Today, January 13th, 2012, would have been my father's 59th birthday ("Just J" as he was known to my friends - his name was just the letter J. It stood for nothing other than the letter "J").
When I sat down to think about food and my family I initially thought we really don't have any food traditions. However, throughout the day I realized that we do hold some food traditions very close to heart. When we gather en masse there is Monahan Dip (a concoction of cream cheese, chili sauce, some spices, onions and Old Dutch RIP-L Triple Pack of chips), Christmas gets Italian (though we are not), Just Joni makes a fudge that only she knows the recipe, Just J made a great soup he simply called Dumps. It involves canned bean soup and homemade dumplings and is probably the best thing to be found in a stock pot on a cold winter's night. And Aunt Sharon makes a ham/pickle sandwich that involves a meat grinder that gets people in by the droves for some reason that I cannot explain.
When my generation of cousins was small and we found ourselves at Papa's for a family dinner we binged on Doritos, York Peppermint Patties, Kraft American Singles and New York Vanilla ice cream topped with Leroux Creme De Menthe (that's right, booze on ice cream for kids. It was the 80's and we were scared of the Russians). In the end, there was a very long list of "traditional" foods that we have eaten and will eat as a family.
But back to the cake above.
I have no memory of celebrating my father's birthdays. My mother's birthday is just two days before (HAPPY BIRTHDAY JUST JONI!) so there were combined parties I am sure. I do, for some reason, have stored in the recesses of my mind that my father's favorite cake was German Chocolate. Which after researching today I discovered is not so much German as it was created by a man with the name German. So today I set out to make my own version of this chocolate, coconut, pecan cake that in my mind was my father's favorite. As I am not a fan of the texture of shredded coconut or nuts in chocolate I took some serious liberties with this project.
Chocolate Sour Cream Layer Cake
RECIPE FROM GOURMET TODAY 2009 EDITION
Foolproof Chocolate Frosting
RECIPE FROM COOK'S ILLUSTRATED
Dulce De Leche Filling
Available, canned, in your grocer's baking aisle.
Simply store bought raw coconut browned in a saute pan.
Enjoy and Happy Birthday Just J.