A delicious traditional German Chocolate Cake recipe topped with homemade coconut pecan frosting. This cake has been officially dubbed a “family favorite.”

If you are looking for a smaller cake, then I’d recommend my 6-Inch German Chocolate Cake rather than adapted this recipe to fit smaller pans. If you are looking for an even smaller option, then German Chocolate cupcakes are for you!

A four layer A traditional German Chocolate Cake recipe with a slice cut from the main cake.

Moist German Chocolate Cake Recipe

I love a good chocolate cake, but I’m also a HUGE fan of frosting. Coconut pecan frosting, to be exact.

If I had it my way, there would be equal frosting to cake ratios on this cake. Unfortunately, that may have been a tad overboard for most of you.

Nonetheless, this homemade German Chocolate Cake recipe will be one you turn to time and time again. It’s a classic! And a dang good one.

Traditional Traditional German Chocolate Cake ingredients portioned into glass bowls on a silver baking sheet.

How to make German Chocolate Cake

  • In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a second bowl combine the Dutch process cocoa powder and chopped chocolate. I used semi-sweet chocolate but feel free to use German sweet chocolate.
    • The difference between semi-sweet and German sweet chocolate is their sweetness levels. German chocolate is sweeter and has a milder chocolate flavor than semi-sweet chocolate. If you want a super sweet cake, use the German chocolate.
Top left photo is glass bowl with hot water, chopped chocolate and cocoa. Top right photo is a whisk stirring a melted chocolate mixture. Bottom left photo is creamed sugar and butter with an egg. Bottom right photo is a light yellow mixture in glass bowl.
  • Pour boiling water into the bowl of cocoa powder and chocolate, cover the bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, whisk the chocolate mixture until smooth.
    • For the boiling water, fill a small saucepan with water, bring to a boil and then measure the 1/2 cup of boiling water.
  • Now, cream the butter and granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. This will take 2-3 minutes.
    • By creaming the butter and sugar together, the sugar is aerating the butter – these air bubbles expand when in the oven and contribute to leavening the cake (helping it rise).
    • Proper creaming also results in a lighter and tender cake.
Top left image is yellow mixture in a glass bowl with melted chocolate overtop. Top right image is a brown wet ingredients to make Traditional German Chocolate Cake in a glass bowl. Bottom left image is Traditional German Chocolate Cake batter in a glass bowl. Bottom right image is Traditional German Chocolate Cake batter in a circle pan.
  • Add the eggs, beating well after each addition.
  • Continue by adding the vanilla and the melted chocolate mixture.
  • Finally, alternate adding the dry ingredients and sour cream, starting and ending with the flour.
    • Dry, sour cream, dry, sour cream, dry.
    • Adding the ingredients in alternating increments ensures the you don’t over mix the cake batter. Over mixing will result in a tough cake and potentially a sunken cake center.
Top left image is of two baked Traditional German Chocolate Cakes in a cake pan. Top right image is coconut pecan frosting on top of a chocolate cake round. Bottom image is four layer traditional Traditional German Chocolate Cake on a brown cake plate.

Divide the cake batter

Divide the batter amongst 2 – 9 inch round cake pans, and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes.

Once cakes are cool, gently slice the two cakes horizontally to create 4 cake layers. Yes, 4 layers. And don’t worry, it’s really not hard to slice a cake horizontally. I promise!

A slice of a four layer Traditional German Chocolate Cake balancing on a spatula.

German Chocolate Cake Frosting

Toasted pecans and sweetened coconut are the signature ingredients in this highly addictive frosting.

All that’s left to do is frost the cake! Slather a generous amount of frosting between the 4 layers of cake and then dig in!

A slice of Traditional German Chocolate Cake made with sour cream, on a gray plate with a fork cutting into the cake.

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

For information on storing and freezing cakes, check out my How to Store and Freeze Cakes guide!

The best Traditional German Chocolate Cake recipe, four layers of chocolate cake with coconut pecan frosting between each layer, with no frosting on the sides.

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A slice of Traditional German Chocolate Cake taken from a four layer Traditional German Chocolate Cake on a wooden cake plate.
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5 from 6 votes

Traditional German Chocolate Cake

A delicious and moist German Chocolate Cake topped with a homemade coconut pecan frosting.
Prep Time: 35 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 15 mins
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients
 

Cake

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate - finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter - softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar - packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

Coconut Pecan Frosting

  • 2 cups heavy cream - or evaporated milk
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups pecans - toasted and finely chopped
  • 4 cups sweetened shredded coconut - toasted

Instructions
 

Cake

  • Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2- 9 inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, and then grease and flour the parchment paper and sides of the pans. Set aside. 
  • In a small bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 
  • In a second small bowl combine the cocoa powder and chopped chocolate. Add the boiling water to the bowl, cover the bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, whisk the chocolate mixture until smooth. Let the chocolate mixture cool to room temperature. 
  • Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
  • Add the vanilla and beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. 
  • Add the chocolate mixture, and beat again (about 30-45 seconds). Scraping down the sides of the bowl so that everything is evenly combined.
  • With the mixer on low alternate adding the flour mixture and sour cream, starting and ending with the flour. (Flour, sour cream, flour, sour cream, flour).
  • Divide the batter evenly amongst the two pans. 
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. While the cakes are baking, make the coconut pecan frosting (instructions below underneath "coconut pecan frosting."
  • Remove cake pans from the oven and place on a wire rack for 10 minutes. 
  • Remove the cakes from the pans (discard the parchment) and let cool completely on wire rack. 
  • Remove the coconut frosting from the fridge and stir in the pecans. 
  • Once cake is cool, slice the two cakes horizontally to create 4 layers. 
  • Place a cake layer on a cake stand, add about 1 1/2 cups of the frosting to the top of the cake layer and spread to the edge of the cake. Add another cake layer to the top of the frosting, and continue adding 1 cup of the frosting until you’ve used all of the cake layers and the frosting is gone. Keep the sides of the cake bare. Slice, and enjoy!

Coconut Pecan Frosting Directions

  • In a medium saucepan whisk the heavy cream, sugar, egg yolks, and salt. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally.
  • Bring to a low simmer and cook until slightly thickened.
  • Remove from the heat and add teh butter, vanilla, toasted coconut and pecans. Mix to combine. Set aside to cool to room temperature. The frosting will thicken even more as it cools.

Notes

Storing: baked cake can be stored at room temperature (wrapped in plastic wrap) for 24 hours, or frozen for up to 1 month. If freezing the cake layers, wrap in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Defrost cake at room temperature.
Frosted cake can be refrigerated for 24 hours, bring to room temperature before you serve it.
Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Nutrition

Calories: 1097kcal (55%)Carbohydrates: 104g (35%)Protein: 11g (22%)Fat: 74g (114%)Saturated Fat: 42g (210%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 278mg (93%)Sodium: 539mg (22%)Potassium: 389mg (11%)Fiber: 5g (20%)Sugar: 82g (91%)Vitamin A: 1722IU (34%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 109mg (11%)Iron: 4mg (22%)
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, German
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