Where did the phrase “as American as apple pie” come from? When you think about it, it makes zero sense, because Americans can hardly lay claim to a dessert of softened apples encased in a buttery pastry. The Germans have apfelstrudel, the French have tarte tatin, and that’s just the beginning. Apple pie is, quite frankly, not American!
German chocolate cake, on the other hand – surprisingly, that is 100% American. No lie, this wonderful dessert was created in central Texas long ago, and the German in its title refers to the type of chocolate originally used, not the country of origin. But, I guess the phrase “as American as German chocolate cake” just didn’t quite have the same ring to it…
Anyways, I adore German chocolate cake, but it’s usually a real production to pull off. Every time I’ve had it, and all the recipes I saw for it were very tall layer cakes that would’ve taken hours and made a huge mess to complete. I have really been craving this cake lately, but wanted a more simplified version of it, yet refused to dumb it down or compromise any of its winning characteristics.
The idea of a sheet cake occurred to me, admittedly with some amount of skepticism. It seemed kind of wrong, and I wondered if the flavor would really translate. But, you never know till you try, so try I did, and I’m thrilled to report that this was extremely successful! It tasted exactly as it should, but was incredibly easy to pull off. Matt took the leftovers to work, as usual, and people there immediately recognized it as German chocolate cake and effusively proclaimed its deliciousness. I have to say, they are correct. I absolutely LOVED this cake and would happily eat my beloved German chocolate cake as sheet cake from now on. Enjoy!
12 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
20 oz. caramel candies, unwrapped; or 2 cups store-bought caramel sauce
2 ½ cups chopped toasted pecans
7 oz. sweetened shredded coconut
Pinch of salt
First, bake the CAKE: preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease a 9×13” baking dish and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, baking soda, and vanilla until fluffy and light, at least 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder.
Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly blend one-third of the flour mixture into the creamed mixture, then half the milk, followed by a third of the flour, the remaining half of the milk, then the last of the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary during this process.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 35-40 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely before frosting it.
Make the FROSTING:
Heat the cream in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until it simmers; add the caramel(s) and stir until melted. Bring the mixture to a boil then remove it from the heat. Stir in the pecans and coconut, plus a small pinch of salt. The cake should be completely cooled before frosting, and the frosting should be cooled to about room temperature. It should be thick but spreadable.
To assemble, carefully pour the cooled frosting onto the top of the cooled cake and use an offset spatula to evenly spread it across the cake. Let it set for at least a few minutes before cutting. Cut into squares and serve.