German Chocolate Cake

Episode 5 Hilah’s Texas Kitchen: German Chocolate Cake and Sweetish Hill Bakery

“German chocolate” is unfailingly my dear dad’s choice every single year for his birthday cake. It’s been that since I was teeny weeny. I started making it myself once I was not so weeny and was able to cook on my own. I wasn’t much older than 9 I don’t think. It’s a fairly involved cake, but the results are worth it. The cake is light and airy with a caramel-type icing loaded with shredded coconut and pecans.

The story behind the cake is interesting. Its invention is credited to Mrs. George Clay of Dallas who sent in the recipe to the Dallas Morning Star and it was published on June 3, 1957. From there, the makers of German’s Sweet Baking Chocolate got hold of it and syndicated the recipe all over the country to promote the purchase of their chocolate, as companies do. The thing is, Sam German invented his sweet chocolate in the mid-1800s and beginning right then, women began coming up with “German’s chocolate cake” recipes and sending them in to newspapers, magazines, and cookbook contests. I found at least 4 different recipes for German chocolate cake.

I thought it would be fun to visit a bakery to learn more about the cake. We chose Sweetish Hill because it’s locally owned and it’s been around since the 1970s. It was always my grandma’s choice to get birthday cakes and holiday pies and French breads. She was not much of a baker or cook. Besides Mrs. Johnson’s Donuts, it’s the oldest bakery still around in Austin. Tom Murphy started there as a baker and eventually bought the business; Β I got the feeling he’s rather be baking than bossing, though.

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German Chocolate Cake

  • Author: Hilah Johnson
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 42 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 12 minutes
  • Yield: 16 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces German’s sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup (1/2 pound) soft butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Icing:
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) butter cut into pats
  • 7 ounce package flaked coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted

Instructions

  1. Set oven to 350ΒΊF and grease 3 9″ cake pans. Line bottoms with waxed or parchment paper.
  2. Separate eggs. Beat egg whites with whisk attachment on high speed. Set aside.
  3. Sift flour with baking soda and salt. Set aside
  4. Chop chocolate and place in a medium bowl. Add boiling water and stir until melted.
  5. Cream butter with sugar.
  6. Add egg yolks one at a time until well combined.
  7. Pour in chocolate while mixing. Add vanilla.
  8. Add flour alternately with buttermilk, about 1/3 at a time, until combined and smooth.
  9. Fold in beaten egg whites.
  10. Divide between pans and bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Cool 5 minutes in pan. Loosen edges and invert onto cooling racks. Cool completely before icing.
  12. Make icing:
  13. Whisk egg yolks, milk, vanilla together in a large sauce pan until eggs are combined. Add butter and sugar and turn pot over medium heat.
  14. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to boil. Cook about 12 minutes or until thickened and golden.
  15. Remove from heat and stir in coconut and pecans. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  16. Spread icing between layers of cake. Traditionally the sides of the cake are not iced, but left bare.

Notes

*Original recipe used shortening instead of butter in the cake and whipping cream instead of evaporated milk in the icing.

 

Variation on German Chocolate Cake, Denton, TX 1952

Variation on German Chocolate Cake, Denton, TX 1952

 

An even older version from 1936, Abilene, Texas

An even older version from 1936, Abilene, Texas

 

17 Comments

  1. Rachel Matthews on July 5, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Mmmmmmm!!! I do love me some German chocolate cake! Interesting history – I did not know this.

    • Hilah on July 6, 2013 at 9:28 am

      It’s such a great cake, isn’t it? And I love the story behind it. Thanks for writing, Rachel!

  2. Yana Maranan on July 10, 2013 at 2:28 am

    I missed your videos because of school. More desserts please

    • Hilah on July 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      I’m glad your’e back, Yana! More desserts are coming. πŸ™‚

  3. Clint on July 16, 2013 at 6:56 am

    This brings back memories of when my grandma was alive and would make a german chocolate cake for family gatherings.

    I don’t know what ingredients she used. Though looking at this recipe I’d definitely prefer butter and whipping cream as ingredients over shortening and evaporated milk.

    • Hilah on July 16, 2013 at 9:17 am

      That’s nice, Clint. Love how food has such a strong memory component. My paternal grandma was not a great cook, but she did used to make these particular gingerbread muffins that are very special to me.
      I always prefer butter over any other baking fat, myself. Sometimes evaporated milk has a place, I think, too. Whipping cream would sure make it even more decadent! Hope you try making it and think about your grandma. πŸ™‚

  4. Farah on July 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    Love German Chocolate Cake, but you also mentioned Italian Cream Cake…..do you have a recipe or possible video for it? πŸ™‚

    • Hilah on July 23, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      That’s a great suggestion, Farah! I’ll do a video for Italian cream cake in the fall. πŸ™‚

  5. dina on July 25, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Hi Hilah!
    I am glad that you reply to me! Also i tried your German cake but i have switched an ingredient here in that recipe, what i have switched is between the chocolate chips. Instead i added cocoa powder and it turned so AMAZING!
    Thank you Hilah
    for replying again
    Sincerely,
    Dina

    • Hilah on July 27, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      I’m glad it worked, Dina! Thanks for trying it and letting me know. πŸ™‚

  6. Bess on August 15, 2013 at 1:28 am

    Hi Hilah, I just want to say that there’s no word can describe my excitement when I found your channel at youtube. I love cooking,especially baking, but sometimes I want wo try sometihing new, something fresh, your recipes make it easy for my to try when I don’t own all those fancy tools, so, gracias! By the way, you are really a fun women, I like the way you make your vids~ Greeting from China!

    • Hilah on August 15, 2013 at 7:19 am

      Hi Bess! πŸ˜€ I’m glad you are able to make some of my recipes. I try to keep them accessible for people, and also I personally don’t like keeping a million gadgets around the house, either!
      Thanks for writing!

  7. Marita on February 11, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Hello Hilah!

    I have had the honor of baking the german chocolate cake over the Christmas holidays for my dad’s birthday (which happens to be on Christmas day πŸ™‚ ). Needless to say my family enjoyed the cake and is now putting in orders for more homemade cakes to come. My mother’s birthday is coming up and she is requesting a yellow cake with pineapple filling and chocolate icing. Crazy I know but it was one of her favorites she would request from my grandmother (the baker of the family) when she was still living. Anywho, my question is..Could I still use the recipe from the “cake” part, but just don’t use the chocolate to make a yellow cake? Thanks in advance for helping me out. πŸ™‚

    • Hilah on February 11, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Hi Marita!
      I’m very happy to hear this recipe was a hit with your family!
      The cake your mom requested sounds really good, I’ve definitely not had anything like that before. I would not advise trying to make this recipe without the chocolate, though. The liquid component will be off as will the acidity, I’m afraid. I don’t have a yellow cake recipe on my site (yet!) but check out this recipe for that. It’s a simple 1-2-3-4 cake.

  8. David not Dave on March 12, 2014 at 10:04 am

    thanks. not a fan of GCC, except this recipe. thanks again.

    • Hilah on March 12, 2014 at 11:53 am

      Glad you like this one, David!

  9. Jen on July 22, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Making this for my husband’s birthday… I’m pretty sure I made your recipe last year since it came out right before his b-day then. I’m allergic to nuts and can’t eat dairy due to severe lactose intolerance, but he still gets this cake once a year since it’s his fave!

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