Thick and creamy German chocolate cake frosting is studded with pecans and sweetened shredded coconut. It’s perfect for icing a classic German chocolate cake as well as brownies, cupcakes, and more! 

An overhead view of German chocolate cake frosting.

German chocolate cake frosting is a classic frosting recipe that every home baker should have in their repertoire. Naturally it’s perfect for a German chocolate cake, but you can also use it to frost chocolate cupcakes, brownies, cookie bars, and more. 

This recipe makes a traditional coconut pecan frosting for German chocolate cake. It’s an incredibly easy recipe that yields a deliciously creamy frosting every time! 

In total, the frosting recipe takes about 30 minutes to prepare. It requires more effort than popping open a jar of frosting, but the flavor is so much richer and more flavorful than the sugary frostings you find at the grocery store! 

An overhead view of the ingredients needed for German chocolate cake frosting.

Recipe Ingredients 

This is a traditional frosting recipe for German chocolate cake. You don’t need any extra bells and whistles when it already tastes this good! The key ingredients you’ll need to make the frosting are: 

  • Granulated sugar: To sweeten the frosting.
  • Evaporated milk: Be sure to use evaporated milk in this frosting and not sweetened condensed milk. Sweetened condensed milk is much thicker and sweeter and won’t work well in this recipe.
  • Egg yolks: You can save the egg whites to make an omelet in the morning or another recipe, such as Swiss meringue buttercream
  • Unsalted butter: Because the frosting will be cooked on the stove, there’s no need to soften the butter to room temperature beforehand. 
  • Vanilla extract: Pure vanilla is preferred. 
  • Sweetened shredded coconut: Be sure to buy sweetened shredded coconut and not plain coconut flakes. It should be located in the baking aisle of your grocery store. 
  • Chopped pecans: Buy pre-chopped raw pecans, or buy raw pecan halves and chop them up yourself. 

How to Make German Chocolate Cake Frosting

Making frosting for German chocolate cake is a cinch! There’s no stand mixer required, but you will have to let the frosting cool for about an hour before you can use it. 

  1. In a large saucepan, whisk together the sugar, evaporated milk, and egg yolks. Then, add the sliced butter to the saucepan. 
  2. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook the mixture until the butter melts. This can take up to 5 minutes.
  3. Continue cooking the mixture over medium heat until it begins to boil, thicken, and finally turns a light caramel color. This can take upwards of 15 minutes, and it’s important that you stir the mixture constantly to prevent it from sticking to the pan. 
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the vanilla, shredded coconut, and chopped pecans. 
  5. Transfer the frosting to a heat-safe bowl and let it cool to room temperature on your countertop for about an hour. 
  6. Once the frosting is completely cool, you may refrigerate it or use it to frost a cake or cupcakes. 
A large bowl of German chocolate cake frosting with an offset spatula.

Ways to Use This Frosting 

I realize this is called German chocolate cake frosting, but it’s much more versatile than that. Use it to frost your favorite bars, brownies, cakes, cupcakes, and more! 

Here are some other recipes to try with it:

An overhead view of a German chocolate cake being frosted.

How Much Frosting Does This Recipe Make? 

This recipe will yield 2 and 3/4 cups of frosting, which is enough to lightly frost a two-layer cake (like the picture below), one 9×13 cake, or 12 cupcakes. 

Does the Frosting Need to Be Refrigerated? 

Yes, I recommend refrigerating the frosting until you’re ready to use it. Note that cold German chocolate cake frosting is more difficult to spread so you may need to let it warm up a bit on your counter before using it. 

A side view of a layered German chocolate cake with homemade frosting.

Recipe Tips

  • If you want to use toasted pecans in the frosting: Place the pecans in a 350°F oven for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring a few times. Set aside to cool slightly before mixing into the frosting.
  • I recommend using a large, heavy bottomed saucepan when making the frosting. You want a saucepan that distributes heat well so that nothing burns. 
  • Stir the frosting mixture constantly once it’s boiling. You don’t want anything sticking to the pan! 

Recipe Video

An overhead view of a bowl of German chocolate cake frosting.

German Chocolate Cake Frosting

5 from 4 ratings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Cool Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Thick and creamy German chocolate cake frosting is studded with pecans and sweetened shredded coconut. It’s perfect for icing a classic German chocolate cake as well as brownies, cupcakes, and more! 


Servings: 12 servings
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk NOT sweetened condensed milk (240 ml)
  • 3 large egg yolks room temperature and lightly beaten
  • ½ cup unsalted butter (115 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut (120 grams)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (115 grams)


  • Add the granulated sugar, evaporated milk, and egg yolks to a large saucepan and whisk until fully combined. Slice the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and add to the saucepan.
  • Place over medium heat, stirring often until the butter completely melts, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Continue cooking and stirring constantly until the mixture starts to boil, thicken, and turns a very light caramel color. This may take about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, shredded coconut, and chopped pecans.
  • Transfer the frosting to a heat-safe bowl and let it cool completely, about 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • Once cooled, use it to decorate cakes or cupcakes.


Storage Instructions: Frosting may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Freezing Instructions: Freeze in a large freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Danielle Rye
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