German Chocolate Cake

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This cake is moist, decadent, and one of our all-time favorites.

We love everything about this dessert. The batter makes a moist, but not too dense cake. The two types of icing put it over the top. This goes right up there with our Red Velvet Cake, Classic Carrot Cake, and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. This is the real deal, folks! And fun to prepare.


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How To Make German Chocolate Cake

You may be wondering why it’s called a ‘German’ chocolate cake? Actually, it has nothing to do with Deutschland! Read about the interesting origin here.

Now, let’s get to making this iconic dessert.

The cake can easily be made in stages. Bring in the kids, it’s fun to make!

A slice of German chocolate cake on a white dessert plate in front of a cake stand with the cake on it.

Making the Classic Chocolate Cake

The cake is classic chocolate, but we’re keeping it a little lighter than some versions.

Melting sweet chocolate with boiling water starts the process.

EXPERT TIP: It’s good to have your ingredients at room temperature. This just helps in the baking process. You’ll add the chocolate into the creamed butter/sugar, and then incorporate the dry ingredients.

The addition of soft peak egg whites helps to make the cake fluffy and delicious. If you prefer a denser cake, leave the soft peaks out.

Chocolate melting in a metal bowl, and then it being poured into a mixer with cake batter, and then egg white peaks being folded in, and then batter pouring into cake pan.

Once the cakes are fully baked (about 35 minutes), let them cool completely on racks.

While the cakes are baking, get started on the coconut/pecan icing. This will need a little time to cool.

EXPERT TIP: We use 2 9-inch straight-edge cake pans, but you could use 3 pans, and you could go with 8-inch or 9-inch. Just be aware the bake time may need to be adjusted. When an inserted toothpick comes out clean, the cakes are ready.

Two circular chocolate cakes cooling on a wire baking rack.

How To Make The Signature Icing

Probably the most popular component of this iconic cake is the coconut and pecan icing.

In a saucepan, you’ll want to bring the sugar, evaporated milk, egg yolks, and butter to come to a slight simmer for a few minutes, until slightly thickened.

EXPERT TIP: Don’t heat the mixture too quickly on high heat, otherwise, you will scramble the egg yolks. After mixing in the sweetened coconut flakes and pecans, you’ll need to let it cool. The mixture will thicken as it cools.

Coconut pecan frosting being spread on a 2-layered chocolate cake.

How To Serve and to Store

This cake is honestly as beautiful as it is delicious.

It’s perfect for serving guests at those special occasion events, or even during the holidays.

Keep leftovers in an air-tight container, or a cake holder with a lid. The cake will keep at room temperature for several days, and be refrigerated for up to 1 week. The cake also freezes nicely for up to 2 months.

The top of a German chocolate cake covered with coconut pecan frosting and lined with chocolate frosting.

Of course, if you prefer, you can skip the chocolate frosting, and leave the sides unfrosted.

Of, you can double the coconut pecan frosting and also apply it to the outside of the cake.

No matter how you do it, you’ll have a stunning cake on your hands.

An unsliced German chocolate cake sitting on a white cake stand.

We really must say that this cake is a true show-stopper and every time we make it and it doesn’t stay on the counter for long!

Your entire family will flip for this cake and get ready for repeat requests!

So beautiful and so delicious! Chocolate cake with two types of icing is the way to go!

A German chocolate cake sitting on a white cake stand with a slice cut out of it.

Ready to make one of the most-loved cakes of all time? Go for it!

And when you do, be sure to take a picture, post it on Instagram, and tag @HowToFeedaLoon and hashtag #HowToFeedaLoon!

A large slice of German chocolate cake sitting on a white dessert plate with a fork next to it.

German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake had been a favorite dessert of children and adults alike for generations. Our batter is not overly dense, but extremely flavorful and wonderfully chocolatey. The two types of icing put the cake over the top.
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Dessert
Keyword: German chocolate cake recipe, how to make German chocolate cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Cooling and icing: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Servings: 10
Calories: 876kcal

Equipment

  • 2 (or 3) 9-inch cake pans

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • Cooking spray for greasing the pans
  • cups cake flour all-purpose can be substituted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 4 oz sweet baking chocolate roughly chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsalted butter 2 sticks, room temperature
  • cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs yolks room temperature (save the whites)
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • ¼ cup sugar

For the Coconut / Pecan Frosting

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 8 tbsp butter 1 stick, cut into chunks (can be chilled)
  • cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • cup pecans chopped

For the Chocolate Frosting

  • ½ cup butter 1 stick
  • cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar aka: confectioners' sugar, divided
  • ½ cup milk divided
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Make the Cakes

