I am always looking for an excuse to make a cake. Always. And I can’t think of any better excuse than my husband.
Just a couple weeks ago he graduated from law school (yay!!!). For awhile I was racking my brain trying to figure out how to make his cake. He had already told me that he wanted a German chocolate cake, but it’s shape and everything else was up to me. I thought about making it look like school books, or perhaps something with a cap, tassel and one of those mallet things judges use. But since I hate using food coloring, none of these were overly appealing. And then it struck me!
For his present I got some family members together and we all chipped in to buy him a MacBook Air. He’d been talking about one for f-o-r-e-v-e-r, so I figured since he’d worked and studied his butt off for the last three years, he deserved one. And thus the shape of his cake was born.
German Chocolate Cake
- 2 C soy milk
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/4 C organic sugar
- 1/4 C agave
- 1/3 C canola oil (non-gmo)
- 1/3 C apple sauce
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 C AP flour
- 1 C whole wheat pastry flour
- 2/3 C cocoa powder (this stuff is awesome)
- 1/4 C instant coffee
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
Preheat your oven to 350. Line a square 8 x 8 in cake pan with parchment in the bottom (don’t worry about the sides). You could use a round pan but I was afraid I’d lose too much mass getting it to look like an apple instead of a ball, so I went with the square.
Pour the soy milk and vinegar into your mixing bowl so it can curdle. While this is happening, sift all your dry ingredients into another bowl so they’re ready to dump right in when you want them.
Once the soy milk is curdled, add the rest of the wet ingredients (including the sugar) and whisk thoroughly. You can do this by hand or with the stand mixer of course.
Add the dry ingredients in three portions. You don’t have to fully incorporate each portion before adding the next. You’re just adding the flour a little at a time to help avoid over mixing which will toughen the cake in the end.
Pour the batter into the cake pan and smooth it out a bit if it’s all in the center. Bake until it springs back when touched and a toothpick comes out clean. Mine took around an hour. When it’s done, let it sit for about 5 – 10 minutes and then run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides. Now put a cooling rack on top of the pan and flip the whole thing over. You should be able to remove the pan at this point, and letting the cake cool upside down will help flatten some of that rounded top.
Be sure to make the cake well in advance as it needs plenty of time to cool before you split it in half or thirds. I actually made mine several days before hand, wrapped it in plastic wrap and stuck it in the freezer. It’ll thaw out in just a couple of hours.
So I typically do half Earth Balance stick butter and half cream cheese with my frostings. Ever since I started paying attention to the way foods feel in your mouth (thank you culinary school) I can’t stand the Spectrum shortening; it coats your mouth as that stuff is solid at room temperature and therefore doesn’t really melt when it hits your tongue. You can use all butter of course but I think the cream cheese creates a lighter texture and better flavor.
In general, you use about 4 cups of powdered sugar to every cup of fat, and then augment the consistency with extracts, soy milk, etc. If you’re making chocolate buttercream, you’re obviously going to have cocoa powder in there so you will need more liquid to offset the extra amount of dry ingredients.
- 4 oz Earth Balance Stick butter
- 4 oz vegan cream cheese
- 4 C powdered sugar (sifted if lumpy)
- 1/2 C cocoa powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Soy milk as needed
Have the butter and cream cheese at room temperature and cream them together until it starts to look wet (vegan butter doesn’t get fluffy). Add the vanilla. Add the sugar and cocoa powder in increments so it doesn’t snow in your kitchen. Add the soy milk a tablespoon at a time until you have a thick yet fluffy texture. You can make this ahead of time and just melt it a bit in the microwave and re-whip it with a spatula before using it.
Coconut Pecan Filling
I used this recipe from Mom in the City. I added an extra half cup of organic sugar though as I only had unsweetened coconut on hand and definitely was not going back to the store. Make sure you do this in advance as it needs to cool completely.
- 6 oz dark chocolate (or mix of semi-sweet and dark)
- 2 oz vegan butter (Earth Balance sticks)
- 2 T soy milk
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
Melt everything in a doubler boiler – aka metal bowl on top of pot with hot water in it – and gently whisk it together. Store it in the fridge until ready to use. When you are ready to use it, melt it down in the microwave in short bursts of time, like 10 – 20 seconds. You need it completely liquidy but it doesn’t need to be super hot. I believe I melted mine down and then let it sit at room temp for awhile. If you’re uber talented you can just pour the ganache along the edge of the cake. If you aren’t so sure, use a piping bag like I did with a small whole or tip at the end and do it the careful way
First, you need something to put the cake on. I didn’t have a cake board that was big enough so I cut a side out of a cardboard box and covered it with foil.
Second, you need to shape the cake into the apple. Use a small serrated knife (like a steak knife) and start by rounding the corners. Next make the indentions at the top and bottom of the apple. Get it looking like an apple before taking the “bite” out of the side.
When you do take the bite out of the side, be careful as this is your stem. You can always reshape the stem a bit but you only have so much cake.
Now split it into layers. I did three layers but two would be just fine. Take a long serrated knife (like a bread knife) and start sawing horizontally. You can score the cake all around the sides first to help ensure you’re cutting evenly. A revolving cake stand is your friend here. Place the extra layer(s) on the counter, preferably on plastic wrap or parchment so they’re easier to pick back up.
At this point you should brush away as many crumbs as you can so they don’t get in your frosting.
I also brushed my cake layers with a coconut simple syrup, which is just equal parts sugar and water heated until the sugar dissolves and then coconut extract added at the end. I did this to ensure the cake was moist. It definitely was moist but I don’t think the syrup was necessary, so it’s your call.
After you decrumb and syrup (or not), grab the coconut pecan filling and plop a big glob of it on the base layer. Use a large offset spatula to smooth it out. Mine was about 1/2 inch thick but I like a lot of filling, so less would be ok. Place the middle layer (if you have one) on the cake and do the same thing. Now place the last layer on the cake and crumb coat the entire thing with the buttercream and stick it in the fridge for a couple minutes. Crumb coating is just smearing a thin layer of frosting on the cake so that you will be less likely to have crumbs in the finished cake.
Once the crumb coat has hardened, ice the cake with more buttercream and then stick is back in the fridge. Once it’s completely set, grab your ganache and the cake and go to town. You can ganache the whole thing or just the edges or whatever you want. Then when you’re done, (can you guess) stick it back in the fridge.
What happens now is up to you. Add more coconut goo to the top. Or just add some buttercream rosettes or pipe a pretty border. Or you could just cover the whole damn thing with ganache and make it look like the actual Apple logo. Maybe white chocolate!
Regarding the stem, I filled it with coconut goo just like the cake and then frosted it with the buttercream. When that had set I poured the ganche all over it.
And here is the happy graduate with his yummy cake!