German Chocolate Cake Recipe

The history of German chocolate cake is a bit surprising because it's not actually German at all! In 1957, The Dallas Morning News printed a recipe for this cake, which quickly became a hit. It was named after Sam German, who created the Baker's chocolate you see in stores today. While it might not actually be from Germany, this is still a cake recipe that you absolutely have to try. Plus, it's not that difficult to make, so why not?

It's true, German chocolate cake is hard not to love. It's piled high with layers of dark chocolate cake, decadent toasted pecan-coconut filling, and rich fudge frosting, so you really can't go wrong. Every bite is a chocolate lover's dream come true! 

Chef Tara Rylie of RylieCakes walks you through how to perfect this cake, and we guarantee it will become a fan favorite in your home as soon as you make it.

Preheat your oven and prepare your pans for this German chocolate cake

The best way to begin any recipe is by reading it in full before doing anything. That way, you know what to expect and can mise en place ahead of time, minimizing any room for mistakes. 

Okay, so now that you've read your German chocolate cake recipe and you're ready to begin, step one is always preheating your oven and preparing your pans. For this recipe, we need three six-inch cake pans lined with parchment. The easiest way to do this is to simply trace the pan onto the parchment and then cut out your circles. Coat each pan with cooking spray, and then set them aside as we begin the cake.

How to cream butter for your German chocolate cake

The key to making the perfect light and fluffy German chocolate cake is creaming your butter the right way. Creaming butter properly incorporates air into your batter, which acts as a leavener when baking. It's important that butter is room temperature when creaming and that you give your butter enough time to double in size. More often than not, butter simply isn't creamed long enough. Cream you butter and sugar in step two until the mixture has doubled in size and has spread up the sides of your bowl.

Add your German chocolate cake ingredients in this order

Once you've got your butter and sugar creamed just right, the recipe is a piece of cake! Simply scrape the sides and bottom of your bowl to incorporate any ingredients stuck to the sides, and then beat in your eggs one at a time until they're fully mixed in. Finally, you'll alternately add the dry ingredients and wet ingredients to your batter in three parts (dry-wet-dry), beating well after each addition. Once your batter has pulled together, simply scrape the sides and bottom of your bowl one last time before portioning.

Bake your German chocolate cake

You'll want to portion your German chocolate cake batter evenly into your prepared cake pans. The best way to do this is to use a kitchen scale and weigh your batter. For this cake, you want approximately thirteen ounces of batter per pan. This German Chocolate Cake bakes for approximately 32 minutes. We suggest rotating your pans halfway through baking — especially if your oven has hot spots — to ensure even baking of each layer. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let your cakes cool completely on a wire rack while you make the filling and the frosting.

How to toast pecans for your German chocolate cake

Toasting nuts is a great skill for any home chef to have. It's pretty easy and can be done in bulk so you're not toasting nuts for each recipe you create. Plus, toasted nuts are great to have around to add to salads, smoothies, all sorts of baking recipes, or even a batch of homemade trail mix.

To start, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and place pecans in a single layer on top of the parchment. Bake in your preheated oven for seven to ten minutes until the pecans are golden-brown and have a nutty fragrance. Then, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely before chopping. Baking times may vary when toasting nuts depending on how hot your oven is preheated to — adjust timing accordingly if needed.

The best coconut pecan filling for this German chocolate cake

We love this coconut-pecan filling so much because it's easy to whip up, and though it's the perfect filling for this German chocolate cake, it's so good you could just eat it by the spoonful! 

To prepare it, combine your brown sugar, evaporated milk, egg yolks, stick of butter, and quarter-teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Cook this mixture over medium-low heat while whisking constantly. Once your butter has melted, increase the heat to medium and continue cooking while whisking. In just a few minutes, your mixture will begin to boil around the edges and thicken. Remove it from the heat and stir in your chopped pecans, shredded coconut, and one teaspoon of vanilla extract. Let the mixture cool to room temperature while you whip up your frosting.

Make the fudge frosting for this German chocolate cake

This easy fudge frosting for your German chocolate cake is going to become a staple in your house! Perfect for frosting cakes and cupcakes, this frosting is also perfect for topping off your favorite batch of brownies.

