The History of German Chocolate Cake

December 15, 2009

I'd never really given the provenance of German Chocolate Cake much thought. In fact, about the only thought I've ever given to this cake was and is, "Yum." I guess you could say I was sucked into the belief that it could possibly, maybe, perhaps be from Germany. I recently took a trip and had the chance to catch up on my favorite food magazines. And there it was, an article in Saveur magazine dispelling any previous notions its readers may have had about German Chocolate Cake being German. I eat this stuff up (and I'm not just talking about cake) I mean food history! So here's the scoop (you'll eat it up too)...

In 1957, a woman named Mrs. George Clay submitted her recipe for "German Sweet Chocolate Cake" to the Dallas Morning News. It became such a hit that newspapers around the country began printing the recipe. Many people assumed it was German in origin due to its name, but German desserts, if one were really to think about it, are usually filled with jam and/or cream, while coconut and pecans are typical in Southern American desserts.

So why the name German Chocolate Cake? Mrs. Clay's recipe called for a store-bought product named German's Sweet Chocolate (a pre-sweetened baking chocolate), manufactured by Walter Baker & Co., and named after the man that created it in 1852 - Samuel German. All those boxed German Chocolate Cake mixes you now see at the supermarket are due to the popularity of Mrs. Clay's original cake recipe, which was quickly placed on the American baked goods map.

And there you have it, the true story behind German Chocolate Cake, which I guess should technically be called German's Sweet Chocolate Cake.

For the full printable recipe click here.

German Chocolate Cake on Foodista

Photo: kimberlykv



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sophia's picture

This is crazy. I've been using the name" German Chocolate Cake" but never once even wondered the history of it and why it's "German"!
Thanks for the education!

Bellingham Web Design's picture

Thank you for this interesting post!

As a sweets-fanatic who lived in germanic Austria for 2 years I can attest that I never smelled a whiff of "german" chocolate cake, and wondered why! It's good to hear the explanation.

My favorite 'echt' (real) german cake is the Black Forest Cherry Cake. The taller the better!