This Small German Chocolate Cake Recipe is a three layer, 6 inch German chocolate cake with a gooey homemade Coconut Pecan Frosting (featuring toasted pecans and toasted coconut) between the layers and rich and smooth Chocolate Buttercream Frosting on the outside! 

We are big German chocolate fans over here! We have German Chocolate Cupcakes, German Chocolate Brownies and a classic 8-inch German Chocolate Cake Recipe (and yes, this recipe is different from the 8-inch one)! If you are as much as a fan as we are, then be sure to check out these delicious desserts too!

A slice of a Small German Chocolate Cake on a gray plate with a fork cutting into the cake.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Feeds a group. 6 inch cake recipes are so fun to make because they are like a mini cake! However, don’t let that fool you! This cake still feeds 8 people thanks to the three cake layers.
  • Super moist German chocolate cake layers. These cake layers are super moist thanks to the buttermilk and vegetable oil in the cake batter. Vegetable oil is a liquid at room temperature so it’s the best fat to use in cakes to get a really moist crumb.  
  • Rich chocolate flavor. The chocolate flavor in this cake is so prominent, rich, and delicious! This is thanks to two things: blooming chocolate and Dutch process cocoa powder. Using the dutch process cocoa powder is a great way to get a deeper color and richer chocolate flavor! Blooming chocolate is the process of adding hot liquid to chocolate. It activates the chocolate flavor more, producing a richer and deeper chocolate flavor that permeates desserts more! 
  • My go-to birthday cake. There are so many delicious cake recipes on my website! But I really am a sucker for this one. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll make the other cakes throughout the year, but this is the recipe I make on my birthday 😍 … And yes, I make my own birthday cake ha!  

Ingredient Notes

Small German Chocolate Cake Recipe ingredients in glass bowls on a bronze baking sheet.
  • All-Purpose Flour: This recipe calls for all-purpose flour. If you wanted to use cake flour, you would need to adjust the amount to account for the difference between the flours. Cake flour is more finely milled, so you would need more of it. 1 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour for every 1 cup of all-purpose. 
  • Dutch Process Cocoa Powder: This is a different cocoa powder than the traditional unsweetened cocoa powder. To learn more about the differences between cocoa powders, check out my guide on all these cocoa powder! 
  • Eggs: Using room temperature eggs will help them incorporate into the batter better. This will help the eggs provide better, lighter structure in the cake. You’ll need additional egg yolks for the filling. 
  • Buttermilk: Using room temperature buttermilk will help the buttermilk be well incorporated into the cake batter.
  • Boiling Water: The boiling water will bloom the chocolate, providing a richer and deeper chocolate flavor. Be sure it’s boiling. 
  • Vegetable Oil: Cakes made with oil are more moist in texture. This is because oil is a liquid at room temperature. 
  • Heavy Cream: You may use evaporated milk instead for the coconut pecan filling. However, you will need heavy cream for the chocolate buttercream frosting recipe.
  • Unsalted Butter: The butter will be for the filling and the buttercream frosting. You can use salted butter for the coconut pecan frosting, just eliminate the 1/2 tsp salt in the frosting. You will need to use unsalted for the buttercream recipe though because there isn’t any salt in it. 
  • Powdered Sugar: Use sifted powdered sugar for a smoother frosting texture. 
  • Semi Sweet Chocolate: Using a chocolate bar in the chocolate frosting recipe will give a richer chocolate flavor than if using cocoa powder. 

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Prepare the cake pans. Spray three 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, then line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray again. 
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. 
  3. Combine the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, buttermilk hot water, oil and vanilla. 
  1. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Now it’s time to bloom the chocolate! Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with the paddle attachment on medium speed until just combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 30 seconds. 
A light yellow colored liquid being poured into a glass bowl that has a German Chocolate Cake batter in it.
  1. Pour the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. 
  2. Bake. Bake the small German chocolate cake layers at 350°F for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge while preparing the frostings. 
  3. Make the coconut pecan frosting. In a saucepan Whisk the cream, sugar, egg yolks, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 4-5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and add the butter, vanilla, toasted coconut and pecans. Let cool to room temperature. It will appear a bit runny, but don’t worry, it will thicken.
  1. Make the chocolate buttercream frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the sifted powdered sugar 1 cup at a time while mixing on low speed until combined. Add the vanilla and melted chocolate. Whip at medium-high speed for 1 minute. Add the heavy cream and whip for another 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed or until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whip for another 30 seconds. 
  2. Assemble the cake. Place one cake layer on a cake board or cake stand. Add 1/3 of the coconut pecan filling and spread until even. Place another cake layer on top and spread another 1/3 of the filling until even. Add the final cake layer to the top, bottom side up. Apply a crumb coat of the chocolate butter cream to the entire cake. Chill in the fridge or freezer until set (about 15 minutes in the freezer).
  1. Frost and decorate. Remove the cake from the fridge or freezer and fully frost the exterior with the buttercream. Then spread the remaining coconut pecan frosting to the top and decorate with any remaining chocolate buttercream. 
Chocolate buttercream frosting covering a small three layer German Chocolate Cake, on a cake stand against a light brown textured background.

