German Chocolate (Birthday) Cake

I usually don’t bake cakes so often, but recently it was my husband’s birthday, and the one cake he swoons for is German Chocolate Cake, so I had no choice.  I make this cake once a year on his special day.  It is so moist and lovely.  The “goo” as my son calls it, is not so pleasing to the eye, but “it tastes yummy” and goes perfectly with the cake.  This recipe is adapted from How To Make An American Layer Cake, published by the folks at Cook’s Illustrated.

Traditional German Chocolate Cake is only frosted between the layers, but since the frosting is so tasty, I do the sides too.  Anna at Cookie Madness has collected a list of various German Chocolate Cake recipes to choose from, but since I only make this cake once a year, I haven’t tried any yet!  Here is the version I use:


Cooking spray

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup nonalkalinzed cocoa (I use Hershey’s), plus some for dusting

2 teaspoons instant espresso or instant coffee

1/3 cup plain yogurt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still firm

1 ¼ cups sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Pecan/Walnut* Coconut Frosting

4 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

2 cups lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut

*I use walnuts, though pecans are traditional, because my husband prefers them.

Make cake:

  1. Set oven rack in middle position. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 8-inch-by-2-inch cake pans.  Cut out parchment rounds to fit inside.  Spray again.  Dust pans with cocoa.
  2. Mix ¼ cup cocoa and espresso or coffee in a small bowl, add 1/3 cup boiling water and mix until smooth.  Cool to room temperature, then stir in vanilla and yogurt until smooth.  Set aside.
  3. Beat butter in bowl of electric mixer at medium-high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Gradually sprinkle in sugar; beat until mixture is fluffy and almost white, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating a full minute after each addition.  Stop mixer and scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
  4. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.  With mixer on lowest speed, add one-third of dry ingredients, followed immediately by one-third of cocoa mixture.  Mix until ingredients are almost incorporated into batter.  Repeat twice more.  When batter appears to be blended, stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl.  Beat until batter looks satiny about 15 seconds.
  5. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans.  Smooth tops with a rubber spatula.  Arrange pans at least 3 inches apart and at least 3 inches from oven walls. If oven is too small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.  Bake until firm in center when lightly pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 23-30 minutes.
  6. Cool cakes in pans set on rack for 10 minutes.  Loose from sides of pans with a knife.  Spray cooling racks with cooking spray, and invert pans on the greased racks.  Let cool completely, about an hour.
  1. Make frosting: Mix yolks, sugar, and salt in medium bowl.  Beat in butter, then gradually add cream and vanilla.
  2. Pour mixture into medium nonreactive saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is puffy and just begins to thicken, 10-15 minutes.
  3. Pour mixture into medium bowl and cool to room temperature.  Stir in nuts and coconut.  Frosting can be covered and kept at room temperature for several hours.
  1. Assemble cake: Cut each cake layer in half so you have four layers.  Do this by measuring the sides of the cakes and mark the halfway point with several toothpicks inserted around the cake.  Then cut in half using a long, serrated bread knife.  Spread about ¾ cup filling on each layer, then gently spread filling on top and sides of cake.

Yield:  18-22 servings (!)


Filed under Desserts

13 responses to “German Chocolate (Birthday) Cake

  1. Love this frosting idea. Will definitely have to try it as am looking for new recipes. i don’t like buttercream and this one actually looks like something that my family would eat. thanks for posting it.

  2. This looks absolutely delicious!

  3. I missed this post while I was running around Italy!

    This one seems more chocolaty and rich than the typical Texas versions I’ve used. I’ll have to try it. I like that it’s not a huge cake. I can justify making it if it’s an 8 inch 2 layer.

  4. Brandy

    I made this cake for my father-in-laws birthday this past weekend. It was a very good cake! It was moist and had lots of flavor. I added a few tbs of Brandy to the coconut icing and also make a chocolate icing for the sides and to decorate the top of the cake. It was beautiful and flavorful and probably the best German Chocolate cake I have ever ate. Thanks of the recipe, we all enjoyed it.

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  7. Yummmy.. I need to try this.

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