German Chocolate Cake

This German Chocolate Cake recipe is a classic! The moist chocolate cake paired with coconut pecan filling and chocolate frosting is so delicious together!

German Chocolate Layer Cake

German Chocolate Layer Cake recipe

Classic German Chocolate Cake

I am so excited to share this cake with you today. It’s been a long time coming! I’ve got a German Chocolate Cheesecake and German Chocolate Cookie Stacks, but no actual cake. Crazy! I actually first made this cake a couple years ago, but wasn’t completely happy with it so it got pushed aside until now. It’s officially ready and I can’t for you to try it!

Why is it Called German Chocolate Cake?

German Chocolate Cake is one that I’ve seen many people ask questions about. The main one being, “Why is it called German? It’s not German.”

Totally true – it isn’t from Germany. The cake is actually named after the blend of sweet chocolate used in the cake, German chocolate, and the chocolate is named for the man that developed that specific blend. His name was Samuel German. So the cake isn’t “German” as in the country, it’s “German” as in the chocolate.

The chocolate blend is actually a sweet one. Most cocoa used in cake is unsweetened. The German chocolate isn’t quite as strong as unsweetened cocoa and therefore the cake isn’t always as chocolatey as you might expect. But its signature comes from the melted chocolate itself used in the cake, the buttermilk and the whipped egg whites.

And of course no German Chocolate Cake would be complete with the coconut pecan filling! Pure heaven right there. Eggs, evaporated milk, sugar and butter are cooked until they thicken and almost caramelize a bit. With the addition of coconut and pecans at the end, the filling reminds me a good bit of a samoa girl scout cookie, which is my fave!

Best German Chocolate Layer CakeFavorite German Chocolate Cake

Do You Frost German Chocolate Cake?

Some people like to leave a German Chocolate Cake unfrosted and just have the layers of cake and filling, but I really love the addition of the frosting. Not only do I love frosting, the chocolate frosting uses actual unsweetened cocoa so it does add a little more of the classic chocolate flavor to the cake without overpowering the cake itself and the filling.

How to Make German Chocolate Cake

The cake layers are made beginning with the creaming of the butter and sugar. Be sure to fully cream them together, looking for a lighter (in color) and fluffy mixture before moving onto the next step. Next is the sour cream and vanilla, then the melted German chocolate.

The eggs are separated before adding to the batter. The yolks will be mixed into the batter first, followed by the dry ingredients and buttermilk and water. The final step is whipping the egg whites and folding them into the batter. It helps create a fluffy cake with a very light crumb. Just be sure to carefully fold the egg whites into the cake batter so that you don’t deflate them.

When you’ve got everything made, you’ll layer the three layers of cake with the coconut pecan filling and then frost the cake with the chocolate frosting. Seriously, the combination is divine! If you’ve never tried German Chocolate Cake before, what are you waiting for?! Now is the time!

Homemade German Chocolate Layer CakeGerman Chocolate Layer Cake slice


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You might also like these chocolate recipes:

Outrageous Chocolate Coconut Cheesecake Cake
German Chocolate Cheesecake
German Chocolate Cookie Stacks

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Recipe

German Chocolate Cake

  • Author: Life, Love and Sugar
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 14-16 Slices 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This German Chocolate Cake is a classic! The moist chocolate cake paired with the coconut pecan filling and the chocolate frosting is just delicious together!


Scale

Ingredients

COCONUT PECAN FILLING

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 12 oz can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
  • 3/4 cup (168g) salted butter, cubed
  • 3 cups (255g) sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped toasted pecans

CHOCOLATE CAKE

  • 3/4 cup (168g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (58g) sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 oz (226gGerman chocolate, melted
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 1/2 cups (325g) all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) water, room temperature

CHOCOLATE FROSTING

  • 1 1/2 cups (336g) salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (237g) shortening (or additional butter)
  • 9 3/4 cups (1121g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup (123g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 67 tbsp (60-75ml) water or milk

Instructions

TO MAKE THE FILLING:

1. In a large saucepan, combine the egg yolks, milk and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined.
2. Add the sugar and butter and cook on medium heat for 12-15 minutes, or until thickened and almost pudding-like and golden brown, stirring constantly.
3. Remove from heat and stir in coconut and pecans.
4. Set in the fridge to cool completely.

