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
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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