Please Excuse My German

July 2009

It’s difficult to be at work by 4:30am, but it’s not difficult to spend four days a week with close friends.  A few annoying customers and actual responsibilities aside, that’s what my bakery job was.  It was working around beautiful breads with my good friends Mike and Chris.  Even after we punched out for the day, we’d usually find something else to do together.  Mike made me my very own mini mug with a challah braid handle and taught me how to turn clay on a potter’s wheel for the first time.  Chris was with me when I saw  Terminator for the first time.

This is to say, we were epic friends.  In between our labors and our lounging, we’d muse about what we’d do next:  return to France, start a band, take a low paying job in Greece?  At some point, Mike and his girlfriend started talking about Germany, and before we knew it, I was serving up slice of farewell-for-now-not-forever cake.  The occasion called for German chocolate, and my icing job clearly called for a more comprehensive German lesson.  What should have been Gute Reise became Gute Reis in my haste to have friends over to big Mike and Laura a happy journey.  Maybe next time I’ll just say that… Happy Journey…nah.

Gute Reis[e] German Chocolate Cake

Adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe
One big, tall 9-inch cake; about 16 servings

To Make the Cake Layers

2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons water
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup pure cane sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup curdled half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350°.

Melt both chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir until smooth, then set aside until room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and 1 ¼ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients.

In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks. Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until stiff.

Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible.

Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool cake layers completely.

While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.

To make the filling:

1 cup whipping cream
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 ounces butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut,

Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the 3 ounces butter, salt, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large bowl.

Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.)

Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.)

To make the syrup:

1 cup beet juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons rum

In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and juice until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum.

To make the chocolate icing:

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
1 1/2 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup whipping cream + half and half

Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the brown rice syrup and 1 ½ ounces of butter.

Heat the cream until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Let sit until room temperature.

To assemble the cake:

Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife.

Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup. Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges.

Set another cake layer on top.

Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer.

Spread remaining coconut filling on the sides of the cake and then ice the sides and top layer with the chocolate icing.

Add coconut in the shape of Germany!

Add incorrectly spelled farewell message!

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