Few things are as American as apple pie, unless, of course, you consider German chocolate cake. Despite its name, this delectable dessert originated in about as non-German of a location as you can imagine: the great state of Texas.
The layered cake with coconut and pecan icing was created by Mrs. George Clay, a homemaker from Dallas, Texas. The June 3, 1957 edition of The Dallas Morning News featured her recipe for “German’s Chocolate Cake” in its “Recipe of the Day” column.
Mrs. Clay named the dish after a key ingredient, a certain type of baking chocolate introduced in 1852 by a baker by the name of Samuel German. The details are a little fuzzy about whether he was American or English. What is undisputed is that German wasn’t German. Baker’s Chocolate Company named their product, German’s Sweet Chocolate, after this non-German German. Eventually, General Foods acquired the Baker’s brand.
Mrs. Clay’s recipe went viral in an era where news of this sort spread primarily by word of mouth. Within months after her recipe appeared in print, sales of Baker’s Chocolate increased by 73%.
As the popularity of German’s Chocolate Cake spread throughout the United States, the possessive form of Samuel German’s last name disappeared, rendering the dessert “German Chocolate Cake.” As such, many people have formed the misconception that the tasty treat came from the same land that gave us sausages and sauerkraut.
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