TO MAKE THE CAKE LAYERS:

5. Prepare three 9 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
6. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light in color and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
7. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
8. Add the melted chocolate and mix until combined.
9. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing until combined after each. Batter will seem a bit thick. Set egg whites aside for later.
10. Combine dry ingredients in another bowl, then combine buttermilk and water in measuring cup. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until well combined. Batter will be thick.
11. Slowly add the milk mixture and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all in incorporated.
12. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Set batter aside.
13. In another bowl, whip the egg whites with the whisk attachment on high until stiff peaks form.
14. Gently fold about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the batter until mostly combined.
15. Add remaining egg whites and fold together until well combined.
16. Divide the batter between the three pans and bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs.

TO MAKE THE FROSTING:

17. In a large mixer bowl, beat the butter and shortening together until smooth.
18. Slowly add half of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
19. Add the vanilla extract, cocoa powder and 3 tablespoons of water or milk and mix until smooth.
20. Slowly add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add remaining water or milk, as needed to get the right consistency for your frosting.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE:

21. To put the cake together, use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes so that they’re flat. Place the first cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round.
22. Pipe a dam of chocolate frosting around the edge of the cake, then spread about 1/3 of the filling evenly into the center.
23. Add the second layer of cake, another dam of frosting and another 1/3 of the filling.
24. Top the cake with the remaining layer and frost the outside of the cake with the chocolate frosting. Refer to my tutorial for frosting a smooth cake, if needed.
25. Use the remaining frosting to pipe swirls around the top of the cake. I used Ateco tip 844.
26. Fill in the top center of the cake with the remaining filling.
27. Store cake in an airtight container in the fridge. Cake is best for 2-3 days.


Keywords: chocolate cake recipe, german chocolate cake recipe, best chocolate cake recipe, birthday cake recipe

Enjoy!

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German Chocolate Layer Cake - the classic german chocolate cake with coconut pecan filling and chocolate frosting!

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Recipe rating

138 Comments
  1. Mary

    Hello Lindsay! When you indicate toasted pecans on your recipe. Do we have to toast them in the oven before adding them to the mixture?

  2. Lisa Coppersmith

    This is one of the best German chocolate cakes I’ve ever made. Everyone loves it. I made no changes to this recipe and I even made cupcakes with it. Thanks for all of your amazing recipes😊

    1. Lindsay

      The layers can be wrapped and frozen prior to frosting. I don’t typically freeze whole cakes though. You could slice the final cake and freeze individual slices though.

    2. Dominique Coleman

      My mom loves German chocolate cake but we recently found out she was diabetic, is there a way this could be sugar free? If so please send me the recipe

  3. Madeline

    Good evening! I have made this cake before and it was WONDERFUL! I am making it again soon and I was wondering how far ahead I can make the filling? I usually try to make everything the day before or the day of, but sometimes life happens! Would it be okay in the fridge for a week?

    1. Lindsay

      Because of the eggs, I’m not sure that it’d last for a full week. 3-4 days might be the most ahead I’d make it.

  4. Jennifer

    I have made this recipe several times now and it is excellent! Better than any other recipe I have tried!

  5. Mary

    The recipe made too much frosting. The filling is amazing. Cake itself was good, but for the work and time it took I was expecting better. Frosting was a challenge to spread on the sides.

  6. Angie

    Was reading some of the comments…on how good the Chocolate Whip Cream was so good in between the layers…but I didn’t see it in your recipe….Your cake is beautiful by the way !!!!!

  7. Sonia Patel

    Hello!!

