Where does German Chocolate Cake come from? Is Germany its motherland? Or …? There are many questions like these, and as many guesses. However, the truth is that German Chocolate Cake is an American creation.
German cooking is famous for its complexity and extravagance in choosing the ingredients. Therefore such a rich dish as German Chocolate Cake might perfectly fit into German cuisine. Yet it was not brought (as is sometimes reported) to the American Midwest by German immigrants.
The cake took its name from an American with the last name of “German.” In 1852, Sam German created the mild dark baking chocolate bar for Baker’s Chocolate Co. The product was named in his honor – “Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.
” In most recipes and products today, the apostrophe and the “s” have been dropped, thus giving the false hint as for the chocolate’s origin.
The first published recipe for German’s chocolate cake showed up in a Dallas newspaper in 1957 and came from a Texas homemaker. The cake quickly gained popularity and its recipe together with the mouth-watering photos were spread all over the country. America fell in love with German Chocolate cake. No wonder: its superb chocolate taste conquers you at first bite!
- German Chocolate Cake Recipes
- Ever since the first recipe of German Chocolate Cake was published in 1957, there have been created a number of different versions of its cooking. Here is my favorite recipe:
- 1/2 cup German sweet chocolate
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
Unraveling the secret Texas origin of German chocolate cake
A slice of German chocolate cake — Photo courtesy of iStock / LauriPatterson
Ahhh, German chocolate cake. Coconut-pecan frosting as sweet as the hills of Bavaria. Rich chocolate as dark as Baden-Württemberg’s Black Forest. Pillowy layers, stacked as high as Dallas’ Trammell Crow Center tower. Wait, what’s that about Dallas? I hate to break it to you, chocoholics, but German Chocolate Cake isn’t a product of Germany. This confusing cake is 100% Texan.
In retrospect, the clues were there all along. The Germans aren’t exactly known for their frequent incorporation of buttermilk and shortening into their cooking, now are they? And the sweeping boulevards of Berlin are hardly lined with majestic rows of coconut-bearing palm trees. So how did we Americans all come to believe that this retro dessert hailed all the way from Deutschland?
Although we can all easily conjure up visions of great-great-great-grandmothers passing down their traditional family recipe for the cake from one generation to the next, the very first recipe for German chocolate cake to ever appear in print dates back to just 1957.
It wasn’t Süddeutsche Zeitung or the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that debuted the dessert. Nope, the first German Chocolate Cake recipe first appeared in The Dallas Morning News, as the feature in food reporter Julie Benell's June 3 recipe-of-the-day column.
First called German’s chocolate cake, the cake was credited to Mrs. George Clay, a homemaker living on Academy Drive in Dallas. The titular German stemmed not from any sort of association with the country, but rather from the headlining ingredient: Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, itself a confusingly named product.
Baker’s German’s chocolate was, at the time, a 105-year-old product named after a Massachusetts general store owner, Dr. James Baker.
After befriending an Irish chocolatier named John Hannon who had immigrated to the states, the two formed the Hannon’s Best Chocolate company in 1765.
When Hannon died at sea 14 years later, Baker bought out Hannon’s widow’s inherited share of the company, and renamed the flagship product, Baker’s Chocolate.
When Baker’s grandson Walter eventually inherited the company, he brought in a number of new employees, including an English immigrant, Samuel German. Chocolate available for sale in markets had up until this point been strictly bitter blocks, hardly the sort of thing we buy in candy bar form today.
German though, managed to crack the code on producing a chocolate that already had sugar mixed into it, eliminating a step in the baking process for those attempting to prepare a dessert. The product was a hit.
So much of a hit in fact, that Baker added German’s name to the product, leaving us with a best-selling chocolate called Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, named after two men who were neither bakers nor German.
By the time Mrs. Clay’s recipe ran in The Dallas Morning News in 1957, the company producing the sweet stuff had traded hands a few more times. Today, Kraft owns the rights to the product, but in the mid 20th century, General Foods was the one producing Baker’s German’s.
When the company caught wind of Clay’s cake recipe, it launched into marketing overdrive, sending the clipping out to newspapers and magazines across the country. As new markets reprinted the recipe, sales of Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate skyrocketed.
When the recipe was reprinted in new publications, the possessive was dropped, leaving new readers with the impression that this German chocolate cake was a classic European dessert.
