Friday, May 27, 2011

A Toast of Chocolate to Uncle Jim -- German Chocolate Cheesecake

It had been much longer than I cared to admit since I’d visited my Uncle Jim who’ll be 95 years old this year. He’s my uncle by marriage; he was married to my father’s only sister, my Aunt Mary, whose sensational cooking inspired me to want to be a good cook.

I was grateful when one of my sisters suggested a day trip to his nursing home in Pittsburgh, punctuated by lunch (Church Brew Works) and shopping (Trader Joe’s and McGinnis Sisters.) Grateful and just a little apprehensive.

Like many people, I suppose, I was afraid that he wouldn’t be as I’d remembered him. Of course he wouldn’t!!! Another niece who lives close by and who has been his primary family contact for the last ten years had prepared us for the fact that he was frail and confined to a wheelchair and losing his memory more but was still usually in good spirits.

All my fears were allayed when we found him in a TV room and after we finally approached him and I said, “Hey, Uncle Jim! It’s Rosie!” and gave him a kiss.

I could see in his pale eyes that he did indeed recognize me and he grinned with his typical little chuckle and said “Rosie, kiddo! How are you?” Anyone in their fifties loves to hear themselves called “kiddo.”

We caught him on a pretty good day. We could see that he wanted to be the same gracious man he’d always been. He apologized that he couldn’t stand up to greet his company. He wanted to participate in lively conversation, just as he always had. Well-read and opinionated, with a wry sense of humor, he loved conversation and was a great raconteur himself. But he was always interested in what you thought and what you had to say, too.

He tried to keep up with conversation, he tried to remember all the people and events in the pictures we shared, but became a little frustrated and would drift off and shake his head with a smile that so reminded me of what my mother did as she aged, too.

As I recounted to him how my husband still talks about the lovely evening the three of us once had when he took us out to dinner at his club and dawdled over too many Manhattans and ate the best turtle soup, his eyes sparkled with a little memory and he started breaking apart the Cadbury chocolate bar my sister had given him. He needed a little help and gestured that each of us should have a piece.  He then raised his piece in a toast gesture and we followed his lead and raised our pieces of chocolate,too,  a toast to the memories of family and to the connections that should never fade.

I’m sure that Uncle Jim would have liked this cake. Or at least he would have said so. He was the beneficiary of my aunt’s very best baking and cooking. And he always seemed to swoon over what she made. Her biggest fan. She probably wouldn’t have made this cake because it starts with a mix and she loved baking from scratch. But I didn’t get her baking genes, so this jazzed up cake mix that my sister-in-law Liz first made is something I can do. (This will be my birthday cake, won't it, Liz?)

For you, Uncle Jim.

German Chocolate Cheesecake
This really isn’t a cheesecake; it’s a cake with cheese, but delightfully chocolatey and rich all the same!
from Taste of Home, submitted by Kathy Johnson, Lake City, SD

1 package German chocolate cake mix
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese
1 ½ cups sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
For frosting:
1 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated (not sweetened condensed) milk
½ cup butter, cubed
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Prepare cake batter according to package directions. Set aside. In small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs; beat at low speed until just combined.

Pour half of cake batter into a greased 9 x 13 x 2 pan. Gently pour cream cheese mixture over and smooth with spatula. Then gently spoon remaining cake batter on top and spread to the edge of the pan.

Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 70 to75 minutes, until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on rack for at least one hour before frosting.
For Frosting:
Combine sugar, milk, butter and egg yolks in heavy saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and a thermometer reads 160 degrees. Stir in vanilla, coconut and pecans. Cool until frosting is spreadable.

Makes 16 servings


  1. German Chocolate cake is a favorite and this variation sounds delicious. Glad you got to spend time with your uncle. Those visits are priceless.


  2. I love this nutty caramel chocolate cake! Looks irresistible.

  3. Lovely post, great to hear about your trip to see Uncle Jim :) Fantastic cake as well...mmmmm!

  4. What wonderful sentiments for your Uncle Joe! Glad you were able to connect with him and keep up that connection that is so desperately needed.

    And the cake sounds fabulous too!

  5. How wonderful that you got to spend time with your uncle. I know how much those visits mean to them, because I have a grandmother who's pretty sick too, and she lives for visits from us.

    The cake looks and sounds fabulous! Thanks for sharing :)

  6. I loved hearing about your trip to see your Uncle and your visit to my home town. I've never been to the Brew Works but have heard great things but McGinnis sisters is one of my favorites!

  7. thanks for sharing with us about your trip, a fabulous cake!



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