To begin, in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream two sticks of butter until light and fluffy, then slowly add your sifted powdered sugar. Just like that, your frosting will start to form. Note, it is important to the sift the powdered sugar to prevent gritty or lumpy frosting. 

Finally, add a three-quarters of a cup of cocoa powder, heavy cream, a quarter teaspoon of salt, and one teaspoon of vanilla extract, then beat your frosting on low for 30 seconds until cocoa is nearly incorporated. Next, increase your mixer speed to medium-high, and continue to beat until frosting becomes light in color and fluffy in texture.

Assembling your German chocolate cake

It's finally time to assemble your German chocolate cake (and eat it). Start off by placing one six-inch cake round on top of your serving platter or on a cake cardboard. Then, spread a layer of chocolate frosting over the cake. Next, top your frosting layer off with a layer of coconut-pecan filling. Though it can be easy to really pile on the frosting and filling here, keep in mind that the cake needs to be stable enough to stand three layers high. A solid layer of each will do the trick, but add too much of either, and your cake will fall over!

Finish off your cake by repeating the filling process and then decorating the cake as you desire. Refrigerate your masterpiece for an hour before cutting and serving — this just gives it a little time to set, ensuring it won't collapse under the pressure of a knife. If you have any leftovers, which is highly unlikely, they will store well in an airtight container in your refrigerator for up to ten days.

German Chocolate Cake Recipe
5 from 28 ratings
German chocolate cake is hard not to love. It's piled high with layers of dark chocolate cake, decadent toasted pecan-coconut filling, and rich fudge frosting.
Prep Time
1
hour
Cook Time
32
minutes
Servings
8
slices
slice of german chocolate cake
Total time: 1.53 hours
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cup AP flour
  • 1 ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅓ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) plus 11 tablespoons butter, room temperature and divided
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
  • ¾ cup pecans
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ¾ cup shredded coconut
  • 3 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat three 6-inch round cake pans evenly with cooking spray and line with parchment.
  2. Whisk together AP flour, ½ cup cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder in medium bowl. Stir in chocolate chips and set aside.
  3. In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream 11 tablespoons of butter and sugar until light, fluffy, and approximately doubled in size.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated.
  5. Alternately add dry ingredients and buttermilk plus 2-½ teaspoons vanilla extract to creamed butter (flour, buttermilk, flour), beating on low for 30 seconds after each addition.
  6. Portion batter evenly into prepared cake pans, approximately 13 ounces per pan.
  7. Bake for 32 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cakes are done when toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cake cool completely while make filling and frosting.
  8. To begin filling, line rimmed baking sheet with parchment, and place pecans in single layer on parchment. Bake in preheated oven for 7 to 10 minutes until golden brown and you notice a nutty fragrance. Remove from oven, cool completely, and then roughly chop. Set 2 tablespoons chopped pecans aside for decorating cake, if desired.
  9. In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, evaporated milk, egg yolks, a stick of butter, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly. Once butter has melted, increase heat to medium and continue whisking.
  10. When mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from heat and stir in chopped pecans, shredded coconut, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  11. Place pan on wire cooling rack and let filling come to room temperature before using.
  12. To begin frosting, in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream 2 sticks butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add sifted powdered sugar, and frosting will start to form.
  13. Add ¾ cup cocoa powder, heavy cream, ¼ teaspoon salt, and a teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat on low for thirty seconds until cocoa is nearly incorporated, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until frosting becomes light in color and fluffy in texture.
  14. Assemble cake. Place one 6-inch cake round on top of your serving platter or cake cardboard. Spread a thin layer of chocolate frosting over cake and then top with coconut-pecan filling. Place second 6-inch cake round on top of first and repeat filling process. Place final 6-inch cake round on top of second, top with coconut-pecan filling and use chocolate frosting to decorate around the edges to create a border. If you saved 2 tablespoons of chopped pecans, chop them into even smaller pieces and sprinkle over cake.
  15. Let cake set in refrigerator for one hour before cutting and serving. Cake will last for one week in refrigerator or one month in freezer. Enjoy!
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 1,193
Total Fat 74.4 g
Saturated Fat 43.6 g
Trans Fat 2.0 g
Cholesterol 267.7 mg
Total Carbohydrates 131.2 g
Dietary Fiber 8.2 g
Total Sugars 101.6 g
Sodium 407.1 mg
Protein 13.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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