Coconut-pecan frosting as sweet as the hills of Bavaria. Rich chocolate as dark as Baden-Württemberg’s Black Forest. Pillowy layers stacked as high as Dallas’ Trammell Crow Center tower.
Wait, what’s that about Dallas? I hate to break it to you, chocoholics, but German chocolate cake isn’t a product of Germany; it's 100% Texan.
The very first recipe for German chocolate cake to ever appear in print dates back to June 3rd, 1957, in a recipe-of-the-day column in The Dallas Morning News.
Initially called German’s chocolate cake, its name stemmed not from any sort of association with Germany, but rather from the confusingly-named headlining ingredient: Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate.
Baker’s German’s chocolate was named after Massachusetts general store owner Dr. James Baker, who, in 1765, founded a company with an Irish chocolatier.
When Baker’s grandson inherited the company, he brought in a number of new employees, including an English immigrant named Samuel German.
Chocolate available for sale in markets had up until this point been strictly bitter blocks. Samuel German figured out how to produce a chocolate that already had sugar mixed into it.
Having eliminated a step in the baking process for those attempting to prepare a dessert, German's creation was a hit.
It was so much of a hit that Baker added German’s name to the product: a best-selling chocolate called Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, named after two men who were neither bakers nor German.
When then-owner General Foods caught wind of the German chocolate cake recipe, it launched into marketing overdrive, sending the clipping out to newspapers and magazines across the country.
When the recipe was reprinted in new publications, the possessive was dropped, leaving new readers with the impression that this German chocolate cake was a classic European dessert.
President Lyndon B. Johnson famously served the cake in 1963 to German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard during a state dinner at the first family’s Johnson City ranch. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall, or a fleck of coconut on the cake!