If you’ve thought all this time that the cake had German roots, you’re not the only one. And you’re certainly not the responsible for the biggest German chocolate c/ake gaffe in history. That distinct honor goes to President Lyndon B.
Johnson – or perhaps his wife, Ladybird – who famously served the cake in 1963 to German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard during a state dinner at the first family’s Johnson City ranch.
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall, or a fleck of coconut on the cake!
German Chocolate Cake History
German Chocolate Cake is an American creation that contains the key ingredients of sweet baking chocolate, coconut, and pecans. This cake was not brought to the American Midwest by German immigrants.
The cake took its name from an American with the last name of “German.” In most recipes and products today, the apostrophe and the “s” have been dropped, thus giving the false hint as for the chocolate’s origin.
June 11th is National German Chocolate Cake Day in America.
1852 – Sam German (1802-1888) created the mild dark baking chocolate bar for Baker’s Chocolate Company in 1852. The company named the chocolate in his honor – “Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.”
1957 -The first published recipe for German’s chocolate cake showed up in a Dallas Morning Star newspaper on June 13, 1957 as Recipe of the Day.
The recipe came from a Texas homemaker, Mrs. George Calay. The cake quickly gained popularity and its recipe together with the mouth-watering photos were spread all over the country.
America fell in love with German Chocolate Cake.
The possessive form (German’s) was dropped in subsequent publications, thus creating the name German Chocolate Cake that we know today and giving the false impression of a German origin.
Food HIstory Historical Cakes
Authentic German’s Chocolate Cake
This Authentic German’s Chocolate Cake is the original recipe for this super moist, mild chocolate cake, and it’s frosted with the most delectable Pecan Coconut Frosting that you’ll ever eat!!
Back in the 1950s, this wonderful cake became very popular, and I requested it for several of my childhood birthdays. Oops, I’m telling my age. Today it is still just as popular as it was back then, although we now see many variations of the recipe, and most of them called German Chocolate Cake, dropping the “s” on German.
This original recipe is made using Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, The chocolate is a bar of mild sweet chocolate, thus resulting in a mild chocolate cake. The recipe can be found on the inside wrapper of the Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Bar.
Many bakers today, replace the chocolate bar with dark chocolate. Sorry, I just can’t do it. I’ve enjoyed this authentic German’s Chocolate Cake for years, and I’m not changing a thing.
Besides, if you’re substituting the chocolate with any other chocolate, you’re not making an authentic German’s Chocolate Cake.
It takes a few minutes to prepare the cake filling for this cake, but trust me when I say it is totally worth the effort. Here’s how I made this Authentic German’s Chocolate Cake.
Top Left – I separated 4 egg whites from the yolks and reserved the yolks for the batter. I placed the egg whites in a large bowl and used the whisk attachment to whisk them to stiff peaks. Then I placed them in my refrigerator until I was ready to fold them into the batter later.
Top Right – I mixed up my batter. This involved melting the chocolate bar in some hot water and melting it. I creamed together some butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Then I added the chocolate, egg yolks, some sugar & vanilla. I mixed everything together and added some buttermilk and dry ingredients alternately to the mix.
Bottom Left – Then I gently folded in the beaten egg whites, using a spatula. It’s important to gently fold in the egg whites. If you mix them with the mixer, you’ll deflate them, and you want them to remain fluffy.
Bottom Right – I lined three 9-inch cake pans with rounds of wax paper. I greased the pans and instead of lightly flouring the pans, I dusted them with cocoa. I do this with all chocolate cakes. I divided the batter equally between the pans and baked the cakes.
A delicious pecan coconut frosting completes this wonderfully moist chocolate cake. Note: This cake is not frosted on the sides. If you want to frost the sides, simply double the frosting recipe.
Is German Chocolate Cake Even German?
The Christmas holidays mean scrumptious desserts, and Checkers Old Munchen German restaurant has many wonderful choices, like Homemade Apple Strudel, Black Forest Cake, German Chocolate Cake, Kelly’s Raspberry Sponge Cake and Kelly’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.
German Chocolate Cake is the dessert that probably comes to mind first when thinking about German desserts. The interesting thing, though, is that this pastry didn’t originate in Germany — it comes from the United States.
German Chocolate Cake actually got its name not from the country but from German’s Sweet Chocolate, a type of chocolate developed by Sam German for the Baker’s Chocolate Company (now a subsidiary of Kraft Foods) in the mid 1850s, Baking Bites reported.
