June 30, 2009

German Chocolate Cake Throwdown

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the German Chocolate Cake Throwdown! In this corner, we have the challenger, a newcomer, the Bobby Flay recipe.

Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake

And in the opposite corner, our returning champion, the Cook's Illustrated recipe (requires subscription, e-mail me if you want the recipe). Let's try and make this a fair fight.

German Chocolate Cake

First the judges will compare the cake portion of each recipe. Bobby Flay's recipe uses cocoa powder for chocolate flavor, but the Cook's Illustrated recipe calls for melted chocolate and cocoa powder. The CI recipe uses a traditional creaming method, and will it cream the competition? Bobby melts his butter before mixing it with the sugars. Bobby also uses 3 cups of liquid - coffee and buttermilk. Is his method all wet? (The crowd boos the lame announcer.) The judges' decision: the CI cake is springy and has deep chocolate flavor. Bobby's cake melts in your mouth, but is a little too moist and there might be too much coffee in the recipe (which thing we never before thought possible).

In the second round, the judges move on to the filling, which is truly the most important part of a German Chocolate Cake. The CI recipe is fairly close to the original Baker's recipe, with modifications to the amounts of evaporated milk, sugars, and butter, and extra helpings of pecans and coconut. Is this the round where Bobby will deliver the knockout punch? His filling recipe starts with water and sugar, melted to a dark amber, then adds milk, coconut milk, and goat's milk, then simmers the mixture for an hour - like Mexican Cajeta.

Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake

Certainly a blow to the competition, and then Bobby strikes again with the added flavors of vanilla bean and coconut rum. Our challenger takes round two in a decisive victory.

The returning champion still has some fight left, but will it be enough? Here comes Bobby again to deliver the final blow. His cake is topped with bittersweet chocolate ganache, extra pecans and coconut, and it's served with coconut whipped cream on the side. Wow! A hush falls on the crowd and the judges are ready for the side by side, mano-a-mano, slice to slice competition.

German Chocolate Cake Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake

Cake JudgeWith so much riding on this decision, the judges request anonymity. Their deliberation comments included the following:
  • This coconut whipped cream is excellent.
  • The bittersweet ganache is just that - bitter, and it's too thick.
  • Bobby's filling is better.
  • I think side by side I like the traditional [Cook's Illustrated] cake better.
They return a split decision. The fans deserve a rematch!

German Chocolate Cake Bobby Flay German Chocolate Cake

Throwdown’s German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan-Cajeta Frosting, Chocolate Ganache and Coconut Whipped Cream

Note: [Original recipe from Bobby Flay's website removed, but can now be found here.] I edited the original recipe for spelling errors and missing instructions (if you follow the original recipe, you'll never add the flour to your cake), points of personal preference, and to allow for a couple of ingredients I couldn't get in this one-horse town.

Chocolate Cake
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups strongly brewed black coffee, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into bowl of standing mixer. Add the sugars and beat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and continue beating until smooth. With beaters on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with coffee and buttermilk (in 2 additions), beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat until just combined.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans and bake on the middle rack until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 42-45 minutes. Let cool in the pans on a baking rack for 20 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto the baking rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before frosting.

Cajeta Filling
2 cups whole milk
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup goats’ milk
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons coconut rum, optional
1 1/4 cups sweetened coconut
1 1/4 cups toasted coarsely chopped pecans

1. Bring the milk, coconut milk and goat’s milk to a simmer over low heat in a medium saucepan. Keep warm while you prepare the caramel.
2. Combine the sugar and water in a light-colored, heavy pan over high heat and cook (do not stir) until deep amber brown color. Slowly whisk in the warm milk mixture and continue whisking until smooth; add the vanilla seeds and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the sauce is reduced by half and is the consistency of a caramel sauce, about 55 minutes.
3. Once the sauce is reduced, remove from the heat and whisk in the cold butter, vanilla extract, salt and rum and whisk until combined. Stir in the coconut. Let the frosting cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Stir in pecans just before frosting the cake.

Coconut Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1/4 cup Coco Lopez
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon coconut rum
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine heavy cream, Coco Lopez, sugar, rum, and vanilla in mixing bowl and mix until soft peaks form.

8 ounces heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1. Bring cream to a simmer. Place chocolate in a medium bowl, add hot cream and corn syrup and let sit for 30 seconds. Gently whisk until smooth. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before pouring over the cake.

1/2 cup toasted coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup lightly toasted sweetened coconut

1. Slice each cake in half horizontally. Place one cake layer on a cake round or platter and spread 1/3 of the frosting evenly over the top, repeat to make 3 layers and top with the remaining cake layer, top side up.
2. Pour the chocolate ganache over the cake. Garnish with pecans and some of the toasted coconut. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
3. Slice cake, top with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish with additional toasted coconut.


Tiandra said...


I should have read your blog first before I attempted to use the Food Network...my cake is delicious...but the frosting was a little to wet and if my IQ was a few points lower I would not have added the flour into the cocoa mixture. Will defintely use your recipe the next time.

Carissa said...


Thank you for sharing the CI recipe! I made it yesterday and it is freaking delicious. I may try the Flay recipe in a few months...I only live with 1 other person, and I can't take the risk of eating the whole thing by myself in a day or two, which is the way things appear to be going right now...

Sue said...

Beautiful cakes!! What a great job you did. I made Bobby's version. It was so delicious but really time consuming.

Remi Sammy said...

First time I made it, it came out perrrrfect. I used Droste chocolate powder (what I grew up on and had in the house). This time I used Valrohna.
But I'm having major issues this time with the filling.I knew that I had to double the filling the second time around-- but it just wont reduce into a caramel consistency. I had to add a thickener before it was all evaporated. I know this is a time investment but, I've been waiting on this filling ALL day.What has gone wrong?

Kimberly said...

Remi, it's been years since I made that cake but I seem to remember that it takes a long time to reduce the cajeta. The recipe says 55 minutes, but it took longer for me. If you double the recipe, that's even more liquid to reduce, so it could take awhile! Traditional German Cake filling starts with sweetened condensed milk which is already thick and sweet (closer to caramel) from the beginning. You might want to try that style instead.