Sunday, December 20, 2009

German Chocolate Cake

Allen and I went to our friends Robert and Ellie's house last night to celebrate both their birthdays. In keeping with a vaguely pan-European theme, I brought German chocolate cake.

I like my GCC to have lots of chocolate in it, and I suppose that this is a pretty derivative German chocolate cake. Derivative, maybe. Delicious, yes.

German sweet chocolate cake
(The crumb, or what my brother calls "the breading.")
This recipe is adapted from the Baker’s German sweet chocolate cake recipe, and it’s delicious – well worth the extra few steps. It’s incredibly light and rich at the same time. Always scrape the bottom of your mixing bowl after adding a new ingredient.

1 package (4 oz.) German sweet chocolate
½ cup water
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar (divided)
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350˚. Cut squares of parchment for two 8” square cake pans (or use two 9” round pans). Butter the sides of pans.

Microwave chocolate and water in a medium bowl on high for about 1 minute; stir. Microwave until almost melted, and stir until melted.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Beat butter in a large bowl with 1 ½ cups of the sugar, until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing on low speed until incorporated. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beating just until blended after each addition.

Beat egg whites until foamy, preferably in a copper bowl, and slowly add the remaining ½ cup of sugar. Beat on high until stiff peaks form. Fold gently into the batter. Batter should be light in color and texture. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake in preheated oven for about 32 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Immediately run a sharp knife around the edges. Turn onto a rack to cool completely.

Coconut-pecan filling
This is also adapted from the Baker’s recipe.
4 egg yolks
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cups butter (1 ½ sticks)
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 7-ounce package shredded or flaked coconut (about 2 2/3 cups)
1 ½ cups chopped pecans

Beat egg yolks, milk, and vanilla in a large saucepan with a wire whisk until well blended. Add sugar, butter, and cornstarch, and cook on medium heat 15 minutes or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Stir in coconut and pecans. Let cool to room temperature.

Shortcut chocolate buttercream (small batch)
4 oz. semisweet chocolate
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
¾ heaping cups powdered sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Microwave semisweet chocolate for 30 seconds, and stir. Continue until chocolate is completely melted. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Beat butter until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat on medium speed until well incorporated.

Sift in the cocoa powder, and stir slowly until incorporated. Gradually bring speed to high, and beat until frosting is fluffy.

Stir in melted chocolate, and beat on high speed until mixture is fluffy.

Frosting may be refrigerated to reach the desired spreading consistency. Stir well before using.

Chocolate ganache
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.

In another bowl, microwave cream, stirring occasionally, until bubbles start to break the surface. Promptly pour over the chocolate, swirl bowl to cover the chocolate, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Stir with a whisk, concentrating on the very center of the bowl, and gradually moving out to the sides, until chocolate is melted and you have a smooth, dark mixture. Stir in vanilla extract. Set aside, stirring occasionally, until it reaches desired spreading consistency, about an hour.

To assemble the cake:
Slice cake layers lengthwise through the center, using a long bread knife or a cake leveler,* to form four layers.

*A cake leveler is a $3 tool that will make your life so much easier. Here's one.

Cut the tip off of a large plastic bag or a piping bag, and fill halfway with ganache. Form dams by drawing thick lines of ganache around all four sides of each of the cake layers – this will keep your frosting from seeping out once the cake is assembled.

Place all four layers in the refrigerator until the dams are hardened.

Fill another piping bag with chocolate buttercream. Pipe an even layer of buttercream onto the first layer of cake, using nearly half the buttercream.

A cardboard square underneath will facilitate moving the cake to and fro.

Cover with the second layer of cake. Using an offset spatula, spread half of the coconut-pecan filling onto the cake.

Cover with the third layer. Pipe a layer of chocolate buttercream, reserving a small amount for decorations.

Cover with the fourth layer of cake.

Make a crumb coat: Spread half of the remaining ganache onto the cake’s four sides, smoothing irregularities as much as possible. Leave the top uncovered. Refrigerate until ganache has completely set, about 30 minutes.

Maybe try not to be as messy as I am.

Spread remaining ganache onto sides of cake. Run a cake decorating triangle around the sides to make ridges, or use a bench scraper to make sides perfectly smooth.

Spread the remaining coconut-pecan filling on the top of the cake.

Pipe buttercream onto the edges to cover the ganache dam.

This cake is huge, impressive, and very rich. It would make a great birthday cake.


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