German Chocolate Cake

April 14, 2017

This is the only German Chocolate Cake recipe you’ll ever need, I dare say it’s perfect in every way! The cake is deliciously rich and chocolatey and it’s covered with that irresistible sweet and sticky, coconut pecan topping we all crave.

Slice of German Chocolate Cake on a marble plate set over a marble surface.

The Best German Chocolate Cake Recipe!

I love when holidays draw closer because that means there’s definitely going to be some amazing desserts around! Amazing desserts like this homemade German Chocolate Cake!

All we need in life is chocolate cake, right? Chocolate cake has a way to my heart and whoever discovered chocolate is my hero.

Truly though, this easy German Chocolate Cake is one of those desserts that’s so good it should become a tradition in your home for a yearly holiday like a birthday, Easter or Mother’s Day.

It’s four layers of total bliss!

What is German Chocolate Cake?

Contrary to the name of this easy chocolate cake recipe, German chocolate cake is actually an American invention. German chocolate cake is a layered chocolate cake that’s topped with a rich coconut pecan frosting.

The secret ingredient in German chocolate cake batter is boiling water — it’s crucial that you include it in this cake.

This is one of those cakes that’s been around since 1852, and I have the feeling it’s not going anywhere. It’s just one of those perfectly delicious classics that you’ll want to make again and again.

In other words, add this one to the recipe book because you’re going to love it!

Whole two layer German Chocolate Cake on a marble cake stand with a light blue wooden background.

German Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • Granulated sugar
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Baking powder and baking soda
  • Salt
  • Whole milk and canned evaporated milk
  • Eggs and yolks
  • Vanilla
  • Canola oil and butter
  • Shredded sweetened coconut
  • Pecans

Close up image of German Chocolate Cake showing two chocolate cake layers, and two layers of german chocolate icing made from coconut and pecans.

How to Make German Chocolate Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cake pans.
  • Whisk together the dry ingredients.
  • Mix in milk, eggs and vanilla then blend in oil.
  • Blend in boiling water and beat.
  • Pour into prepared pans and bake until set, about 30 minutes.
  • Cool and frost.

How to Make German Chocolate Cake Icing

  • In a saucepan mix egg and evaporated milk.
  • Mix in sugar to dissolve.
  • Add butter and cook mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove pan from heat, add in vanilla, coconut, coconut and pecans.
  • Cool until just warm then spread over cake.

German Chocolate Cake with slice take out. Shown from a side angle.

Will Sweetened Condensed Milk Work in the Icing?

No, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk are two completely different ingredients. Make sure you’re using evaporated milk to make the coconut pecan frosting.

Tips for the Best German Chocolate Cake

  • Because the coconut icing is so rich, I left the sides of my cake bare. But feel free to add frosting to the sides if you wish!
  • Be sure to buy sweetened coconut flakes for the German chocolate cake icing.
  • Whole milk is a must in this cake. It makes the chocolate cake extra moist and adds flavor.

German chocolate cake slice.

I got this recipe from Robyn Stone’s amazing new cookbook, Add a Pinch: Easier, Faster, Fresher Southern Classics.

Her new cookbook is filled with fresh takes on classic family-friendly recipes – all of which are straight forward and easy to follow and the end results look truly delicious!

I highly recommend this cookbook! If you’d like to read more about this cookbook or to buy a copy for yourself you can follow this link HERE.

German Chocolate Cake

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German Chocolate Cake

4.95 from 17 votes

This is the BEST German Chocolate Cake! It's perfectly rich and chocolatey and no one can resist that sweet and sticky coconut pecan topping. A delicious cake for any occasion!

Servings: 14
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Cooling time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (248g) all-purpose flour (spoon and level to measure)*
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (68g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (236) whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola oil or melted coconut oil
  • 1 cup (235ml) boiling water

Coconut Pecan Frosting

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups (295ml) evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (113g) salted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (172g) sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup (106g) chopped pecans, toasted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 9-inch round cake pans then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Butter parchment then dust pans lightly with cocoa powder or flour and shake out excess. Set aside.

  2. In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

  3. Add the milk, eggs and vanilla and using an electric hand mixer beat on medium speed until combined. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the oil. 
  4. With the mixer still on low, carefully and slowly pour in boiling water and mix until well combined, about 2 - 3 minutes. Pour batter into prepared cake pans.
  5. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 - 35 minutes. Let cakes cook 10 minutes then invert onto wire racks to cool completely. 
  6. Once cool spread about 1/3 of the frosting over one layer of cake. Top with the second layer of cake and frost only the top of the cake with the remaining frosting.
  7. For the frosting: in a large saucepan whisk together egg yolks and evaporated milk until very well combined. 

  8. Add in sugar and whisk to dissolve sugar. Add butter and cook mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture has thickened, about 10 - 12 minutes.
  9. Remove pan from heat, add in vanilla, coconut, coconut and pecans. Let cool until just warm then spread over cake.

Recipe Notes

  • Recipe source: adapted from the Add a Pinch cookbook
  • *If you scoop and level to measure flour (like I do) then only use 1 3/4 cups flour.
Nutrition Facts
German Chocolate Cake
Amount Per Serving
Calories 578 Calories from Fat 252
% Daily Value*
Fat 28g43%
Saturated Fat 10g63%
Cholesterol 104mg35%
Sodium 437mg19%
Potassium 340mg10%
Carbohydrates 77g26%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 58g64%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 390IU8%
Vitamin C 0.5mg1%
Calcium 133mg13%
Iron 2.2mg12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: German Chocolate Cake
Author: Jaclyn

 

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53 Comments

  • Maryam

    Great recipe! Made this cake today – the cake part was absolutely delicious! Very moist, chocolatey, perfection! Unfortunately for the frosting I did not have pecans on hand so I used walnuts (not the same but it did the job). Also, I found that the evaporated milk was very evident tasting even after the frosting had cooked and thickened – had I kept it on the heat for too long or too little?

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Aluminum foil usually works good as well, then of course spray and dust as directed.

  • L Wallace

    Well, I followed this recipe to the T. The cake part is amazing. Which I will use again in the future. The icing is good but it did not thickened up. I cooked it for seven-teen minutes and it still didn’t work. I doubt that I’ll use that part of this recipe again. Overall it taste good.

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      Sorry to hear that, it maybe never got hot enough but you can fix a runny icing with a little cornstarch mixed with milk.

  • Reyna

    This was my first time making German Chocolate cake from scratch. I followed the recipe except that I didn’t have canola oil so I used vegetable oil instead. It was moist and delicious. I took half of the cake to work and got great reviews! I’ve booked marked this recipe. 5 stars!

  • DENISE

    I made this cake for a dinner party last night. Everybody raved about it. I have made many german chocolate cakes in my time but this one is the best,very moist not to dense. I used the melted coconut oil and felt it gave the cake a slight flavor of coconut. Thank you for this wonderful recipe.

    • Candy

      we made this for my nephews birthday this summer! fabulous cake
      love love love this recipe!

      • Karen

        This turned out great and my family loved it. Worried that the pecan frosting would be runny but once it cooled and was spread on the cake it was perfect ! Thanks for sharing the recipe