    I love your website and baked a few of your cakes. They all turn out great. I am making the German Chocolate Cake this weekend. I read in the comments that the coconut pecan filling can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Can it be made on Friday and then be assembled on Sunday and does the filling need to come to room temperature? Thank you

    1. Lindsay

      Yes, it should be fine to make it a couple days ahead and you shouldn’t need to bring it to room temperature.

  8. Helen Cooper

    Hi. I’m looking forward to making this cake but I am confused by your conversions from cups to grams:

    1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
    3 cups (255g) sweetened shredded coconut

    How many grams is a cup for you? I am used to the metric conversion 1 cup = 225g

    Many thanks

  9. Hosanna

    Hi there, I really appreciate the understandability in this recipe! I’m going to make this Cake soon, but I have a problem. For the coconut-pecan filling, I want to omit the pecans. Do you have any advice, like should I add more coconut to make up for the lack of pecans? Your reply is eagerly anticipated, and greatly appreciated, thanks!!

    1. Lindsay

      You could definitely add a little more coconut. The main thing is getting the filling thicken enough, so if you add a little more and it still seems too thin, you could add a little more. Also keep in mind that it thickens as it cools.

      1. Hosanna

        Hello again! I tried the recipe except I omitted the pecans, and added about 1/4 cup more coconut. Everything was perfect! Though it did find I had to add more milk into the chocolate frosting than the recipe said to get it to spread and pipe properly. Other than that, everything went according to plan, and it turned out beautiful!

        Love this recipe! I’m sure I will do it again!

  10. Steph

    I made this cake for my grandfathers 88th birthday. He absolutely loved it and it was delicious! I skipped the pecans because of his dysphagia but it was still amazing. I would definitely make again!

  11. Linda

    HI Lindsay
    I made the recipe using 3 round 6″ pans and 2 square 6″ pans, the cakes were awesome.  Only a little dry, and I noticed that the cake especially the square cake tended to fall apart as I cut it.  Do you know any reason a cake would crumble as it is cut, never had this happen before.  I also used a little espresso in the frosting, awesome!  I totally iced the round cake as it was a gift, and the top and in between layer of the square cake.   So any comment on the dryness?
    Loving your recipes

    1. Lindsay

      I’m really not sure why it’d be crumbly. If it had to do with the dryness, I might try baking the cakes for a little less time next time and making sure that you aren’t adding too much flour.

  12. Sirisha Kolli

    Hi. I only have one 9in pan so I am planning to do the cake layers one by one. How will I have to adjust the bake time and will I have to adjust the temperature ??

    1. Lindsay

      If you’re just baking one layer at a time, it shouldn’t change the baking temperature. You might need to bake the layers a few minutes less, but it won’t be much.

  13. Suzann

    I have never made a German Chocolate cake before and looked at my options and went with this one. It was a great choice! The cake was super moist and the icing complimented it so well. Everyone loved it!

  14. debbie

    Hi Lindsay!
    I made a vegan version of this cake for my grandson’s birthday (valentine’s day) and everybody loved it! My grandson is a big fan of my pecan pie so I thought he would enjoy a German Chocolate cake. BOY, did he!
    PS, I have a vegan recipe blog and plan on posting my vegan version of the cake on it. I would love to give your recipe and site credit as the basis for my recipe if that’s cool with you.?

    1. Lindsay

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Great to hear that a vegan version worked well for you. And yes, I would prefer that you do give me credit for the recipe inspiration or as modified from. Thanks!

  15. Rhonda

    Hi Lindsay,

    my mom used to bake this one all the time. I have only made this a couple of times, but wanted try yours. One question, have you ever used vegetable oil instead of butter in the cake batter?

    1. Lindsay

      I haven’t tried using oil in this cake recipe. Because the butter and sugar are creamed together, I wouldn’t suggest replacing the butter with oil.

  16. Lakia Steele

    Okay, I have a question. Why do you add egg yolks, or is there a way to NOT have to add egg yolks. I’m trying to understand the purpose of adding these egg yolks. I’ve looked up several recipes and majority of them have egg yolks as one of the ingredients???????????

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

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“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12