Monday, January 18, 2010

Guilt-free German Chocolate Cake that tastes sinfully good! Yes, it's very possible

To be truthful-- I'm a hard sell when I see a reduced-calorie recipe for cake. Somehow, "Reduced Fat" and "Cake" translates as an oxymoron to me.  I've made low-fat cookies and cakes, and I've not been impressed with the results.  I've given in to my own philosophy that I'd rather make a cake, in it's full glory of sugar, butter and frosting-- then, eat one piece, and give away the rest! 

Then my newest issue of Cook's Country Magazine arrived, and I spotted their "Reduced Fat German Chocolate Cake, I felt a glimmer of hope. Is it possible, that my very favorite chocolate cake-- with that gooey, caramel coconut and pecan frosting-- could taste delicious and have a lot less calories and fat?  Here's what Cook's Country (which is owned by Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen) had to say about this recipe "makeover":
  • Although we usually don’t cut portion size to reduce calorie count, a triple-layer cake was too over-the-top. Two layers provided an ample serving.
  • We rejected traditional German’s chocolate (which gave the cake its name), as it tastes more of sugar than anything else, and used a combination of chopped milk chocolate and Dutch-processed cocoa instead.
  • For frosting with deep caramel flavor, we relied entirely on brown sugar.
  • Fatty egg yolks typically thicken the frosting, but we found cornstarch worked equally well, without so many added calories.
  • Traditional recipes have 740 calories, 45 grams of fat, and 23 grams of saturated fat per serving. Our changes brought the numbers down to 340 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 7 grams of saturated fat.

A few facts about German Chocolate cake--   You won't find this in Germany. Like Chop Suey being an American invented dish--so is German Chocolate Cake!   This German Chocolate cake's main flavor component is that  milk chocolate is used, rather than dark chocolate.  While I really like my Dark Chocolate cake recipe,  and this Chocolate Sheet Cake,  I am a bigger fan of white chocolate (which isn't really chocolate) and milk chocolate.

I buy quality dark chocolate (for baking) at Trader Joe's, because it's affordable.  I don't buy milk chocolate, because I'd probably eat it all!  Since I was skeptical about this recipe, I bought milk chocolate chips-- this recipes only asks for 3 ounces.  Dutch cocoa gives a little extra chocolate boost.  Hot water is whisked in, to melt it (very easy) and set aside.  Next, the dry ingredients are measured and ready to go.  I did use Light Sour Cream, which makes up for the small amount of butter-- a clever way to reduce fat.

To me, the flavor of a cake is in the proof of the batter.  I liked the consistency, and it tasted good.  The chocolate flavor was subtle, which is a good thing for someone who isn't a big fan of dark chocolate-- and I accept that I'm probably in the minority.

The batter didn't fill my 9-inch pans as much as usual. I thought to myself that this must  be how additional calories are reduced-- fine with me!  If you look closely, you can see that I use baking bands. I love them, and I am convinced that my cakes do make more evenly.  The recipe said to bake for 10-15 minutes at 350F.  I set my timer for 10 minutes, and the middle kinda jiggled-- so I gave it two more minutes. The toothpick came out clean, so I cooled the cakes.  If you're scratching your head at how short the baking time is, I did too!  Yes, this cake bakes really fast!

I hesitated at using fat-free evaporated milk.  I rarely use evaporated milk, anyway.  I stuck to the recipe for the icing-- which included corn starch, finely chopped pecans and coconut (not pictured, 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter and brown sugar).  Here's an interesting note that the Test Kitchen posted:
When we started this assignment, we ran to the health food store to pick up unsweetened coconut. Unsweetened has fewer calories than the sweet stuff ordinarily used in German chocolate cake, right? Wrong. Ounce for ounce, sweetened coconut has fewer calories and less fat! How can that be? Sweetened coconut contains more water, which means fewer calories per cup of coconut. We used the sweetened coconut in our cake after all.

The pecans and coconut are ready to be toasted at 325F for about 15 minutes.

I did shake the tray a few minutes into the toasting-- and then got distracted. At 12 minutes I could smell the pecans!

Had I waited a minute longer-- they would have been burned.  So, heed my warning-- stick closeby and check these way before 15 minutes!

The icing was super easy to make.  Step #1, heat the evaporated milk, 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, brown sugar and some salt on medium high heat.  The cornstarch is added, and whisked (vigorously).  Keep whisking, and it does thicken-- about 3 minutes later.

Off heat, the vanilla is added and then the toasted coconut and pecans-- one tablespoon of the coconut-pecans are reserved for later on.

