I didn’t try German chocolate cake until I was in my teens. Isn't that crazy? As a kid, I thought of it as “grown up cake” (whatever that means) because of the Coconut-Pecan frosting. See, I was convinced I hated coconut, and I wasn’t crazy about nuts in baked goods, and the combination of those two textures in a thick caramel frosting was too much for my poor little brain to handle. Fortunately, I slowly acquired a taste for different flavors and textures (including coconut and pecans) and after trying it again over the years, it has climbed the ranks and become one of my favorites.
This is comfort food to me now, reminding me of home – how many German chocolate cakes did I see at church picnics, benefit breakfast bake sale tables, and potlucks growing up? And those were made by adorable little old ladies who could whip cream with one hand tied behind their backs, and make meringue pies that I’m still striving to live up to now. How could I turn my nose up at all those? I’ve got to make up for lost time.
The last time I visited home, I mentioned the idea of making German chocolate whoopie pies to my wonderful Mom. Her eyes lit up hopefully as she tentatively asked, “Do you think you could make them gluten free?” (She’s been eating gluten free for a while now.) Well, I’d never done it before, but why not? I grabbed a box of Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix and tried it out, adding just a little more cocoa powder to highlight that signature dark chocolate flavor in German chocolate cakes. The experiment worked beautifully, and she got to keep tons of these decadent gluten free treats for herself –and here’s how you can enjoy them too.
The cake starts with softened butter, creamed with the mixer until it’s really soft and light.
Then add the contents of Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix. The one difficult thing I find with many gluten free mixes is that they are dusty. Don’t turn your mixer on high, or you’ll end up with a cloud of cocoa and cake mix all over your kitchen! I start out folding it with a spatula, and sometimes that’s enough. The mixture will remain pretty dry, so gently stir until combined, since you mix in liquid ingredients next.
Add the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract, and NOW rev up the electric mixer and beat until well combined, thick and fudgy.
Drop the batter by teaspoonful on a prepared cookie sheet. It can be hard to keep them small and bite-sized because of the thick batter. You can dip your finger in cold water and help roll each dollop off the spoon if needed; that’s a good way to help control how much batter goes into each cake drop.
Dab at the thick batter until the cake drop is roughly circular and the top is fairly smooth. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but this batter will keep the same basic shape when baked as it has when it goes into the oven. Smoothing it out will help make prettier whoopie pies in the end.
When I make these again, I will try even harder to make them smaller – 1-inch wide will be hard to do, but it would be perfect for a two-bite whoopee pie. Or a whoopie pie-macaroon hybrid! That’s what I’m dreaming of.
Slide the filled cookie sheets into the oven and a few minutes later, you’ll have beautiful cake drops. Let them cool on the pan for a few minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Now it’s time to make the coconut-pecan frosting. This old-fashioned recipe is what really takes these cakes to new heights of decadence.
Brown sugar, another stick of butter, egg yolks and evaporated milk all go into the sauce pan to melt together and thicken. My frosting took about 10 minutes to become thick (and that includes melt time for my frozen butter).
With this frosting, "thick" is relative - it will get lighter, more caramel-colored, and coat the spoon; and it will have the consistency of a thick glaze or gravy. It will thicken up quite a bit as it cools, so if you think you're close, go ahead and remove it from the heat and see what happens.
Once it’s off the heat and starting to thicken, add the coconut flakes and chopped pecans.
Stir it up, and let it sit for a few more minutes so it’s close to room temperature but still a little warm.
Meanwhile, pair up your now-cooled cake drops that are closest in size so you can make nice, evenly matched whoopie pies. (Mine look like they’re having a square dance.)
To assemble, take a pair of cake drops. Spread the flat bottom of one cake drop with a spoonful of frosting, and press the pair together very gently.
If you want, you can roll it in a little more flaked coconut around the edges where the frosting peeks out. Since discovering my love of coconut, I’m like an overzealous convert, putting it anywhere I can. But look how pretty and light and feathery it looks against the caramel frosting and dark cocoa-brown cake!
Serve it up, ideally with the rich coconut-pecan frosting still slightly warm. Bring them to a party, because you’ll have quite a few to share.
Gluten Free German Chocolate Whoopie Pies
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 box Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix
- 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
- 2 large eggs, room temp (equal 1/2 cup)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup pecans, chopped
- 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut, plus more for rolling edges
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cookie sheets by covering with parchment paper or silicon mats, or lightly coating with nonstick spray. In a large bowl, cream butter with electric mixer until soft. Add Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix and cocoa powder, and stir gently to combine. If using a mixer, use a low setting. Mixture will still be mostly dry and crumbly. Add eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract and beat well until combined. Batter will now be thick and fudgy. Drop batter by small teaspoonful 1-2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Shape each dollop with the spoon, dabbing it into a roughly smooth circle, about 1- 1 ½ inches wide. Bake 15-17 minutes, until tops are dry and toothpick inserted in center of cake drop comes out clean. Cool on pan for several minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
While cake drops are cooling, make the coconut-pecan frosting. In a large saucepan, combine evaporated milk, brown sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat and stir in salt, pecans and coconut. Let cool to near room temperature before spreading.
Pair up cake drops that match in size for whoopie pies. Spread a spoonful of frosting on bottom of one of a pair of cake drops, and then press them gently together. Roll edges in more flaked coconut where frosting peeks out if desired. Serve shortly after assembling.
Store cakes and frosting separately to prevent assembled whoopie pies from becoming soft over time. Store cake drops tightly sealed at room temperature, and keep frosting tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Keeps 2-3 days unassembled.
Makes 18-24 whoopie pies (36-48 individual cake drops)
German Chocolate frosting from AllRecipes.com
You can find Gluten Free German Chocolate Whoopie Pies and other recipes from Hodgson Mill by visiting the Recipes page.