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Calling all coconut and chocolate fans (you know who you are)! This recipe for German Chocolate Cake turns up the dial on the chocolate and then gets slathered in a luscious homemade frosting that’s loaded with pecans and shredded coconut. This may be the best layer cake of them all.

I love German chocolate cake, but every time I taste it, I always wish it had a little more oomph in the chocolate department.

So I got to work and put it in there myself. This is my favorite version, made just a little deeper and richer than the original. It’s perfect with a hot cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk!

German chocolate cake on a gray platter.

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Who invented German Chocolate Cake?

This cake isn’t actually from Germany at all! Samuel German developed the specific chocolate bar that’s used to make this cake, while he was an employee of Baker’s Chocolate. Since it’s a bar with only 46% cacao, the original German chocolate cake that uses it is only very mildly chocolate flavored.

What’s the difference between Devil’s food cake and German Chocolate Cake?

One of the primary differences is that German chocolate cake uses a sweetened, low-in-cacao chocolate for its cake, which gives it a subtle flavor.

As opposed to the very light chocolate taste of a classic German chocolate cake, devil’s food cake is made with unsweetened chocolate and has a much stronger chocolate flavor due to its higher cacao content.

Because devil’s food is also a popular cake mix flavor, over the years it has found its way into versions of German chocolate cakes, too. People love their chocolate.

German chocolate cake batter being poured into a silver pan.

What can be substituted for evaporated milk?

In many recipes, evaporated milk can be replaced with a combination of whole milk and half-and-half.

Why do you use room temperature eggs?

Baking with room temperature eggs really makes a difference in your batter. This means that the eggs will disperse more evenly into the batter, making for even cooking and a lighter texture. To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, soak them in a bowl of warm water for 10-15 minutes. When you need to warm up the sour cream, stick it in the microwave for just a few seconds.

What can be used instead of nuts in a German Chocolate Cake?

If you cannot eat nuts, leave them out of the recipe in this case. Just use a little more coconut instead!

German chocolate cake frosting in a clear bowl.

What is the best way to cut German Chocolate Cake?

When you’re in charge of cutting the cake, use a wet knife or even an electric knife. It makes cleaner slices when you have coconut and nuts in your icing.

Can you make German Chocolate cupcakes?

What a great idea! For easy to eat cupcakes, cook them at the same temperature for 22-25 minutes. Then once they’ve cooled, frost away.

Can you make German Chocolate Cake in advance?

If you like to get ready ahead of time, you can make the cake and the frosting at least one day in advance. On the day you need it, the cake is really easy to throw together.

The frosting can be made ahead of time, too. Remove it from the fridge about an hour or so before you’re ready to frost your cake. This will allow them to come to room temperature and they will be easier to frost.

Frosted German chocolate cake in a pan.

Can German Chocolate Cake be frozen?

This cake is seriously ready when you are, and it can be frozen, unfrosted, for up to a month. First, bake the cake and let it cool completely. Next, wrap it really well in plastic wrap and stick each layer in a zip top freezer bag. By the way, frozen cakes are a snap to frost!

Can you make German Chocolate Cake without eggs?

If you need to bake without eggs, you can use ground flax seeds in place of eggs in this recipe, for the cake and for the frosting.

To make one flax egg:

  • Combine 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed with 2-3 tablespoons water.
  • Simmer flax seeds and water in a saucepan for about 5 minutes (or less or more time depending on the amount you are making) or until thick, egg-like consistency has been reached.
  • Let cool before using in the recipe.

Another good egg or egg yolk substitute is 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. This mixture is used as an egg substitute in baking recipes.

Slices of German chocolate cake on white plates.

Do you refrigerate German Chocolate Cake?

In my opinion, German chocolate cake tastes best when it is stored in the refrigerator. In case you don’t have a cake cover, just wrap in plastic wrap, inserting a few toothpicks into the top to keep the plastic wrap from sticking.

Don’t worry–it’ll be gone before you know it and you’ll have to make another.

German chocolate cake.

