Friday, July 29, 2011

German chocolate cake (p. 719) and Coconut pecan filling (p. 759)

Fans, I know a lot of you are a bit hard-hearted and particularly like stories of TJOTJOC related disaster. You will be in for a real treat with this post.

I went to my father's house with the express intent of learning how to can and to do some canning, since that is a portion of the book in which I'm spectacularly behind. Dad took the day off of work for this endeavor, since my puppy was used to being left alone for that time, my mom wouldn't have to watch him, and he wouldn't be hassling us or causing destruction in dad's house. Unfortunately, he had to pick up my stepmother around 5 pm, so we started the day with a deadline.

And dad surprised me with a request. Since it was my brother's birthday, we should make him a cake! Of course, the cake had to be made with stuff that he either had on hand or could be easily bought in the tiny grocery store of his town. We settled (rather hilariously without asking the birthday boy) on German chocolate cake (p. 719). The decision to make a cake stressed me out because it limited our timeline even more. I was trying to fly through making the cake.

Of course, the little store didn't have cake flour (mistake 1 or M1) so we just used all-purpose flour (which he refused to sift [M2]), which was combined with baking soda and salt. In another bowl, baking chocolate was finely chopped (chop it VERY finely since you aren't heating it) and mixed with boiling water, with vanilla added once the chocolate was melted. In a third bowl, dad was supposed to beat butter until creamy and slowly add in sugar and egg yolks, which were added one at a time:

As you can see, buttermilk was being held in a measuring cup, as TJOC specified. On low speed, the chocolate was added to the sugar/egg mixture until incorporated. The flour mixture was added in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, which was added in two parts (so it went flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour):

The batter was actually looking pretty good at this point.

In another bowl, with clean beaters, Dad beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until they were stiff.

A third of the egg whites were folded in to the batter:

And when that was incorporated, the rest of the egg whites were folded in:

He totally forgot to add sugar (M3), which was supposed to be mixed in to the egg whites. It had to be folded in at this point (which I don't think really worked).

Dad poured the batter into pans before I noticed what he was doing. Instead of using three pans, he used two (M4). I knew that was going to be a problem, because when the pans are the wrong size, the batter tends not to cook correctly:

Because the cakes were baked in the wrong size pan, they had a number of problems. By the time the middle was cooked, the edges were overcooked. They overflowed the pan, which caused a layering problem. And they didn't come neatly out of the pan:

I had made the frosting earlier. Obviously, we chose Coconut pecan filling (p. 759), the traditional filling of German chocolate cake.

I combined sugar, heavy cream, egg yolks, and butter in a saucepan:

I cooked it over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture was thickened:

I then mixed in coconut and chopped pecans. Dad didn't have enough pecans, so like is so common in my family, we used a mixture of pecans and walnuts (M5).

The frosting actually looked good and tasted delicious. It had the perfect combination of caramelized sugar, coconut, and pecan flavors...perfection. I will use this recipe again. Of course, it was here another problem occurred (M6). I left the pot on a burner since it was finished but not needed yet. While heating up some water, dad flipped on the wrong burner. Guess which burner got flipped on? Of course, it was the burner with the frosting. We figured it out once the overwhelming stench of burning sugar came wafting through the air. Thankfully, just the bottom was burned and the rest of the frosting was salvageable (there wasn't enough coconut for another batch).

Honestly, tell me this isn't the ugliest cake you've ever seen?

I decided not to embarrass my brother by taking a picture of him with this monstrosity.

Apparently, the sides of German chocolate cake are supposed to be left unfrosted. Believe it or not, it was actually pretty good! The cake was dry (to be expected by the mishandling of the ingredients and the cake pan problem) but had a nice flavor and the frosting was actually pretty tasty (miraculously, not burnt tasting). Frankly, if the cake could make it through all those mistakes and not be absolutely terrible, I recommend the recipe, because if you make it correctly it should be awesome! My brother was a good sport about the whole thing.

Even the candles were sad:

They melted wax all over the cake so you had to pick around the wax while eating (final mistake). You can see how crumbly it was--that's from overbaking the cake due to the wrong pan size.

I hope some of you can add stories of cakes gone wrong.

Random facts:
German chocolate cake has absolutely nothing to do with Germany. Apparently Sam German, who was an American, worked for Baker's Chocolate and developed a type of dark baking chocolate. Baker's named their sweet chocolate after him. So it was Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate. A baker developed the cake in the 50's, calling it German's Chocolate Cake. Somewhere along the line the possessive got dropped (Wikipedia). So German chocolate cake has nothing to do with Germany. A new fact for you to share at your next dinner party!

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  1. I have cake fail all the time due to altitude and having to adjust leavening for it and not always getting it right. But I persevere...

  2. Thank you for the post it saved me from making the same mistake. I only had two pans as well. I made 10 cupcakes with the leftover batter. They are in the oven at the moment so hoping that they will come out all right :)

  3. Umm . . . also it looks like you used a mixer to "fold" in the egg whites? If you use a mixer, it is not folding. Folding is done very gently with a rubber spatula. (M2.5?) On the other hand, there is NOTHING wrong with an ugly cake! As long as it tastes good.


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