Inside-out German Chocolate Cake

April 7, 2014

We visited my husband’s parents this past Saturday to celebrate his mom’s birthday, and as a surprise, I made her a birthday cake! I wanted to make sure that that cake would be something she would really love, so I got some inside information about her favorite flavors from my sister-in-law: citrus (lemon or lime), chocolate, coconut, or pecans. Not all together, obviously. :) But the last three of those flavors most certainly mesh well, and what better way to present all of them together but in a German chocolate cake?

The last time I made a German chocolate cake was a few years ago when I was still in school, and while the version from ATK was good, I don’t remember it being a totally amazing knock-your-socks-off cake. So I went looking in Bon Appetit and Gourmet for an alternative recipe. This one from the Gourmet Cookbook, called “inside out” German chocolate cake, appealed to me because the directions said it could be made up to 3 days ahead of time. No last-minute baking that morning: Perfect!

The “inside-out” in the name comes from that fact that traditionally German chocolate cake is covered with the coconut and pecans in addition to the filling, but this version is coated with a rich chocolate glaze. I did make one modification to the recipe as written: the original calls for baking the sweetened condensed milk in a water bath in the oven for an hour and a half, but I find it way faster to just caramelize the milk in the microwave. It requires more attention and stirring every few minutes, but it cuts the time down to about 20 minutes.

So the end result? Amazing. My mother-in-law loved it, and my husband’s aunt even said that it was one of the best chocolate cakes she ever had! It’s a very dense, rich cake… a small piece is more than enough to satisfy a chocolate craving. Totally worth the time and effort; I definitely need to make it again once Lent is over and I can allow myself more than one bite ! :)

Inside-out German chocolate cake

Cake can be baked and assembled up to 3 days ahead. Keep covered and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before serving.

Serves 12



  • 1½  cups sugar
  • 1½  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4  teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4  teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4  teaspoon salt
  • 3/4  cup whole milk
  • 6  tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1  large egg
  • 1  large egg yolk
  • 3/4  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8  teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4  cup boiling water


  • 7  ounces sweetened flaked coconut
  • 4  ounces coarsely chopped pecans (about 1 cup)
  • 1  14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1  tablespoon vanilla extract


  • 2½  sticks unsalted butter
  • 10  ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate
  • 3  tablespoons light corn syrup


  1. For cake layers: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease three 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together whole milk, butter, egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and almond extract in another bowl until just combined. Beat egg mixture into flour mixture with an electric mixer on low speed, then beat on high speed for 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and beat in hot water until just combined (batter will be thin).
  2. Divide batter among cake pans (about 1½ cups per pan) and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of pans and rotating them 180 degrees halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes total. Cool cake in pans on racks for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert cake layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment or wax paper and cool layers completely.
  3. For the glaze: Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate and corn syrup, whisking until chocolate is melted. Transfer 1 cup glaze to a bowl, reserving remaining glaze at room temperature in pan. Chill glaze in bowl, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spreadable, about 1 hour.
  4. For the filling: Meanwhile, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Spread coconut in a large shallow baking pan and pecans in another. Bake pecans in upper third of oven and coconut in lower third, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pans from oven.
  5. Meanwhile, pour condensed milk into medium microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on medium-low power, stirring every 2 minutes, until thickened and golden, about 20 minutes (time may vary considerably with microwave power).
  6. Stir coconut, pecans, and vanilla into condensed milk; cover and keep warm.
  7. For cake assembly: Put 1 cake layer on a cardboard round on a rack set over a baking pan (to catch excess glaze). Drop half of coconut filling by spoonfuls evenly over layer and gently spread with a wet spatula. Top with another cake layer and spread with remaining filling in same manner. Top with remaining cake layer and spread chilled glaze evenly over top and side of cake. Heat reserved glaze in pan over low heat, stirring, until glossy and pourable, about 1 minute. Pour glaze evenly over top of cake, making sure it coats sides. Shake rack gently to smooth glaze.
  8. Chill cake until firm, about 1 hour. Transfer cake to a plate to serve.


  1. This looks fab!

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