The BEST homemade German Chocolate Cake with layers of coconut pecan frosting and chocolate frosting. This cake is incredible!
A double layer German Chocolate Cake with coconut pecan frosting, with a slice taken out of it.
I think the hundreds of reviews of this recipe speak for themselves, but let me add my own testament that this German Chocolate Cake is THE CAKE that every person in my family requested for their birthday growing up. I was super lucky, being a twin, because my mom would make both of our favorites: German chocolate cake for my sister, and carrot cake for me!

What is German Chocolate Cake?

The name German chocolate cake is a little deceiving as it is not actually a German dessert and traditionally the cake is a lighter colored cake with a mild chocolate taste and the entire cake is usually covered in coconut pecan frosting.  My family’s version is a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting covering the cake and coconut frosting on top and in the center of the cake. This cake seriously can’t be beat, especially if you’re a chocolate lover!

How to Make German Chocolate Cake:

1. Make the chocolate cake: Combine dry ingredients (sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt). Combine wet ingredients (eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla). Mix together and stir in boiling water.

2. Bake at 375°F: Pour batter into prepared 8 or 9-inch round baking pans. I like to cut a round piece of wax or parchment paper for the bottom of the pan also, to make sure the cake comes out easily.

3. Make the German Chocolate Frosting: Combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, egg yolks, and evaporated milk in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a low boil over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, nuts and coconut. Allow to cool completely before layering it on the cake.

Four process photos for making German Chocolate Frosting, in a saucepan.

4. Make chocolate frosting:  Melt butter, stir in cocoa powder, slowly add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed to thin the frosting, or a little extra powder, until you reach your desired consistency. Stir in vanilla.

5. Assemble: Place one of the cake rounds on your serving stand or plate.  Smooth a thin layer of chocolate frosting over the cake layer, and then spoon half of the coconut frosting on top, spreading it into a smooth layer. Leave about ½ inch between the filling and edge of cake.  Stack the second cake round on top. Smooth chocolate frosting over the entire cake.  Spoon remaining coconut frosting on top of the cake.

Two process photos of a round chocolate cake with german chocolate frosting being spread on top.

Pro Tips:

Use room temperature ingredients. Run hot water over the eggs to bring them to room temperature. Stick the buttermilk in the microwave for just a few seconds. It really makes a difference!

Decorating cake is easy! I used a wilton 2D tip for the swirls on top of this cake, but I also love the Wilton 1M tip. I use both tips with an Ateco flex 14” reusable piping bag. Those three items right there are my favorites for cake and cupcake decorating.

A full frosted and decorated German Chocolate served on a white cake stand.

Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead: Both frostings (coconut and chocolate) can be made ahead and placed in a covered container in the fridge. The coconut frosting will keep for 1-2 weeks, depending on the freshness of the ingredients used. The chocolate frosting will keep for 2-3 weeks. Remove frostings from the fridge an hour before you’re ready to frost the cake, to give them time to come to room temperature.

To Freeze: After baking the cake layers, allow them to cool completely, then wrap them well in plastic wrap and stick each layer in a ziplock freezer bag. Freeze for up to three months. Frost the cakes when they are frozen–they are much easier to frost this way! The assembled German Chocolate Cake can also be frozen, covered well, for 2-3 months (I recommend slicing the cake and wrapping each slice really well in plastic wrap, then placing in a freezer-safe container, for best results). Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

A slice of German Chocolate Cake served on a plate, with two layers of chocolate cake, and German chocolate frosting.

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Recipe

A double layer German Chocolate Cake with coconut pecan frosting, with a slice taken out of it.
Prep 30 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr 15 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Video

Ingredients
  

For the Chocolate Cake:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup oil (vegetable or canola oil)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

For the Coconut Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

For the Chocolate Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • Heat oven to 375°F. Grease two 8 or 9-inch round baking pans. I like to cut a round piece of wax or parchment paper for the bottom of the pan also, to make sure the cake comes out easily.

For the Cake:

  • Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. In a separate bowl combine the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Stir in boiling water (batter will be very thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake for 25 - 35 minutes (depending on your cake pan size. The 9'' pan takes less time to bake) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or with few crumbs. Cool 5 minutes in the pan and then invert onto wire racks to cool completely.

For the German Chocolate Frosting:

  • In a medium saucepan add brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, egg yolks, and evaporated milk. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a low boil over medium heat. Stir constantly for several minutes until the mixture begins to thicken. 
  • Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, nuts and coconut. Allow to cool completely before layering it on the cake.

For the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

  • Melt butter. Stir in cocoa powder. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed to thin the frosting, or a little extra powder, until you reach your desired consistency. Stir in vanilla.

Cake Assembly:

  • Place one of the cake rounds on your serving stand or plate. 
  • Smooth a thin layer of chocolate frosting over the cake layer, and then spoon half of the coconut frosting on top, spreading it into a smooth layer. Leave about ½ inch between the filling and edge of cake. 
  • Stack the second cake round on top. Smooth chocolate frosting over the entire cake.
  • Spoon remaining coconut frosting on top of the cake. 

Notes

*If baking at high altitude add 3 tablespoons extra flour.
Make Ahead Instructions: Both frostings (coconut and chocolate) can be made ahead and placed in a covered container in the fridge. The coconut frosting will keep for 1-2 weeks, depending on the freshness of the ingredients used. The chocolate frosting will keep for 2-3 weeks. Remove frostings from the fridge an hour before you're ready to frost the cake, to give them time to come to room temperature.
Freezing Instructions: After baking the cake layers, allow them to cool completely, then wrap them well in plastic wrap and stick each layer in a ziplock freezer bag. Freeze for up to three months. Frost the cakes when they are frozen--they are much easier to frost this way! The assembled German Chocolate Cake can also be frozen, covered well, for 2-3 months (I recommend slicing the cake and wrapping each slice really well in plastic wrap, then placing in a freezer-safe container, for best results). Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 591kcalCarbohydrates: 77gProtein: 5gFat: 31gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 100mgSodium: 440mgPotassium: 313mgFiber: 3gSugar: 69gVitamin A: 535IUVitamin C: 0.4mgCalcium: 118mgIron: 1.9mg

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I originally shared this recipe May 2017. Updated February 2021.

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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  1. 5 stars
    I made this today for my sons birthday. I got rave reviews from family and friends. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. 5 stars
    Wonderful recipe, I am curious who has the kind of willpower to keep this frosting in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. I have never met such a person and I have been making this kind of cake every year for my dad’s birthday for 30 years.

  3. This is the best cake EVER! I have made it several times and each and every time I get nothing but rave reviews! Everyone LOVES this cake saying it’s the best German chocolate cake they’ve ever had!

  4. 5 stars
    My husband asked for a German chocolate cake for his birthday this year. I had never made one before and tried this recipe. It is INCREDIBLE! Thank you very much for sharing! It’s definitely a keeper!

  5. 5 stars
    I made this recipe for my Father-in-law for his 79th birthday. It was superb! Honestly the best German Chocolate Cake I have ever had, everyone loved it.

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