German Chocolate Cupcakes

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Today is National German Chocolate Cake Day! And we’re here to talk about it. First, right off the bat, let’s get one thing straight: German chocolate cake has absolutely nothing to do with the country of Germany. Shocked? I know.

So why is German chocolate cake called such? In the early 1850’s, an English-American chocolate mill worker named Samuel German invented a sweet chocolate baking bar for The Baker Chocolate Company in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Walter Baker, owner of Baker’s, bought the recipe from German for $1000, and the chocolate bar was named in honor of him: Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.

At the time, Baker’s (which is also a misleading name, as “Baker” was the last name of the family, and was not chosen to mean that the chocolate was only for bakers) chocolate was exclusively used for baking. It was more bitter, whereas the German chocolate bar had a higher sugar content, and was marketed as “palatable” and “a great favorite with children,” implying that it was meant to be eaten on its own, much the way you would eat a Hershey’s bar now, instead of to be used in baked goods.

The Baker Chocolate Company continued to thrive over the next hundred years, which allowed for what we now know as German chocolate cake to be created. German chocolate cake, a multi-layered chocolate cake separated by a caramel-pecan-coconut filling, and sometimes topped with chocolate frosting, is often attributed to Mrs. George Clay, a homemaker in Dallas, and was first shared by The Dallas Morning News food editor Julie Benell in 1957. While this is the most-referenced origin of the recipe,  I’ve seen a reference to almost the exact same recipe over a year earlier in a May 1956 edition of The Irving News Record, printed in Irving, Texas. Curiously, the 1956 article states that “Daisy,” the food editor for The Irving News Record, actually got the recipe from her daughter, who was living in Oklahoma, and brought it back to Texas.

Whether we thank “Daisy” or Julie Benell for the recipe, we know that once it hit papers, it spread like wildfire across the United States. By 1958, General Foods, which now owned Baker’s chocolate, had decided to print the recipe in a recipe booklet. After this, the public’s interest was fully piqued, and Baker’s German chocolate sales increased by a whopping 73%.

It should also be noted that, by the earliest printings of this recipe in newspapers, the cake was already being called “German chocolate cake” instead of “German’s chocolate cake.” I’ve seen a lot of references to the fact that the name changed over the years, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I have guesses as to why this is, the most probable being that home cooks, 100 years after Samuel German invented his chocolate bar, had no idea that the possessive German’s chocolate bar was created by a man named Samuel German. I would suppose that they assumed it was a German form of chocolate.

Hopefully this post will give Samuel German a bit of his due. To celebrate the day of his influence, I’ve made cupcakes, instead of the traditional 3-layered cake.

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German Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 20-24 cupcakes.

Ingredients: 
For cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 oz. Baker’s German chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup boiling hot coffee

For filling: I used 3/4 of the filling from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
6 tbsp unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large egg yolks
6 oz evaporated milk
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup pecans, chopped

Optional:
Chocolate frosting (store-bought works fine, but you can also make your own)
Maraschino cherries

Ingredients: 

For cupcakes: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.

In a medium bowl, mix well the eggs and egg white, vanilla, buttermilk, and vegetable oil.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix together until fully combined.

Chop chocolate and add to a bowl. Pour boiling coffee over the top. Quickly whisk until the chocolate has melted, then quickly whisk into the other ingredients.

Preheat oven to 350. While the oven is preheating, fill two cupcake tins with cupcake liners.

Fill each liner up halfway. Bake, and begin checking for doneness at 18 minutes.

Remove and allow to cool completely.

For topping and filling:

Add the butter, sugar, yolks, and evaporated milk in a saucepan.

Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Allow the mixture to come to a steady boil, then begin whisking constantly until the mixture thickens (about 4-5 minutes).

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, shredded coconut and chopped pecans. Allow to cool completely before filling cupcakes.

Scoop out the center of each cupcake, but not the entirety of the top.

Pipe a ring of chocolate frosting around the top of each cupcake, optional.