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Spray 2 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper that has been cut into a circle to fit the bottom of the pan. If desired, spray again, all over the inside and then sprinkle with a little flour.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • Pour the boiling water into a heat-proof bowl along with the sweet chocolate chunks. Use a whisk or spoon and stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  • In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the softened butter on medium for 3 minutes, until fluffy. You may need to scrape down the edges once or twice. Add the sugar and beat together for another 4 minutes, until light and very fluffy. Again, scraping down the edges as needed.
  • Beat in the egg yolks, 1 at a time, making sure they are well incorporated before adding another yolk.
  • With the mixer running on medium-low, add in a third of the flour, and then half of the chocolate mixture, another third of the flour, and the rest of the chocolate, and then the rest of the flour. Mix until fully combined and the batter has formed. Stop the mixer.
  • In a bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks begin to form. Gently mix in the sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks have formed.
  • Fold the soft peak egg whites into the batter with a large wooden spoon. Continue mixing until no more white streaks appear.
  • Pour the batter evenly into the prepared baking pans.
  • Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the pans cool on a baking rack for 10 minutes. Then, gently run a sharp knife along the edge of the pan to help loosen the cakes from the sides. Carefully invert the pans. Gently tap on the bottom of the pans and lift them away from the cakes. Allow them to cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove the parchment paper.

Make The Coconut / Pecan Frosting

  • While the cakes are baking, prepare the coconut/pecan frosting by adding the sugar (1 cup), evaporated milk (1 cup), 3 egg yolks, and butter (1 stick) to a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.
  • Cook until gently simmering and bubbly. Cook over medium-low heat for another 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut flakes and pecans. Allow to cool completely (the mixture will thicken as it cools).

Make the Chocolate Frosting

  • Place the butter in a microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave in 30-second intervals.
  • Mix in the cocoa powder and stir until combined. Add half of the milk and half of the powdered sugar. Use a whisk (or hand mixer) and mix until fully combined. Add the remaining milk and keep adding more powdered sugar until you have a slightly thick frosting. Add more milk if too thick, and more powdered sugar if too thin.

Assemble the Cake

  • Place one of the cooled cakes on a cake stand or plate. Use a spatula or spoon to spread half of the coconut/pecan frosting all over the top, just to the edges of the cake.
  • Top with the next cake and spread the remaining coconut/pecan frosting over the top, leaving about ½ to 1-inch along the edge of the cake without frosting.
  • Use a spatula to spread the chocolate frosting along the edge of the cake, and then pipe the remaining frosting along the top perimeter of the cake.

Notes

NOTE ON THE BUTTER: We misspoke in the video:  1 cup is 2 sticks of butter!  Sorry for any confusion.  For the recipe:  You'll use 2 sticks for the cake (1 cup), and one stick (1/2 cup) for the coconut/pecan frosting, and then also for the chocolate frosting.  That's a total of 4 sticks. 
See the video near the top of the blog post for a visual guide.  If you like the video, please subscribe to our YouTube channel
Both frostings can be made up to a day in advance. 
If you prefer a more dense cake, omit the soft peak egg whites. 
The cake can be made a day in advance of serving.  Store covered at room temp for up to 3 days.  Cake slices will keep covered in the fridge for up to 1 week.  The cake freezes nicely for up to 2 months. 

Nutrition

Calories: 876kcal | Carbohydrates: 136g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 158mg | Sodium: 491mg | Potassium: 474mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 105g | Vitamin A: 1075IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 161mg | Iron: 4mg
Tried this recipe? Take a Picture!Mention @HowToFeedALoon or tag #HowToFeedALoon!

POST UPDATE: This recipe was originally published in July 2014, but was updated with improved tweaks to the recipe with new tips and photography and a fabulous new video in October 2021. 

8 Comments

    • Hi Kathleen, yes, you could absolutely eliminate the coconut, however, german chocolate cake traditionally has coconut in the icing, but you can leave the coconut out and it will still be delicious! Let us know if you make it and how it turns out! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • Hey Kris,
    I am a little confused with your recipe for the frosting, it calls for 8Tbsp of butter, cubed but in the directions it says 1 cup of butter. 8Tbsp is 1/2 cup and 1cup would be 16Tbsp and I would like to know how much butter do I use I plan on making this cake for Thanksgiving. Your cake looks amazing.

    • Hi Kim! So sorry for the confusion we created with our butter quantities!!! We’ve updated the recipe to include the correct amounts. For the coconut/pecan frosting, it’s 1/2 cup of butter, cubed…1 stick. For the cake, you’ll use 2 sticks, and for the chocolate frosting, you’ll use 1 stick. That’s a total of 4 sticks of butter. Let us know how the cake turns out!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • question: your recipe says “1-½ (3 sticks) of butter” what does the 1-½ refer to? It can’t be 1-½ pounds since that would be 6 sticks so I’m a bit confused.

    Can’t wait to make this – just need some guidance! thanks,
    Darin

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