Friday, 26 February 2010

German Chocolate cake - named after the person, not the country

Shown recently on the blog that is considered pretty much gospel on all things 'sweet' and 'Paris' - David Lebovitz baked up a batch of German Chocolate Cupcakes, which looked very very good to me. It was either this or baking a Red Velvet cake. But French supermarkets being what they are (empty shelves and lazy shop assistants), I wasn't able to find any red food colouring without having to go into the centre of town to a speciality food supplies store. And since it was cold and raining outside, I decided to make things easier for myself.

I generally avoid "internet" recipes because out of the dozen or so that I've tried, I find that they never work out the way I want or expect them to.*

However, a friend recently made something from the extensive recipe collection of David Lebovitz, and since he seems to be "the man" around these parts, I decided to give his recipe a go...

*and before you go telling me that I'm just a bad cook and that's why they don't work, in my own defence, I have made stuff out of books for years and haven't had any major problems!

German Chocolate Cupcakes (adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz)

I adapted this a little, to suit what ingredients I had and used the optional suggestions he had (such as substituting coffee for just plain hot water in the cake recipe, etc)

For the cupcakes (or regular-sized cake):
60g Dark chocolate (70% Lindt is my preferred)
60mls Coffee
115g Butter, softened
150g Caster sugar
3 smallish eggs, seperated into yolks and whites (the recipe calls for 2 large eggs but mine were so small that I added an extra one to make up for it)
1/2 tspn Vanilla extract
150g Plain flour
1 tbsp Cocoa powder
1/2 tspn baking soda
A pinch of salt
125mls Milk
1 tbsp Vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and prepare your baking tin (any will do, in this case I used a muffin tin lined with waxpaper cases that my Mamma sent me from home).

Brew fresh coffee (or the same amount of hot water and a tablespoon of instant coffee granules). Break the chocolate into small pieces and whisk into the hot coffee, melting it together. Leave to cool. 
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks (saving the whites for later) and mix well. Add the vanilla and the melted chocolate/coffee mixture slowly.

To the milk, add the tablespoon of vinegar and mix together. Add this slowly to the batter.

Combine the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl and mix together with a whisk. Add this slowly, a tablespoon at a time to the wet batter, making sure not to beat the crap out of it. The last of the flour can be mixed in by hand, which is a better way of controlling the speed.

Now for the egg whites that you have set aside, whisk (or use a hand-held mixer if you've got it) them until light but stiff. They should look like a cloud that can hold its own shape. When finished, add about a quarter of this to the main cake batter and fold it in gently with a rubber spatular. Once this is done, do the same remaining egg white until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and back from about 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Take out of the oven and cool on a rack completely before frosting them (if they are still warm when you decorate them, the frosting will melt and become all sloppy - this is not a nice sight and will create lots and lots of mess...)

For the German chocolate frosting:

180mls Unsweetened evaporated milk
80g Brown sugar
3 smallish egg yolks (again, he used 2 large egg yolks but as mine were teeny-weenie, I added an extra one to make up for it)
A pinch of salt
30g Butter
60g Dark chocolate, broken into bits
110g Descicated Coconut, toasted in a little butter on the stove **(see below for method)
1 tspn Vanilla extract

On a gentle heat, whisk together the evaporated milk, brown sugar, egg yolks, and salt. Stir in the butter, over medium heat, until it thickens like a custard and coats the spatula. Don't let it come to a boil or you'll scramble the eggs and make it go all funny - which is not very funny at all.

Once it has thickened, take off the heat right away and stir in the chocolate until it's melted. Stir in the vanilla essence and the toasted coconut, making sure it is mixed together well. It should look thick, lumpy, and gloopy. 

When the frosting has cooled and the cupcakes have cooled, you can go nuts icing them. As suggested by Mr. Lebovitz, I sprinkled a little coconut on top to let people know what they're eating and 'cos it looks a lot prettier than just a brown lumpy goo on the top. 

** The easiest way I find to toast coconut is to do it in a frying pan on the stove. Melt a lump of butter in a small frying pan over a medium heat and add in as much coconut as you wish. Stir it gently so that it's not lumpy. Keep stirring the coconut, making sure you get right underneath to turn it over so that no part is getting browner than the other. Just keep stirring it and moving it around until it is evenly browned all over. Don't turn your attention away because once it gets going, the whole process happens very fast and the coconut can burn. The smell during this process is amazing and I find that toasting coconut releases the flavour and makes it nicely crunchy - non-toasted coconut can be a bit soggy. 

I usually make a bit extra and keep it in a jar to sprinkle over crêpes spread with nutella.

The finished product wasn't quite my thing. Although they worked out and were nice enough, I thought there was something missing in the background, flavour-wise. Perhaps a dash of almond or coconut essence in the cake mixture would have rounded off the flavour a bit better. Or a shot of coconut rum or kirsch. Overall, to my taste, the cake crumb was a bit too soft and the frosting a bit too wet. They are messy-looking as well as messy to eat. Next time (if there is a next time), I'll tweak it by adding a bit of flavour to the cake batter and let you know how it turns out.

The challenge is now out there - is there an internet recipe out there that will work for me? We shall see!

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