Fill each cupcake with the coconut/pecan mixture. Top each cupcake with a maraschino cherry, optional.

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Look, there are people who can do amazing things with cake. I’m not one of them. I kind of hate decorating cakes. Cupcakes, though, I can do! Plus, you get your own little maraschino cherry on top that you don’t have to share with anyone!

Thanks, Samuel German, for giving the world the essential ingredient for your namesake cake!

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Malted Milk Chocolate Cupcakes

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It’s winter! Sure, not technically. Technically, winter is still a week away. But here in Chicago, it’s winter. You know how I can tell? Our Christmas tree is up, it’s completely dark around 4:30, and my boots are covered with a chalky white powder up to my ankle from the snow and the salt. Plus, we’ve already had a winter storm warning, along with all the snow we could hope for.

On Saturday night, Alex and I trudged to the grocery just a few blocks away, and grabbed all the fixins for a steak, mashed potato, and broccoli dinner, along with cheap red wine and mulling spices. As the snow fell, we were all tucked away inside, filling ourselves to the gills, basking in the light of our Christmas tree, and watching the last few episodes of Search Party on TBS. Which, HELLO, if you have not watched this show, go watch it right now. I don’t know what to tell you. The premise is quite simple, but the ending literally left us with our mouths hanging open.

Before the snow came, we were busy celebrating my mother-in-law Anne’s birthday. On Friday, we had dinner at the Italian Village, which is one of the oldest Italian restaurants in the city, and a place that Anne misses, since she moved from Chicago to Washington state. She has happy memories of going there before going to a show in the theater district. On Saturday afternoon, we had a little brunch for her at our place, complete with a malted milk chocolate cake.

I wanted to try to make a malted milk chocolate cake for a while and, when I mentioned it to Alex a while back, he said, “You know, my mom loves chocolate malts.” Perfect. I hope she didn’t mind me using her birthday cake as a recipe testing experiment. We all had exactly one slice, then champagne, then we were all ready for a nap. (I actually did sneak away and take a nap.)

I have a couple of new cupcake tins to break in, and I thought, you know what’s better than one big malted milk chocolate cake? Well, it’s 20-odd little malted milk chocolate cakes. Plus, I feel like cupcakes are really “over” right now, but I love them all the same. Are we really not doing cupcakes anymore? Guys, that’s nuts.

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Malted Milk Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes between 20 and 24 cupcakes

Ingredients for Cupcakes:
1 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup malted milk powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp espresso powder, optional
2 large eggs
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup boiling water

Ingredients for Frosting:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup malted milk powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp espresso powder, optional
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
A pinch of salt
1/4 cup, or slightly less, heavy whipping cream, lukewarm, optional

Instructions for Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Fill two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, malted milk powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.

In a medium bowl, mix well the eggs and egg white, vanilla, buttermilk, vegetable oil.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix together until fully combined.

Quickly whisk in the boiling water.

Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 of the way full.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean. Begin checking for doneness around the 14 minute mark.

Remove cupcakes to a wire cooling rack.

While the cupcakes are cooling (for at least an hour), beat together the softened butter, cocoa powder, malted milk powder, vanilla, espresso powder, and powdered sugar.

Optional: I don’t like how thick regular buttercream is, so I often add a bit of heavy cream to my frosting to thin it out (that seems like a contradiction). If you decide to do the same, add in the lukewarm heavy cream with all of the other frosting ingredients and beat together.

Frost each cupcake and enjoy!

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They’re malty, they’re chocolatey, and they’re supah, supah moist. I’m very picky about my cupcakes. I don’t like them huge and dense. And, I’ll say, though not proudly, that I really loved the little, super soft cupcakes that my mom used to make from boxes. That’s what these remind me of! Except you made them from scratch, Martha Stewart, and there are no questionable ingredients hiding from you. Go give them a try! Oh, and if you see my mother-in-law, be sure to wish her a happy belated birthday.

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