Taking Time to Smell the Roses…and Cake


Do you know what today is?

It’s National German Chocolate Cake Day! And Rose Day at Colonial Park in Franklin, NJ.

(Bet you didn’t guess either of those, did you?)


If you can’t make it out to see the roses, don’t fret— you can still celebrate by baking yourself this twist on a classic German Chocolate Cake.

Running through this lightly sweetened vegan chocolate cake is a ribbon of homemade salted pecan caramel. Sandwiched between the three layers is a gloriously sticky coconut milk frosting along with more caramel, pecans and toasted coconut.


And if that isn’t enough flavor for you, throw in some chocolate chips between the layers and top the cake shards of pecan brittle.

I repeat, glorious.


A word to the wise, don’t line your circle pans with wax paper. It works for carrot cake but not so much for this cake— unless you enjoy scraping wax paper with a variety of sharp implements. Use very well greased parchment paper instead.


Onto the million dollar question…

Did German Chocolate Cake originate in Germany?

No, it was invented in the U.S.

Was it invented by German American immigrants like those who settled in the Midwest?

Nope. I’ll give you a hint. The proper name of the cake is German’s Chocolate Cake.

Oh, I see. It was invented by someone with the surname German but over time the apostrophe and “s” were dropped.

Wrong again.


And now to dispel the confusion— German Chocolate Cake or rather German’s Chocolate Cake was named for the specific type of chocolate it was first made from.

I can practically hear the chorus of oh’s through my computer screen.

In 1852, Samuel German created a type of baking chocolate for Baker’s Chocolate Company, which the company named after its inventor. German’s Sweet Chocolate is a dark baking chocolate that is sweeter than semisweet chocolate.

German believed his formula would be favorable to bakers, intending the added sugar to act as a timesaver.

(Milk chocolate bars wouldn’t exist for another couple decades so balancing chocolate’s bitterness in a recipe was a little more challenging.)

Some claim German’s chocolate became an instant hit while others say it didn’t become well-known until 100+ years later when German’s Chocolate Cake was invented.

On June 3rd 1957, the Dallas Morning News published German’s Sweet Chocolate Cake in its Recipe of the Day column. The submission was made by Mrs. Clay, a local homemaker.

The recipe became quite popular and at some point, the possessive form of the name was dropped. These days a chocolate cake with coconut and pecans is known as German Chocolate Cake even though Mrs. Clay was not the first to combine these tasty flavors.

There are recipes found in multiple newspapers with earlier publication dates featuring different combinations of chocolate, buttermilk, coconut and various nuts. However we can thank Mrs. Clay for popularizing the dessert and bestowing its slightly confusing name.


Obviously my vegan version doesn’t include buttermilk or German’s baking chocolate but it is delicious and it has a name as long as Mrs. Clay’s Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Cake.


Border Dessert 3





Recipe Type: Dessert

Bake Time: 40 minutes

Serves 8 to 10

Lightly sweetened chocolate cake, pecan caramel and chocolate chips along with plenty of creamy coconut milk frosting— who says vegan desserts can’t be decadent?

Cake Ingredients

2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cups water
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Coconut Milk Frosting Ingredients

1 14 oz. can coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter substitute
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded coconut, toasted
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Pecan-Caramel Ingredients

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter substitute
1/2 cup crushed pecans, toasted

Topping Ingredients

1 cup shredded coconut, toasted
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Pecan-Caramel Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium low heat, cook the sugar in an even layer.
  2. The sugar on the edges should start browning first. Drag it to the center of the pot with a wooden spoon or heat-safe spatula. This will allow the sugar to cook evenly so you don’t burn part of the sugar while waiting for the rest to caramelize. (Don’t worry, the sugar is supposed to smoke. When it starts to lightly smoke, it should be almost done.)
  3. Once the caramel has cooked to a golden brown, usually 6 to 8 minutes, remove from heat.
  4. Whisk in the butter substitute to stop the caramel from cooking further.
  5. If your caramel is too thick, slowly whisk in 1/4 cup of almond milk.
  6. Set aside and let cool.

Cake Instructions

  1. Sift flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add oil, vanilla extract, water and cider vinegar.
  3. Divide evenly between 3 greased 8″ circle pans.
  4. Using a small knife, swirl pecan-caramel into the batter.
  5. Bake at 325°F for 35 to 40 minutes.
  6. Set aside and let cool.

Frosting Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, the same one you used for the caramel is fine, whisk together coconut milk with sugar and butter substitute over medium-low heat.
  2. Once the butter and sugar have melted, add the cornstarch and stir constantly until the mixture has thickened.
  3. Divide evenly between 3 greased 8″ circle pans.
  4. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.
  5. Let the mixture cool for at least 30 minutes and beat in powdered sugar.
  6. Fold in shredded coconut and pecans and refrigerate until the cake is cool.

Assembly Instructions

  1. Frost the first layer of cake and sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  2. Repeat with the second and third layers.
  3. Cover the rest of the cake with frosting.
  4. Drizzle with caramel and top with pecans.

Pairs Well With

Black Tea                Toasted Coconut Brittle           Hot Chocolate              Milk


* Looking to cut the calories even further? Lite coconut milk works perfectly well for the frosting.

* If you’re running short on time, make the caramel ahead of time. You can also make the frosting ahead of time— just keep the cooked coconut milk mixture in the fridge and beat in the powdered sugar when you’re ready to use it.

* For a fruity twist, crush raspberries in between the layers of the cake. Yum!

* I use a ceramic knife to slice the cake in half. Although the average steel blade will work, I find the ceramic knife gives the cake a cleaner slice.

* To recreate the cake photographed above, drizzle the caramel in a zig zag pattern over the top of the cake. Place chocolate chips in the center and cover the sides with toasted coconut and pecans.

* Remember how I mentioned not to use wax paper for baking the cake? If you need further convincing, see the photos below. Trying to cut the wax paper off can compromise the structural stability of the cake, so unless you want a Vegan German Chocolate Cake avalanche (yum, that sounds like a delicious cocktail), don’t do it!



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