Legend has it that a misprint in a 1957 newspaper recipe for a cake using the chocolate left off the apostrophe and s at the end of the name, and after that it was known as German Chocolate Cake.
The recipe was developed by a Dallas, Texas woman and printed in the The Dallas Morning News.
Sales of Baker’s Chocolate are said to have increased by as much as 73 percent after the recipe was widely distributed.
The chocolate has a higher sugar content than semisweet chocolate so it’s a little bit sweeter, but you can substitute semisweet chocolate for German chocolate in recipes and have pretty much the same result, per Baking Bites.
German chocolate cake (or German’s chocolate cake) is a layered chocolate cake with coconut–pecan frosting. The filling is a custard made with egg yolks and evaporated milk and includes coconuts and pecans as well. Sometimes, especially at the holidays, Maraschino cherries are added as a garnish.
June 11 is National German Chocolate Cake Day in America.
A small town in Germany had its own “chocolate day” last week when a technical glitch caused a ton of milk chocolate to flow out onto a street, The Guardian reported.
The chocolate spill came from the DreiMeister chocolate factory in Westönnen. The milk chocolate quickly hardened when it hit the cold pavement, and about 25 firefighters had to scrape the chocolate off the road with shovels then use hot water and torches to remove the rest.
Is German Chocolate Cake German?
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Kimberly Vardemon
A question I hear very often (almost as often as the Christmas Pickle question) came up again today… “Is German Chocolate Cake German?”. Well… the short answer is- NO, it’s not. But before you go off to read something else, let me share some German Chocolate cake history, and how it got its name.
German Chocolate Cake History
German Chocolate Cake was first introduced to the world on June 3rd, 1957 as the “Recipe of the Day” in the Dallas Morning Star. Mrs. George Clay submitted her recipe for a Chocolate Layer Cake filled with a coconut pecan filling. The recipe gained in popularity, and General Foods, who owned Baker’s Chocolate, distributed the recipe to newspapers all over America.
The German Chocolate Cake became SO popular, in fact, that it has become a standard in most Bakeries. Today it even has a coffee flavor named after it, and its own National Day, June 11.
But it isn’t German…
Is German Chocolate Cake German? It says “German!”
Is German Chocolate Cake Really German?
German chocolate cake comes from Germany.
German cooks are famed for using extravagant ingredients and combining the whole into a rich dining experience, so it seemed to fit that this recipe must have come from Germany. And yet, it didn’t — the cake took its name from an American with the last name of “German.”
In 1852, Sam German developed a sweet baking bar for Baker’s Chocolate Co. The product was named in honor of him: “Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.” In most recipes and products today, the apostrophe and the “s” have been dropped, fueling the assumption that the chocolate’s origins are German.
After a recipe for German(‘s) chocolate cake showed up in a Dallas newspaper in 1957, the resulting spike in German’s Sweet Chocolate sales put General Foods (which then owned Baker’s Chocolate) on alert; the company quickly sent copies of the recipe and photos of the cake to newspapers across the nation.
Everywhere the recipe was published, food editors were swamped with requests for information on where to buy the chocolate. In a year, sales jumped 73%. Readers who missed the recipe asked that it be reprinted. In no time at all, German Chocolate Cake was on most every table.
It continues to be favorite dessert even forty years later. No wonder. All that rich, gooey sweetness ain’t hard to fall in love with.
German chocolate cake
A layer cake with chocolate and a coconut-pecan frosting
German chocolate cakeA German chocolate cakeAlternative namesGerman's chocolate cakeTypeLayer cakeCourseDessertPlace of originUnited StatesRegion or stateTexasCreated byMrs. George ClayInvented1957Main ingredientsChocolate cake, icing (egg yolks, evaporated milk, coconut and pecan)
German chocolate cake, originally German's chocolate cake, is a layered chocolate cake from the United States filled and topped with a coconut-pecan frosting. It owes its name to an English-American chocolate maker named Samuel German, who developed a formulation of dark baking chocolate that came to be used in the cake recipe. Sweet baking chocolate is traditionally used for the chocolate flavor in the actual cake, but few recipes call for it today. The filling and/or topping is a custard made with egg yolks and evaporated milk; once the custard is cooked, coconut and pecans are stirred in. Occasionally, a chocolate frosting is spread on the sides of the cake and piped around the circumference of the layers to hold in the filling. Maraschino cherries are occasionally added as a garnish.
