This recipe is a special one today. It comes directly from the #NScookbook, yet was decades in the making, decades before I was born! My grandfather who was born and raised in North Dakota of German ancestry was a lover of chocolate and a WWII vet turned dairy farmer turned fantastic journalist, piano player, and musician. He was a man of many many talents! I spoke with him just a couple weeks ago to wish him a happy 97th birthday and he was gleaming with happiness and told me how he spent his day, which of course included his traditional slice of German Chocolate Cake, playing with his band in the community and taking a long walk. I was going to keep this recipe “secret” to just the cookbook, but just this week, my sweet grandfather left us and with that came a flood of good memories and joy yet deep feelings of loss and sadness. So when creating the cookbook several years ago, I had an urge to recreate his favorite birthday cake so I could always enjoy it “with” him all the way from Nashville, TN.
My mom and brother took a quick trip to North Dakota this past summer while I was on my cookbook tour and gave my grandpa a physical copy of my cookbook. My brother being the creative one with video, made a beautiful film of their entire time spent with him including my grandpa flipping through the pages of my cookbook for the first time, it was the most joyful I’d seen his face. He kept saying to my brother “wow her hair is getting so long! I can’t believe she wrote this whole book! I want that dish, etc.” haha. He voiced in so many ways how much he was filled with pride and how excited he was for how my life has shaped up and the paths I’ve taken. He instilled so much determination, grit, perseverance, and resiliency in my life; and also inspired me to write more and write even when I don’t feel like writing, so thank you gramps.
As I write this, I’ve been writing every article on Nutrition Stripped for 4 years now and there’s so much vulnerability in writing to you guys, it’s a beautiful challenge for me personally because it’s always a fine line between “how much do I share? Is that TMI? Does this story help, inspire?”, etc. And as I sat down to write this blog post in particular, I thought, I have to be courageous in my vulnerability (more on this topic later in a Life + Work post) in sharing personal stories and what’s going on in my life because of course they have an impact on what I do, how I show up for you and the NS community. But most importantly, I share this story to remind you food is MORE than nutrition and fuel. Food is more than nourishing our cells – it’s social, it’s traditional, cultural, emotional, spiritual, and it can be for the sake of enjoyment/pleasure. So often as a Dietitian Nutritionist I see dogmatic thoughts and practices around food, these ways of “dieting” or “living” actually take the life out of enjoying food altogether. My hope is that you guys can shift your thinking back to the core of what’s important in life. You can nourish your body so well and the way it desires by including all of these pillars of health I speak to. Recipes like this one that are enriched with so much meaning and deep family roots are a beautiful reminder that we’re not only all connected, but it’s easy to forget these life-giving stories we have around the kitchen and food.
Back to this cake. The funny thing is, German Chocolate Cake isn’t actually from Germany, but he always liked the mix of chocolate, coconut, and gooey condensed milk. I mean, c’mon who doesn’t like this recipe?! So, of course I had to make an NS style version that was not only healthier, but dairy free and gluten free so everyone could enjoy the spongy cake and sweet ooey gooey topping! This chocolate cake recipe is the one I always turn to when I’m bringing a dessert to a friends house or to a family gathering because it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser. I hope you guys enjoy this one and some of you already have!
- For the chocolate cake:
- 1 cup brown rice flour
- ½ cup almond flour
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 cup freshly brewed coffee
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- 3 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
- For the coconut-pecan filling:
- ½ cup pitted Medjool dates (4 to 5)
- 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup chopped raw pecans
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Garnish: ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
- For the chocolate cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 9 x 13-inch baking dish with parchment paper, grease with oil, then dust with flour.
- In a large bowl, combine the flours, cocoa powder, arrowroot powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, in a small bowl, combine the oil, coconut sugar, applesauce, coffee, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate small bowl, mix together the almond milk and vinegar.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Gently fold in the almond milk-vinegar mixture with a spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and evenly spread. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour, before assembling.
- For the coconut-pecan filling: In a high-speed blender, combine the dates, coconut, pecans, coconut milk, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla and blend until smooth.
- To assemble, transfer the cake from the sheet pan to a serving platter. Using a fork, gently poke holes all over the cake. Pour and evenly spread the coconut-pecan filling on top, then sprinkle the toasted shredded coconut on top.
- To serve, cut into into squares. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Leftovers can be kept in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Ingredients I used in this recipe: brown rice flour, almond flour, cocoa powder, raw apple cider vinegar, Medjool dates, unsweetened shredded coconut flakes, coconut milk
MORE NS APPROVED DESSERTS:
Find all NS desserts on the Recipes page
Food for thought…
I’d love to hear from you, what stories come from your kitchen that have special meaning? How does food bring your family together? If you make this at home, be sure to share your thoughts in the comments or by leaving a review which helps me make these recipes better for you. When you make this recipe, be sure to share a pic on Instagram with #nutritionstripped so I can see!
Photos by Katie Newburn