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

A slice of layered German Chocolate 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.

A 4 layered German chocolate cake on a cake stand.

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.

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.

A glass bowl of melted chocolate with a wire whisk in the 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.

A close up photo of German chocolate cake batter.

  • 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.

Overhead photo of two circular cake pans filled with German chocolate cake batter.

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!

German Chocolate Cake Frosting

Toasted pecans and sweetened coconut are the signature ingredients in this highly addictive frosting. And lucky for the both of us, this frosting only takes about 10 minutes to make.

A glass bowl full of German chocolate cake frosting.

How to make German Chocolate Cake Icing

  • Whisk 4 egg yolks and 1 can of evaporated milk in a medium sized saucepan.
  • To the saucepan add granulated sugar, butter, brown sugar, and salt.
  • Bring this mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil this mixture for about 6 minutes, the mixture will slightly thicken.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the sauce to a large bowl. Stir in the vanilla and sweetened coconut. Let cool at room temperature until just warm, about 20 minutes.
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.

A fork cutting into a slice of German Chocolate Cake.

Pro tip: This coconut pecan frosting will stay in the fridge for up to 3 days. When ready to use, simply remove it from the fridge and bring it to room temperature, add the toasted pecans and then frost the cake.

  • Note, the pecans haven’t been added to the frosting yet. We hold them out for a reason. Add the pecans into the frosting before you frost the cake. Doing this keeps the pecans from getting too soft.

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!

Note: I didn’t frost the sides of the cake. If you want to cover the edges you can 1.5X the coconut pecan frosting recipe and you should have enough to cover the sides. Or use a chocolate buttercream frosting recipe to cover the sides, it’s up to you!


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A fork cutting into a slice of German Chocolate Cake.
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5 from 2 votes

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: 10 servings
calories: 890kcal
author: Salt & Baker

INGREDIENTS

Frosting

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cubed
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
  • pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans toasted and finely chopped

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

INSTRUCTIONS

Frosting

  • In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, whisk the egg yolks and evaporated milk. Once combined, whisk in the granulated sugar, butter, brown sugar, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly about 6 minutes. (The mixture will slightly thicken). 
  • Remove the pan from the heat, transfer the sauce to a large bowl and stir in the vanilla and coconut. Let cool at room temperature until just warm, about 20 minutes. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours (or up to 3 days). 

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. 
  • 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 1 cup 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. *
  • Enjoy!

RECIPE NOTES

*If you want to frost the sides of the cake, you can. You can make a chocolate buttercream and use that for the sides, or feel free to 1.5X the frosting recipe and use the coconut pecan frosting for the sides too.
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
Calories: 890kcal | Carbohydrates: 102g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 51g | Saturated Fat: 27g | Cholesterol: 226mg | Sodium: 378mg | Potassium: 364mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 76g | Vitamin A: 975IU | Vitamin C: 0.5mg | Calcium: 97mg | Iron: 3.8mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
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