German Chocolate Cake

This was it. This was the one which solidified my lifelong relationship with cake. I was a very young boy, and I remember the sensation of my first bite. The frosting with its pebble-like texture beckoned my teeth into a more active role of consumption. The coconut and pecans shared the spotlight in a sweet glaze-like custard which kept me wondering if it was more of a caramel or toffee flavor. It didn’t matter for the way it played against the moist chocolate crumb of the cake captivated me.

German Chocolate Cake by Cakewalker

German chocolate cake. Just the name of it conjures up images of snow-topped castles, the Black Forest and cuckoo clocks, fräuleins hoisting steins of beer during October, and lederhosen. Speaking of lederhosen, somewhere there’s a photo of me and my younger brother wearing them―a gift from my grandparents, world travelers who brought them from Bavaria. I’m talking the full traditional garments with suspenders, and the leather cap with a feather sticking up from it. If the picture surfaces one day, perhaps I’ll share it. Maybe not. But I digress.

German Chocolate Cake from Cakewalker

So imagine the shocker to learn later in life the cake has nothing to do with the country of Germany, that it is an invention by American chocolate maker Sam German, who devised the sweet chocolate for Baker’s Chocolate Company around 1852. Details like these, while important, won’t shake me from my appreciation for this cake, and as long as I’m able to enjoy it, bite after bite, I’ll probably always bring to mind images of old world European charm.

Slice of German Chocolate Cake by Cakewalker

Once a showstopper, always a showstopper! Often times reserved for holidays and special occasions, German Chocolate Cake has a regal quality, worthy of a crown. In this presentation, I’ve added just that with chocolate adornments. At your next gathering, bring this to the table. You and your guests will be glad you did.

Recipe adapted from Leite’s Culinaria

German Chocolate Cake

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: 12 to 16 servings

Serving Size: One slice

German Chocolate Cake


    For the filling:
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup salted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans, toasted
  • For the cake:
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa, sifted
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • Optional Embellishments:
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 chocolate covered sea salt butterscotch caramels


    Make the filling:
  • Whisk the egg yolks and milk in a large saucepan until well blended. Add sugars and butter, cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens slightly, about 6 to 7 minutes. Pour mixture into a bowl, whisk in the vanilla, then stir in the coconut. DO NOT add the nuts at this point―they will be added later in the process. Cool mixture until warm. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, and up to 2 days.
  • Bake the cake:
  • Adjust oven racks to the lower-middle position. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8x2 round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray on the bottoms and sides; line with parchment paper rounds, spray the paper, then dust pans with flour tapping out any excess. Set aside.
  • Combine the chocolate and cocoa in a small, heatproof mixing bowl, pour the boiling water over. Let sit until the chocolate melts; whisk to a smooth consistency. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • In a medium bowl, sift the flour and baking soda together. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugars and salt until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl again. Return to medium speed and beat in the vanilla. Increase speed to medium high, beat for about a minute until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed to low, slowly add the chocolate mixture, then increase speed to medium, beating until well combined. The mixture may take on a broken appearance―no worries here. Scrape the bowl again. Running the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix each addition until just combined. After the final addition, stir by hand with a spatula, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of bowl to incorporate. Divide the thick batter evenly between the 3 prepared pans, use an offset spatula to spread the batter to the edges and smooth the tops level. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30-32 minutes. Cool cakes in the pans on racks about 10 minutes, run a knife around the inside edge of the pans, turn cakes out onto racks, discard the paper, and cool to room temperature. Can be done one day in advance: wrap cooled cakes well in plastic and store in the refrigerator.
  • Assemble the cake:
  • Stir the toasted nuts into the chilled frosting; mix well. Place one cake on a serving plate. Top the cake with about 3/4 cup of frosting. Use an offset spatula to spread the icing evenly to the edge. Place the second cake on top and repeat the frosting application in the same manner for this layer, and the final third layer. Use the remaining icing to frost the sides. The frosting recipe yields enough to fill and ice the entire cake, with none leftover. Use a dampened paper towel to clean off any icing drips from the edge of the platter and serve. The cake may be stored, loosely covered in tented foil, in the refrigerator, for up to 2 days. If the cake is completely chilled, allow cake to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes prior to serving.
  • Optional decoration:
  • Make chocolate ganache by placing the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Heat the cream to a slow boil and pour over the chocolate; let sit for three minutes. Gently whisk or stir the mixture to a smooth, glossy and viscous chocolate. See a video demonstration here. Cool completely to room temperature. Place 1/4 cup of the ganache in a sealable plastic bag, working the chocolate to one corner. Snip the corner of the bag to create a small opening (or place in a pastry bag fitted with small round tip). Pipe a circular grid-like design onto the center, about half the size in diameter of the cake. Return any leftover icing from the bag to the bowl. Using a hand mixer, whip the remaining ganache on high speed for several long minutes until the ganache becomes more buttercream frosting-like, holds peaks, and is lighter in color. Place the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe 8 rosettes around the outer circumference of the grid design. Place one caramel atop each rosette.


  1. Brooks, I must make this soon. It will remind me of my dear mother-in-law who was famous for making this cake. Though she preferred pie most times, she did like this one cake. Yours looks especially good to me because there is even more frosting. You always see it just between the layers, but you have covered the whole cake! Mmmm …

    • Brooks Walker says

      Jean, lovely memory of your mother-in-law. And you’re right, seeing the frosting between layers is more common than icing the entire cake. You’re sure to love this. Be well, my friend.

