Did you know German Chocolate Cake isn't actually German at all? Nope. This Southern-born beauty hails straight from the Lonestar state, and by the taste of it, we knew what we were doing! Layer upon layer of indulgence, incredibly decadent chocolate cake, and that signature, gooey, coconut, pecan frosting!
The cake and the frostings are made completely from scratch, which means it will require a little more patience but will be so worth it in the end. Whether it's a birthday, holiday, or potluck, this is the perfect thing to make for the chocolate lovers in your life, a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
HOW TO MAKE GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE
This German Chocolate Cake can really be broken down into 3 elements. The first is that swoon-worthy, moist, oh-so-chocolaty cake. Next, we have the classic, gooey and delicious Coconut Pecan Frosting, and as if that combo wasn't enough, we wrap it all up with more chocolate in our rich and creamy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. Let's get into it.
1. MAKE AND CHILL COCONUT PECAN FROSTING
The first thing you need to do to kick off your German Chocolate Cake is make the pecan coconut frosting. The pecan coconut frosting will take 2 to 3 hours to chill before using, so you want to knock it out right away!
To kick off the frosting you will add unsalted butter, milk, and brown sugar to a large saucepan over medium heat, and stir the mixture occasionally until melted.
Now, it's time to temper some eggs! Tempering the eggs with a bit of the warm cooking liquid will keep your frosting from curdling! It is an extra step, but one well worth taking.
The tempering process begins by adding four egg yolks to a small bowl and ladling in about 2 tablespoons of the warm stovetop mixture. Stir until combined, and then ladle in another 2 tablespoons and stir again.
Now that your egg yolks are properly tempered, pour them into the saucepan and stir. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often, just until the mixture is thickened.
Then, you will remove your custard from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt, followed by sweetened, shredded coconut in the chopped pecans.
Transfer your German chocolate frosting to a heatproof bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours. Remember, your frosting should be completely chilled before using it for your cake!
Once your coconut and pecan frosting is chilling in the fridge, you can begin on your cakes. For your cakes, you will need two greased 9-inch baking pans. Although it is not 100% necessary, I always take the extra precaution to line the bottom of my pans with parchment paper. You are guaranteed easy release this way!
2. MIX THE GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE DRY INGREDIENTS
To start off your German Chocolate Cakes, you will mix up the dry ingredients first. Combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
3. ADD THE WET INGREDIENTS
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add in the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract. With a handheld mixer, mix on medium speed until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated with the wet ingredients.
Then, add in the hot brewed coffee or hot water, if using, and mix on medium-low speed until combined. The batter will appear very thin.
4. BAKE AND COOL THE GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKES
Divide the German Chocolate Cake batter among the prepared cake pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
You'll know the cakes are done when a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with only a few crumbs clinging to it.
Once the cakes have finished baking, remove them from the heat, and transfer the cakes to cool in the pans on a wire rack for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then, turn the cakes over and allow them to cool completely before icing.
While the cakes are cooling, you can prepare your chocolate buttercream frosting.
5. MAKE THE CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
Of all the things you'll make today, this chocolate buttercream is by far the easiest! For this task, you'll need a large bowl and a handheld mixer.
Add unsalted, room-temperature butter to the bowl, along with powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, vanilla, and salt. Begin mixing on low, and once the powdered sugar appears mostly incorporated, you can begin mixing on medium-high speed.
Mix for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until the icing looks light and fluffy.
Once your German chocolate frosting is chilled, your cakes have completely cooled, and your buttercream frosting is ready, it is time to decorate this cake!
If you couldn't already tell, when it comes to making a bakery-style German chocolate cake, patience is going to be a necessary factor. But, don't worry -- you'll only need a bit more!
6. LEVEL THE GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE LAYERS
Use a long, serrated knife to level out the tops of your cakes. Then, add a small dollop of the buttercream frosting to the bottom of your cake board or stand, and place one of your cake layers centered on top of it.
7. ADD CENTER COCONUT PECAN FROSTING LAYER
Once you have your first cake layer in place, add a few great, big dollops of the chilled coconut pecan frosting and spread to the edges of your cake.
