I think that my grandpa was partially responsible for me becoming a "foodie." He should at least get credit for my willingness to try new foods and cuisines (except anything containing mayonnaise, of course.) When I was a little picky eater, his method for coaxing me to eat the items that had been pushed over to the side of my plate was always the same: "It will make your hair curly!"
Despite the fact that I was a gullible five-year-old, I had a hunch that grandpa's statement wasn't 100% accurate. I mean, he was an exemplary member of the Clean Plate Club, yet he had only a few wispy strands of hair across the top of his head---and not a curl among them. Even if his statement was true, I wasn't all that convinced that curly hair was what I wanted. It was painful enough when my mom brushed the tangles out of my straight hair. Wouldn't curly be worse?
Still, I let him think that his sole tactic was foolproof because he was my grandpa, and I liked him, and he was funny.......and he occasionally ate my green jello when grandma wasn't looking.
Every once in awhile, I'd try something that I was certain I would despise....and whaddaya know? It ended up being not-so-bad. Nowadays, I tend to take a glass-is-half-full approach to new foods, assuming that I will probably like something, no matter how inedible it may sound, and that I might as well try it anyhow to find out for sure. I might have pushed wonderful discoveries like pork belly, panna cotta, and unagi aside if it hadn't been for my grandpa (Mom, unagi is eel sushi. And yes, it's yummy.)
But my hair is still straight.
When I started to develop an interest in cooking and baking, grandpa was always more than willing to enjoy my creations and continue his quest for curls. The man didn't just talk the talk. He power walked the walk. Cookies, pastries, and homemade fudge would be devoured with an appreciative smile and a request for seconds. Homemade birthday cakes, no matter how illegible and off-centered the writing on top was, were regarded as if Sylvia Weinstock had labored over them for hours. And oh how he loved his German food!
Grandpa was drafted and served in WWII, retiring as a major and earning a Bronze Star for his service. During his time in Europe, he became very fond of his Sauerbraten, Schnitzel, and Apfelstrudel, so whenever he would visit, I would try to make him a special Deutschland-themed dinner. Last week, at age 94, my wonderful grandpa passed away, so I wanted to dedicate this post to him and make a dessert that I know he would have loved, a variation of German Chocolate Cake. I never, ever, saw him turn down dessert, and I'm sure the bakers in Heaven have been working overtime since he arrived.
Although German Chocolate Cake is actually an American dessert named after Sam German, who developed a sweet baking bar for Baker's Chocolate Company, most people associate it with German cuisine......including my family. I turned the traditional layer cake into individual "layer" cupcakes (kinda stole this idea from Martha Stewart), spreading the gooey coconut-pecan frosting between the cake layers and drizzling a rich chocolate ganache over the top.
Grandpa would've eaten at least two...with a side of black walnut ice cream. Rumor has it, that flavor will make your hair curly.
- An alternative to creating the "layers" of cupcake and frosting is to fill the cupcakes with some of the frosting. Carefully remove the middle of the cupcake by cutting a circle in the top. Keeping the top "lid" intact, remove a section of the inside using a spoon, and replace it with some of the frosting. Replace the lid on top and decorate.
- The frosting and the ganache can be prepared one day in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered. Set the frosting out to soften prior to decorating.
- The chilled ganache can also be whipped with an electric mixer to create a lighter, fluffier frosting for decorating the tops of the cupcakes. If you want the ganache to drip over the sides, skip the refrigeration, and just allow it to cool at room temperature until it reaches your desired consistency.
- For the cupcake batter, the brewed coffee can be replaced with water.
Layered German Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes about 15 cupcakes
For the Toasted Pecan-Coconut Frosting
6 ounces evaporated milk
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
5 tablespoons butter, softened, in pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups shredded sweetened coconut
3/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans
For the ganache
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
For the cupcakes
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup safflower oil
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Prepare the frosting/filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the evaporated milk, egg yolks, brown sugar, and butter. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the butter has melted and the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla, salt, coconut, and pecans. Allow the frosting to cool completely.
Prepare the ganache: Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. Let the mixture stand for 1 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Transfer the ganache to a bowl and and refrigerate until ready to use (or allow to sit at room temperature if you want to drizzle it over the sides.)
Prepare the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and spray cupcake tins with nonstick baking spray. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs with the sugar and oil until light and well combined, 3 minutes. Beat in the coffee, milk, and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing on low speed until just incorporated.
Using an ice cream scoop, fill the prepared cupcake tins with the batter, filling each cup just over halfway full. Bake the cupcakes until they are puffed and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 16-18 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Assemble the cupcakes: Using a serrated knife, cut each cupcake into three separate "layers" crosswise. Spread a layer of the coconut-pecan frosting on top of the first and second layers and reassemble. Top the cupcakes with the ganache, either by drizzling over the sides or piping decoratively.