This German chocolate cake is rich and decadent and looks beautiful with a sparkling candle on top. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

This German chocolate cake celebrates a life well lived

A birthday treat for the author’s enterprising father-in-law, the cake looks great with a candle on top.

By Tressa Dale / The Peninsula Clarion

When my father-in-law was a young man, he built a cabin nestled in the trees on the shore of a lake. In the years since he built that home it has lived many lives.

It has been a tranquil place for elders in their golden years, the setting for rowdy teenage sleepovers and quiet weekend getaways, and even a dressing room for an overjoyed bride. It was a nursery for his twins when they were babies, and then for his newborn grandson 40 years later.

He built that home and kept it with care so it may be a shelter for those in need.

For me, the cabin is a symbol of his enterprising nature, which I deeply admire.

He recently celebrated his birthday by taking a fishing trip with close friends. I know how much he loves sweets, so when he returned, I had a cake and a song waiting for him. We only had a few minutes to celebrate together before he was out the door again (he’s always on the move), but my son enjoyed the trick candle and his ice cream from his seat on grandpa’s lap.

This German chocolate cake is rich and decadent and looks beautiful with a sparkling candle on top.

German chocolate cake

2 cups all-purpose flour

⅔ cup cocoa powder

1½ teaspoon baking soda

1½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1¾ cups sugar

½ cup vegetable oil

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup boiling water

For the frosting:

¾ cup evaporated milk

4 egg yolks

⅓ cup butter

1⅓ cups sugar

Splash of vanilla extract

2½ cups shredded coconut

1½ cups chopped pecans

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare your cake pans. I used a large round springform, but you could also use two 8-inch rounds. Grease the pans and line with parchment paper, bottom and sides.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Whisk in the sugar, mixing well.

In a separate bowl, combine the vegetable oil, milk, eggs and vanilla extract.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently whisk to combine.

Add the boiling water and whisk until the mixture is smooth.

Pour into your prepared pans.

If you used two pans bake for about 35 minutes; if you used one large round it will be about 50 minutes. No matter what pan you use, the cake is done when the top is firm and springy, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan, then let it cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

In a large saucepan off the heat, whisk together the evaporated milk and egg yolks until smooth.

Add in the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Turn the heat on to medium low and add the butter. Stir continuously until the butter has melted. This should take 5-10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and fold in the shredded coconut, chopped pecans and vanilla extract.

Allow the frosting to cool to room temperature before frosting.

For added richness, consider brushing the cake with black coffee before frosting. It will help keep the cake moist, and the bitter coffee will enhance the flavor of the chocolate. This extra step isn’t necessary but is highly recommended.

Tressa Dale is a culinary and pastry school graduate and U.S. Navy veteran who lives in Nikiski, Alaska, with her husband, 2-year-old son and two black cats.

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