German Chocolate Cake Isn’t Really German

German Chocolate Cake isn’t really German at all. In fact, it was a “reader recipe” printed in a Dallas newspaper in 1957. In the ingredient list, the reader who submitted the recipe specified “German’s Sweet Chocolate” which was a sweet chocolate formulated by a man named Samuel German who worked for the Walter Baker Chocolate Company. As Jean Anderson points out in The American Century Cookbook, German’s brand chocolate had been selling just fine for the past 105 years prior to the cake recipe, but when the cake recipe was printed in the Dallas newspaper, there was a spike in German’s chocolate sales in Dallas. General Foods, the company that had acquired the brand, traced the sales to the recipe in the Dallas paper. They were so impressed that a General Foods district manager asked the food editor at the Dallas paper to send the recipe to other food editors around the country. When it started appearing in newspapers, food editors began receiving letters from readers all over the country saying the cake recipe was similar to an old one “their mother made” or that they’d “lost”. General Foods refined the recipe, added Angel Flake Coconut, and re-named the cake German Sweet Chocolate Cake.

At least that’s what I read in Jean Anderson’s book and that seems like a good story to me.

In her book, she reprints the original recipe. It’s almost identical to the one I used, but it calls for 2 cups of sifted all purpose instead of 2 ½ cups sifted cake flour. I was very happy with the soft, tender, crumb of the cake flour version, so I’m going to recommend that recipe.

Here’s a link to the recipe.

A few tips. First off, don’t use 8 inch pans. If you do, you’ll get a towering skyscraper cake like mine which is potentially going to be a pain to cut. Then again, it seems to be adhering pretty well to itself so maybe it won’t. Still, I wish I’d used 9 inch pans.

If you like spreading the frosting all over the cake rather than just spreading it on the tops, stacking and leaving the sides unfinished (very common for German Chocolate Cakes), then you will need to give the icing a good chill before attempting to construct the cake. Otherwise, it will be too runny.

That’s all I have to say about German Chocolate Cake. That, and this is one cake that looks prettier when sliced!
German Chocolate Cake Isn't Really German

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  1. says

    Thanks for all the interesting info about German Chocolate Cake. Who knew!
    Wow, that’s quite a cake! Good luck with the cutting. You’re gutsy, I don’t even attempt layer cakes. Maybe someday.

  2. KAnn says

    Very interesting story! German chocolate cake has always been such a favorite and I haven’t made one for years…now I am looking at vegan baking so perhaps this will inspire me. Yours looks wonderful!

  3. HeartofGlass says

    Wow, I’ve never seen a GCC frosted on the sides before, usually I’ve seen it only frosted in the middle and on top.

    I knew it wasn’t German, but I didn’t know it was Texan at heart–shoulda guessed it had South(west) origins with the coconut and pecan icing!

  4. heather says

    that looks great! i’m a huge icing girl, so the more the better to me!

    i asked this a few posts back, but i’m not sure if you saw it. how do you get through all your cookies? when i make a batch for my family it takes us a few days to work through them, and we’d never be able to finish off a daily-replenished supply. do you give lots of cookies away? freeze them? have an immense cookie stash? just curious!

  5. says

    Hi Heather,

    Sorry I didn’t answer. Someone else had asked the same question and I answered it, so I think maybe I thought it had been answered.

    I should probably create a page saying what I do with the cookies.

    First off, I scale a lot of recipes down and make half batches. Even so, I still have leftovers. I usually

    1) Send cookies to my husband’s office.
    2) Divide them among various girl friends
    3) Take them to the neighbors.
    4) Eat them myself (freeze, eat over time)

    Honestly, I would love to be able to give cookies to a food bank of non-profit, but I am under the impression that cookies made for non-profit organizations and such must be made in a licensed commercial kitchen. I bake out of my home kitchen.

    If anyone has suggestions on ways to donate cookies, let me know. I would love to see them go to a childrens’ organization, retirement community, police station, jail, hospital, church, school, anything. However, I need to find a place that doesn’t have restrictions against home kitchens.

    Until then, I just have to keep giving cookies away to friends.

  6. says

    I hope someone asks me about German Chocolate Cake so I can explain this crazy story to them. I don’t know who wouldn’t be impressed by a person knowing all that stuff about cake!

    About the cookies though, I usually freeze them and make them into ice cream sandwiches. You could also join a baking team that sends baked goods to Iraq or Afghanistan once a month. I am an Angel Baker, and the soldiers really appreciate the goodies! If you’re interested, the website is

  7. Katy says

    Try Cook’s Illustrated or Cook’s Country. I don’t like German Chocolate Cake but my mother made one of those and loved it.
    Regarding sharing baked goods, I freeze and eat over time in addition to supplying: my doormen, my hairdresser, my internist (the nurses love it), my exercise teacher (she has 3 little kids and we have a regularly scheduled “treats” day), my husband’s secretary, my kids’teachers (back when they were in school), friends and family.
    We just boarded a cruise in Italy and I packed 2 lbs of See’s in case the dessert on the ship is bad!

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