German Chocolate Cake Recipe: A Rich Dessert Delight

If you’re a fan of chocolate and coconut, then you’ll love the rich and decadent taste of German chocolate cake. This classic dessert is made with layers of moist chocolate cake filled with a sweet and nutty coconut-pecan frosting. While you can certainly buy a pre-made version at the store, there’s nothing quite like making a homemade German chocolate cake from scratch.

Making a German chocolate cake from scratch may seem intimidating, but with the right recipe and a few key ingredients, it’s actually quite simple. You’ll need to gather ingredients like flour, sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, buttermilk, and of course, chocolate. Once you’ve mixed and baked the cake layers, you’ll whip up a creamy frosting made with coconut, pecans, and sugar. The end result is a dessert that’s sure to impress at any gathering or special occasion.

If you’re looking for a delicious and crowd-pleasing dessert, then a homemade German chocolate cake is the perfect choice. Not only is it a classic recipe that’s been enjoyed for generations, but it’s also surprisingly easy to make. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, hosting a dinner party, or just want to indulge your sweet tooth, a slice of German chocolate cake is always a good idea.

History of German Chocolate Cake

German chocolate cake is a classic dessert that has been enjoyed by many for decades. The cake is known for its rich chocolate flavor and its signature coconut-pecan frosting. Despite its name, German chocolate cake is not actually German in origin.

The cake was first created in the United States in the mid-19th century. The recipe is believed to have been developed by Samuel German, who was a baker for the Baker’s Chocolate Company. German’s chocolate was a type of sweet baking chocolate that was named after him.

In 1957, a recipe for “German’s Chocolate Cake” was published in The Dallas Morning News. The recipe was created by a homemaker named Mrs. George Clay, who was from Dallas, Texas. The recipe used German’s chocolate and included a coconut-pecan frosting that was made from evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter, coconut, and pecans.

The recipe quickly became popular and was widely shared throughout the United States. The cake was so popular that it was eventually given the name “German chocolate cake” in honor of the chocolate used in the recipe.

Today, German chocolate cake remains a beloved dessert and is enjoyed by people all over the world. While the cake may not be German in origin, it has certainly made a name for itself as a classic American dessert that is perfect for any occasion.


When it comes to making a delicious German chocolate cake, having the right ingredients is key. In this section, we’ll go over the cake and frosting ingredients you’ll need to make this classic dessert.

Cake Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the chocolate cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Frosting Ingredients

And here are the ingredients you’ll need for the coconut-pecan frosting:

  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

As you can see, the cake ingredients are fairly standard, with the addition of boiling water to help bring out the chocolate flavor. The frosting ingredients, on the other hand, are what really set German chocolate cake apart from other chocolate cakes. The combination of sweetened shredded coconut and chopped pecans creates a unique and delicious flavor that’s sure to impress.

When shopping for ingredients, be sure to check your pantry first to see what you already have on hand. You may be surprised at how many of these ingredients you already have! And if you’re missing anything, don’t worry – most of these ingredients can be found at any grocery store.

Baking Equipment

Before you start baking your German chocolate cake, make sure you have the necessary equipment. Here’s a list of essential tools you’ll need to have on hand:


An oven is the most important tool you’ll need to bake your German chocolate cake. Make sure your oven is preheated to the correct temperature before you start baking. A good oven thermometer can help ensure that your oven is at the right temperature.


You’ll need a medium-sized saucepan to melt the chocolate for your cake. Be sure to use a heavy-bottomed saucepan to prevent scorching.


A toothpick is a simple tool that can help you test whether your cake is fully baked. Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake, and if it comes out clean, your cake is done.


A mixer is a handy tool to have when making the frosting for your German chocolate cake. A stand mixer or a hand mixer can make the job easier.

Cake Pans

You’ll need two 9-inch cake pans to bake your German chocolate cake. Make sure to grease and flour the pans or use parchment paper to prevent the cake from sticking.


Once your cake is frosted, you’ll need to chill it in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Parchment Paper

Parchment paper is a great tool to have on hand when baking your German chocolate cake. Use it to line your cake pans or to prevent the cake from sticking to the wire racks.

Mixing Bowl

You’ll need a large mixing bowl to combine the dry ingredients for your cake.

Wire Racks

Wire racks are essential for cooling your cake after it comes out of the oven. They allow air to circulate around the cake, preventing it from becoming soggy.

