Anna Olson’s Bake-Off: German Chocolate Cake

I’ve been going through a chocolate cake phase right now, and thought that maybe you’d like to go through a similar phase (it’s a great way to make friends, sharing the results!)

German Chocolate Cake is a retro classic (just like Red Velvet Cake).  The cake does not originate from Germany, but gets its name from a fellow named Sam German, who developed a sweet baking chocolate used in this cake. I have kept true to the flavour profile, which includes a gooey caramel-like pecan and coconut filling & topping, but I have opted for a milk chocolate cake and frosting.

When taking on this month’s challenge, be sure to budget time, between the tender, moist cake layers, gooey filling, frosting and assembly, it is best made a day before you wish to serve it.  Also, keep in mind that milk chocolate candy bars or chocolate chips are not suitable for melting into cake batters and frosting, since they are designed to hold their shape – you must use baking chocolate, also known as couverture.  It is now sold at most groceries, bulk and specialty stores.

The effort will be worth it, and I look forward to hearing about and seeing photos of the end result.  Get those glasses of ice cold milk ready!

Makes 1 2-layer 8-inch cake
Serves 10 to 12

4 oz milk chocolate**, chopped
¾ cup boiling water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pecan Coconut Filling:
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup maple syrup
¾ cup whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
¼ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
¾ cup toasted & chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

2 cups icing sugar
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 oz milk chocolate**, chopped
2/3 cup full-fat sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt

1. For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 ?F.  Grease two 8-inch cake pans, line the bottom of the pans with parchment and dust the sides with flour.
2. Place the chopped chocolate into a bowl and pour the boiling water over top, letting it sit a minute.  Whisk to melt the chocolate (don’t worry if the mixture appears grainy).  Set aside.
3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk the brown sugar, buttermilk, mayonnaise, eggs and vanilla until smooth.  Add the flour mixture to this and whisk well, until there are no visible lumps.  Whisk in the chocolate mixture (the batter will be fluid), and divide this evenly between the 2 prepared cake pans.  Bake for about 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.  Allow the cakes to cool for 15 minutes and then turn them out to cool completely.
4. For the filling, whisk the brown sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepot.  Whisk in the maple syrup, cream and eggs and heat over medium-high, whisking constantly, until thickened and the filling just begins to bubble, about 6 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter, then stir in the coconut, pecans, vanilla and salt.  Scrape this into a bowl, cool and then chill completely before using.
5. For the frosting, sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder together. Melt the chocolate and butter by stirring gently in a bowl placed over a pot of barely simmering water.  Remove from the heat and while still warm, beat in half of the icing sugar mixture using electric beaters or in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla, scraping the bowl well and then add the remaining icing sugar until smooth.  Use the frosting immediately.
6. To assemble the cake, place the first cake layer on a platter.  Spoon about a cup of the frosting into a piping bag and pipe around the top edge of the cake.  Spread half of the filling over the cake, right to the piped edge of frosting. Top this with the second cake layer and spread the top and sides of the cake with the frosting, placing any remaining frosting into the piping bag, for detailing on the top edge.  Spread the remaining filling over the top of the cake, finish any detailing and then chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

** It is important to use milk chocolate made for baking (couveture), not chocolate chips or commercial chocolate bars which will not melt smoothly into cake batters or frosting.
The cake will keep, refrigerated, for up to 4 days.

Adapted from Bake with Anna Olson

Here’s how Bake Off works:
•Our hostess with the mostess, Anna Olson, picks a recipe middle of every month
•You make the recipe (follow it or add your creative flair)

Email us ( a picture and short descriptive blurb before March 14th at 9am ET for your chance to win! Anna will pick the winner (We are giving away a$250 gift card to Williams-Sonoma and an autographed copy of Anna’s cookbook).


Professionally trained pastry chef Anna Olson is the host of Food Network’s Bake with Anna Olson. Anna’s culinary philosophy is based on a common-sense approach of cooking and baking with the seasons, as well as respecting the ingredients, the technique and the process of sharing with others through food. Most of all, cooking and baking should be fun!

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