How to Make German Chocolate Cake: Simple Guide for Delicious Results

Dive into the sweet world of baking by learning how to create a delectable German Chocolate Cake, characterized by its rich layers and coconut-pecan frosting.

German chocolate cake, with its rich layers, coconut-pecan frosting, and deep chocolate flavor, is a beloved classic.

This article will guide you through every step of crafting this decadent dessert from scratch.

We’ll cover the ingredients, the baking process, and even how to make the frosting.

By the end of this read, you’ll have all the information you need to create a German chocolate cake that’s sure to impress.

So, whether you’re a seasoned baker or a beginner, this comprehensive guide will help you achieve a perfect German chocolate cake.

Key takeaways:

  • German Chocolate Cake is a beloved classic dessert.
  • Key ingredients include cocoa powder, butter, eggs, and coconut.
  • Use round cake pans, a stand mixer, and accurate measuring tools.
  • The cake features layers of chocolate cake and a coconut-pecan filling.
  • Serve the cake at room temperature for the best flavor.


Ingredients for German Chocolate Cake

how to make german chocolate cake

For the cake, gather unsweetened cocoa powder, granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Also, keep ready a combination of unsalted butter, large eggs, sour cream, and pure vanilla extract.

For the authentic German chocolate cake’s signature coconut-pecan filling and topping, gather granulated sugar, egg yolks, unsalted butter, evaporated milk, pure vanilla extract, sweetened shredded coconut, and chopped pecans. Though optional, Semi-sweet chocolate will add richness to the cake, making it more indulgent.

Ensure all the ingredients are fresh and of high quality, as this directly influences the taste and texture. It’s also crucial to let the butter, eggs, and sour cream reach room temperature before beginning the preparation process. The ingredients should be precise in their quantity to maintain the balance of flavors and to achieve the perfect texture.

Equipment Needed for German Chocolate Cake

Starting with the right equipment ensures smooth preparation and execution of the recipe. Secure a set of round cake pans; using three 9-inch pans typically yields the best results. Non-stick spray or butter and flour are essential to prevent the cake from sticking to the pans.

A stand mixer or hand mixer will streamline the process of combining ingredients. Favor a stand mixer for convenience and consistent batter mixing.

Accurate measuring is pivotal in baking. Having measuring cups and spoons at hand helps keep ingredient quantities precise.

Invest in a good quality oven thermometer. Oven temperatures can vary, and it helps to confirm the accuracy to avoid under or over-baking the cake.

A cooling rack is useful for allowing the cake layers to cool evenly, to eliminate any potential sogginess in the cake.

Lastly, a sharp knife would be beneficial for slicing the cake cleanly once it is fully made and cooled.

Description of German Chocolate Cake

A German Chocolate Cake is a rich, moist cake that heroes the marriage between chocolate and a unique coconut-pecan frosting. Its inherent sweetness is attributed to the decadent frosting, while the cake itself carries a more subtle and balanced chocolate flavor – this contrast is what makes it deliciously unforgettable.

The key features of a German Chocolate Cake are:

  • The base: Two or three layers of chocolate cake, made with German’s Sweet Chocolate. This provides a mild, sweet chocolate taste compared to the bitter undertones of dark chocolate cakes.
  • The filling: A sugary concoction of evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract, butter, toasted pecans, and sweetened shredded coconut. This gives the cake its distinctive sweetness and characteristic texture.
  • The frosting: The same thick, caramel-like substance used for the filling also serves as the frosting, enveloping the layers with a rich, creamy shell.

The recipe can also be modified to have more chocolate flavor by adding semi-sweet chocolate chips or using chocolate ganache as an additional layer.

Instructions for Making German Chocolate Cake

Begin by melting the German sweet chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat, and stir until smooth. While the chocolate cools, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.

In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, around three to four minutes.

Next, incorporate egg yolks into the butter-sugar mixture, one at a time. Once well-blended, stir in the melted chocolate and vanilla extract.

Gradually alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry mix.

Beat egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into the batter. Pour the mixture into three greased and flour-dusted cake pans. Bake in a preheated oven at 350-degrees (Fahrenheit) for about 30 minutes till a toothpick comes out clean.

Meanwhile, prepare the coconut-pecan filling. In a saucepan, combine evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter, and vanilla extract. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until thickened. Stir in the coconut and pecans, then allow the mixture to cool before spreading between the cooled cake layers.

