Feb. 21, 2013 at 1:15 PM ET
The simple sight (and a tiny bite) of a German chocolate cake always reminds Willie Geist of his family and childhood birthday celebrations.
Having a German last name, Willie figured the cake would be a natural when he was asked to choose a great dish that has had a special significance for him as part of TODAY's "Melting Pot'' series. Then he found out the truth about his favorite cake.
"I've just received word that the German chocolate cake, like me, is not really German,'' he said.
He then tweeted his lament at finding out the brutal truth.
Though his last name is German, Willie said, "when you really break it down," he is part German, French, English, Irish and Norwegian.
"I think like a lot of Americans, I'm a little bit of a mutt,'' he said.
The layered chocolate cake with coconut pecan frosting is actually American, as its creation is credited to American chocolate maker Sam German in the 1850s. But wherever it's from, it creates an instant nostalgia for Geist: His mother regularly made it for his birthday growing up.
"I started as a young kid,'' he said. "Like a lot of kids, I had a Superman cake or different theme cakes, but then I hit the age where I think my mom thought I was ready for the German chocolate cake that she makes for my dad. Just the sight of that, the taste of that frosting, just reminds me of being at home with my mom and my dad and my sister and my friends.
"It's funny how a piece of food can bring you back to such a good and happy place and it does every year.''
Homemade birthday cakes have now become a tradition for Geist's own family.
"I think there's something about the homemade birthday cake, because my wife, on my daughter's first birthday, started the tradition where she takes a full cake and cuts the number birthday out of it,'' he said. "So the first birthday, there was a big 'one.' We had the Number Two cake, the Number Three cake, and just those images - I think the cake tradition lives on"
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