Friday, November 28, 2008

a little german chocolate to go with your thanksgiving

While the rest of, oh, the United States of America was baking pumpkin pies on Wednesday night, I was nervously embarking upon my very first German Chocolate Cake Baking Adventure. A very special family member of ours has a birthday that always falls on or around Thanksgiving. Therefore, she has to share her celebration with Turkey Day since all the family is already gathered here in Brooklyn. Or rather, Thanksgiving has to share with her. Regardless, we wanted to bake her a really special birthday treat to underline the fact that we're more thankful for her than for poultry or squash. It's the least we could do, right?
I used a recipe I found at David Lebovitz's luscious website, where I also learned that German Chocolate Cake isn't actually German. I know; who knew? It was invented by Baker's Chocolate to get people to buy their product, and I think it worked. I didn't follow the recipe exactly: As usual, Mary was the Greatest Girlfriend Ever and baked the cakes from a mix before I got home. And instead of the dark rum that Mary Jo Thoreson added to her syrup in the original recipe, I substituted about a teaspoon of vanilla for those in our group who don't like alcohol-infused desserts. 
Before you rush off to make this for your best friend and great uncle and favorite cat who just love German Chocolate Cake, I must tell you that this took me a long time to make, probably because I was so petrified of messing it up. For someone such as myself whose baking repertoire most frequently consists of drop cookies, this was a challenge. However, I have the assurance of all our Thanksgiving/Birthday guests that it was, indeed, worth it. Plus, despite my fears, there were no disasters.

The first exciting part was making the custard for the filling, something I've never done before. The smell and taste of the eggs as they thickened with the cream was velvety. Next I successfully cut the cakes in half(!). And finally there was the part where I found out how to properly assemble the pastry bag and tip and tried to make the frosting around the top somewhat pretty before it melted. 
Looking back on this experience, I think I would do it again. It was such fun to stumble and furrow my brow through each new step, and even more fun to hear the exclamations of the German Chocolate Cake-lovers who had previously only tasted the store-bought kind. Thanks to this cake, I'm now the proud, if somewhat confused, owner of a pastry bag, so I may have to try to hone my piping skills sometime soon. But for today, I'm thankful for chocolate-loving family and friends and for new adventures in baking.

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