German Chocolate Cake

Recipe By Tessa Arias
  |  
August 27th, 2019
5 from 2 votes
5 from 2 votes

This easy German Chocolate Cake recipe features a tender cocoa cake layered with a thick and fudgy coconut and pecan frosting and can be made in just over an hour! No mixer required.

Yield: 12 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Love the combo of coconut, chocolate, and pecans!
Texture: The cake is moist and tender and the frosting is rich, thick, which the perfect amount of crunch.
Ease: Super quick and easy layer cake.
Pros: Simple and satisfying!
Cons: None.
Would I make this again? Yes.

Coconut is a divisive food. Some people love it, some people hate it.

If you love it, then you probably love it with chocolate. The pair just belong together!

Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting on a plate

What I love most about this German Cake recipe is how simple and easy it is. You don’t even need a stand mixer. It takes just over an hour from start to finish. There’s no difficult buttercream making, assembly, or decorating.

German chocolate cake with a slice taken out

Make it for your next birthday, potluck, or for anyone who loves German Chocolate!

How to Make German Chocolate Cake

German chocolate cake batter

How to Make a MOIST Chocolate Cake

There are two keys to a moist chocolate cake. First, be sure to follow the recipe as written. There are ingredients, like buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg yolk, and brown sugar that contribute to a moist and tender texture.

Second, be sure to measure your flour and cocoa powder correctly. The best way is to weigh it, the second best way is the spoon and level method. It’s super easy to accidentally add way too much flour and cocoa powder which will create a dry and / or dense cake. Check out my article on How to Measure Flour here.

Lastly, don’t over-bake the cake. Start checking for doneness with a toothpick at 30 minutes, especially if your oven tends to run hot.

Avoid using dark colored cake pans which will dry out the edges of the cake and cook faster. If that’s all you have, shave a few minutes off the baking time.

Do I have to use the espresso powder in this chocolate cake recipe?

No! Feel free to omit it. The espresso powder simply enhances the chocolate flavor and you can’t actually taste it. You can also use 1 cup of strongly brewed coffee in place of the espresso + hot water. Whichever is easier in your kitchen!

Why use vegetable oil instead of butter in chocolate cake?

Although I prefer the flavor of butter over vegetable oil, the oil helps create the feeling of moisture on the palate in this recipe. Just be sure to use fresh oil. Give it a sniff before using to make sure it doesn’t have an off smell (which would signal it’s oxidized). You can also use coconut oil if you prefer!

How to Make German Chocolate Frosting

Spreading coconut-pecan icing on German Chocolate Cake

Arguably the most important part of a German chocolate cake is that coconut-pecan frosting! You’ll see I actually forgo buttercream in place of the German chocolate frosting in this recipe. I found it was rich and sweet enough that buttercream was unnecessary. This saves time (and calories ha) and means you don’t need an electric mixer for any part of this recipe!

Start by melting the butter in a heavy duty saucepan. Add the milk, cornstarch, and sugar, whisking to combine. Whisk in the egg yolks. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture has thickened and comes to a boil, about 10 to 12 minutes total. It will continue to thicken as it cools, but don’t pull it off the heat until it’s about the thickness of slightly runny pudding.

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, salt, coconut, and pecans. Let cool until spreadable, about 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the warmth of your kitchen. You can also refrigerate the frosting to firm up even more if you need to. I don’t like mine to be too thick .

Can German Chocolate Cake be Frozen?

Yes! Wrap unfrosted un-cut cooled cake layers completely in several layers of plastic wrap. Place inside a freezer bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge (do not defrost at room temperature or you will end up with mushy cake).

The frosting cannot be frozen because of the eggs inside. However, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 1 day before assembling the cake. Allow to warm up slightly at room temperature if needed to make it more spreadable.

More Chocolate Cake Recipes

Slice of simple German Chocolate Cake on a plate with a fork

5 from 2 votes

How to make
German Chocolate Cake Recipe

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
This easy German Chocolate Cake recipe features a tender cocoa cake layered with a thick and fudgy coconut and pecan frosting and can be made in just over an hour! No mixer required.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 8 ounces (227 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup (57 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder*
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 3/4 (222 grams) cups all-purpose flour, measured correctly
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (227 grams) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or coconut oil
  • 4 large eggs plus one egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 cups (120 grams) shredded sweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) chopped pecans

Directions

Make the cake:

  1. In a medium heatproof bowl add the chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Pour hot water over mixture. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk mixture gently until smooth then set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment rounds. Butter and flour the pans generously.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, salt, and baking soda.
  4. Whisk the buttermilk, oil, eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until smooth, being careful not to overmix.
  5. Pour the batter evenly between the prepared pans and tap against the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting:

  1. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat melt the butter. Add the milk, cornstarch, and sugar, whisking to combine. Whisk in the egg yolks. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture has thickened and comes to a boil, about 10 to 12 minutes total. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, salt, coconut, and pecans. Let cool until spreadable, about 30 minutes to 1 hour. You can also refrigerate the frosting to firm up even more.
  2. Place one cake layer, flat side up and spread 1/2 of the filling evenly over, pushing just to the edge. Add the top layer, rounded side up, and spread with the remaining filling. Serve or store in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Notes

*Note: If you don’t have espresso powder, you can use 1 cup hot coffee in place of the powder + boiling water. This recipe uses vegetable oil, make sure it’s fresh and doesn’t have an off smell before using.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, german

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

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  1. #
    Ritika — August 27, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    I love ur recipes but have a request please make eggless brownies cakes nd cookies i am waiting for you to give us your best without egg recipes .

  2. #
    Viana @ maplewoodroad.com — August 28, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Who doesn’t love coconut, and mixed with a chocolate-espresso combo! A dream come true! 🙂

  3. #
    Anne — August 30, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Hi Tessa, I plan on making it today. I’ll let you know how I go.

    • #
      Anne — September 1, 2019 at 5:37 am

      Hi again. I made the cake for Fathers Day. Everyone loved it. I don’t know if I put too much coconut in the frosting tho, but it was still yummy anyway. I bake (& cook) a lot, and this was fun to make as the method was different to my usual method of baking cakes. It was a nice change. Thanks again Tessa 🙂

  4. #
    Rachael — September 1, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    Had a blast making this with my kids! Very tasty, moist, and delicious. I am not much of a baker but this was wicked easy and fun. Thanks for sharing such a lovely recipe.

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