The German Chocolate Cake was a tad more complicated. First off, it isn't the slightest bit German. Or even European. Rather, it was named for the American chocolate maker Sam German, who developed the formula for Baker's Chocolate, originally known as Baker's German's Chocolate.
The cake, which was highly popular in the 1960s and 70s, featured this ingredient and was originally known as Baker's German's Chocolate Cake. Somewhere along the line the name was shortened--not surprisingly, for the original handle was rather cumbersome--to German Chocolate Cake. It is a chocolate layer cake, filled and topped with a sticky gooey coconut pecan icing. I recall making this as a child from a mix that came with a can of the coconut frosting. The trouble was, the can of frosting was never quite enough to fill and top the cake, but since it came with the package there was no easy way to double it up. Despite this problem, German Chocolate Cake was a regular in my pre- adolescent baking repertoire.
I reprised this cake with a homemade version last week, digging up the authentic Betty Crocker version in an old cookbook. The recipe even had a post script: "This is the original grass roots version that swept the country to become a classic." In other words, this recipe went viral, 1970s style.
|Pretty, isn't it? Mine looked nothing like this.|
The chocolate cake was very straight forward and the three layers turned out fine, although, full confession, I substituted Ghirardelli's Dark Chocolate for the Baker's. The icing was another story, however, and made me long for the stingy can of my childhood. The recipe said, "cook icing over medium heat, stirring occasionally, til thickened, for 12 minutes." I did, but the stuff started to burn after about 6 minutes. I mean really burn, like sheets of char were swimming up in the pot when I "stirred occasionally." I dumped the solution into a clean pot, careful not to include the charred bottom, and resumed a ceaseless vigilance over lower heat. After many more than 12 minutes, the stuff was still soup.
The recipe said, "when thickened, beat until spreading consistency." I figured maybe their "thickened" and my "thickened" were different--I mean, lots of things have changed since the 1970s--so I proceeded to the next step. No joy. Then I decided that the hot temperature was to blame for the sustained liquidity and put the bowl in the fridge. Three hours later I had a cold, sweet, admittedly delicious concoction that remained soup. I beat it with an electric mixer, hoping for thickness. Got none.
I crushed some more nuts, figuring that more solids would thicken the goo. I added some unsweetened coconut, again striving for thickness (the recipe called for sweetened, flaked coconut, which I had used, but I didn't want any more sweetened ingredients as the mixture was quite sweet already.) For this reason, I avoided the obvious tactic of adding powdered sugar, which is a go-to fix in this fix. I continued to taste the frosting, and truly enjoyed the many spoonfuls I ate, but knew that the 3 layers of cake would slide off each other if the texture of the icing did not improve.
And then it hit me. Drum roll, please. Cream cheese! Perfect texture, no added sweetness. I hopped (literally, for my foot is still fractured) out to the store, procured a lb of cream cheese, added it to the goo, and the icing, finally, was spreadable. It looked like spackling material, not at all pretty, but the cake stayed aloft. And by dessert, the crowd had consumed a good quantity of German beer, so the aesthetics of the cake presentation were not of paramount concern.