One of my favorite memories from childhood is of a birthday cake my mom made for me. I was turning 5 and I was having my party at a Putt-Putt (remember those?). My cake that year was inspired by my obsession du jour: Strawberry Shortcake. My mom made this goofy, two-level cake decorated with red gel frosting with a Strawberry Shortcake doll perilously perched on top. It made my eyes light up then…and as an adult, I still smile & chuckle when I see a photo of that thing.
While there is a place in this world for a sleek fondant-covered cake (cue the wedding bells), there is something to be said for a hand-crafted, homemade, not-so-fancy birthday cake. Slaved & stressed over with attention to details the recipient would like – not what's going to be so darn photogenic. This isn't Ace of Cakes over here.
My friend Martin had a birthday this week. He's been talking about German Chocolate Cake ever since he made a carrot cake but thought he was making a German Chocolate Cake instead. Editors Note: I don't know how that happened either so don't ask me. As my birthday gift to him, I thought I'd make one from scratch. As I've said before, baking scares the crap out of me so a multi-layered, frosted & decorated version is something I would normally call in an order for. Instead, I Frankenstein-ed a couple recipes together and came up with a sweet, chocolatey, gooey hit. This is a heavy hitter chocolate bomb so don't expect diet food. Oh yeah, it has a little booze in it, too.
- In a microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate and water and heat in a microwave or over a double boiler until melted. Stir until smooth and set aside. In a separate bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, vanilla extract, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the melted chocolate. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating, until just combined. Stir in bourbon, if using.
- Add the egg whites to a small bowl and beat with an egg beater until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whites into the batter until well incorporated.
- Pour the batter evenly into 2 buttered/prepared (9-inch) cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes depending on your oven. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.
for the Coconut Pecan Filling:
- Combine the evaporated milk, slightly beaten egg yolks, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and butter in a large saucepan or heavy pot over low heat. When the butter melts raise the heat to medium, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken after 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the coconut and pecans (except for those reserved for the top cake garnish) and cool before frosting the cakes.
For the Chocolate Icing:
- Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and 1 ½ ounces of butter.
- 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. Stir in Kahlua, if using. Let sit until room temperature.
To Assemble the German Chocolate Cake:
- Put a cake layer on top of a serving plate. Drizzle cake layer with 1 tablespoon bourbon or other liquor. Top with a generous layer
of the caramel/pecan filling. Cover the frosting with another cake
layer, drizzle that layer with 1 tbsp. of bourbon and spread with the frosting. Top with the final layer and
frost. Spread remaining coconut/pecan filling on top of cake and sprinkle with extra toasted coconut & pecans.
Spread dark chocolate frosting around the outside of the entire cake. I piped a decorative trim on the top layer to connect the side chocolate frosting to the top – this is optional but I think it makes a nice finishing touch.