttermilk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
4 egg whites, chilled
Coconut Pecan Frosting (recipe below)
Heat the oven to 350 F.
Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl, set aside.
In a bain-marie or in the microwave, melt the chocolate and let cool.
Using an electric mixer using a spatula, cream the shortening and sugar until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Continue to mix and add the egg yolks to the shortening mixture one at a time. Once the eggs are incorporated, add the melted chocolate.
In batches, add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.
When combined, add the vanilla extract.
Place egg whites in a separate bowl and whisk on high power with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form, about 3-4 minutes.
Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.
Pour mixture into 3 greased cake pans (8 or 9 inches). Bake for 30-35 minutes.
Take the cakes out of the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Turn out the cakes on cooling racks for additional cooling.
When completely cool, add a generous layer of coconut-pecan frosting to the top of a cake. Top with an additional layer of cake. Continue this step until all the cake and frosting are used.
Coconut and pecan frosting
Place 1 cup of evaporated milk, 1 cup of sugar, 3 egg yolks, 1/2 cup of diced unsalted butter and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until the butter melts. Stir occasionally. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened, about 12 minutes.
Pour the mixture into a bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups coconut flakes and 1 cup chopped pecans. Using an electric mixer using a spatula, beat until the frosting is thick enough to spread.
Video: Between the lines
If you like our delicious illustrations of (not so) German chocolate cakes, then you should meet the talented man behind them. dallas artist Guillaume Brown, 23, is a culinary school graduate with a day job at Stocks & Bondy at the Dallas Farmers Market whose expertise informs his other life passion: drawing. Brown uses colored pencils, markers and vintage technical pens to create charming and elegant illustrations that have previously been featured by figures like Food and wine. You can follow her work on Instagram at @ wbrown34 and on her website, culinariandesigns.com. Better yet, check out our video of Brown at work and the process he went through to illustrate our cakes at dallasnews.com/cooking. –Christophe wynn