Birthdays in our home typically are pretty low key with the birthday person choosing their meals for the day and what type of dessert they want. Whether it’s a home-cooked meal or dinner out, there is always some type of dessert afterwards with presents being opened followed by some wonderful time spent with family and a few friends. My husband’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago and he requested a German Chocolate Cake which he thought I would just whip up from a boxed cake mix and store bought frosting. Ha! This girl wasn’t going to go that route, although the obstacles involved in baking this German Chocolate Cake from scratch had me contemplating doing just that for a brief moment…or two! I persevered and the result was simply delicious.
The obstacles I mentioned included not having coffee before starting this cake as I didn’t measure the butter correctly nor did I take enough time to read the proper amount of evaporated milk for the frosting. Both mistakes had me starting over and then as if that wasn’t enough – I failed to notice that I only had ONE round cake pan (I seriously know there is another one SOMEWHERE in this house), so I had to bake one layer at a time. I rallied and once I had coffee in my system, it was all systems go!
This chocolate cake is a recipe that I have used so many times over the years and it’s from my very stained and well-loved cookbook, Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook (No, I didn’t buy it in 1934). I have had this cookbook since I was 12 and it was my souvenir from a sixth grade class trip to Hershey Park, in Pennsylvania (1979). While the others were buying souvenir candy bars, pencils, hats, or shirts, I choose this cookbook. I have not regretted it; although, the large Hershey’s chocolate bar did tempt me.
The frosting in this German Chocolate Cake is not a typical butter and powdered-sugar based frosting. It’s made by bringing to a boil evaporated milk, cornstarch, sugar, egg yolks, and butter and simmering till it’s thick then adding in the flaked coconut and chopped pecans. Once the delicious coconut-pecan frosting has cooled it’s used to frost the two layers of chocolate cake. This frosting is very sweet so I chose not to frost the sides of the cake which allowed the richness of the Hershey’s cocoa to come through in the cake.
Rich, moist layers of chocolate cake with a creamy coconut pecan frosting come together in this classic German Chocolate Cake. Every bite has a light crunch from the pecans, the sweetness from the coconut and the richness from the layers of chocolate cake.
German Chocolate Cake
For the Cake:
- ¼ cup Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa
- ½ cup boiling water
- 1 cup plus 3 tbsp unsalted butter softened
- 2 ¼ cups sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 eggs room temperature
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk *
For the German Chocolate Frosting
- 2 cups evaporated milk
- 2 tbsp of cornstarch
- 2 cups white granulated sugar
- 6 egg yolks beaten with 1 tsp water
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- 2 cups flaked coconut
For the cake:
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
- Combine together cocoa and water in small bowl until smooth; set aside.
- In a large bowl of a stand mixer beat butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- In a medium bowl, combine together the flour, baking soda and salt.
- To the butter mixture add by alternating between the dry ingredients, the chocolate mixture, and buttermilk beating just enough to blend each time. Pour batter into prepared pans.
- Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly or cake tester comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
- Prepare the coconut-pecan frosting (recipe below) and frost cakes.
- *TIP: To sour milk: Use 1 tablespoon white vinegar plus milk to equal 1 cup.
For the German Chocolate Frosting:
- The frosting will frost a two layer cake with a little frosting leftover. If you bake the cake in a 13 x 9 pan, the FROSTING recipe needs to be decreased by HALF.
- In a large saucepan combine evaporated milk and cornstarch and whisk; add in sugar, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla whisking until combined.
- Cook over medium heat until it reaches a slow boil. Once it reaches a boil, stir constantly until thick, about 10-12 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in pecans and coconut. The frosting will thicken up as it cools. Let cool 1 hour then spread on cooled cake. I often speed this process up by refrigerating the frosting for 30 minutes and then letting it cool the rest of the time on the kitchen counter.
- Place bottom layer of cake on a serving plate and top with enough frosting to cover the cake layer. Top with remaining layer of cake and frost with more of the coconut pecan frosting as desired. Garnish with extra chopped pecans, if desired.