For when you really, really want some chocolate.

Margaret Eby
Updated: March 22, 2019
Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck

There is nothing German about German chocolate cake. It's actually a purely American invention. The recipe was popularized thanks to a submission in the Dallas Morning News in 1957, and it was originally German's chocolate cake, after the popular brand of baking chocolate. Not that the origin of chocolate cake makes it any more delicious, but it makes a certain amount of sense, because in its pure excess of chocolate flavor, it feels like there's something deeply American about German Chocolate Cake

Sure, you could make any number of other kinds of chocolate cake. You could opt for cupcakes, or fuge pie, or just a straight-up bar of chocolate. But German Chocolate Cake like this recipe feels like a special occasion all its own, even if you're just making it on a Sunday night. It's not the kind of cake that you can just throw together in one bowl on a Tuesday, though, fair warning. It takes time to put everything together, as well as to let the layers cool before you frost them. But it's worth it. The tenderness of the crumb in this cake is thanks to the inclusion of buttermilk, which adds that nice acidic tang, and enhances the chocolate flavor.

One trick from the comments on this recipe is to make sure to toast the pecans on top to give an extra dimension of flavor to the garnish. You can also change the number of layers according to what you'd prefer—more layers requires more icing, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.And don't forget to grease your cake pans really well. There's nothing sadder than putting all the work into making a cake from scratch only for it to fall apart in the pan. Then again if it crumbles just a bit, there's your old friend icing again, ready to help hide any little spots.

Get the recipe for Mama's German Chocolate Cake.