If you’ve always wanted the perfect German Chocolate Cake recipe with classic flavors in an easy-to-make way, then this is the recipe you need! You’ll have a delicious chocolate cake with a mild yet deep chocolate flavor and an incredible coconut pecan frosting!
German chocolate cake is an American-favorite chocolate cake that’s actually not from Germany! An English American baker who worked for Baker’s chocolate company invented it using sweetened dark baking chocolate. We’ll use cocoa powder instead for that same flavor but with a deeper feel.
This recipe is perfect for special occasions, the holidays, or if you’re in the mood to have the best chocolate cake of your life! This cake has a sweet and unique chocolate flavor, and the icing is also incredible. Unlike traditional buttercream frosting, this one has a custard-like feel and is made of egg yolks and evaporated milk. You’re going to love it!
🥘 INGREDIENTS YOU'LL NEED
All you need are readily available ingredients to make the best chocolate cake!
You can scroll down to the recipe card for further details and instructions.
Cocoa powder: German chocolate cake traditionally uses sweetened dark baking chocolate, but I’ve instead used unsweetened cocoa powder since you’ll get the same light, delicious flavor but with added depth.
Egg yolks: We’ll use egg yolks in our delicious coconut pecan frosting as the thickening agent gives that classic custard-like texture and feel to the frosting.
Evaporated milk: You’ll also need some evaporated milk for the frosting since it’s ‘evaporated’ milk to make sure 60% of the water content evaporates for creamier milk, which has a slightly cooked taste for an incredible depth in flavor.
Pecans: The classic combination of the frosting is made one part with pecans because the nutty flavor perfectly balances the richness and sweetness in the cake and frosting.
Coconut: We’ll also use shredded coconut as the other part of the equation for the perfect German chocolate cake frosting!
🔪 HOW TO MAKE
This is an incredibly easy and rewarding cake, with perfect flavors in every bite.
The full instructions are in the recipe card below, but let's look at the main steps to making this treat.
Let’s make our German chocolate cake batter first. Sift the dry ingredients and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat butter, oil, and vanilla together, then add one egg at a time. Mix in sour cream and milk, then add the dry ingredients to this mixture.
Beat the lowest speed and add some hot water until the batter comes together. Divide the batter into two lined cake pans and bake for 20-24 minutes in a preheated oven at 350F/180C. Once done, let the cake cool on a wire rack.
Now let’s prepare our frosting! Melt butter in a pan, then add brown and white sugar or white sugar. Mix well and add evaporated milk and egg yolk while whisking. Let the mixture come to a boil to thicken, then remove from heat and add vanilla, toasted pecans, and coconut.
Allow the frosting to cool, then let’s start assembling the cake! Place one cake layer, then spread half the frosting evenly over it. Then place the second layer and add the remaining frosting on top.
Garnish the cake with chocolate chips, toasted pecans, and coconut. It’s best served after being refrigerated for 20 minutes before slicing into it. Your delicious German Chocolate Cake is ready to be served!
💭 COOKING TIPS
- I recommend unsweetened cocoa powder, as demonstrated in this recipe, for a deeper and more delicious flavor.
- You can use half brown sugar and half white sugar when making the cake frosting.
- For a more robust coconut flavor, toast it for a few minutes before adding it to the frosting.
- I spread the frosting when it is warm it keeps the cake moist longer.
- After frosting, place the cake in the fridge for 20 minutes before slicing into it, as this will also let the frosting thicken up.
📖 DELICIOUS VARIATIONS
This delicious German Chocolate cake is perfect as is, but if you’re looking to customize it a bit, here are some ideas to try:
Decoration variation: I’ve added the frosting in a ‘naked cake’ style, a cake with minimal frosting on the outside to showcase the layers and filling. But you can also cover the cake entirely with frosting by doubling the frosting recipe.
More pecans: You can also add chopped pecans in the middle layer for some added crunch in every bite and a nuttier flavor.
Stronger coconut flavor: For a more robust coconut flavor, consider toasting the coconut for a few minutes before incorporating it into the frosting.
💬 FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
No, even though it’s called ‘German’ chocolate cake, it didn’t originate in Germany but was invented in America.
The cake is named after its inventor, a baker named Samuel German, who worked for Baker’s Chocolate Company and created a new type of sweetened dark baking chocolate to make this cake. Later, when a Texas housemaker made this cake and shared the recipe, she named it German chocolate cake, which later became German Chocolate Cake.
Using cocoa powder, as I’ve explained in the recipe, you’ll end up with the perfect German chocolate cake with the classic flavor but with more depth.
🍲 MORE CAKE RECIPES YOU'LL LOVE
Fridge: You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezer: This cake freezes beautifully, but freeze it without the frosting. The frosting is custard based, and its texture will change if frozen. Place it in an airtight, freezer-safe container and freeze it for up to 3 months.
Thawing: Let the cake thaw in the fridge overnight, warm it in the microwave for 20 seconds, and then serve.
Classic German Chocolate Cake
FOR THE CHOCOLATE CAKE BATTER
- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ cup sugar
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoon oil
- 6 tablespoon unsalted melted butter
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup sour cream at room temperature
- 1 cup milk at room temperature
- ½ cup hot water
FOR THE COCONUT PECAN FROSTING
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- ¾ cup chopped and toasted pecan
- 1 ¼ cup shredded coconut
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Grease and dust with flour two 8” inch cake pans.
- Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper and keep aside.
MAKING THE CHOCOLATE BATTER
- Sift or whisk the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl and using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, mix the melted butter, oil, and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time while mixing.
- Add the sour cream and milk and mix for a minute, then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat with the mixer on lowest speed just until combined, pour the hot water and beat until the batter is completely combined.
- Divide batter evenly between the previously prepared 2 pans. Bake for 20-24 minutes. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and place them on cooling rack. Allow the cakes to cool for 6 minutes while in the pans then remove them from the pan and allow them to cool completely on the cooling rack.
MAKING THE COCONUT AND PECAN FROSTING
- Prepare the frosting while the cakes are cooling. The frosting should be warm or at room temperature when frosting the cake.
- In a pan and over a medium heat melt the butter and then add the sugar. Mix well. Pour the evaporated milk and then add the egg yolk while whisking.
- Whisk the mixture occasionally when the mixture comes to a boil whisk constantly until it thickens. Remove it from heat and add the vanilla, toasted pecans, and coconut, mix well.
- This frosting should cool before using it on the cake. However, I use it when it's warm, I found that it keeps the cake moist for a longer time. You will notice that the frosting will get thicker as it cools.
ASSEMBLING THE CAKE
- On your cake stand place one cake layer. Spread half the coconut and pecan frosting evenly over that layer.
- Place the second layer of the cake over the previous frosting layer. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining frosting.
- You can garnish the top of the cake with chocolate chips or with more toasted pecans and coconut.
- This cake is best refrigerated for 20 minutes before slicing it. Refrigerating the cake will allow the frosting to firm just enough so the cake won’t fall apart while slicing.
- You can use half brown sugar and half white sugar when making the cake
- For stronger coconut flavor, toast it for a few minutes before adding it to the
- I spread the frosting when it is warm it keeps the cake moist longer.