This homemade German chocolate cake with its easy, sweet, and gooey coconut and pecan frosting is my all-time favorite. It’s an easy recipe to make from scratch, and my whole family goes crazy for it.
There’s nothing more traditional in my long-legged life than the cake I have every year for my birthday. It may be made by someone who loves me, or purchased from a bakery to add to the celebration.
And because I love it so much, I am totally a-okay if I make this coconuty, nutty, frosted cake myself because this homemade German chocolate cake is one amazing cake. Just like me :)
January is birthday month for me. Time to take a look, evaluate, and see who and what I am and what challenge I see in my future. Sometimes I love what I see, sometimes, not so much.
But if I don’t take a look at myself and cross check my perception versus reality, then where is the next challenge to conquer, the next mountain to climb? Or even a reason to get out of bed?
Are you happy? Are you yearning? Are you challenged? Are you bored? Are you still searching?
My birthday challenge to you is the same one I’ve given to myself. Take a look at where you are, right now. Today. While you’re surfing the internet because you’re bored or hungry or a friendly follower (thank you!)
Today, choose one thing you want to change and make one goal, one statement, to make it happen.
And then just do it. Love yourself. Be yourself. And keep on being you.
What’s in This German Chocolate Cake?
Now to the really good stuff: this traditional German chocolate cake recipe. I didn’t add any crazy ingredients or bake it in a fun-shaped pan. Heck, I didn’t even add extra decorations to my cake. Because that’s the beauty of my favorite cake — it’s perfect as is.
Here are the German chocolate cake ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe:
- Unsalted butter
- Semisweet chocolate
- All-purpose flour
- Dutch process cocoa powder
- Baking soda
- Fine sea salt
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla extract
And for the homemade German chocolate cake frosting you’ll need:
- Evaporated milk
- Granulated sugar
- Egg yolks
- Vanilla extract
- Shredded sweetened coconut
- Chopped pecans
What’s the Difference Between Chocolate vs German Chocolate?
The name suggests this cake has it’s roots in Germany, but it’s actually a recipe that was made in the U.S.A. As did the type of chocolate used in the cake.
German chocolate was developed by American Samuel German (hence the roots of the name) as a way to streamline the baking process for bakers by mixing the chocolate and sugar together. German chocolate is slightly sweeter than semi-sweet or milk chocolate with 48% cocoa. Perfect for my kind of cake.
How to Make German Chocolate Cake
Before starting on the cake batter, grease three 8-inch round cake pans and line them with parchment paper (don’t skip this step!).
Next, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl that’s been set over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the bowl with the chocolate in it doesn’t touch the water, otherwise you’ll scald the chocolate.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in one bowl, and the wet in another, making sure to add the melted chocolate in last once it’s had time to cool off a bit. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then turn the cake batter into the prepared cake pans and bake until done.
Place the cake layers on a cooling rack and let them cool completely before frosting.
How to Make German Chocolate Cake Frosting
German chocolate cake frosting isn’t made like your typical buttercream frosting, but it’s easier to make than you’d think. First, add the egg yolks to a small saucepan and beat with a hand mixer until the yolks thicken and begin to ribbon, about 2-3 minutes.
Then, add the evaporated milk, sugar, and vanilla to the yolks and stir together. Add the butter to the pot and continue cooking until golden in color. Stir in the coconut and chopped pecans, then allow the frosting to cool to room temperature before slathering it over the cake.
Can I Use Another Type of Chocolate in This Cake?
Yes, if you can’t get your hands on German chocolate, you’re welcome to use semisweet chocolate instead.
Can I Make This Cake Ahead of Time?
You should be fine to prep and assemble this homemade German chocolate cake up to a day in advance. The frosting will soak into the cake layers a bit, which I really enjoy.
Tips for Making the Best German Chocolate Cake
My mom always made me my German Chocolate Cake in the bundt form, but this time out, I broke out my new 8-inch cake pans that my husband visibly shuddered at as I bought them, and made myself a 3-tier cake. He’s happy I made the purchase now.
I revert back to my days as a Hostess Twinkie packager—and sometimes Hostess Cupcakes—when I take the cakes out of the pans. The guys on the line would SMACK the cupcake pans as hard as they could onto the conveyer belt for the cupcakes to be released from the cakepan’s hold and onto the frosting dripper. So I do what they did and SMACK them on my counter. I get a clean release every time.
I usually freeze my coconut and pecans because I don’t use them as often as I’d like. They’ll stay good for 6 months to a year.
I forgot that I usually double the frosting, just to have it extra gooey. Next time, I will.
More Chocolate Desserts You Need to Make
- The Best No-Bake Cookies with Coconut
- Dark Chocolate Brownies
- Vanilla and Chocolate Marbled Bundt Cake
- Mom’s Easy Fudge Recipe
- Devil’s Food Bundt Cake with Chocolate Espresso Ganache
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment below or take a photo and tag me on Instagram or Twitter with #foodiecrusheats
German Chocolate Cake
For the Cake
- 1 ½ sticks (¾ cup) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the pans
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate finely chopped
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup dutch process cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
For the Frosting
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 stick (½ cup) butter
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups shredded, sweetened coconut
- ½ cup chopped pecans
For the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch baking pans and line them with parchment paper.
- Set a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water. Add the German chocolate and melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
- Whisk the flour with the cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium size bowl. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and egg yolk and beat into the mixture one at a time. Add the vanilla and mix in. Add the buttermilk and the flour mixture in 3 alternating batches, ending with the flour mixture. Fold in the melted chocolate until incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes come out clean. Place the cakes on a rack and let cool completely. Turn the cakes out of the pans and peel off the parchment paper.