The icing needs to cool to room temperature.  The taste was reassuringly good!

The icing was very easy to work with.  Divide it evenly and frost only the top.

Finished! Or, so I thought-- after I cut the first slice...  I had a dilemma: Craig and I were headed to a friend's house as dinner guests. This would be my dessert contribution.  I had to slice the cake, since I was running out of daylight and I wanted to photograph it in the privacy of my kitchen.  I figured that they would understand, since they know that I'm a food blogger.

... then, I realized that I had forgotten to add the reserved pecan-coconut topping! D'oh!

I added it to the rest of the cake... but, I think you could go either way.

  I had really high hopes-- the cake felt moist... but, would it deliver flavor?

TASTING NOTES:  The cake was very moist, which is very important to me.  The cake was subtle in sweetness-- which is a good thing if you don't like super sweet desserts. If you want a sugar rush, this cake might not give you the sweet tooth fix you want.  The chocolate was also subtle, but just right.
EVERYONE ELSE'S VERDICT:   They loved it!  I left the majority of the cake with our guests-- but Craig wanted two slices to come back home.  That pretty much sums up, that this cake is worthy of a repeat performance.

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Enjoying a rainy day at home,

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Frances said...

This sounds delish! I NEED to make this!!

Thanks for the great recipes!

Darius T. Williams said...

I certainly love a good german choc. cake! This looks good - really good!

Frieda said...

Guilt-free? Sinful? In the same sentence? You got my attention! Thanks for the recipe!

Frieda said...

Debby, does this recipe really only take 10-15 minutes to bake?

Bellini Valli said...

If I were to purchase milk chocolate history shows that I would eat it long before I even opened the cupboards to make this cake.Germand chocolate is one of my favourites with coconut and nuts.

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Yes, Frieda! 10-15 minutes is the baking time. Mine took 12 minutes, so my advice is to check the cake so you don't over bake and dry the cake.

Stacey Snacks said...

The cake looks terrific, how ever many calories are in it!

ARLENE said...

It certainly looks delicious and I sure wouldn't miss the German chocolate either.

Trish said...

Gosh...this DOES look good!

Monica H said...

Yum, I haven't had German chocolate cake in forever. It's my Dad's favorite.

This looks like a winner.

Donna-FFW said...

OMG!! This loopks beyond fabulous, and Ill take any calorie saving pieces of dessert when I can. Like you though I am always leery it wont taste the same. Glad to hear this is an exception!

TKW said...

I'm very impressed! You also had me giggling at the "do I slice the cake" dilemma--we food bloggers are a weird breed, aren't we?

Kim said...

It looks delicious. I love that it has such a short baking time too. I keep trying to remember to buy those baking bands. I'd love to try them.

Mary said...

Thanks for the breakdown and the review. The cake looks wonderful.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I share your philosophy about desserts. I'd rather a butter-laden, caloric one in small amounts than a pile of sawdust that I have to eat a ton of to feel any real satisfaction. How wonderful for you to find something that is lower-calorie and still tastes good!

Cristie said...

Debby, thanks for all the tips in the post. I love the way you write- it's so worth the reading. I'll be giving this cake a try.

theUngourmet said...

I love German Chocolate cake. It's great to find a lower fat recipe that it still moist. I also like that it isn't overly sweet. It looks beautiful too!

Karen said...

German Choc Cake is my daughter's favorite. This sounds good, but I think (like you used to!) that I'd rather make it with all the fat and butter and just have one piece ;)

Marguerite said...

Omg, I adore German Chocolate Cake! It's my favorite and my family's fave, too. This recipe is Over the Top, and I will surely try it! And as always, great photos! Kudos!

Debinhawaii said...

So glad it turned out for you--that's a great calorie reduction. ;-) It still looks decadent too.

bella said...

A guilt-free version of cake? Gotta try this one. 12 pounds down, slowly, but surely....and I miss the sweets the most! Thanks for sharing this! Roz

SoCalKal said...

My birthday and Brian's as well are approaching very quickly and German Chocolate cake is the norm....I need to try this one!!!!

Louisa L. said...

Chocolate Question: I don't like milk chocolate because of the flavor, fat, and combination of milk and chocolate. Do you think I can substitute a smaller amount of dark chocolate and still get the same flavor? Or maybe the dark chocolate would lend itself a richer, deeper flavor?

Debby Foodiewife said...

Well, Louisa, I'd say that you would get a delicious dark chocolate cake (like my favorite dark chocolate cake recipe on my blog). Milk chocolate is why this is a German chocolate cake. Go for it, and let us know!