Measuring Cup

You’ll need a measuring cup to measure out the ingredients for your cake. Make sure to use the correct measurements to ensure the best results.


You’ll need several bowls to mix the ingredients for your cake and frosting. Make sure to use clean, dry bowls to prevent any contamination.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Making a German chocolate cake may seem like a daunting task, but with the right ingredients and a little know-how, you can create a moist and flavorful cake that will impress your guests. Follow these step-by-step instructions to make a delicious German chocolate cake.


Before you begin, gather all the necessary ingredients. For the cake, you will need cooking spray to grease the pans, sweet baking chocolate, water, all-purpose flour or cake flour, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla. For the coconut pecan frosting, you will need evaporated milk, brown sugar, butter, egg yolks, vanilla, shredded coconut, and chopped pecans.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round baking pans with cooking spray.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the baking chocolate with hot water over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the melted chocolate and vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the water, until well combined.
  5. In another mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes before removing them from the pans and cooling them completely on wire racks.

Coconut Pecan Frosting

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the evaporated milk, brown sugar, butter, and egg yolks. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 10-12 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla, shredded coconut, and chopped pecans. Let the frosting cool to room temperature before using.


  1. Place one cake layer on a serving plate and spread a layer of coconut pecan frosting over the top. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and frosting, stacking them on top of each other.
  2. If desired, decorate the top of the cake with additional shredded coconut and chopped pecans.
  3. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the frosting to set.


For a twist on the classic German chocolate cake, try adding some chocolate buttercream between the layers. You can also experiment with different flavors of frosting, such as a raspberry or caramel filling.

Make Ahead

If you’re short on time, you can make the cake layers and frosting ahead of time and assemble the cake later. Wrap the cooled cake layers in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator for up to two days. Store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. When you’re ready to assemble the cake, let the frosting come to room temperature before spreading it on the cake layers.

Tips and Tricks

Making a delicious German chocolate cake requires a bit of technique and attention to detail. Here are some tips and tricks to help you achieve a perfect cake every time:

  • Use room temperature ingredients: Make sure your butter, eggs, and buttermilk are at room temperature before you start baking. This will help them mix together smoothly and create a fluffy, moist cake.
  • Sift your dry ingredients: Sifting your flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda together will help break up any lumps and create a smooth, even batter.
  • Add coffee to the batter: Adding a bit of coffee to your batter can enhance the chocolate flavor and create a rich, indulgent cake. You can use either brewed coffee or instant coffee powder.
  • Use high-quality chocolate: German chocolate cake is all about the chocolate, so make sure you use a high-quality baking chocolate with a rich, deep flavor.
  • Toast your nuts: Toasting your pecans or other nuts before adding them to the cake will bring out their natural flavors and add a crunchy texture to the cake.
  • Make your own coconut-pecan frosting: Homemade frosting is always better than store-bought, and making your own coconut-pecan frosting is surprisingly easy. Just mix together sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla, then stir in shredded coconut and chopped pecans.
  • Don’t overmix your batter: Overmixing can cause your cake to become dense and tough. Mix until the ingredients are just combined, then stop.
  • Grease and flour your cake pans: To prevent your cake from sticking to the pan, make sure to grease and flour your cake pans before adding the batter.

By following these tips and tricks, you can create a delicious, moist German chocolate cake that will impress your friends and family.

Storing and Serving

Once you’ve made your delicious German Chocolate Cake, it’s important to know how to store it properly to ensure the best results. Here are some tips for storing and serving your cake:


  • Room Temperature: You can leave the cake at room temperature for several hours until you serve it. However, any leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator for the best results.
  • Refrigerator: Store the cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. This will help keep the cake fresh and moist.
  • Freezing: If you need to store the cake for longer, it can be frozen for up to 2-3 months. Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and then in foil before freezing. Thaw the cake in the refrigerator before serving.


  • Room Temperature: Before serving, let the cake sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to an hour. This will help the cake come to room temperature and make it easier to slice.
  • Garnish: You can garnish the cake with whipped cream, fresh fruit, or additional chopped pecans and coconut to add some extra flavor and texture.
  • Make Ahead: If you’re planning to serve the cake at a later time, you can make the cake layers ahead of time and freeze them until you’re ready to assemble and serve the cake.

Overall, German Chocolate Cake is a delicious dessert that can be enjoyed for several days if stored properly. By following these tips, you can ensure that your cake stays fresh and moist, and is ready to serve whenever you’re ready to indulge.