Remember that timing is crucial, as overbaking will lead to a dry cake. The filling and topping need to be rich and moist, with crunchy pecan texture providing an excellent contrast to the soft cake layers.

Last but not least, keep cakes refrigerated after topping to allow flavors to meld together, and to preserve cake’s freshness. Patience is necessary during this stage, but the result is beyond rewarding.

Steps to Make German Chocolate Cake

Begin by preheating your oven to 350°F (175°C) and greasing three 9-inch cake pans. Set them aside. Proceed with melting four ounces of German’s sweet chocolate in half a cup hot, boiling water. Keep stirring until the chocolate has entirely melted and then let it cool.

In a large bowl, sift together two cups of flour, one teaspoon of baking soda, and a quarter teaspoon of salt and set it aside. In a separate bowl, cream together one cup of unsalted butter and two cups of sugar until it’s light and fluffy. To this concoction, add four egg yolks, one at a time, ensuring each yolk is well incorporated before adding the next.

Stir the melted chocolate into the butter-egg yolk mixture, followed by one teaspoon of vanilla. Gradually add the sifted ingredients, alternating with one cup of buttermilk, to the chocolate-butter mixture. Stir this concoction until it’s just combined.

In a different bowl, beat the four egg whites till they form stiff peaks. Carefully fold these egg whites into the batter. Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for about 15 minutes before transferring them onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the coconut-pecan filling and topping. Combine one cup of evaporated milk, one cup of sugar, three egg yolks, half a cup of unsalted butter, and one teaspoon of vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir this mixture for about 12 minutes, or until it thickens. Remove it from the heat, and stir in one and a half cups of shredded coconut and one cup of chopped pecans. Let it cool before you spread it on the cakes.

To assemble the German Chocolate Cake, place one layer of cake onto a serving platter. Spread a third of the coconut-pecan filling onto the cake. Repeat this step with the second layer, followed by the final layer, finishing up with the rest of the filling on top. Ensure the sides of the cake are bare, as is traditional with a German Chocolate Cake. Your cake is now ready to be served and enjoyed.

German Chocolate Cake: Coconut-Pecan Filling and Topping

Creating the signature coconut-pecan filling and topping is an essential part of making a German Chocolate Cake. Start by combining evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, and butter in a saucepan. It’s important to stir this mixture constantly while cooking over medium heat until it reaches a thick consistency.

Next, remove the mixture from the heat. Stir in vanilla extract, chopped pecans, and shredded coconut. The critical note here is the pecans and coconut give this cake its uniquely delightful taste and texture.

For a smoother texture, you can choose to toast the pecans before adding them into the mix. However, it’s entirely up to the baker’s preference. Lastly, allow the filling and topping to cool before spreading it onto the cake layers. This cooling step ensures the frosting sets properly and doesn’t make the cake layers slide.

Remember, half of this filling and topping will be spread between the cake layers, with the rest slathered on top, offering a delightful crunch with each bite. With these steps, the rich, gooey coconut-pecan filling and topping for the German Chocolate Cake can be prepared.

Pro Tips for Making German Chocolate Cake

Ensure ingredients are at room temperature. This ensures even mixing and better temperature control during baking.

Use high-quality dark chocolate. Chocolate is the star of this cake, and using a superior product produces better flavor.

Avoid over-mixing the batter. This can result in a tougher cake. To keep it tender and moist, mix just until combined.

Use freshly shredded coconut for the Coconut-Pecan Filling and Topping. The texture and flavor are far superior to pre-packaged versions.

Bake the cake layers evenly. To ensure even baking, consider using bake even strips or rotating the cake pans halfway through.

Test cake doneness with a skewer. Insert it into the center of the cake – if it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, the cake is ready.

Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. This prevents the icing from melting and helps it spread smoothly.

Store correctly. If not serving immediately, store the cake in an airtight container to maintain its moisture.

Notes On German Chocolate Cake Preparation

Pay special attention to the baking time. Overcooked German Chocolate Cake can become dry, whereas undercooked might be too moist. Bake it until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Begin making the coconut-pecan filling when the cake layers are cooling. This ensures that the filling is ready to spread once the cake has completely cooled.

