German’s American cake

German chocolate cake
German chocolate cake is not German. The consummately American cake was created in the U.S. and named after an American chocolatier who worked at the oldest chocolate company in the U.S. In summary, German chocolate cake is named after German’s chocolate bar who created chocolate for bakers at Baker’s. Got it? More precisely, the cake was named after Sam German, who created a more sweetened version of dark baking chocolate at Baker’s, the chocolate company founded in part and owned by Dr. James Baker. Phew! Can we eat it now?

German chocolate cake

This beautiful version of German’s American Chocolate Bar for Bakers by Baker’s Chocolate Cake (which is a more accurate name for this confection, in my opinion) is brought to you by the Gramercy Tavern Cookbook. The cake layers are wafer-thin and deeply chocolatey. The filling substitutes the typical gooey sugar-bomb caramel with a more subtle, coconut milk-infused caramel that is chunky and crunchy. Double the recipe to achieve the height in the photo above to impress your guests visually, then barrage them with trivia about the cake as I have done to dazzle them with your knowledge. Or, as I should, just pipe down and serve it already.


key coco lime

The second cake I made for Monisha and Max’s wedding picnic was a play on this super-delish margarita cake that we all enjoyed. For Max I chose a refined chocolate cake with warm and soothing flavors, so for Monisha I wanted to make something more tropical that was vibrant and bright. Part 2: Key lime coconut bundt cake. (Read part 1 here.)


I went to my trusted source, Gourmet, for this stellar Key lime coconut cake recipe. The zesty acidity of the limes are in perfect contrast to the toasty crunch of coconut, yielding a cake that is somehow quite refreshing. This cake is wonderfully moist from the Key lime simple syrup and has a delicate crumb, with bits of chewy coconut throughout.

I tried the cake with only regular Persian limes as well, and let me tell you: fresh Key limes really make this cake sing – the result is less sour and more aromatic, especially if you use slightly yellower (sweeter) Key limes. If they’re not in season, you could use bottled key lime juice or alternately the more common Persian limes.

I tried the syrup/glaze two different ways. Above, I soaked the warm cake in syrup and added the coconut on top (as called for in the original recipe). I also tried mixing the coconut straight into the glaze, which will then set more into a formed topping that you can see below. My preference was for the glaze in the cake with coconut added separately as the fresh lime permeates every crumb of cake rather than be concentrated (and for me, overpowering) in the topping. However, by mixing the coconut into the glaze it definitely sticks to the cake better, so I’d consider adding a bit less lime to the glaze if you go this way.

For the moistest, most flavor-packed cake: use half of the glaze on the bottom of the cake while it is still cooling in the pan by poking holes with a skewer or toothpick. After 5 minutes, turn out of the pan and add the rest of the glaze to the top (poke some more holes on the top, too).  The result: a really tender cake with sweet toasty coconut and tangy, aromatic Key lime that actually tastes even better the next day as the flavors meld over time.


new year, new coco


So I have been a bit MIA – travel, bored, uninspired. But it’s a new year, and tomorrow, a new hope – as all eyes will be on DC for the inauguration of Barack Obama.  Who isn’t swept up in this whirlwind of excitement when history will be made? I know our household is pretty stoked, and rather than weather the freezing masses in DC, we plan to watch it all unfold in a toasty home with some good eats. We’ll be making Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, a nod to one of the culinary accomplishments of the city that sends us their own Mr. Smith.  And for dessert, I was inspired by Obama’s childhood in Hawaii for a cake full of tropical flavor.  So for a sweet ending to a memorable election, here is a luscious coconut cake – moist, fluffy and rich – that looks and tastes just as I imagine a bite out of cloud nine would.

Coconut Layer Cake

Bon Appétit, December 1999

2 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 and 3/4 cups sugar

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut (not coconut milk)

4 large eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

4 cups of sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter and cream of coconut in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in dry ingredients and then buttermilk, each just until blended.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites until stiff. Fold beaten egg whites into batter.

Divide cake batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool.


Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

adapted from Bon Appétit, April 2003

2 8-oz packages of cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup canned sweetened cream of coconut (not coconut milk)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond or coconut extract (optional)

Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar, then cream of coconut and both extracts. Chill until firm enough to spread, about 30 minutes.

Frost top of one layer of cake, top with coconut to cover.  Place second cake on top and frost generously on top and all sides. Top with coconut and press coconut into sides.