For the Frosting
- Add the yolks to a small saucepan and beat with a hand mixer until yolks thicken and begin to ribbon, about 2-3 minutes. Add evaporated milk, sugar and vanilla and mix. Add butter and heat on medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes or until mixture becomes golden brown and thickens. Remove from heat and add coconut and pecans. Cool to room temperature.
- Using a knife or offset spatula, spread one third of the frosting evenly over the top of one cake. Top with the second cake layer and spread one third more of the frosting on top. Top with the final cake and spread the rest of the frosting. Serve at room temperature.
More German Chocolate Recipes to Make and Love Too
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Ohhh what memories that just brought back. My Mom on birthday day let us (5 Kids) choose what we wanted for our birthday supper and what kind of cake we wanted. Supper for me was cubed steak gravy,cream potatoes, lima beans and for my birthday cake DRUM ROLL here German Chocolate Cake. Ohhh i can taste it right now. And how i miss her cooking my birthday supper and birthday cake.
Made this yesterday for my husband’s birthday! Everyone loved it and this recipe is a definitely a keeper! I did double the frosting as suggested (it does make a big difference). Thank you!
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
YAY! Thanks Sole
My hubby has been asking me to make him a German Chocolate cake and I chose this recipe…it came out delicious! Easy to make and super tasty. I live at altitude so my cake came out a bit more like a brownie than a cake but no complaints here on that issue. Super yummy!
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
So happy to hear that!
Definitely going to try your German Chocolate Cake recipe. Looks amazing! I also double the frosting on the recipe I have always used, which is the recipe inside the box of Bakers German Chocolate. Been using that recipe for 30 years. Here is a tip, which you probably know already, but just in case; make the cake 2 to 3 days before serving. This allows the frosting to really absorb into the cake, which makes it more moist and allows all the ingredients to blend. This really does make a difference in the taste and moistness of the cake. My son who served in the Army, in Iraq, loves this cake and he won’t eat pecans any other way! Love reading your posts!!
Honestly Heidi, you cannot give out recipes like this and show thin women in bathing suits!!!! The cake looks amazing. Thank you’
What a recipe ! thanx a lot for sharing !!!
Does the frosting need to be refrigerated or can it be left out on the counter?
This looks amazing.
Thanks for sharing!
This is my first time to read your recipes thanks. Elaine
J H Robbins
My aunt Jean used to make me a German Chocolate cake every year for my birthday. She hasn’t done it in a while, so I think it is time I gave it a shot.
Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay.
I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.
Barbara | Creative Culinary
My favorite cake and always the one for my birthday too; from the days of a boxed mix and a box of frosting ingredients that I think was just mixed with hot water to making it from scratch. I always loved that it was ‘German’ and so was I so thought part of that love was some sort of heritage thing…until I discovered the truth too and that the German is just from the chocolate!
I saw that same piece…very moving and inspiring and even with the worst year I’ve ever had I felt so blessed after hearing his journey. Now on to bigger and better!
Looks easy to make and tastes really good I guess. German Chocolate cake might be my next favorite cake. Thanks for the recipe.
German chocolate cake is one of my 3 cakes.
It’s one of the first cakes that I ever made from scratch, and it’s one of the ones that comforts and soothes me.
<3 you Happy Belated, sweet friend
Happy Belated!! Lovely goal to bestow on all of us. Lovely cake to bestow to my belly. :-P
Laura @ Laura's Culinary Adventures
Beautiful cake! Isn’t that story about the soldier incredible. I can’t even imagine ten tours of duty.
Lovely! Love your goal for the year and I take your challenge to accomplish something on my list as well. This cake looks absolutely delicious. Happy belated birthday Heidi!
I love your birthday challenge…I’m going to take it on. And the cake. It’s my favorite. But i’m on a sugar free diet…so I’m going to have to wait a few weeks.
Happy Birthday beautiful Lady!
cod ghosts dlc
Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day.
It’s always helpful to read articles from other writers and practice a little something from their sites.
What a lovely post Heidi, really good words to think about.
Christine @ Cooking with Cakes
beautiful post Heidi, and a fittingly gorgeous cake to go with it!!! german chocolate cake is one of my all time favs, and this looks absolutely divine!
German chocolate cake has always been my dad’s favorite cake. On his birthday, it was his first and sometimes only request. I know he would agree, your cake is gorgeous! Wishing you a happy birthday month…cheers to changes and the adventures they bring!
Ashley - Baker by Nature
I love reading your posts. Which is such a treat. And I mean, this cake!? Divine.
Ali | Gimme Some Oven
Good words to start the day. And a darn good cake — WOW.
This looks like the German chocolate cake of my dreams!
Molly @ Yes to Yolks
Wow, lovely post. I love the idea of re-evaluating every now and then. Birthdays do seem to be the perfect time to do just that. Also hearing about our national heroes puts things in perspective. Love the cake. Looks fabulously rich and delicious!
very nice cake ! I would love to try also ! The only thing is that I don’t know what is cups and sticks … if you could use grams for your recipes it would be so helpful !
Sorry, it’s 3/4 cup butter. I’ll look into gram conversions for the future!
Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
This is one of my FAV cakes. Your recipe looks perfect!
I agree with on dairy. In chocolate cake you can not hide when you use bad ingredients. SImple a stunner of a cake; I definitely need to try making one soon.
Averie @ Averie Cooks
Heidi this is gorgeous!!! I’ve never made a German Choc Cake. Crazy and now I know I need to. That filling, that’s just oozing out, come to mama :) Dear lord that looks so good! pinned
Sarah | The Sugar Hit
Wasn’t that soldier’s story so moving? People like that make me so grateful. And this cake! It looks like heaven.