For Thanksgiving, my husband requested that I make his Aunt Doe’s German Chocolate Cake. John’s Grandma Pierce and her sister, known among the Pierces as Aunt Doe, used to spend hours upon hours baking (and bickering) together in order to produce this cake. The dessert has been a longtime favorite of John’s, but he typically gets to enjoy it only once a year because frankly, it is a pain to bake. While it doesn’t take an entire day, as Grandma Pierce and Aunt Doe would do, it does involve multiple steps — and a good deal of patience. I readily agreed to John’s request, however, as the German Chocolate Cake appeared to be the perfect recipe for me to make as my 100th new recipe of the year: the layered confection has a long history in the Pierce family, it would require me to stretch my baking skills, and it is incredibly rich. What better way to celebrate reaching my cooking goal for 2013 — one month ahead of schedule — than to whip up this special dessert for my husband?
I baked the cake the day before Thanksgiving at my parents’ house, where we would have our family feast the following day. My mom graciously let me take over (and utterly dirty up) her kitchen for the morning and afternoon, and she went above and beyond by acting as my helper, dish-washer, and in one frantic moment, my calmer-downer. Moms truly are the best.
The cake portion of the recipe went very smoothly. I used my mom’s stand mixer to create the batter and beat the egg whites. I did not sift the cake flour, but I did give it a few good stirs to “fluff” it up before measuring it out. My mom ended up with the most challenging role during this part of the cake-making process: preparing the pans. She managed to cut 3 perfectly round circles out of wax paper, however, and had the pans greased and lined just when I needed them. Into the oven the cakes went, and out they came about 30 minutes later, smelling chocolaty and delicious.
The frosting, however, was not anywhere near as painless to make. My first mistake was to select too small of a saucepan. By the time I added in the evaporated milk, the mixture was nearing the top of the pan. One too-vigorous stir sent a large spray up and over the edge, right into the burner pan. It quickly boiled and blackened on the metal. At this point, my mom strongly encouraged me to pour the budding frosting into a larger saucepan; I followed this advice.
Then the mixture — the hot, burning mixture — began to thicken slightly and splatter. I spent the following thirty minutes at the stove stirring, sweating, and fruitlessly trying to avoid being burned. I had no idea if the frosting was thick enough or not, and frustration set in. John and I were needing to leave for an appointment in half an hour, and I had not even begun to assemble the cake. I had a mini-tantrum right there in the kitchen when one particularly large, hot blob landed on my wrist. I dropped my spoon and said I was done. My mom and husband swooped in, calmed me down, and helped me finish the cake. Mom started on dish duty and John helped me frost the cake (by this point we decided that despite not having reached “soft ball stage,” the frosting was ready). I again felt a surge of frustration when we began to run out of frosting, but John assured me that the cake always had a bare spot here and there. At any rate, the cake was complete, and we were able to make it out the door in time.
Fast-forward to the following day: our Thanksgiving meal turned out just as planned, with my dad’s smoked turkey, my mom’s dressing, and my ginger-pear cranberry sauce among the highlights. We let our food settle during the first half of the Cowboys game, and then out came the desserts at halftime. I was especially eager to try the German Chocolate Cake after the prior day’s efforts. Despite my fight with the frosting, the cake was perfect. The chocolate cake was moist and sweet, and the frosting — oh, the frosting — was indulgently rich, just as German Chocolate cake frosting should be. This cake is a 5-star recipe — but one I plan to make only once per year.
Aunt Doe’s German Chocolate Cake
1 pkg (4 oz) Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate
½ cup boiling water
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
2½ cups sifted Swan Down cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
4 egg whites, beaten stiffly
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 and 2/3 stick butter
5 egg yolks
1 can evaporated milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
2 cups chopped pecans
1. To melt chocolate, pour boiling water over chocolate in a small, heat-proof bowl. Let cool.
2. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add yolks, one at a time, beating well after each. Blend in vanilla and chocolate.
3. Sift flour with baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the chocolate mixture, beating after each addition until smooth.
4. Fold in beaten egg whites.
5. Pour batter into three 9-inch round cake pans, greased and lined on bottoms with wax paper.
6. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool on wire racks. Once completely cool, frost.
1. Melt and mix the sugar and butter in a large saucepan until they are well mixed.
2. Add the egg yolks, one at a time. Mix well after each addition.
3. Add the evaporated milk. Cook to soft ball stage. Take off burner.
4. Stir in the vanilla, coconut, and pecans.
5. Frost and assemble the cake, placing frosting on both the tops and sides of each layer. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Yield: 12-16 servings (at least). PointsPlus per serving: I do not want to know.