  2. Wow Brooks, your cakes are truly works of art. I don’t know if I would have had the heart to cut into it! It looks amazingly good!

    • Brooks Walker says

      I hear you, Sheryl. Through the years I’ve accepted tearing them down is as much a part of the process as building them up. Thanks for the lovely comment, my friend.

  3. I seriously think I waxed similarly about German Chocolate cake once; thinking it the magical cake of my grandparents homeland and then WHOA…WHAT? American? Hey, still loved it; and still my absolute favorite. This is gorgeous and the best part? Even more of that magic…ie, the frosting. I could eat it with a spoon. Wait…I have. 🙂

    • Brooks Walker says

      You’ve got me rolling, Barbara! I thought similarly—about direct frosting consumption with a spoon. Thank you for the comment.

  4. I never knew the history behind this cake! I just assumed with the name it was, well, German. 😉 But who cares? It’s really terrific no matter what its heritage. Super job with this and such nice pictures — thanks.

  5. I consider myself an expert when it comes to chocolate and chocolate cake. 🙂 Love the stuff. I can just imagine how insanely good this cake is. Beautiful!!!

  6. it looks lovely!

  7. Brooks, this is the most stunning German chocolate cake I’ve seen! And to have the filling covering the cake…sublime. And if that priceless childhood photo shows up, you must share it!

    • Brooks Walker says

      Liz, thank you so much! Enrobing the cake completely with the coconut-pecan frosting makes it quite special. For the photo, I’ll have to make a determination if it surfaces. 😉

  8. Brooks, This cake is gorgeous; just love the lattice work. Thanks for sharing and I would love to see your childhood photo in the lederhosen. Thanks for sharing and pinning this delicious cake!

    • Brooks Walker says

      Hi Joan, much obliged for the pin and kind words. Perhaps I’ll find the lederhosen photo—then we’ll see if it’s worth a thousand words! It’s always good to have you here.

  9. Oh my,
    Just arrived here from facebook because I was so curious about what the cake looked like on the inside… I must say… gorgeous!! A definitive must-do-soon 🙂
    Have a nice week!

    • Brooks Walker says

      Inês, it’s great to have you here. The cake and the frosting together is incredibly moist, making it a challenge to get a good, clean slice. But it tastes so good, it trumps a pristine-looking wedge. Thank you for visiting!

  10. I cannot resist a good German Chocolate Cake! YUM

  11. I use to LOVE German chocolate cake when I was a kid, and honestly don’t think I have had one since I lived at home. Was just thinking about this cake this morning, and wondering if my dad would like one for his birthday. Great recipe Brooks!

    • Brooks Walker says

      Thanks, Denise! The recipe is a keeper, and without the adornments, it’s just as tasty, relatively simple, and straightforward to make. Present this to your Dad—you’ll be rewarded by his smile.

  12. I’m with Liz. The photo will make a prize-winning #tbt share, Brooks! And your cake is stunning. You always add that little unexpected flair. It’s your signature. =)

    • Brooks Walker says

      It’s always a delight to have you here, Jenni. I’m much obliged for your kind words. Wenn das Foto des Jungen in Lederhosen zeigt sich, I’ll certainly consider sharing it as a #tbt!

  13. WOW what a show stopper cake! And your photos are stunning, I might add.
    Thank you for stopping by our blog – we LOVE hearing from you always! 🙂

  14. Brooks,

    I never have success making cakes from scratch do you think this can be achieved with a box cake? My cakes always come out flat and not as moist and fluffy as a box cake. Any suggestions?

    • Brooks Walker says

      Keia, Of course you can achieve the look using a box mix for the cake, then assembling and decorating accordingly. The cake mix, however, may not yield enough batter to fill three cake rounds.

      When I hear of the kind of problems you mention in regards to scratch cakes, the first things I think of in terms of troubleshooting are: the potency of the leavening agent, ingredient measurement accuracy, and correct oven temperature. Are the baking powder and baking soda fresh? Check their expiration dates. If your measurement of the dry ingredients, mainly flour is heavy handed, it can offset the leavening and liquid ingredients, which can lead to a denser, drier crumb and less rise. By the way, over mixing can lead to similar results. The old school American method of measuring, still accepted today is: fluff the flour first, spoon it into the measuring cup until it mounds over, scrape the mound off flush to the top of the measuring cup. Check your oven’s temperature accuracy by placing an independent temperature gauge in the appliance. Too hot of an oven will dry out the crumb. Too low of a temperature won’t activate the leavening properly.

      Consider making the recipe from scratch as written, if followed correctly, with accurate elements in place, the cake is incredibly moist as depicted in the photo, and in my honest opinion, the flavor from scratch is unmatched. Either way, best wishes!

  15. just made this for my husbands birthday. It is baking right now. Wish me luck.

  16. I baked this cake yesterday, it was fantastic. Wow what a cake! Well I gave it all away and every one loved it. Thank you for the recipe.

    • Brooks Walker says

      You are most welcome, Hannelore. I thank you for the kind words, and I appreciate you taking the time to let me know how the cake worked out. Happy baking!


  1. […] while I do love German Chocolate Cake; that’s a big dessert to make without a party planned (check out my friend Brooks recipe that I’m DYING to make!).  So I decided to make myself a whole bunch of these Old Fashioned Date Nut Bars that I’ve […]

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