German Chocolate Cake

Published April 14, 2017. Updated December 16, 2020

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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 yolks 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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4.95 from 40 votes

German Chocolate Cake

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
Prep20 minutes
Cook45 minutes
Cooling time2 hours
Ready in: 3 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients

Coconut Pecan Frosting

Instructions

  • 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.
  • In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • For the frosting: in a large saucepan whisk together egg yolks and evaporated milk until very well combined. 
  • 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.
  • Remove pan from heat, add in vanilla, coconut, coconut and pecans. Let cool until just warm then spread over cake.

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.
  • Recipe has been updated from 4 to 5 egg yolks because several reviewers have mentioned issues with frosting thickening.
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.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.

 

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111 Comments

  • Dorothy

    Not a fan of German Chocolate cake but it’s my husband’s all time favorite and he absolutely loved this. Very simple to make.
    My only comment is that you have coconut listed twice in the directions. Thought maybe there were supposed to be 2 different kinds but it turned out absolutely perfect. Thx for another great recipe.

  • C Christopher

    This is absolutely the most moist, rich and beautiful looking German chocolate cake I have ever made or eaten! Where ever I serve it even people who don’t like coconut can’t resist it- some have even admitted to having licked the plate!

    • Erica

      I don’t know what happened, but my cake overflowed big time! It’s only halfway through the baking time and there’s soooo much batter burning on the bottom of the oven, on the heating element, and the racks under the cake pans. I don’t even know what to do at this point. I triple checked my ingredients. I used two 9-inch rounds. The oven thermometer shows the right temperature. I followed the directions.

      Have you had cakes overflow? Do you know what causes it?

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        Sorry to hear this! It could be that pans were too shallow (were they about 2/3 full of batter?) or too much baking soda was accidentally added.

  • Linda Davis

    So much better if made with German’s Sweet Chocolate, as it was originally.

  • Joye Bussen

    Cake turned out perfectly!!! Frosting was way to runny. Even with adding the 5 egg yolk. Ruined the whole thing. Very disappointing

  • Jocelyn

    This frosting situation was a nightmare. It never thickened for me. I even added a sixth egg yolk after stirring consistently for 15 minutes (even longer than the 12 minutes recommended). I do not recommend trying this recipe or you will waste time and ingredients. I will add that I am an avid baker of our family so for a recipe to not work for me is extremely unusual.

  • Chrissy

    I loved this recipe however it came out dry for me. Do you know what I would have done to make it dry. I was so sad… Thank you!

    • Jaclyn

      Jaclyn Bell

      I’m sorry to hear this! Was the flour measured as noted by spoon and level method or by grams? Or does your oven usually cook high? Sometimes over-baking can do this or if the oven isn’t calibrated and bakes hot. Hopefully we can get to the bottom of it!

      • Chrissy

        Thank you for getting back to me. I measured by spoon and level. I am wondering if I over-baked…. I tested my oven while making a turkey so I know it bakes at the right temperature. I am going to try the “Almond Joy” cupcakes for my daughters birthday so hopefully that will come out correct. Thank you!

  • Sara

    This cake is so delicious and one of my all time favs! Im making it again for a friends going away party and was thinking of trying it as cupcakes, have you done this and do you have any advice?

    Thank you!!