Friday, April 3, 2020

German Chocolate Cake's Sweet History

Germany is known for numerous tasty desserts: lebkuchen, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest cake), Bienenstich (bee sting cake), Rote Grütze (Red Berry Pudding), streusels, linzers, and dozens more.

But ironically, one dessert that did not originate in Germany is German Chocolate Cake.

Image result for german chocolate cake
German Chocolate Cake is a layered chocolate cake, topped and filled with a pecan-coconut frosting. Sometimes, chocolate frosting is used on the sides, and maraschino cherries occasionally appear as a garnish.

It is named not for its country of origin, however, but to honor the man who developed the type of chocolate used.

Samuel "Sammy" German was an Englishman who came to Dorchester, Massachusetts in the mid 19th-century, and found a job at America's first chocolate factory, Baker's Chocolate Company. Baker's was started in 1764 (then known as Hannon's Best Chocolates, although John Hannon and Dr. James Baker were partners.)

For over eighty years, the company produced cakes of chocolate for use as drinking chocolate, and by the California Gold Rush in 1849, Baker's Chocolate (now under the direction of Walter Baker) was found across America.

Baker's Cocoa Advertisement, January 1919 Issue of Overland Monthly. Public Domain.
In 1852, however, Sammy German had an idea. He developed a new type of chocolate, one that contained more sugar. This sweeter chocolate could be used for baking, and it's said Walter Baker bought the recipe for a whopping $1000. From that point on, the chocolate was sold as "Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate."

Over a hundred years later, on June 3, 1957, The Dallas Morning News printed a recipe of the day: "German's Chocolate Cake" submitted by Mrs. George Clay. The cake, with the pecan-coconut frosting, became an instant hit. Some sources claim that the recipe was in wider circulation at the time, but Mrs. Clay's recipe has been credited as the one that drew Baker's attention.

General Foods owned Baker's by this time, and they shared Mrs. Clay's recipe with other American newspapers.  Sales of Baker's Chocolate increased by 73%, and the cake became an American favorite.

Still available, even on Amazon!
Along the way, the apostrophe in "German's" was lost, and the cake is now known as German Chocolate Cake. Baker's is now owned by Kraft Heinz, and the recipe is still going strong. In fact, the recipe is usually printed right on the box.

And if you're not a cake person? Don't despair. German Chocolate is available as a flavoring in beverage syrups and coffees, too. 

June 11 is National German Chocolate Cake Day in America. Are you tempted to celebrate it with a slice this year?


Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's an award-winning, RWA RITA®-nominated author who's seen her work on the ECPA, Amazon, and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller Lists for Inspirational Fiction. To learn more, visit her website,, and sign up for her newsletter:

Her latest is novel is The Blizzard Bride.


  1. Ah, chocolate! Such a happy thing to contemplate! Thanks for the post. Interesting to know that "German" chocolate isn't German after all.

    1. Hi Connie! I truly thought German chocolate cake was German in origin. It was always my birthday cake of choice when I was growing up!