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

Read transcript

You might also like these chocolate recipes:

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

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German Chocolate Cake

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


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!



  • 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


  • 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


  • 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



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.


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.


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.


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.


  • Serving Size: 1 Slice
  • Calories: 1527
  • Sugar: 140 g
  • Sodium: 720.8 mg
  • Fat: 77.8 g
  • Carbohydrates: 189.1 g
  • Protein: 27.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 210.4 mg

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

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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

  1. Dianne

    This is the most delicious German Chocolate Cake. Have made it 3 times for birthdays with rave reviews. The filling and frosting is amazing. A must have for German Chocolate. I am making the frosting for a graduation cake. Thanks so much!!

  2. paula

    i made this recipe. i selected it because it sounded like it would be super moist … the filling was divine. but the cake was really really dry. i am a baker. as we bakers know – only deserts should be dry. not desserts. do you have any suggestion as to what might have gone wrong for me with this cake? the recipe certainly looked like one that would be moist.

    1. Lindsay

      It can be hard to say from a distance. It could’ve been over baked. It could also be that the ingredients weren’t measured quite exact. Do you use a food scale for your dry ingredients?

  3. Stefanie

    I have a little bakery side business that I do, and your German Chocolate Cake recipe has gotten RAVE reviews from anyone that has ordered it from me! I wanted to thank you for sharing it with the world!

  4. Carrie Morrison

    I’m looking forward to making this cake over the weekend. If I want to use all butter instead of shortening in the frosting, will the additional butter measurements be the same as the shortening amount?

  5. Adrienne Sherrill

    The recipe for the coconut filling might say “stir constantly and watch carefully” for those of us not used to making custard. I just ruined it by letting it cook per the recipe. After less than 8 minutes it split.

    1. Lindsay

      The directions clearly state “stirring constantly”. If you were standing there and stirring it constantly, naturally you should be paying attention to it. And especially if you’re not familiar with making it, I would think you would do that without me even having to say so. I’m sorry it didn’t turn out well but I do not believe it was because of the instructions.

  6. Lindsey

    This recipe made me a convert! Made it for a friends bday and WOW ! It was SO flavorful ! Def worth all the work and time put into it ! Thank you !!!

  7. Katey

    Thank you for all of your amazing recipes and tips! It is birthday season in my house and I love to learn tips and tricks. This year you have elevated my baking game! Thank you for all of the great recipes! Tomorrow I am making this German Chocolate Cake recipe for my father in law’s 75th birthday. I have Hershey’s Special Dark 100% Cocao powder in the pantry already – should I specifically buy “natural unsweetened cocoa powder” for this recipe or will the ingredient I have already work just as well? Thank you for all of your photos, videos and knowledge!

About Lindsay

I'm a wife and a mom to twin boys and a baby girl! And I've got a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the treats!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29