Baked Sunday Mornings: German Chocolate Cake

This week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe is the Marble Bundt Cake, which I made relatively recently and enjoyed immensely (you can read my blog post about that cake here). I decided to go rogue and make the German Chocolate Cake from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking instead. While German chocolate cake is one of my childhood favorites (it was one of the handful of cakes that my mother used to bake), I've never baked one myself before.

Most of the chocolate layer cakes from Baked use the same recipe for the cake itself, but this one is different. To make the cake batter, you beat sugar and softened butter until fluffy; add eggs and vanilla; alternately add the dry ingredients (cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) and liquid ingredients (hot coffee and buttermilk); and fold in cooled, melted dark chocolate. You divide the batter between three parchment-lined 8-inch cake pans and bake. 

This cake is designed to be a naked cake with coconut-pecan filling between the cake layers and the sides of the cakes left bare (the photo in the cookbook is the same one here on cookstr). To make the filling you bring sugar, butter, evaporated milk, vanilla, and egg yolks to a boil and cook the mixture until thickened; add toasted sweetened coconut, shredded coconut, and toasted pecans; and cool the filling in an ice bath. Even though the coconut filling was pretty firm after cooling, I was taking this cake to the office on a hot and humid day (it is still unseasonably hot and muggy here in D.C., even in October!), and I was afraid that the cake layers might slip and slide around during my commute. So I decided to build this as a Momofuku Milk Bar-style cake -- inside a cake ring -- and to add some milk chocolate frosting to help hold in the coconut filling. (The latter idea was specific suggestion in the recipe, to use the milk chocolate frosting from the Milk Chocolate Malt Ball Cake as an additional decoration; I made a third of the frosting recipe and ended up with just a little left over.)
Even if I wasn't worried about transporting the cake, I think I would have preferred to assemble it in a cake ring; the sides of my cakes weren't all that attractive and they looked nice and neat after I trimmed them down to fit inside a 7-inch ring. I put the first cake layer inside the acetate-lined ring, piped a good amount of milk chocolate frosting (made by pouring a hot mixture of heavy cream and corn syrup over a 50-50 mixture of milk chocolate and dark chocolate; letting it cool; and beating in cool butter) around the perimeter of the cake layer, filled in the center with coconut filling, added another layer of cake, and so on and so forth. I left the cake in the ring while I took it to work to ensure that everything stayed put.
The recipe headnote says that this cake was "a moist, dense, crumb." With the very first cut I made, I realized that this was true -- and in fact, I thought the cake was overly moist, to the point of being damp. It was cooked through, but I had to wipe a mess of crumbs off of the knife after every cut, and it was very difficult to get clean cuts. In fact, this is my least favorite of all of the Baked chocolate cake recipes because of the damp texture. I really liked the flavor -- it had a strong cocoa flavor that reminded me of a good brownie -- but I was irritated by the sticky crumbs it left behind everywhere. On the other hand, the coconut filling was freakin' amazing and I wanted to eat all of it with a spoon. It was sweet, but not too sweet. The milk chocolate frosting was really unnecessary and in the future I would just stick with the coconut-pecan filling, especially because I think it would have been sturdy enough to hold the cake together without seeping out through the sides.

My complaints about the cake texture are not all that serious and I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from trying it -- this cake was delicious and a big hit. The coconut-pecan filling is the stuff dreams are made of and I am eager to make and eat it again!

Recipe: "German Chocolate Cake" from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at cookstr.