German Chocolate Cake

Recipe By Tessa Arias
August 27th, 2019
5 from 11 votes
5 from 11 votes

This easy German Chocolate Cake recipe features a tender cocoa cake layered with a thick and fudgy coconut and pecan frosting and can be made in just over an hour! No mixer required.

Yield: 12 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Love the combo of coconut, chocolate, and pecans!
Texture: The cake is moist and tender and the frosting is rich, thick, which the perfect amount of crunch.
Ease: Super quick and easy layer cake.
Pros: Simple and satisfying!
Cons: None.
Would I make this again? Yes.

Coconut is a divisive food. Some people love it, some people hate it.

If you love it, then you probably love it with chocolate. The pair just belong together!

Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting on a plate

What I love most about this German Cake recipe is how simple and easy it is. You don’t even need a stand mixer. It takes just over an hour from start to finish. There’s no difficult buttercream making, assembly, or decorating.

German chocolate cake with a slice taken out

Make it for your next birthday, potluck, or for anyone who loves German Chocolate!

How to Make German Chocolate Cake

German chocolate cake batter

How to Make a MOIST Chocolate Cake

There are two keys to a moist chocolate cake. First, be sure to follow the recipe as written. There are ingredients, like buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg yolk, and brown sugar that contribute to a moist and tender texture.

Second, be sure to measure your flour and cocoa powder correctly. The best way is to weigh it, the second best way is the spoon and level method. It’s super easy to accidentally add way too much flour and cocoa powder which will create a dry and / or dense cake. Check out my article on How to Measure Flour here.

Lastly, don’t over-bake the cake. Start checking for doneness with a toothpick at 30 minutes, especially if your oven tends to run hot.

Avoid using dark colored cake pans which will dry out the edges of the cake and cook faster. If that’s all you have, shave a few minutes off the baking time.

Do I have to use the espresso powder in this chocolate cake recipe?

No! Feel free to omit it. The espresso powder simply enhances the chocolate flavor and you can’t actually taste it. You can also use 1 cup of strongly brewed coffee in place of the espresso + hot water. Whichever is easier in your kitchen!

Why use vegetable oil instead of butter in chocolate cake?

Although I prefer the flavor of butter over vegetable oil, the oil helps create the feeling of moisture on the palate in this recipe. Just be sure to use fresh oil. Give it a sniff before using to make sure it doesn’t have an off smell (which would signal it’s oxidized). You can also use coconut oil if you prefer!

How to Make German Chocolate Frosting

Spreading coconut-pecan icing on German Chocolate Cake

Arguably the most important part of a German chocolate cake is that coconut-pecan frosting! You’ll see I actually forgo buttercream in place of the German chocolate frosting in this recipe. I found it was rich and sweet enough that buttercream was unnecessary. This saves time (and calories ha) and means you don’t need an electric mixer for any part of this recipe!

Start by melting the butter in a heavy duty saucepan. Add the milk, cornstarch, and sugar, whisking to combine. Whisk in the egg yolks. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture has thickened and comes to a boil, about 10 to 12 minutes total. It will continue to thicken as it cools, but don’t pull it off the heat until it’s about the thickness of slightly runny pudding.

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, salt, coconut, and pecans. Let cool until spreadable, about 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the warmth of your kitchen. You can also refrigerate the frosting to firm up even more if you need to. I don’t like mine to be too thick .

Can this recipe be made into cupcakes?

Almost any cake recipe can be made into cupcakes. Check out my full guide on how to convert cake to cupcakes (and vice versa!).

Can German Chocolate Cake be Frozen?

Yes! Wrap unfrosted un-cut cooled cake layers completely in several layers of plastic wrap. Place inside a freezer bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge (do not defrost at room temperature or you will end up with mushy cake).

The frosting cannot be frozen because of the eggs inside. However, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 1 day before assembling the cake. Allow to warm up slightly at room temperature if needed to make it more spreadable.

More Chocolate Cake Recipes

Slice of simple German Chocolate Cake on a plate with a fork

5 from 11 votes

How to make
German Chocolate Cake Recipe

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
This easy German Chocolate Cake recipe features a tender cocoa cake layered with a thick and fudgy coconut and pecan frosting and can be made in just over an hour! No mixer required.


For the cake:

  • 8 ounces (227 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup (57 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder*
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 3/4 (222 grams) cups all-purpose flour, measured correctly
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (227 grams) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or coconut oil
  • 4 large eggs plus one egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 cups (120 grams) shredded sweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) chopped pecans


Make the cake:

  1. In a medium heatproof bowl add the chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso powder. Pour hot water over mixture. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk mixture gently until smooth then set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment rounds. Butter and flour the pans generously.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, salt, and baking soda.
  4. Whisk the buttermilk, oil, eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until smooth, being careful not to overmix.
  5. Pour the batter evenly between the prepared pans and tap against the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting:

  1. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat melt the butter. Add the milk, cornstarch, and sugar, whisking to combine. Whisk in the egg yolks. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture has thickened and comes to a boil, about 10 to 12 minutes total. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, salt, coconut, and pecans. Let cool until spreadable, about 30 minutes to 1 hour. You can also refrigerate the frosting to firm up even more.
  2. Place one cake layer, flat side up and spread 1/2 of the filling evenly over, pushing just to the edge. Add the top layer, rounded side up, and spread with the remaining filling. Serve or store in the fridge. Let come to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Notes

*Note: If you don’t have espresso powder, you can use 1 cup hot coffee in place of the powder + boiling water. This recipe uses vegetable oil, make sure it’s fresh and doesn’t have an off smell before using.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, german
Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

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Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Elissa — January 27, 2021 at 8:41 am

    This cake is incredible! I usually just like German chocolate cake for the frosting, but no this one! The chocolate cake is so moist and chocolatey that it could stand on its own. Add the delicious frosting and it’s heavenly! Definitely making this again! Thank you for yet another great recipe

    • #
      Tessa — January 27, 2021 at 11:36 am

      I’m so glad you tried this cake!

