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Is There Anything German About German Chocolate Cake?

Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman

If you've always assumed that German chocolate cake has its origins in Germany, you’re certainly not the only one. Yet, despite its name, German chocolate cake is a distinctly American invention.

The “German” in German chocolate cake refers to Samuel German, who invented a type of sweet dark baking chocolate in the 1850s for the Baker Chocolate Company. Not much is known about Samuel German, who is usually described as English or American (or English-American), but definitely not German.

German chocolate cake originated in the United States, not Germany – it was named for an American named Samuel German, whose sweet baking chocolate was used to create the dessert.
German chocolate cake originated in the United States, not Germany – it was named for an American named Samuel German, whose sweet baking chocolate was used to create the dessert.

In fact, German chocolate cake appears to have been invented in Texas. The recipe was featured by The Dallas Morning News in 1957, having been submitted by a Dallas homemaker known to history as Mrs. George Clay. The recipe calls for a layered chocolate cake and a coconut-pecan frosting/filling. Sometimes chocolate frosting and Maraschino cherries are added as a garnish. Though the original 1957 recipe called it “German’s chocolate cake” in reference to the type of baking chocolate, the possessive apostrophe was ultimately dropped in later reprinting, leading to the popular misconception that the cake is of German origin.

German chocolate cake vs. chocolate cake from Germany:

  • German chocolate cake was an immediate hit, resulting in sales of Baker's German’s Sweet Chocolate increasing by as much as 73 percent within a year of the recipe’s publication. Interestingly, though you can still purchase the sweet chocolate baking bars as in the original recipe, many modern versions replace them with dark or unsweetened baking chocolate.

  • The Baker Chocolate Company was founded in 1780 by physician James Baker and was the first company to produce chocolate in the United States. The Baker’s Chocolate brand changed ownership many times, moving from the Forbes Syndicate to Postum Cereal to General Foods. In 1995, it was incorporated into Kraft Foods, which is now Kraft Heinz.

  • In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson and First Lady "Ladybird" Johnson reportedly served German chocolate cake to German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard during a state dinner at the president's Texas ranch.

  • Of course, there are chocolate cakes from Germany, just not with coconut and pecan frosting. Perhaps none is as famous as Black Forest gâteau (Black Forest cake), which features chocolate sponge cake, cherries, whipped cream, and Kirschwasser, a clear spirit made from cherries.

Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...

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    • German chocolate cake originated in the United States, not Germany – it was named for an American named Samuel German, whose sweet baking chocolate was used to create the dessert.
      By: denio109
      German chocolate cake originated in the United States, not Germany – it was named for an American named Samuel German, whose sweet baking chocolate was used to create the dessert.