Its roots can be traced back to 1852 when American baker Samuel German developed a type of dark baking chocolate for the Baker's Chocolate Company. The brand name of the product, Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate, was named in honor of him.
On June 3, 1957, a recipe for “German's Chocolate Cake” appeared as the “Recipe of the Day” in The Dallas Morning News. It was created by Mrs. George Clay, a homemaker from 3831 Academy Drive, Dallas, Texas. This recipe used the baking chocolate introduced 105 years prior and became quite popular.
General Foods, which owned the Baker's brand at the time, took notice and distributed the cake recipe to other newspapers in the country. Sales of Baker's Chocolate are said to have increased by as much as 73% and the cake would become a national staple.
The possessive form (German's) was dropped in subsequent publications, forming the “German Chocolate Cake” identity and giving the false impression of a German origin.
The recipe still remains popular to this day and has been adopted by baking companies.
- Black Forest cake, or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, a chocolate and cherry flavored cake that is of German origin
- Chantilly cake, a chocolate cake similar to German chocolate cake
- Texas sheet cake
- List of desserts
- “Celebrating Not-So-German Chocolate Cake” (Audio with transcript). NPR All Things Considered. 23 Jun 2007.
- ^ Elizabeth McWhorter. “German Chocolate Cake recipe”. My Home Cooking. Archived from the original on 2010-05-15. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- ^ a b “Germanely Chocolate Cake”. Snopes. February 21, 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- ^ a b Sammarco, Anthony Mitchell (2009). The Baker Chocolate Company: A Sweet History. Charleston, SC: History Press. p. 81. ISBN 9781596293533. Retrieved 1 March 2013. george clay chocolate.
- ^ “Is German Chocolate Cake Really German?”. Kitchen Project. 30 May 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- ^ Linda Stradley (2007). “German Chocolate Cake – History of German Chocolate Cake”. Whats Cooking America. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
Is German Chocolate Cake From Germany?
It’s the holiday season, and if your family is like mine, they start breaking out the fancy desserts—the kind you only have once a year—such as divinity, rum cake, and German chocolate cake.
For the longest time I thought German chocolate cake came from Germany. I wasn’t sure why the Germans had such a fondness for coconut and pecans, but it was an easy thought to brush aside in the face of such chocolatey goodness.
Samuel German Invented German's Sweet Chocolate
It turns out that the Germans have nothing to do with German chocolate cake. Instead, it’s named after Samuel German, an Englishman known as “Sammy” who had come to Dorchester, Massachusetts, and eventually got a job at the Baker Chocolate Company, the first American chocolate factory.
In the mid-1800s, Sammy German developed a special type of chocolate for Baker’s that had more sugar than the other chocolate the company was selling at the time. According to a history of the company, “Walter Baker bought the recipe … for $1,000 and began marketing it as ‘Baker’s German[’s] Sweet Chocolate.”*
Mrs. George Clay Created the Recipe for German Chocolate Cake
In 1957, a woman named Mrs. George Clay published a cake recipe in the Dallas Morning Star using Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. Most sources say her recipe was called German’s chocolate cake, but somewhere along the way, the apostrophe-s got lost. The cake was so popular that it caused a noticeable increase in chocolate sales for Baker’s.
In 1964, the company redesigned the wrapper for German’s sweet chocolate bar and included the recipe for German chocolate cake.
German Is Usually Capitalized When You Write About German Chocolate Cake
- Since German chocolate cake is named after a person, you typically see the word German capitalized when the name is written in a sentence.
- *Yes, the history of the company says it was called German sweet chocolate, even though every other reference I can find (including the current packaging and pictures of vintage packaging) calls it German’s sweet chocolate.
Allen, B. “German Chocolate Cake.” Good Housekeeping Great American Classics Cookbook. http://j.mp/1rU9m1J (accessed December 3, 2014).
Sammarco, A.M. The Baker Chocolate Company: A Sweet History. The History Press. 2011. http://j.mp/1FOIfpi (accessed December 3, 2014).
Schwartz, A. “Famous Recipes Spread Via Back of Wrapper.” The Victoria Advocate. February 24, 1977. http://j.mp/1CHr399 (accessed December 3, 2014).
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.