  2. #
    Elissa — January 26, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    This cake was sooo moist and delicious!! I usually think the frosting on German chocolate cake is the best part, but the cake alone was fantastic!! The cake is a must make and I will definitely make it again! Thank you for such a wonderful recipe

    • #
      Tessa — January 27, 2021 at 11:33 am

      So glad you enjoyed this cake!

  3. #
    CHERYL JOHNSON — January 25, 2021 at 11:17 am

    Is there a reason you didn’t use German Chocolate bar? I am making this cake for my daugher in law’s bday this week and I’ve always used German Choc in the past. This is her favorite cake. So I gotta get it right!

    I love your Cookie book btw! and I’m taking your online course and gifting my daughter in law the same course for her bday. She loves to bake!

  4. #
    Annie Coleman — January 15, 2021 at 8:43 pm

    Can I use German sweet chocolate instead of bittersweet chocolate

  5. #
    Annie Coleman — January 15, 2021 at 8:39 pm

    Can I use German sweet chocolate instead of bittersweet chocolate. I’m going to make it tonight 7

  6. #
    Amanda — September 16, 2020 at 7:01 am

    we made this cake and its soooo delicious. Super moist and a great rich chocolate flavor.

  7. #
    Cindy :-) — August 18, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    This is a great, easy and fast cake to make with a wow factor for those who love the combo of chocolate, coconuts and pecans. Follow the instructions and you can’t go wrong. I would check the cake before you think it’s done (mine baked in 25 minutes). Will definitely make this again! ❤️

  8. #
    Lindsay — June 8, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    Hi Tessa! I love the cake stand that appears in the photos for this recipe. Would you mind sharing where you got it? Many thanks in advance!

  9. #
    Hailey — May 7, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    I made just the cake without frosting for my brother’s birthday. And honestly, it is one of the best chocolate cake I have ever made! It’s so moist and chocolatey!! I’ve reduced the white sugar to 180g and used bitter chocolate instead because I didn’t want it to be too sweet and it came out just right! Thanks, Tessa <3 Much love from Malaysia 🙂

  10. #
    Isa — May 5, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Hi Tessa,

    I absolutely love your recipes and am a huge fan. I recently noticed on my new oven that after the oven has preheated and I’ve opened it to insert the pans as quickly as possible, the oven temperature drops anywhere from 20 to 50 degrees. Is this normal? And if it is, does it affect the baking process considering most recipes ask for a certain baking temperature?


  11. #
    Judith — January 28, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    This is delicious! Definitely give it a try if you don’t mind coconut! I made everything like she instructs EXCEPT I omitted the pecans (nut allergy in the family) and increased the amount of coconut to about 105 grams. I made it 3 days ago and I’m already planning when I’ll make it next! Only this time I’m going to try the pecans.

    • #
      Judith — January 29, 2020 at 8:44 am

      Sorry, I mean about 205 grams.

  12. #
    Floranet — January 15, 2020 at 1:33 am

    I loved the topic you wrote on. It was an amazing ride of some great work.

  13. #
    Elaine Mathewes — November 10, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    This is definitely one of my favorite cakes in the entire world. When I was growing up, my mother made it quite often! Hers was always made with 4 layers. If I were to divide the batter up so that it would be four layers, how much more icing would I have to make to go between the extra two layers so that it wouldn’t seem skimpy? My mother also used frozen shredded coconut. Thank you so much

  14. #
    Reine — October 18, 2019 at 11:03 am

    OMG. Just made it and it’s AMAZING. So chocolatey. Thanks for sharing!

  15. #
    Mary — October 16, 2019 at 10:10 am

    Hello! Thank you for your wonderful and detailed recipes!

    I have a question please regarding your German Chocolate Cake recipe. On hand, I only have 3, 6 inch cake rounds. This recipe calls for two 8 inch rounds. Will the amount work for 3, 6 inch?

    Thank you!

  16. #
    Rachael — September 1, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    Had a blast making this with my kids! Very tasty, moist, and delicious. I am not much of a baker but this was wicked easy and fun. Thanks for sharing such a lovely recipe.

  17. #
    Anne — August 30, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Hi Tessa, I plan on making it today. I’ll let you know how I go.

    • #
      Anne — September 1, 2019 at 5:37 am

      Hi again. I made the cake for Fathers Day. Everyone loved it. I don’t know if I put too much coconut in the frosting tho, but it was still yummy anyway. I bake (& cook) a lot, and this was fun to make as the method was different to my usual method of baking cakes. It was a nice change. Thanks again Tessa 🙂

  18. #
    Viana @ — August 28, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Who doesn’t love coconut, and mixed with a chocolate-espresso combo! A dream come true! 🙂

  19. #
    Ritika — August 27, 2019 at 7:25 pm

    I love ur recipes but have a request please make eggless brownies cakes nd cookies i am waiting for you to give us your best without egg recipes .

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