German chocolate cupcakes & German family stories.

I’m sure by now if you’re a regular reader you know I’m part German. The German side of my family isn’t cloaked in mystery like the Irish side, and Germany kept pristine vital records (unlike the Polish/Russian sides) and those records are much easier to get than say, the Dutch, French & Belgian records or the even more mysterious “Alsace-Lorraine” family records (Alsace-Lorraine does not really exist as an actual place, therefore the records aren’t in any particular Alsace-Lorraine directory, but split between Germany & France). As you can also tell, I’m an amateur genealogist & I’ve spent the better part of the last 6-8 years doing my family history & tracing parts back to the 1100′s.

Of course, I love old pictures & all things antique & vintage so this kind of thing just feeds into that for me. Particularly the old family photos. And by old, I don’t mean like the ones you have of your grandparents in the 1940′s. I mean old as in the 1890′s.

That’s my great-grandmother, Frances “Midge” Hebrank Sonnanburg, in New York around 1896, when she was just 4 years old. You can see an older picture of her here at my other ‘German’ cupcake post. Her father’s father was Albert, a German immigrant who joined the ranks of an all-German regiment, the New York 54th Infantry a.k.a. the “Barney Black Rifles” (Schwarze Yaeger) in the Civil War. He & his family were German, from Owingen, Hohenzollern, which was for a time part of Prussia but is now Germany, specifically Baden-Württemberg. Anyway, this is the stuff that makes me tick. Me & Jay do ancestry work for fun. We’re geeks. So my family history & my ancestry mean a lot to me. Where I come from is so important, I believe in order to know where you’re going you have to know where you came from.

Okay enough with my life story/family history there. If I tell you any more, I’ll be writing for another 4 days, have severe carpal tunnel & you’ll be able to do my family tree for me. Anyway Midge loved to cook & bake, as did most of her family. There’s a story I heard my whole life about how she made a specific kind of pudding or custard; it was apparently a big hit with my grandpa & his friends. They were begging her to make it, asking & asking until finally she explained that it used an awful lot of milk, which was expensive, especially during the Depression. So whattaya know, my grandpa’s friends waited the next day for the milkman to come & then snuck around & stole everyone else in the building’s milk delivery so Midge could make the pudding. So what does this have to do with cupcakes? Well, maybe I got my baking skills from her?

Or maybe I’m hinting that everyone who asks me for cupcakes should go steal some milk & sugar & eggs first? Hey, listen- the Cupcake Wars casting department e-mailed me… I’m a very important person.

Of course, German chocolate cake, unlike Black Forest cake, is not actually German. Surprise! It’s named after the chocolatier, Sam German, who in the 1850′s created the dark chocolate for the company Baker’s Chocolate. The chocolate was therefore named for him and then, in turn, the cake, which was actually called German’s chocolate cake. But regardless, it’s synonymous with the word “German” now, and most people assume that means the country, so I’m just going to incorporate that into this post about my German family history & cupcakes. And kinda because the topping always reminds me of sauerkraut, which is decidedly German. I know that might gross you out but really… tell me it doesn’t!

Instead of using an actual recipe for German chocolate cupcakes, I just used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe plus a coconut-pecan frosting. Mmm.

CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

Makes about 18 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Cream butter, granulated sugar and light brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add 2 large eggs (one at a time) and beat each until thoroughly combined, then add chocolate & oil. Add (and alternate) flour plus baking soda with buttermilk (room temperature) plus vanilla extract.
  3. Place cupcake paper into each cup of 3 muffin pans (each pan yielding 6 muffins). Then fill each cup about ¾ full.
  4. Bake at 350° degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

COCONUT-PECAN FROSTING

Ingredients:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and brought to room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ⅓ cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups (3-4 ounces) pecans, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Combine egg yolks, evaporated milk, and sugar in a saucepan with a whisk. Add butter, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick, about 12 minutes. After about the first 6 minutes, add the pecans.
  2. Stir in vanilla, salt, coconut. Let cool completely. Frosting can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day; bring to room temperature before using. Spoon on top of cooled cupcakes as desired.

I always avoided making these just because they seemed so complicated & messy, and also because I rarely have pecans & coconut in the house at the same time, let alone the same time as I have evaporated milk. But I did have those ingredients- mainly because of that big ass failure of a pecan pie I made last week.. and it turns out they weren’t hard or complicated to make at all! I made it all super quick, and by the time the cupcakes were cooled the frosting was ready to go too. I’d just recommend that you make the frosting first, like I did. Then pop it in the fridge & let it cool while you clean up, then mix & bake & cool your cakes. When the cupcakes have about 10 minutes left to bake, take the frosting out of the fridge. Let the cakes cool, then just assemble them & you’re done. I added an extra pecan half on top but that’s up to you. Maraschino cherries are also traditional toppings for German chocolate cake.

So there you have it. A super rich, super sticky, super decadent cupcake. Ach du lieber Himmel!


And if you haven’t entered to win the Valentine’s Day table runner yet- GO! The giveaway ends January 31st. U.S. residents only, blah blah blah fine print. Seriously, go enter, or I’ll kick your ass.

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