Recipe Tips

Be sure to use Dutch processed cocoa powder! You’ll get a much deeper and richer chocolate flavor in the cake layers that you wouldn’t get if using unsweetened cocoa powder. The bake can also be affected when using different cocoa powders.

To learn about the differences between the different cocoa powders — and when to use them — check out my Cocoa Powder Guide

When combining the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, mix until just combined. Over mixing at this point in the process will result in a tougher cake texture. 

Using room temperature wet ingredients in the cake batter will help the cake rise better and have a more delicate crumb texture. (This includes the eggs and buttermilk.)

For the buttercream, make sure to use sifted powdered sugar for a smoother texture. The butter should be slightly soft but still cool. 

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

Store the cake layers wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge for 1-2 days. Wrap once completely cooled. 

To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and freeze for 1 month. Thaw in fridge overnight before frosting and serving.

Store the frosting in airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before frosting the cake.

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

Three layer German Chocolate Cake on a white cake stand against a light background.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use unsweetened cocoa powder?

I highly, highly recommend you use the Dutch processed cocoa powder. It is surprisingly different. The color and flavor is different, as well as the chemical make-up of the cocoa powder. Check out my Guide on Cocoa Powders to learn more!  

Do I need hot water to bloom chocolate?

Yes you do! You want the water to be boiling to get a proper bloom on the chocolate. 

Why isn’t my coconut pecan frosting thickening?

It appears runny at first, but don’t worry! The mixture will thicken as it cools.

What’s the difference between German chocolate cake and regular chocolate cake?

The difference is the coconut pecan mixture in between the layers.

A slice of a German Chocolate layer cake on a gray plate on a light brown background.

More 6-Inch Cake Recipes

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Leave a rating and review or scroll below the recipe card and do so there. 

Stay up-to-date by following us on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest.

A photo of a two layer German Chocolate Cake with coconut pecan frosting between the layers.
Print Save Review
5 from 1 vote

Small German Chocolate Cake Recipe

This Small German Chocolate Cake Recipe is a three layer 6 inch cake recipe. Each layer is filled with a gooey homemade coconut pecan frosting (featuring toasted pecans and toasted coconut). We love to frost the edges with chocolate buttercream frosting, and while yes it makes this cake extra delicious and decadent, the chocolate frosting isn't required!
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Assembly Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 20 mins
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients
 

Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups + 1/2 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs - at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk - at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Coconut Pecan Frosting

  • 1 cup heavy cream - or evaporated milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter - can use salted, just eliminate the 1/2 tsp salt in the frosting
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans - toasted and finely chopped
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut - toasted

Chocolate Frosting

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter - room temperature but still slightly chilled
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 oz semi sweet chocolate - finely chopped and melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon heavy cream - if needed

Instructions
 

Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 3 — 6 inch round cake pans with nonstick spray that contains flour. Set aside. 
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. 
  • In a large liquid measuring cup whisk the egg, buttermilk, hot water, oil, and vanilla. 
  • Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and mix for another 30 seconds. 
  • Pour the batter into the 3 cake pans (the batter is very thin). 
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs. 
  • Remove from the oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Then remove from the pans and let cool on a wire rack until room temperature. Wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge before frosting (makes frosting easier). 

Coconut Pecan Frosting

  • In a saucepan whisk the cream, sugar, egg yolks, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring to a low simmer and cook until thickened, about 4-5 minutes or so. Remove from heat and add the butter, vanilla, toasted coconut and pecans. Set aside to cool to room temperature. The frosting will thicken as it cools! So yes, it will appear a bit runny, but don't worry, it will thicken.

Chocolate Frosting

  • With the whisk attachment whip the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Reduce speed and slowly add the powdered sugar. Once combined add the vanilla and melted chocolate. Whip at medium-high speed for 1 minute. Add the heavy cream and whip for another 1-2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and whip for another 30 seconds. 

Assembly

  • Place one cake layer on a cake plate/platter. Add 1/3 of the coconut pecan frosting to the top of the cake. Place another cake layer on top of the frosting.
  • Spoon 1/3 of the remaining coconut pecan frosting on top of the cake layer. And the last cake layer to the top of the coconut pecan frosting.
  • Frost the sides with the chocolate buttercream frosting. Top the cake with the last 1/3 of the coconut pecan frosting. Add decorative piping to the top perimeter if desired. 

Notes

Refrigerated cake layers can keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. They need to be wrapped well so as to not dry out.
Can also wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for 1 day.
To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and freeze for 1 month. Thaw in fridge overnight before frosting and serving.
Can make the frosting ahead of time too. Once made, store in airtight container for up to 1 week. Let frosting sit at room temperature for 1 hour before frosting the cake.

Nutrition

Calories: 1154kcal (58%)Carbohydrates: 116g (39%)Protein: 8g (16%)Fat: 77g (118%)Saturated Fat: 39g (195%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 12gMonounsaturated Fat: 22gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 241mg (80%)Sodium: 693mg (29%)Potassium: 398mg (11%)Fiber: 5g (20%)Sugar: 107g (119%)Vitamin A: 1552IU (31%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 114mg (11%)Iron: 3mg (17%)
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, German
Did you make this recipe?Leave a star rating and review on the blog post letting me know how you liked this recipe! Take a picture and tag @saltandbaker on Instagram and Facebook so I can see what you’re making!