This is the only German Chocolate Cake recipe you’ll ever need! This homemade cake features layers of moist chocolate cake and a delicious coconut pecan frosting.
Do you have a favorite cake? I’ve always loved a good chocolate and carrot cake, but today’s german chocolate cake recipe has easily become a new favorite of mine!
I prefer to call this an updated version of a german chocolate cake because it’s richer and easier to make. The chocolate cake layers are made in one bowl and incredibly simple to throw together. And that homemade coconut pecan frosting? I promise it tastes better than anything you can buy at the store and it’s not too difficult to make either!
To keep this cake simple, I didn’t add an outer layer of german chocolate cake icing. If you prefer to add some chocolate frosting to the outside of your cake, I’ve added that option as well!
This is the best german chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever made, and it requires mostly pantry staples. Here’s what we’ll need to make the chocolate cake layers and the coconut pecan frosting:
- All-purpose flour: Spoon and level the flour when measuring to avoid baking a dense cake.
- Cocoa powder: Use natural unsweetened cocoa powder so that it reacts with baking soda and helps the cake rise.
- Baking soda & baking powder: Gives the cake a little lift.
- Salt: Balances out the sweetness of the batter and enhances the chocolate flavor.
- Sugar: I used a mixture of granulated sugar and brown sugar to both sweeten the cake and add some moisture.
- Oil: Vegetable or canola oil will work.
- Buttermilk: Don’t have any buttermilk? You can use my homemade buttermilk substitute here.
- Eggs: Added to both the batter and the frosting. (Don’t worry, the frosting is cooked).
- Vanilla extract: Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
- Boiling water: It’s important that your water is very warm.
- Instant espresso powder: Optional, but highly recommend. Enhances the chocolate flavor and rounds out the flavor of the cake.
- Evaporated milk: Not to be confused with sweetened condensed milk, which is much thicker.
- Butter: I recommend using unsalted butter since the amount of salt in salted butters can vary between different brands.
- Sweetened shredded coconut: For the frosting, this can easily be found in the baking aisle.
- Chopped pecans: You want to use raw chopped pecans.
How to Make German Chocolate Cake
This classic cake is typically made with melted german chocolate in the cake batter and is lighter in color too, but we’re doing things a little different today. For the chocolate cake layers, we’ll be using my homemade chocolate cake recipe. Why? Because it’s delicious and it’s easier to make. You can mix everything for the cake layers up in one bowl and it uses simple ingredients that you likely have on hand.
I have a full tutorial in my chocolate cake recipe for how I make the cake so you can refer to that if you need to. Here’s a little rundown for how to make the cake layers:
- Whisk together the dry ingredients: You’ll be whisking together some flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, and granulated sugar.
- Whisk in the wet ingredients: Once the dry ingredients are well combined, you’ll whisk in some oil, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract. The batter will be really thick at this point, almost like a fudgy brownie batter.
- Add some boiling water mixed with espresso powder: The final step for the cake batter is to mix in some boiling water. I prefer to set some water on the stove to boil as I start making the cake so that it’s ready to go. I also whisk a teaspoon of instant espresso powder into the boiling water before adding it to the bowl.
- Pour the batter into cake pans: I use two 9-inch cake pans for this recipe.
- Bake the cake layers: The cake layers will need to bake for about 30 minutes give or take a few minutes.
Simple, right? That’s why I much prefer to use this as the cake base for my german chocolate cake.
How to Make German Chocolate Cake Frosting
As the cake layers are baking, you can prepare the coconut pecan frosting. You can use the canned version if you like, but this frosting is actually fairly easy to make and SO much better than the store-bought kind too.
To make the frosting you’ll simply whisk together some granulated sugar, evaporated milk, and beaten egg yolks in a saucepan. Then, you’ll slice some butter into small pieces and add it to the mixture. The sugar sweetens the filling and the evaporated milk, egg yolks, and butter provide a rich flavor.
Once it’s ready, you’ll place the saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture starts to thicken and boil. Once it’s thickened, remove it from the heat and stir in some sweetened shredded coconut, chopped pecans, and a little vanilla extract. The mixture will thicken even more as it cools too, so don’t worry if it seems thin at this point.
Once the frosting is done, I prefer to place the frosting in a bowl and let it cool completely. Once the cake layers and frosting are completely cooled, you can frost the cake.
If you want to add some frosting to the outside of the cake, my homemade chocolate buttercream frosting would work great!
Do I Have to Use Espresso Powder?
I love to add a teaspoon of instant espresso powder to the boiling water because it enhances the chocolate flavor and makes the cake even better! If you don’t have any on hand you can use 1 cup of coffee or just use boiling water and omit the espresso powder.
How to Store This Cake
Store cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Can I Freeze This Cake?
Cake layers will freeze well for up to 3 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. The German chocolate cake frosting will freeze well for up to 3 months too, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and mix well before frosting the cake.
- Before getting started with the cake batter, place a pot of water on the stove to boil so that it’s ready to go when you need it.
- When measuring your flour, avoid scooping it from the container. Instead, stir your flour around to fluff it, spoon it into your measuring cup, and level it off with the back of a knife.
- I suggest slicing the butter for the frosting into small pieces so it melts evenly and quickly.
More Homemade Cake Recipes To Try!
German Chocolate Cake
For the cake:
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 3/4 cup (65 grams) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) canola or vegetable oil
- 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional, but recommended)
For the frosting:
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (240 ml) evaporated milk
- 3 large egg yolks , room temperature and lightly beaten
- ½ cup (115 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (120 grams) sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup (115 grams) chopped pecans
To make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray two 9-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper, and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk in the granulated sugar and brown sugar, then add the oil, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.
- Add the instant espresso powder to the cup of boiling water and mix until fully dissolved. Add to the mixing bowl and mix until just combined (the batter will be very thin)
- Evenly distribute the batter between both cake pans. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 30 minutes. Run a knife around the outside of each cake layer in the pan then carefully remove the cakes from the pans and place on the wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting:
- Add the granulated sugar, evaporated milk, and egg yolks to a large saucepan and whisk until fully combined. Slice the butter into small pieces and add to the saucepan.
- Place over medium heat, stirring constantly until the butter completely melts (about 4-5 minutes). Continue cooking and stirring constantly for another 8-12 minutes or until the mixture starts to boil and thicken.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the sweetened shredded coconut and chopped pecans, then stir in the vanilla extract.
- Transfer to a heat-safe container and allow to cool completely (about 1 - 1.5 hours).
To assemble the cake:
- Once the cakes have cooled, level the tops of each cake. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or large serving plate and top with half of the frosting. Spread the frosting into one even layer on top of the cake layer.
- Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting, add the remaining frosting on top, and spread around into one even layer.
- Slice and enjoy or refrigerate until you’re ready to serve the cake.