This groove on German chocolate cake features single mini-cakes, their sides enrobed in chocolate, topped with the classic coconut-caramel -pecan topping/filling. While traditional German chocolate cake is a lighter-colored, sweet cake — more milk chocolate than dark — my version is devil’s food and enjoyable.
Apropos, German chocolate cake has nothing to do with the nation-state, and everything to do with Sam German, a worker of the Baker’s Chocolate Company, who actually came up with this delicious recipe in 1852. Today, there are many varieties of these mini cakes – but, this is the easiest version that you can do at home and surprise your family for the weekend.
German Chocolate Mini Cakes
For the cake:
- 12 tbsp. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter*
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tsp. espresso powder
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups cool water
Note: *If you use salted butter, reduce the salt in the recipe to 1/4 teaspoon.
For the icing:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
For the topping:
- 3/8 cup (5 tbsp. + 1 tsp.) unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp. pecan flavor or praline flavor (optional)
- 1 cup shredded or flaked coconut, unsweetened or sweetened, toasted (check out “tips”, below)
- 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (check out “tips”, below)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C/ Gas Mark 4. Lightly grease or line a 9″ x 13″ pan with parchment paper.
To make the cake:
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, espresso powder, baking powder, and vanilla until smooth and creamy.
- Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl after you’ve added the first 2 eggs.
- Stir in the cocoa.
- Beat in the flour in three additions, alternating with the water. Scrape the bowl after each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove the cake from the oven.
- Cool the cake for 10 minutes, then run a table knife all around the sides of the pan to loosen the edges. Use a spatula to gently lift the cake free of the pan all around the edges; you’re going to turn it out of the pan. Place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on a cookie sheet, put the sheet, parchment-side down, atop the cake pan, pick up the cake pan/cookie sheet, and turn the whole thing over. The cake should settle down on the cookie sheet. Lift off the pan, and allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes.
- Use a 2 3/4″ to 3″ round biscuit or cookie cutter to cut 12 circles out of the cake. Or use whatever shape cutter you want: hearts or scalloped flower shapes are nice, too. Whatever you use, it should be around 3″ in diameter.
- Carefully transfer the cakes to a cooling rack, right side up, and allow them to cool.
To make the icing:
- Heat the chocolate chips and cream until the cream is very hot; this is easily done in the microwave. Remove from the heat, and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture becomes smooth.
- Working with one cake at a time, grasp it in the center with thumb and forefinger, and roll it through the chocolate like a wheel, to coat the sides. Place the coated cake onto a piece of parchment paper, to catch any drips. Repeat with the remaining cakes.
To make the topping:
- Combine the butter, salt, half & half, and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the flavors, coconut, and pecans.
- Spoon the topping evenly atop the cakes; you’ll use about 2 1/2 tablespoons for each.
- Store cakes, loosely covered, in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.
- Toast the pecans and coconuts until golden brown in a 350°F/177°C/ Gas Mark 4 oven. This is most easily done if you place each in a 9″ round cake pan, and put them in the oven as soon as you pull out the finished cake. Bake for about 10 minutes, watching carefully towards the end, as the coconut will brown quickly. Remove from the oven, and stir the coconut to distribute the less browned and more browned pieces together evenly.
- As for the leftover scraps, snack on them (baker’s privilege!), or stir into instant pudding for an easy dessert. You’ll have about 4 to 5 cups of coarse cake chunks, just in case you have a recipe calling for that amount.
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