You want a nice, thick layer of frosting here to get that classic German Chocolate Cake look!
8. ADD CRUMB COAT AND CHILL
Then, place your second cake layer on top, and add a thin layer of the chocolate butter cream frosting all across the top and the sides of the cake. This thin layer is called the crumb coat. The crumb coat will lock in any crumbs, and make it easier for you to spread on a thick layer of beautiful, crumbless buttercream frosting to finish off your cake!
Transfer the cake to the refrigerator and allow it to chill for 30 minutes or up to two hours. The point of the chill here is to harden that thin, crumb coat layer before adding your final layer of buttercream to the cake.
9. ADD MORE CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM ON TOP
Once your crumb coat has set, remove the cake from the refrigerator and add a thick layer of the buttercream frosting all along the sides of the cake. As you swipe, allow the icing to build upward, forming a wall around the top of the cake, about a half inch tall.
You could also form this wall by using a piping bag fitted with a large round tip, and piping on a thick border around the top of the cake.
10. TOP WITH COCONUT PECAN FROSTING
Add a couple more dollops of your German chocolate frosting on top of your cake, and spread it to the wall of chocolate buttercream frosting.
Finish off your cake with a top dressing of chocolate buttercream frosting, using an icing spatula to blend the top into the sides.
11. ICE THE TOP AND DECORATE WITH PECANS AND COCONUT
Decorate your cake with extra shredded coconut and chopped and whole pecans, if desired.
For extra gorgeous, perfect-looking slices of German Chocolate Cake, transfer your finished cake to chill in the refrigerator for an additional 2 to 3 hours.
6 MORE CAKES YOU’LL LOVE
- Moist Chocolate Cupcakes
- Praline Sheet Cake
- Chocolate Chip Cake
- Chocolate Coffee Cake
- Butter Pecan Cake
- KitKat Cake
German Chocolate Cake is one of those desserts that feels super luxurious to eat and the flavor combo is incredibly satisfying.
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 (12-ouce) can evaporated milk
- 1 ¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 4 egg yolks, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
- 1 ½ cup chopped pecans
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, whisked
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup hot coffee or water
- 2 cups room temperature, unsalted butter
- 3 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ⅓ cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Extra sweetened coconut and pecans (whole and chopped) for decorating, if desired
Add the butter, milk, and sugar to a large saucepan over medium heat and allow to melt, stirring occasionally.
Add the egg yolks to a small bowl and ladle in about 2 tablespoons of the warm stovetop mixture. Stir, and repeat once more.
Then, add the egg mixture to the saucepan and stir. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture has thickened.
Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt, followed by the coconut, and pecans.
Transfer to a bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool for about 2-3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Have ready 2 greased, 9-inch round baking pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper and set aside.
Add the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
Make a well in the center and add in the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Mix on medium speed until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated with the wet.
Add the coffee to the cake batter and mix in on medium-low. The batter will be thin.
Divide the batter amongst the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the center of the cakes spring back at your ever-so-slightly when gently poked.
Allow to cool in the pans for about 10-15 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack and allow to cool completely before icing.
For the frosting, you will need a large mixing bowl and a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter to the bowl, along with the powdered sugar, cocoa, milk, vanilla, and salt, and begin mixing on low.
Once the sugar is mostly incorporated, you can begin mixing on medium-high. Mix for 2 minutes more, until light and fluffy.
Level out any uneven cake layers using a long, serrated knife. Place one of the cake layers on a cake stand or serving dish, and top with large dollops of the chilled coconut-pecan frosting. Spread the frosting to the edges and top with the second cake layer.
Add a thin layer of chocolate buttercream frosting across the sides of the cake and across the top and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
Once the frosting has hardened, pull the cake from the refrigerator and use an icing spatula add a thick layer of icing on the sides, allowing the icing to build upward as you swipe, forming a wall about a ½" tall around the top of the cake. You can also create the wall by piping a thick border around the top.
Add more chilled coconut-pecan frosting to fill in the top of the cake and spread toward your wall of icing. Top the cake with a final spread of the remaining buttercream frosting and decorate with sweetened coconut flakes and pecans, as desired.