Happy Birthday German Chocolate Cake

Tomorrow, I’ll turn 26. My twenty-fifth year was interesting one. While I was often sick, plagued by headaches and nausea, the year was still overall positive. We took some big trips: a 10-day jaunt to Oregon and Washington, a fun yet exhausting weekend in Massachusetts for the Healthy Living Summit. I made a short visit to Minnesota for a friend’s wedding. Two weeks ago, Dan, Max and I road tripped to Virginia.

Ruby Beach 7

In the summer, I spent my weekends cheering on Dan’s baseball team. After the first double header, a 90-degree day with no shelter from the sun that led to us all going home with heat exhaustion, I volunteered to keep score for the team. Thereafter, I basked in the shade provided by the dugout while keeping book and sipping on iced chai.


In the winter, we hosted our first big New Year’s Eve games party. I made homemade pasta, beef in Barolo and cookie dough egg rolls. And then I mixed countless drinks while we all played Thunderstone, Dixit, Cards Against Humanity and Power Grid. At midnight, we rattled our noisemakers and blew our horns, which Max promptly attempted to shred to bits.

In the spring, I started making some career decisions. I began a recipe development partnership with our favorite farmer, pursued freelance work and started on a cookbook proposal.

Max Before and After

Interspersed and scattered among all the big happenings of the year were a plethora of wonderful little things. Max was incredibly fluffy all winter long, until his spring haircut shrunk him to half his size. I started painting my nails to help my cuticles heal, and each season was marked by a new nail color (this spring is robin’s egg blue!).


I finally learned to make pasta, cranking out ribbons of fettucini, pockets of ravioli and sheets of lasagna. I started a book club and established weekly craft/girl’s nights with my friend Megan.

Dan and I played countless board games and started playing tennis again. I planted garlic in the Savvy Garden for the first time, and have been rewarded with 25 green garlic shoots already.

So tomorrow, I’ll be excited to embark on my twenty-sixth year. I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

German Chocolate Cake

Happy Birthday German Chocolate Cake

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 1 hour

Yield: Serves 10-12

Happy Birthday German Chocolate Cake

Nearly every one of my birthday cakes as a kid were German chocolate. They were usually heart-shaped, but I decided to stick with a circle this time...mostly because I don't have a heart-shaped pan!

Slightly adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook.


    For the cake:
  • 4 ounces semisweet baking chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • For the topping:
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 1/3 cups chopped pecans


    For the cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 8" round cake pans.
  2. Pour the boiling water over the chocolate and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk the milk and lemon juice together. Allow to sit, undisturbed, for 10 minutes. This will be your makeshift buttermilk.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater blade, or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the sugar and butter together. Keep beating them together until they are creamy and light yellow.
  6. Add the egg yolks and blend until smooth.
  7. While beating the butter, sugar and egg yolks on low, slowly pour in the melted chocolate. Keep mixing until the chocolate is completely blended in.
  8. Mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/3 of the milk, mixing after each addition. Continue alternating until all of the dry ingredients and all of the milk are in the batter. Beat until smooth and uniform.
  9. In a clean bowl and with dry beaters, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. The peaks should stand up on their own when you pull the beaters out of the bowl. Carefully fold the egg whites into the batter until well-mixed.
  10. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans. If they won't all fit in the oven at once, refrigerate the extra pans until it is time to bake.
  11. Bake the cake at 350F for 33-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Line a wire rack with waxed or parchment paper, and invert the cake onto the rack. Allow to cool for an hour before assembling with the coconut pecan topping.
  12. For the topping:
  13. In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar, half-and-half, vanilla and egg yolks together. Add the butter to the pan, and heat over medium, stirring often. Keep cooking for about 8-12 minutes, until thick and bubbly.
  14. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the coconut and pecans. Cool for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so with a wooden spoon, until it is close to room temperature and spreadable.
  15. To assemble:
  16. Trim the edges of the cake layers so they are even and smooth.
  17. Spread one third of the topping on top of one cake layer. Gently turn the next layer of cake onto the layer of filling, and peel off the waxed paper. Repeat with the remaining topping and cake, so that there is a thick layer of coconut-pecan topping on top of the cake.

Make Ahead and Storage

This cake is best made at least 4 hours in advance. Otherwise, the slightly-warm topping will pull some of the moisture out of the cake as it cools, leaving the chocolate cake crumbly and dry. Leave it to sit for a few hours, though, and the moisture will come back to equilibrium, giving you a perfectly moist and tender cake with a creamy coconut-pecan topping.



  1. says

    Wow, you did a lot! Games parties are the best, I hope your New Year’s game party becomes a happy tradition. And the book club, too, book clubs are great for friendships. Good luck with your career development, your blog is a great start to it!

  2. says

    Wow, that cake sounds amazing! And completely do-able! Any suggestions on modifying temperature and/or cooking time to make cupcakes instead? I’d love to make this as cupcakes for my husband’s birthday this weekend!!