Make sure to spread the coconut-pecan filling to the edges of each layer, giving the cake a rich, even flavor in every bite.

Using the right pan is important. For this German Chocolate Cake, a couple of 9-inch round cake pans will give the best results.

Remember to grease your pans before adding the batter. This prevents the baked cake from sticking.

Don’t rush the process. Allow each layer ample time to cool before adding the filling to prevent it from melting and running.

When it comes to the chocolate, go for the highest-quality you can find. The chocolate is a main component of this cake, and using a quality product will truly make a difference with its flavor.

The cake layers can be made up to two days in advance. Store them wrapped in plastic to keep them from drying out before assembly.

Chefs often rotate the pans during baking for a more evenly browned, level cake.

Upgraded German Chocolate Cake Recipe

Push the flavor boundary of your traditional German Chocolate Cake by integrating slight twists into your recipe.

Substitute all-purpose flour with cake flour for a lighter and more delicate crumb.

Introduce espresso powder to the chocolate batter. The espresso deepens the taste of the chocolate without overwhelming it with coffee flavor.

Replace granulated with brown sugar in the cake. The molasses in brown sugar keeps the cake moist and adds to the richness.

Embrace a more sophisticated hit of chocolate by using a high-quality, dark chocolate with 60-70% cacao rather than standard baking chocolate.

In the coconut-pecan frosting, consider adding a splash of dark rum or bourbon for extra depth.

Feel free to tweak the ratio of coconut to pecan in the frosting to suit your preference. Some may prefer a higher proportion of crispy pecans to chewy coconut.

This enhancement doesn’t alter the classic German Chocolate Cake you know and love, just enriches and deepens the flavors. The result is a cake that is familiar but somehow more enticing.

Remember, each of the modifications is optional, allowing you to make the recipe your own. As with any recipe, it’s all about personal preference, and the beauty of baking at home is the freedom to make these decisions.

Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions for German Chocolate Cake

To prepare your cake ahead of time allows for convenience and potentially even enhances the flavor.

The cake layers can be baked one or two days before assembly. Store them at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap to retain their moisture.

Coconut-Pecan frosting can likewise be made in advance, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It can be kept there for a week prior to using. Remember to bring it to room temperature and stir well before frost the cake.

The finished cake can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days. It is advisable to serve the cake at room temperature, so let it sit on the counter for a few hours before serving.

If you want to freeze the prepared cake, do this before adding the frosting. Wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap, followed by foil. This can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then let them come to room temperature before frosting and serving.

Lastly, freezing the completed cake is also an option. Chill the frosted cake in the fridge, carefully wrap it in plastic wrap and then in foil. It can stay for up to three months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge and let it come to room temperature before serving.

These steps ensure optimal preservation of taste and texture when planning to prepare your German Chocolate Cake ahead of time or for freezing.

For a unique twist on the classic, consider these innovative variations:

  • German Chocolate Cheesecake: This irresistible blend maintains the traditional coconut-pecan frosting but introduces a cheesecake layer for a creamy texture.
  • Vegan German Chocolate Cake: Substituting regular ingredients with vegan-friendly alternatives like almond milk and flaxseeds ensures everyone can enjoy this dessert.
  • German Chocolate Bundt Cake: This version turns the traditional round cake into a ring shape, perfect for parties and easy slicing.
  • German Chocolate Pound Cake: Combining the dense texture of a pound cake with the flavors of a German chocolate cake results in a dessert that is truly rich and satisfying.
  • German Chocolate Upside Down Cake: Here, the coconut-pecan frosting is placed at the base of the baking pan, resulting in a caramelized topping once the cake is inverted.

Each variation offers a fresh take, pushing the boundaries of the classic German Chocolate Cake while keeping its recognizable flavors and textures intact. Experiment with these versions, personalizing them to your taste.

Try These Next: Suggested German Chocolate Cake Variations

For chocolate lovers desiring a twist on the traditional, there’s no shortage of delicious variations to try with your German Chocolate Cake.

Swap out the classic pecan filling for an almond-praline rendition. This creates a different texture and taste that complements the chocolate perfectly.

Experimenting with different varieties of chocolate can also add layers of new flavors. Darker chocolate varieties introduce a rich depth, while white chocolate can create a sweeter cake.

Incorporate fruit layers into the cake. Raspberry or cherry layers break up the richness and provide a tangy contrast—perfect for those who prefer a less sweet cake.