German chocolate cake is a classic dessert that can be enjoyed in many different ways. Here are some variations that you can try to make this indulgent dessert even more delicious:

Chocolate Buttercream

If you’re a chocolate lover, you can add a layer of chocolate buttercream to your German chocolate cake. Simply make a batch of your favorite chocolate buttercream recipe and spread it over the top of the cake before adding the coconut pecan frosting. This will give your cake an extra layer of chocolate flavor and make it even more decadent.

Different Frosting Flavors

While the traditional coconut pecan frosting is delicious, you can also experiment with different frosting flavors to give your German chocolate cake a unique twist. Some ideas include:

  • Salted Caramel Frosting: This sweet and salty frosting pairs perfectly with the rich chocolate cake.
  • Cream Cheese Frosting: If you prefer a tangy frosting, cream cheese frosting is a great option.
  • Raspberry Frosting: For a fruity twist, try adding raspberry jam to your frosting recipe.

Mini Cakes and Cupcakes

If you’re looking for a fun way to serve German chocolate cake, try making mini cakes or cupcakes. Simply bake the cake batter in a muffin tin or mini cake pans and top with a dollop of coconut pecan frosting. These bite-sized treats are perfect for parties or as a sweet snack.

Using Semisweet Chocolate

While most German chocolate cake recipes call for unsweetened chocolate, you can also use semisweet chocolate for a slightly sweeter flavor. Simply substitute semisweet chocolate for the unsweetened chocolate in the recipe and adjust the amount of sugar accordingly.

Overall, there are many different ways to enjoy German chocolate cake. Whether you experiment with different frosting flavors or add an extra layer of chocolate buttercream, this classic dessert is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.


You now have all the information you need to make a delicious homemade German chocolate cake from scratch. This classic dessert is perfect for any occasion, whether it’s a birthday, holiday, or just a special treat for yourself.

There are many variations of German chocolate cake recipes out there, but we’ve provided you with some of the best ones. From Sally’s Baking Addiction to, each recipe offers its own unique twist on this beloved dessert.

When making German chocolate cake from scratch, it’s important to follow the recipe closely and pay attention to the details. Be sure to measure your ingredients accurately, and don’t overmix the batter.

One thing to keep in mind is that German chocolate cake is a rich and decadent dessert. A small slice goes a long way, so be sure to savor each bite.

Overall, making German chocolate cake from scratch is a fun and rewarding experience. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to perfect your own recipe and impress your friends and family with your baking skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some variations of German chocolate cake?

There are many variations of German chocolate cake, including adding different types of nuts or using different flavors of frosting. Some popular variations include adding pecans or walnuts to the frosting or cake batter, using a cream cheese frosting instead of the traditional coconut-pecan frosting, or adding a layer of raspberry or strawberry jam between the cake layers.

What makes German chocolate cake unique?

German chocolate cake is unique because of its rich, chocolatey flavor and its signature coconut-pecan frosting. The frosting is made by cooking together evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla until thickened, then stirring in shredded coconut and chopped pecans. This frosting is spread between the layers of chocolate cake, creating a delicious and decadent dessert.

How do you make a three-layer German chocolate cake?

To make a three-layer German chocolate cake, you will need to triple the recipe for the cake batter and frosting. Divide the batter evenly between three 9-inch cake pans and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Once the cakes have cooled, spread a layer of frosting between each layer and on top of the cake.

What is the best brand of chocolate to use for German chocolate cake?

The best brand of chocolate to use for German chocolate cake is a high-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. Look for a chocolate with a cocoa percentage of at least 60% for the best flavor and texture.

What is the history of German chocolate cake?

German chocolate cake is actually not German at all – it was invented in the United States in the mid-19th century by Samuel German, a chocolatier. The cake originally used a type of chocolate called “German’s chocolate,” which was named after Samuel German. The recipe for German chocolate cake was later popularized by a 1957 article in the Dallas Morning News, and it has since become a classic American dessert.

Can you make German chocolate cake with a cake mix?

Yes, you can make German chocolate cake with a cake mix. Simply follow the instructions on the cake mix box, but substitute the water called for with an equal amount of brewed coffee or espresso. This will enhance the chocolate flavor of the cake. For the frosting, you can use a store-bought coconut-pecan frosting or make your own using evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter, vanilla, shredded coconut, and chopped pecans.

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