Wednesday, April 6, 2011

German Chocolate Cake

Michele's German Chocolate Cake - made April 6, 2011 from Chocolate Cake by Michele Urvater (book #79)

You can see the left side is in danger of falling - eek
I can't believe I haven't blogged about a German chocolate cake yet.  Then again, I also haven't made a German chocolate cake in ages.  This is one of those rare, rare exceptions I make to the "no nuts" rule in cakes.  And technically the nuts are in the frosting so it's not that bad.  I love German chocolate cake because it's a chocolate cake with coconut and I love both coconut and chocolate.  German chocolate cake, as most people know, doesn't have anything to do with Germany or Germans.  It didn't come from there, wasn't invented there and there's no significance to it in Germany.  Rather, the sweet chocolate was invented in the United States by Sam German so they named the chocolate after him.  I typically prefer my chocolate on the dark and fudgy side and almost swapped out the sweet chocolate for the bittersweet chocolate in this recipe but I decided not to blaspheme the original intent of the German chocolate cake and just went with it.  At least this time.

What made me choose this recipe to try is it's got a slight variation to the typical German chocolate cake in that it adds espresso powder and sweet chocolate to both the cake and the frosting.  Sometimes German chocolate cake is overly sweet given the sweet chocolate, the brown sugar frosting and the coconut.  I hoped Michele Urvater's variation might offset that sweetness. I baked the cakes in 3 8" round cake pans since I didn't have enough 9" round cake pans.  They baked for about 40 minutes before they seemed done.  There was a crust to the top of each which made poking a toothpick into the center of the cake a bit problematic because once the crust was broken, the cakes caved in at the toothpick's point of entry.  Hmm, that wasn't good.  Fortunately the frosting was going to cover up the little craters so I didn't worry about it too much.

sadly, you can't even distinguish the layers!
After I put the three cake layers and the frosting together, I got good news and bad news.  The good news: this cake could well be one of the best I've ever made.  The taste and texture were both excellent, not too chocolaty or too sweet and the soft texture was superb and addicting.  This is cake as it should be.  The espresso powder and chocolate in the frosting were very complementary to the cake, the coconut and the nuts.  If you don't like the taste of espresso or coffee, leave out the espresso powder in the frosting but you can leave it in the cake as the espresso taste isn't strong in the cake.  I don't care for a strong coffee taste so next time I'll leave the espresso powder out of the frosting.

The bad news: this is also one of the most delicate cakes I've ever made.  As in fragile.  As in the second layer broke apart when I tried to place it on top of the first layer.  Which made the third layer lean because the 2nd layer wasn't even and the cake threatened to fall apart.  I had to hurry up and take the picture before anything broke off and took a dive off the cake.  Consequently, my 3-layer cake looks a little lame.  This was also difficult to cut because the cake layers were so fragile and you can't even see distinct layers and frosting in between. So these pics aren't making the cover of a baking magazine anytime soon.  But don't let appearances deceive you.  This is a delicious cake.  Kudos, Michele Urvater.  This recipe alone was worth the book and I'm glad I picked this one to try from it.

4 ounces German sweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder
2 ¼ cups (10 ounces) cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (15 ounces) superfine sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup packed (7.5 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon instant espresso coffee powder
3 large egg yolks
4 ounces German’s Sweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ½ cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) toasted pecans, finely chopped

1.     In a small saucepan, combine the chocolate with the milk and espresso coffee.  Over low heat, bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring.  Remove from the heat and transfer it to a bowl to cool to room temperature.
2.     Position the oven racks so they are both as close to the center of the oven as possible.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly butter and flour three 9 x 2-inch round cake pans, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with parchment circles.
3.     Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt twice, and set it aside.
4.     With an electric mixer on low speed (or with a stationary mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat the butter for 1 minute, or until light.  Slowly add the sugar, about 2 tablespoons at a time, and when all of it has been added, continue to beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping down the beaters and sides of the bowl as needed.  The mixture will look fluffy, like something between mayonnaise and whipped cream.
5.     Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating for 10 seconds between additions, then add the vanilla and cooled chocolate and beat for a few minutes longer, or until the mixture is smooth.
6.     With a rubber spatula, fold the sifted ingredients into the batter in three additions, alternating with the coconut milk in two additions.  Beat with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute, or until blended.
7.     Transfer the batter to the prepared pans, smooth the tops and rap the pans sharply on the counter to break up any large air bubbles.  After the first 20 minutes of baking, rotate the pans from back to front and top to bottom so they bake evenly. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out dry. 
8.     Cool the cakes to room temperature in their pans on a wire rack.  Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cakes from the sides of the pans.  The layers should shrink quite a bit once they cool down.  Unmold and peel off the paper circles just before filling.

To fill and frost:
1.     Set aside ¼ cup of the brown sugar.  In a small saucepan, combine the remaining ¾ cup brown sugar with the cream, butter and espresso and bring to a simmer, stirring.  Remove from the heat.
2.     Combine the egg yolks with the reserved ¼ cup brown sugar.  Slowly drizzle some of the hot cream and sugar into the yolks, whisking constantly so the eggs don’t curdle.  Add about half of the hot liquid to the yolks, then return the yolk mixture to the saucepan.  Stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, bring the liquid to a simmer and cook over very low heat until it has thickened and steam rises from the pan.
3.     Pour the filling through a sieve into a clean bowl and whisk in the chopped chocolate until it melts.  Cool to room temperature, then add the coconut and pecans.
4.     Center one cake layer, upside down, on a cardboard round cut slightly larger than the cake.  Frost it with 1/3 of the filling.  Set the second layer turned upside down over the filling and frost it with 1/3 more of the filling.  Top with the last layer, set upside down, and spread with the last of the filling, leaving the sides unfrosted.

Storage: Keep in the refrigerator, wrapped airtight in plastic, and eat within 3 days.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, that looks like one delicious mound of chocolate cake. I just want to dig right in.