This Christmas was my first time trying German Chocolate Cake – delicious coconut and pecan gooey stuff between layers of moist chocolate cake with a creamy chocolate frosting on the sides. AMAZING! I’d be lying if I said I only had a couple slices.
Well a couple days ago I was on my way home and got the familiar urge to bake. I really couldn’t tell you why but I knew I had to make something. I was looking through the fridge to see what could be used. And this brings me to some important rules of baking.
Rule #1: Always check to see what ingredients you have before starting.
I noticed that there were multiple cartons of buttermilk. At this point, I do not know all of the recipes I could possibly use it. I think I used it once over the summer but I have no idea what for, so I started searching online to see what recipes use it. From what I found, I was between trying Red Velvet or German Chocolate cake. Red Velvet has been a long time favorite of mine but boy, oh boy would I love to have another slice of some German Chocolate cake.
My mom also had bags and bags of chocolate chips that she got on sale from the store and the recipe called for melting chocolate baking bars. I assumed this could work as a substitute. And so the baking began. I put chocolate chips into a bowl with water and put that in the microwave. I then put the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and mixed them together. Already, I am at the next rule.
Rule #2: Read all the steps before diving in.
Though it is tempting to start throwing things in the bowl and mixing them up, there is a reason that things are written out in a certain order. Before starting the microwave, I needed to read that I have to mix halfway through the set time for the chocolate to be in there. This is to prevent burning and to help the melting. Thankfully I read the steps again before moving to the next one, so nothing catastrophic happened. I am sorry if that is what you’re here for. Right after that chocolate melting incident, I put the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and mixed them. I really don’t know why I did this because I can’t recall a cake recipe that I have done where this is the first thing in the bowl. The next step was to beat the butter and sugar together in the mixing bowl while the dry ingredients were ready on the side in a separate bowl. This was no huge mistake but it reminded me…again… to ALWAYS READ ALL THE STEPS FIRST.
I was almost through the recipe for the cake layers when I got to a daunting part, at least for me. I needed to fold in the egg whites. Never something I enjoy.
Rule #3: Learn from your mistakes.
The egg yolks were already in as directed and I had the feeling I would need to beat the egg whites. I was right. Why is this so daunting you ask? Because egg whites, after being beaten until fluffy, must be folded in so they don’t lose that beautiful, cloud-like fluff. Over the summer I tried making macarons on multiple occasions. Each time I did, I messed up on this step. I over-mixed the batter when folding in the egg whites. This resulted in flat macarons that had no feet. Very sad. So I remembered the instructional videos I watched and what I have seen my mom do and decided to go for it. And from how the cake turned out, I think I did it okay! This was a little shining moment for me.
After careful considerations (and watching the timer) the cakes were finally out of the oven. I forgot about ruler #2 at this point and took them out of the pan right away onto the cooling racks when the instructions said to leave them in the pan for 15 minutes. Maybe I did not grease the pans enough, maybe this was because I took the cakes out early, or maybe it’s because the recipe said to use parchment paper too in the pans, but just like the last chocolate cake I made, the bottom center of the cake stuck to the pan. Always a sad moment to see but the world kept spinning. Ready for another rule?
Rule #4: Work with what you have…if it’s safe to. If not, be prepared for a run to the grocery store.
All 3 cake layers out of the pans. All 3 with some still stuck in the pan. I scraped out what I could and plopped the pieces back where they should have been on the layers. I decided that the frosting between the layers would mask this, and it did not need to be perfect even though that was what I expected. It was time to move on and make the coconut-pecan frosting.
Again, this was not perfect and I may have over cooked but with the coconut flakes and pecan bits you couldn’t even tell and it wasn’t going to kill anyone. While making the frosting, I pulled out the ingredients and to my surprise there were enough coconut flakes. I wanted to make sure I didn’t mess up the frosting anymore so I checked the expiration date. 10 years old. Probably not safe to work with, so there I was off to the grocery store in my Minnie Mouse slippers. A quick solution.
The cake was now assembled with only some trouble due to how moist this cake was. And now was the time for chocolate whipped cream. Whipped cream is my favorite thing to put on cakes because of how light it is, and adding chocolate? I have no issue with that. I was slapping the whipped cream on the sides and attempting to smooth it when I looked again into the bowl of whipped cream left…not much. I used the rest of the whipped cream in the fridge and just didn’t feel like another grocery run. I made the sides somewhat even and thought “there might be just enough left to do some decorating on the top rim. I was wrong.
I called my mom down to the kitchen, which I sadly can’t do when I go back to my college apartment, and asked for her help. Her quick thinking and problem solving helped me mask the halfway decorated cake. We had just enough pecans to mask the top edges, giving it a much more finished look.
In the end, I had a delicious cake to bring to my aunt and uncles house for dinner and everyone seemed very pleased with how it turned out. I would definitely make this cake again, but until then I will have what’s left in the fridge!
- Parchment paper
- 4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup salted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs, seperated
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- Coconut-Pecan Frosting Link
- 7 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup plus 2 tbsp heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease 3 (9") round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper and lightly grease paper (if you want the while layer to come out of the pan clean).
- Microwave chocolate chips and 1/2 cup water in a large microwave-safe bowl at HIGH for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until chocolate is melted and smooth, stirring once halfway through.
- Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Stir in chocolate mixture and vanilla. Add baking soda. Add flour alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition.
- Beat egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form; gently (!!!!) fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared pans.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from over, and gently run a knife around outer edge of cake layers to loosen from sides of pain. Cool in pans on wire racks for 15 minutes! Remove from pans to wire racks; discard parchment paper. Cool completely (about 1 hour). Spread coconut-pecan frosting between layers and on top.
- For the whipped ganache, put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat 1 cup of the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until steaming but not boiling, and pour over the chocolate. Let stand a few minutes, and then whisk until smooth; let stand at room temperature (or refrigerate if your kitchen is too hot) until thick but not set, 20 minutes to 1 hour (I did about 30 minutes in the refrigerator). Add the remaining 2 tbsp of cream to the chocolate mixture, and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until lightened in color and fluffy (do not overbeat or it will become hard and grainy). The frosting should hold medium peaks, will continue to firm a bit as it stands. Spoon into a pastry bag or apply and smooth with offset spatula. Decorate/garnish as desired.