Monday, June 14, 2010
How could I have possibly gone this long without ever even trying to make a German Chocolate cake? It's such a popular cake that you can always find it behind the glass of any decent sized bakery and yet it never even crossed my mind as I flipped through the recipe pages of a new book or in my head, thinking up the next experiment. Well, all that changed this weekend. There was a surprise 50th birthday in the works and my friend asked me to help out, so along with a giant batch of coleslaw and a tub of meat balls, I'd also be bringing a huge cake. And the birthday girl's favorite was German Chocolate and birthday girl gets what birthday girl wants. No wiggle room. So I set out to find the ultimate recipe and once again, I found the most promising one written up by David Lebowitz.
Since it was my first time making this cake I decided not to mess with it, so aside from doubling the recipe, I left well enough alone and got started as soon as I got home from work on Friday. The cake layers came together quickly and with a minimum of fuss and came out of the oven looking fantastic. And that's about where my luck ran out. I made the coconut filling, bringing the mixture to the specified temperature, mixing in the nuts and coconut and setting it aside to cool, and theoretically to thicken as well. But as the clock ticked by and the night got later and later, the mixture stayed thin and runny. Uh oh.
"Just a few more minutes" I thought, as I got started with the chocolate icing, but as that was sitting in a bowl cooling, my patience wore a bit thin. I dumped the filling back into the pot and set it back to cook, bringing it up to 200F this time. I added an extra half a cup of coconut and an extra half cup of nuts and once again set it aside to cool. Half hour later it was perfect and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Cake layers cut, drizzled with syrup, spread with filling and carefully stacked, I turned to my icing, only to find that it too betrayed me by staying much too runny to spread. This time I figured the fix would be much easier. I melted another 4 ounces of chocolate and carefully folded it in. A few minutes later it was perfect, but by this time the clock was chiming midnight. The cake iced and stored in the fridge, I tossed all the bowls in the sink and stumbled off to bed. The cake came out great, and I have learned what to look for in terms of "doneness" next time, so all in all the experiment was a success (at least according to the birthday girl), even if it did cut into my sleep time.
German Chocolate Cake
One big, tall 9-inch cake; about 16 servings
Adapted with minimal adjustments from David Lebowitz
For the cake:
2 ounces semisweet chocolate chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons water
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the filling:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 ounces butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted
For the syrup:
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
For the chocolate icing:
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1. Completely cover two 9-inch cake pans with wax paper and spray with Pam, the one with flour in the mix. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Melt both chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water in a glass bowl in the microwave, stirring at 15 second intervals. You can also use a double-boiler, but I feel it involves too many dishes to wash. Stir until smooth, then set aside until room temperature.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
5. Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients.
6. In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks. Beat in the 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff.
7. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there's no trace of egg white visible.
8. Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Check it at 35 minutes if you're using pans bigger then 9", you don't want the cake to dry out too much or burn).
Cool cake layers completely and while the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.
To make the filling:
1. Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the 3 ounces butter, salt, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large bowl.
2. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 190°.)
3. Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.)
To make the syrup:
In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum. Don't drink it, no matter how good it smells. I promise, there will be some left over for spiking cocktails.
To make the icing:
1. Place the 10 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and 1 1/2 ounces of butter.
2. Heat the cream until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Let sit until room temperature.
To assemble the cake:
Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife.
Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup. Spread 3/4 cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top.
Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading 3/4 cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top. (I only had a little topping left for the top, so I just made the chocolate border wider to compensate, so no worries if you run low).
Ice the sides with the chocolate icing, then pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping. I find that cakes that you add syrup to get better on the 2nd day, so make this the night before and store in the fridge overnight.