Photo: Big 4-layer cake
German Chocolate Cake is about as German as Hamburgers are from Hamburg. This (very American) cake is fabulous, but could easily feed an army! The original (recipe from my beloved “Cooks Illustrated”) is at least 5 inch high and very sweet. If you eat a 1/2 inch slice you are full for the day. So I modified it for normal everyday consumption, when you are not surrounded by a huge, ravenous family, but just want to enjoy a scrumptuous desert with your significant other or some friends.
Filling (2-layer cake)
2 egg yolks
170 g/6 oz evaporated milk (Kondensmilch)
50 g/2 oz sugar
25 g/1 oz light brown sugar
40 g/3 tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
1 pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
75 g/3.5 oz sweetened shredded coconut
90 g/3/4 cup pecans
60 g/2 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
20 g/1/8 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
60 ml/1/4 cup boiling water
285 g/5 oz all-purpose flour (Weizenmehl Typ 405), or 250 g all-purpose and 35 g whole wheat flour
85 g (3/4 stick) butter, softened
100 g/ 3.5 oz sugar
65 g/ 1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
90 ml/3/8 cup sour cream (saure Sahne oder Creme fraiche)
For the filling:
Whisk yolks in medium sauce pan, gradually adding evaporated milk. Add sugars, butter, and salt and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until mixture is boiling, frothy, and slightly thickened (ca. 6 min). Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla, then stir in coconut. Cool, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. (Pecans are stirred in just before cake assembly.)
For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C. During preheating time toast pecans in oven until fragrant.
Combine chocolate and cocoa in small bowl, pour boiling water over and let stand to melt chocolate (ca. 2 min). Whisk until smooth, and let cool to room temperature.
Lightly grease 24 cm/9-inch springform or round baking pan. Line bottom with parchment paper. Grease paper, then dust pan with flour, and knock out excess. Sift flour and baking soda into medium bowl.
In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter, sugars, and salt at medium-low speed until sugar is moistened. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is light and fluffy (ca. 4 min), scraping down bowl with rubber spatula halfway through. With mixer running at medium speed, add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down bowl halfway through. Beat in vanilla, increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy (45 sec).
With mixer running at low speed, add chocolate, then increase speed to medium and beat until combined (30 sec), scraping down bowl once (batter may appear broken). With mixer running at low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream (in 2 additions), and beating in each addition until barely combined. Add final flour addition, beat on low until just combined, then stir batter by hand with a rubber spatula, scraping bottom sides of bowl, to ensure that ingredients are evenly distributed. Transfer batter to prepared pan, spreading it evenly with rubber spatula.
Bake cake in lower-middle position in the oven until needle comes out clean (ca. 30 min). Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack, peel off and discard paper from bottom. Cool cake down before filling, at least 1 hour.
Chop toasted pecans and stir them into chilled filling. Cut cake horizontally in halves, and, with an icing spatula, distribute 1 cup filling evenly over each half, spreading filling to very edge of cake. Carefully place upper half on top of lower layer. Serve.
This recipe is half of the original one. If you like a really, really big cake, double the recipe and divide batter in 2 springform or baking pans, so that you can make a 4-layer-cake (see photo).
I found the original “Cooks Illustrated” filling too sweet, so I reduced the amounts of sugar. (The original amounts were 100 g sugar and 50 g brown sugar for 1/2 recipe).