Flavored buttercreams, such as espresso or caramel, are another delightful way to play with the original recipe, introducing new flavor profiles that either amplify the chocolate richness or lend a surprising twist.

Try a topping variation by adding a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This lightly sweet and creamy addition can balance the dense cake and rich filling, especially when served warm.

Remember the importance of quality ingredients in these variations. The better the ingredients, the better the flavor of your cake will ultimately be.

More About This Recipe: Background and History of German Chocolate Cake

The origin of the German Chocolate Cake takes us back to mid-19th century America, when an English-American chocolate maker named Samuel German developed a sweeter, darker baking chocolate for his employer, Baker’s Chocolate Company. He patented his creation in 1852, and it was sold as ‘Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate‘.

However, the cake we know today didn’t gain popularity until the 1950s. Out of Texas, a recipe using German’s sweet chocolate appeared in a local newspaper, touted for its exceptional flavor profile. This recipe, called “German’s Chocolate Cake,” caught the eye of the American public and sales of Baker’s Chocolate soared. Over time, the possessive was lost, and the delicious dessert simply became known as “German Chocolate Cake“.

Contrary to popular belief, the name doesn’t refer to the country Germany, but to Samuel German himself. The classic German Chocolate Cake is characterized by its layered structure where intense chocolate cake is alternated with a unique coconut-pecan frosting.

  • English-American chocolate maker Samuel German invented a darker, sweeter baking chocolate.
  • The chocolate was named ‘Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate‘, after the innovator.
  • A recipe for ‘German’s Chocolate Cake‘ boosted popularity of the chocolate in the mid-1950s.
  • Over time, the phrase evolved to ‘German Chocolate Cake‘, causing a common misconception about its origin.
  • The cake stands out for its unique layering with a coconut-pecan frosting.

Nutritional Information of German Chocolate Cake

Though the German Chocolate Cake’s primary lure is its rich flavor – the perfect blend of chocolate, coconut, and pecans – this dessert has its own nutritional merits to consider.

This delicious cake is packed with essential nutrients. One standard slice offers dietary fiber and protein, predominantly from the pecans used in the cake’s traditional topping. Pecans are a great source of monounsaturated fats, known to be heart-healthy, and contain essential minerals like magnesium, manganese, and zinc.

Chocolate, the cake’s critical ingredient, provides antioxidants, notably flavonoids, which have been linked to heart health benefits. The coconut contributes dietary fiber and minerals such as manganese, which is important for bone health and metabolism.

Despite these nutrients, moderation is key due to the cake’s high sugar and fat content. Remember, its dense nature makes for a higher caloric count than other desserts – a slice can average around 500 calories. Hence, it’s best to savor German Chocolate Cake as an occasional treat rather than an everyday indulgence.

Alternative ingredients, like using dark chocolate or reducing sugar, can help create a healthier variation of this classic dessert. Consulting with a nutritionist or dietitian can provide personalized advice tailored to one’s dietary needs and concerns.

To prepare a German Chocolate Cake, the following kitchen tools will aid in creating a seamless baking experience. A set of mixing bowls will be needed to combine different ingredients separately. A whisk or an electric mixer will be required to blend the wet and dry components into a smooth cake batter. Additionally, a rubber spatula can scrape down the sides of the mixing bowls to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

A set of measuring cups and spoons enhances precision in ingredient portions. Accurate measurement is key in baking, as it maintains the chemical balances that contribute to the texture and taste of the cake.

A double boiler set up will be instrumental in melting chocolate gently and evenly, avoiding any burnt or grainy textures. Alternatively, a microwave-safe bowl can also serve this function.

A round cake pan, typically 9-inch in size, is central to achieving the cake’s desired shape. Consider a light-colored or glass pan, which conduct heat more evenly than their dark-colored counterparts. Using a non-stick baking spray or parchment paper in the pan will prevent the cake from sticking.

Lastly, a wire cooling rack is useful for allowing the cake to cool evenly after baking, ensuring that it maintains its shape and doesn’t become overly moist from condensation. This also makes it easier to apply the coconut-pecan filling and topping.

These tools not only facilitate the baking process but can heighten the quality of your German Chocolate Cake, translating preparation into enjoyment. Equip your kitchen with these essentials for a successful baking adventure.

