Jeremy inevitably requests a German chocolate cake when I ask what sort he wants for his birthday. I tried out a new recipe this year, and we were pleased with the result, even if it did seem a bit fussy. Toasting the nuts and coconut is a nice touch and gave the dulce de leche frosting a lot of flavor. The cake was a bit crumbly the first day, but after a night in the fridge, it seemed to get a lot moister, perhaps by osmosis from the frosting. A substitution of buttermilk might make a difference in that arena, so even if we don’t make it again before next February, I’ll definitely try using that. The recipe was originally written as a layer cake, but I don’t have an efficient way to store layer cake without letting it dry out, so I converted it to be a sheet cake. I also left off the ganache glaze, as Jeremy didn’t think it would need it—and it didn’t, but a little ganache never hurt anybody. 🙂
German Chocolate Cake
1 1/2 C sugar
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C plus 1 T unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 C whole milk (or buttermilk or 1% milk)
6 T unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp almond extract
3/4 C boiling-hot water
7 oz sweetened flaked coconut
1 C (4 oz) coarsely chopped pecans
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 T vanilla
For optional ganache glaze:
1 C cream
1/2 C butter
10 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 T light corn syrup
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease 9×13 cake pan. Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together whole milk (or buttermilk), butter, whole egg, yolk, vanilla, and almond extract in another large bowl until just combined. Beat egg mixture into flour mixture with an electric mixer on low speed, then beat on high speed 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and beat in water until just combined (batter will be thin). Pour batter into cake pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes total. Do not overbake.
Make frosting: Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Spread coconut in a large shallow baking pan and pecans in another. Bake pecans in upper third of oven and coconut in lower third, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pans from oven.
Increase oven temperature to 425°F. Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Bake milk in a water bath in middle of oven 45 minutes. Refill baking pan with water to reach halfway up pie plate and bake milk until thick and brown, about 45 minutes more. Remove pie plate from water bath, and stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla. If too thick to spread, add a bit of cream until spreading consistency. Spread over cooled cake.
Make optional glaze while milk is baking: Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan; add cream and heat through without boiling. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate and corn syrup, whisking until chocolate is melted. Transfer glaze to a bowl, and chill, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spreadable, about 1 hour. Spread over coconut frosting.
Cooks’ notes: Cake keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Source: Adapted from Epicurious
Update 2/4/09: I made this cake for Jeremy’s birthday again this year, and it was just as good as we remembered it. Having noted a bit of dryness in the cake last time, this year I made up some vanilla-scented simple syrup and brushed that over the cake while toasting up the nuts and coconut for the frosting. I’m not entirely sure about the texture of this frosting, though: it tastes right, but stiffens up almost into a candy, so it isn’t the easiest to eat with fluffy cake. I may look for an alternative next time.