This decadent German chocolate cake is the American cake everyone loves. Make this version and see for yourself how wonderful it is.
What is German's Chocolate Cake?
It is a type of chocolate cake that is made with a sweet chocolate cake base and a rich, gooey coconut-pecan frosting.
It's a dessert that is popular in the United States, particularly for special occasions such as birthdays and holidays.
The cake is thought to have originated in the United States in the mid-20th century and was named after Sam German, who created a type of sweet baking chocolate for Baker's Chocolate Company. The chocolate was so good that the company named it after Samuel German.
The cake became famous actually only in 1957 when a recipe for this German's Chocolate cake appeared in a Dallas, Texas magazine.
The recipe became so popular that it created a spike in chocolate sales and alerted General Foods, who owned Baker's Chocolate at that time.
They sent the recipe to all magazines and newspapers around the country, and the editors were swamped with requests about where to buy that type of chocolate.
Soon, this recipe became one of the most iconic and loved cake recipes in America.
The "s" in the name was dropped over the years. Therefore a lot of people think that the cake is German. Sorry to burst your bubble, people, but the cake comes from Texas, not Germany.
The cake is typically made by layering the chocolate cake with the coconut-pecan frosting, and it's often garnished with additional pecans or chocolate shavings.
And if you look at the ingredients, it is clear that this recipe is American. Pecans and coconut are not part of German cuisine. Also, buttermilk is an American southern staple in baking.
(Learn here how to use buttermilk in your baking and grab some more recipes with it)
This decadent chocolate layer cake is my husband's favorite cake. He grew up having this cake for his birthdays, but it was always made from a box with store-bought frosting.
I tried a few recipes over the years, but I could not find anything to please me. I found the box cake not very tasty, and the frosting pretty gross and too sweet.
This year though, I made this cake from scratch again.
What ingredients do you need for this German chocolate cake recipe?
- Baker's German's Chocolate: You can substitute this traditional sweet chocolate with your favorite brand, but make sure you buy a good, high-quality one. I personally like Trader Joe's Chocolate, and I bake with this chocolate a lot. It is 54% dark chocolate, which in my book, still stands for a good balance between sweetness and bitterness.
- All-purpose flour
- Baking soda
- Large Eggs
- Unsalted butter softened
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla extract
Coconut pecan frosting:
- Evaporated milk: Evaporated milk is a type of condensed milk that is unsweetened. Read more about this here. In the US, evaporated milk is found in cans in any grocery store next to sweetened condensed milk. Make sure you don't get confused, as they are totally different. You can also replace it with half and half. If you live outside of the US, evaporated milk is known as unsweetened condensed milk.
- Egg yolks
- Granulated sugar
- Unsalted butter
- Vanilla extract
- Unsweetened shredded coconut: I used unsweetened shredded coconut instead of the sweetened one, as I wanted to cut a little bit on the amount of sweetness.
- Toasted pecans
Make the filling:
Note: It is best to separate the eggs when cold and then allow them to come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
- Step 1: In a large saucepan, beat together the evaporated milk and the egg yolks. Stir in the sugar and butter.
- Step 2: Stir over medium heat for about 15-18 minutes or until thickened and bubbly, and golden in color. Remove from heat.
- Step 3. Stir in the coconut and vanilla. Cool until just warm, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days. Frosting will thicken as it cools.
DO NOT ADD chopped pecans until just before cake assembly.
Make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350F(180C). Grease and lightly flour three 9x2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper.
- Step 1: Mix chocolate and water in a medium saucepan, on medium heat, until you obtain a melted chocolate blend. Set aside to cool.
- Step 2: In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- Step 3: In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks for about a minute.
- Step 4. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Step 5: Add the egg yolks, beating until well combined.
- Step 6: Add the chocolate mixture and the vanilla.
- Step 7: Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk, beating after each addition until smooth.
- Step 8: Separate, in a bowl of a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the batter.
- Step 9. Divide batter among the prepared pans.
- Step 10. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the cake center comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
When the cake is cool, spread frosting between layers and over top of the cake. Decorate as you like.
I dressed it up by covering the sides with big unsweetened coconut flakes and drizzled melted chocolate over the cake's top.
This upgraded version of the American classic German chocolate cake came out divine, and everyone loved it. It was really a show-stopper.
The ones who tried my version of this cake said this was the best German chocolate cake they ever ate, and believe me, in Minnesota, this cake, in particular, is very popular, but very few people make it from scratch.
Toast the pecans but not the coconut.
Toasting the pecans intensifies their flavor. According to Cook's Illustrated, toasting the coconut made a brittle filling. I tend to believe them.
How to toast the pecans:
Preheat the oven to 350 F/180C.
Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. After the first 5 minutes, move them around so they roast on all sides evenly.
Remove them from the oven, let cool, and then chop them coarsely.
Note: Do not add them to the frosting until you are ready to assemble the cake.
What kind of pans do I need?
You need three pans 9x2-inch tall sides.
Do I bake the cake first, or do I start with the filling?
To be time-efficient, first, make the filling, then use the refrigeration time to prepare, bake and cool the cakes.
Can I bake the cake in advance?
Yes, you can. Bake the layers, wrap them individually in foil, then in Ziploc freezer bags, and freeze them for up to 3 months.
When the special occasion arises, the cake can be assembled frozen, as it is very easy to put together when the cake layers are cold.
The frosting can also be made in advance, but do not add the pecans until the last moment, when you are ready to assemble the cake. They get soggy.
Keep the German chocolate cake frosting in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Interested in other cake recipes?
Classic Carrot Cake with Pineapple and Cream Cheese Frosting
Classic European Chocolate Ganache Meringue Cake
Gourmet Chocolate Mint Cake Recipe
Chocolate mousse and praline entremet
Enjoy and happy baking, everyone! If you make it, let me know, I am really interested to see if you liked it!
Also, visit The Bossy Kitchen's Amazon Store Page where you can find lots of the kitchen products I use to make these recipes and other fun things you can get for quick gifts.
Best Homemade German Chocolate Cake
- 4 ounces Baker's German's Chocolate
- ½ cup water
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs separated at room temperature
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened 2 sticks
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1½ cans evaporated milk 18 ounces
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter cut into small pieces 2 sticks
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 cups coarsely chopped toasted pecans
- Note: It is best to separate the eggs when cold and then allow them to come to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
- Preheat oven to 350F(180C).
- Grease and lightly flour three 9x2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment paper.
To make the frosting:
- In a large saucepan, beat together the evaporated milk and the egg yolks. Stir in the sugar and butter.
- Stir over medium heat for about 15-18 minutes or until thickened and bubbly, and golden in color.
- Remove from heat.
- Stir in the coconut and vanilla. Cool until just warm, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days. Frosting will thicken as it cools.
- DO NOT ADD pecans until just before cake assembly.
To make the cake:
- In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate with the water, stirring to melt the chocolate, and blend well. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- In a medium-size bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks, about 1 minute.
- In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Add the egg yolks, beating until well combined.
- Add the chocolate mixture and the vanilla.
- Add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk, beating after each addition until smooth.
- Separate, in a bowl, beat the egg whites on the high speed of an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
- Gently fold into the batter.
- Divide batter among the prepared pans.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the cake center comes out clean.
- Note: Be careful not to over-bake, as this cake has a different, lighter texture than most store-bought.
- Allow cake to cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
- When cake is cool, spread frosting between layers and over top of the cake.
- Decorate as you like.
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