Identifying Quality Ingredients for German Chocolate Cake

When selecting the ingredients for your German Chocolate Cake, ensuring quality is crucial for a delightful outcome.

For the cake, find a reputable local or gourmet supermarket for a good quality, German sweet chocolate bar. The richness of this chocolate significantly contributes to the distinctive taste of the cake.

All-purpose flour is recommended due to its medium protein content, which gives the cake its delicate crumb structure. A high-quality, unsalted butter sourced from grass-fed cows is suggested for a creamier, nuttier taste.

For the sugar, opt for pure, organic cane sugar. It will make a difference in the cake’s texture and will enhance the overall sweetness. As for the eggs, choose the freshest ones from free-range, organic chickens.

When it comes to the filling and topping, it’s the coconut-pecan frosting that provides the hallmark flavor. Buy mature, organic coconuts and freshly harvested pecans. You’ll notice a difference in taste and texture.

Opt for high-quality, full-fat evaporated milk to make the frosting. It’ll add richness to your cake. Given the critical role of sugar in the frosting, cane sugar is again recommended for a velvety smooth texture.

Unsalted butter, pure vanilla extract, and a small pinch of kosher salt are also essential for the frosting. You’ll want butter from grass-fed cows and pure, high-quality vanilla extract. The salt balances the sweetness and enhances the cake’s flavor.

By stringently selecting these materials, your German Chocolate Cake will not just be a confectionery delight, but rather a meaningful indulgence.

Understanding the Role of Each Ingredient in German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake is best known for its rich and moist characteristics, achieved by a combination of ingredients playing specific roles:

Sweet baking chocolate: It is the soul of this cake — it provides the authentic and distinct flavor. The critical role of this ingredient is to give the cake its name and its deliciously unique chocolate taste.

Granulated sugar and brown sugar: These two types of sugar add sweetness to the cake. Brown sugar also contributes to the moistness of the cake because it contains molasses.

Eggs: They act as binding agents that hold the cake together. They help to give the cake structure and they add moisture.

All-purpose flour: It provides the structure for the cake. In combination with the leavening agents, it impacts the texture and heaviness of the cake.

Leavening agents (baking soda and baking powder): Crucial for the cake’s rise, they react with the acidic ingredients (like the German chocolate) to create gas bubbles, causing the batter to inflate.

Butter: It adds moisture, flavor, and richness to the cake. It also helps in the leavening process, by creating steam pockets in the batter when it’s heated.

Evaporated milk: Used in the coconut-pecan filling, it amplifies the richness and creaminess.

Pecans and coconut: These two ingredients make the signature frosting. The pecans add a crunch and contrast of texture, while the shredded coconut adds to the tropical flavor profile.

Finally, Vanilla extract enhances all the flavors in the cake, making it more robust and dynamic.


What makes German chocolate cake different?

The German Chocolate Cake stands out due to its distinctive filling, which is a luscious, sweet custard populated with coconut flakes and chopped pecans.

What is the difference between German chocolate and milk chocolate cake?

German chocolate cake is typically a lighter-colored cake with a mild chocolate flavor, while milk chocolate cake is flavored with milk chocolate and is often darker and richer.

What is German chocolate cake icing made of?

German chocolate cake icing is made of brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, egg yolks, evaporated milk, vanilla, nuts, and coconut.

Is German chocolate cake just a chocolate cake?

No, German chocolate cake is not just a chocolate cake; it is a layered cake made with sweet baking chocolate, buttermilk, and uniquely filled and topped with a pecan, coconut, and evaporated milk frosting.

How does the baking process contribute to the unique flavor of German chocolate cake?

The baking process contributes to the unique flavor of German chocolate cake by allowing the combination of sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and butter in the frosting to caramelize, resulting in a rich, toasted, coconut-pecan taste.

Are there any special techniques involved in creating the distinctive consistency of German chocolate cake?

Yes, the distinct consistency of a German chocolate cake is achieved by boiling evaporated milk with sugar and egg yolks, resulting in a thick custard that is mixed with coconut and pecans to create the unique layered filling and topping.

What other desserts can be made using the same ingredients as German chocolate cake?

Other desserts that can be made using the same ingredients as German chocolate cake include chocolate truffles, chocolate mousse, brownies, coconut bars, and pecan pie.