With a gooey pecan and coconut filling between layers of moist chocolate cake, all topped with rich chocolate buttercream, this decadent German Chocolate Cake recipe is a chocolate lover’s dream.
Decadent German Chocolate Cake Recipe
German chocolate cake is a classic recipe that’s sure to please any chocolate craving AND impress your guests!
This cake features two moist chocolate cakes layered with a gooey pecan and coconut filling, all coated in a thick layer of buttercream. And though the end result is very impressive (and tasty!), the process of making this German chocolate cake is quite easy!
One thing to be aware of is that the cake layers do need to cool completely before assembling the cake and the filling needs to cool, so while this cake is easy and straightforward to make, you will want to plan in plenty of cooling time.
Why You’ll Love This Chocolate Layer Cake
This German chocolate cake recipe is one of the most requested chocolate cakes in our house. Here’s why.
- Rich chocolate flavor. Espresso enhances the chocolate flavor in the cake, while the buttercream is made with a generous amount of cocoa powder, ensuring each bite of this cake is filled with rich chocolate flavor.
- Moist and decadent. The chocolate cakes themselves are super moist, thanks to the oil, and the pecan coconut filling and buttercream turn this from a basic cake into a showstopper.
- Impressive yet easy. It takes just a few minutes to assemble and decorate this German chocolate cake but the final result looks like something straight from a bakery.
What is German Chocolate Cake?
German chocolate cake is a chocolate layer cake made with a gooey pecan and coconut filling and rich chocolate buttercream.
And, despite the name, it’s not actually a German dessert – the cake is said to have been created by a Texan baker in 1957. It was so good that the recipe soon spread throughout the entire US and became a household chocolate cake recipe.
Don’t be alarmed by the long ingredient list – many ingredients repeat in each part of the recipe and nearly all of them are pantry staples! See the recipe card below for measurements.
- Granulated sugar
- Unsweetened cocoa powder – Be sure to use unsweetened cocoa powder, not sweetened.
- Baking powder & baking soda – Leavening agents to help the cake rise.
- Salt – Balances the sweetness.
- Espresso powder – Enhances the chocolate flavor. (Don’t worry, it won’t make your cake taste like coffee!)
- Vanilla extract
- Milk – 2% or whole milk is ideal.
- Eggs – Help to stabilize the batter.
- Vegetable oil – Helps keep the cake extra moist.
- Boiling water – Be sure it’s boiling!
Coconut Pecan Filling:
- Evaporated milk – The base of our filling.
- Granulated sugar – Sweetens the filling.
- Egg yolks – Slightly beaten.
- Salted butter – Using salted butter adds extra flavor. If you use unsalted butter, add a dash of salt.
- Vanilla extract
- Pecan pieces & shredded coconut – Classic German chocolate cake filling ingredients for texture and flavor.
- Salted butter – You want to use butter that’s at room temperature but not melted, to achieve the best frosting consistency.
- Powdered sugar – Sweetens the frosting.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder – Adds the chocolate flavor to the frosting.
- Vanilla extract
- Heavy cream – Stabilizes the frosting.
How to Make German Chocolate Cake
Here’s an overview of how to make German chocolate cake. See the recipe card below for more detailed instructions.
- Prepare the pans. Generously grease each cake pan with vegetable shortening then dust with flour.
- Make the cake batter. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add in the vanilla, eggs, milk, and oil then mix for a minute. Slowly mix in the boiling water until fully incorporated then increase the speed to high for a minute.
- Bake. Divide the batter between the two pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pans for about 10 minutes then flip onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make the filling. Cook the evaporated milk, sugar, yolks, and butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the vanilla then fold in the pecans and coconut. Refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours, until the coconut pecan frosting is thickened.
- Make the frosting. Cream the butter with the paddle attachment then mix in half of the powdered sugar. Once combined, mix in the remaining powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add in the vanilla and heavy whipping cream on low. Once combined, beat for 1-2 minutes until the frosting is lighter in color and fluffy.
- Assemble. Place one of the cooled cakes on the serving tray. Spread half of the filling evenly over the top then add the second cake. Cover the outside of the cake with the chocolate frosting, reserving about a cup for the topping.
- Decorate. Pipe the reserved frosting around the top of the cat with a star attachment. Add the remaining filling in the center of the piped border.
- Chill. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Tips for Success
Here are a few tips to help as you make this German chocolate layer cake.
- The cake layers are easier to handle when they are chilled. I recommend making the cake layers a day before you plan on assembling. Once completely cooled, wrap each layer in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble.
- Prepare the filling in advance. You can also prepare the filling a day ahead of assembly to allow it to thicken up and become easier to work with.
- Chill before slicing. Once you assemble the cake, it does need to chill for at least 2 hours before serving, so that the filling and icing have time to set. Otherwise, they’ll spill everywhere when you slice the cake.
Store your layered German chocolate cake in the fridge for up to 4 days. Keep it covered to prevent the frosting from drying out.
While you can freeze the cake layers themselves, I do not recommend freezing the assembled cake.
More Chocolate Cake Recipes
- Mint Chocolate Cake
- Triple Chocolate Cake
- Sour Cream Chocolate Cake
- Chocolate Dump Cake
- Chocolate Poke Cake
German Chocolate Cake
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and grease 2- 10” cake pans by rubbing generously with vegetable shortening and then dusting with flour. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with a whisk attachment, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and espresso powder. Whisk to combine.
- Next add the vanilla, eggs, milk, and vegetable oil and mix for about 1 minute.
- Last, add the boiling water and mix slowly until fully incorporated. Increase speed to high for about 1 minute.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two baking pans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Allow the cakes to cool about 10 minutes in the pan, and then flip onto a wire rack to cool completely before assembling.
- Combine the evaporated milk, sugar, egg yolks, and butter in a saucepan.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Whisk in the vanilla extract.
- Fold in the pecans and shredded coconut until evenly distributed.
- Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight until thickened.
- In a stand mixer, cream the butter with a paddle attachment.
- Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add half of the powdered sugar and mix until well combined.
- Add the remaining half of the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder. Mix until well combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix additionally if necessary.
- Add the vanilla and heavy whipping cream. Mix on low until combined.
- Beat on medium-high speed for 1-2 minutes until the frosting is lighter in color and fluffy.
- Take one layer of cooled cake and place top side down on a serving tray. Top with about half of the filling and use an offset spatula to smooth evenly.
- Add the second layer of cake. Cover the outside of the cake with the chocolate frosting. Smooth with an offset spatula. Reserve about 1 cup of frosting for the topping.
- Add the reserved frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star attachment. Pipe a border around the top of the cake.
- Add the remaining filling into the center of the piped border and smooth.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Bring to room temperature before serving.