German Chocolate Cake

My German Chocolate Cake recipe starts with a rich chocolate cake base, which is smothered in a homemade frosting spiked with pecans and shredded coconut. Prepare to meet your new favorite layer cake.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Servings 16 servings (1 slice each)
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Calories 591


For the coconut frosting:

  • 3 large egg yolks at room temperature (see note 1)
  • 3/4 cup evaporated milk (see note 2)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter cut into 4 pieces (½ stick)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut (6 ounces)
  • 1 cup pecans toasted and finely chopped (see note 3)

For the chocolate frosting:

For the Devil's Food Cake:

  • 1 cup whole milk at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (1 ½ ounces) plus extra for dusting (see note 4)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar packed (10 ½ ounces)
  • ½ cup oil canola or vegetable
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate chopped (see note 5)
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water (see note 6)


To make the coconut frosting:

  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine egg yolks, evaporated milk, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter. Bring to boil and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and transfer to a medium bowl. Add vanilla and stir constantly until mixture has cooled slightly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours. Stir in pecans and coconut just before using.

To make the chocolate frosting:

  • In a medium bowl, stir together butter and cocoa powder. Alternate adding powdered sugar and milk, ⅓ at a time, beating to a spreadable consistency.
  • If you need to thin the frosting, add a small amount of milk. If it needs thickening, add some powdered sugar. Once desired consistency is reached, stir in vanilla. 

To make the Devil's Food Cake:

  • To make the buttermilk, combine milk and lemon juice in a small bowl. Leave out at room temperature until the acid makes the milk start to curdle, at least 10 minutes. (This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to three days.)  
  • Adjust oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, coat with nonstick spray, and dust with cocoa powder.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until combined.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, oil, chocolate, eggs, buttermilk (as prepared above), and vanilla extract 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 until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached, about 20 to 30 minutes, rotating and switching pans halfway through baking time.
  • Cool cakes in pan 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the cakes and flip out on to wire racks. Peel off parchment paper, flip cakes right-side up, and cool completely, at least 2 hours.

To assemble the cake:

  • Line the edges of a cake platter with strips of parchment paper to keep platter clean during cake assembly. 
  • Place one cake layer on platter and smooth a thin layer of chocolate frosting over the entire cake. Then spoon ⅓ of the coconut frosting on top, spreading it into a smooth layer. Leave about 1/2" between filling and edge of cake. 
  • Stack the second cake round on top and repeat with ⅓ of the coconut frosting. Lay the third layer of cake on top.
  • Smooth chocolate frosting over the entire cake. Spread remaining ⅓ coconut frosting on top of cake, then pipe a decorative border around the top of the cake. Remove parchment strips from platter before serving.


  1. Egg yolks and eggs: You'll need only the yolks for the frosting. To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, soak them in a bowl of warm water for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Evaporated milk: This is a key ingredient to add luscious texture to both the coconut and chocolate frostings. Look for it in cans in the baking aisle near canned pumpkin.
  3. Pecans: Toasting the pecans is optional, but highly recommended to bring out even more nutty flavor.
  4. Unsweetened cocoa powder: We tested this German Chocolate Cake recipe with both Dutch-processed cocoa and natural cocoa and both work well. Choose your favorite, keeping in mind that Dutch-processed will result in a darker-hued cake and frosting.
  5. Unsweetened chocolate: I prefer chopping this by hand to stud the cake batter with uniquely-sized, easy-melting pieces. To save time, you could certainly use unsweetened chocolate chunks or chips.
  6. Boiling water: For the cake batter. To accurately measure boiling water, boil more than you need, then measure out the 1 cup called for in this German Chocolate Cake recipe.
  7. Yield: Since this German Chocolate Cake recipe is three layers deep (and is fully loaded with decadent flavors), I usually get 16 slices out of each batch.
  8. Storage: Store leftovers wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  9. Freezer: Assemble, bake, and cool the cake itself, then wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to freezer-safe zip top bags. Stored this way, the unfrosted cake will last well for a month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before frosting.


Serving: 1sliceCalories: 591kcalCarbohydrates: 85gProtein: 8gFat: 28gSaturated Fat: 12gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 80mgSodium: 397mgPotassium: 347mgFiber: 5gSugar: 67gVitamin A: 324IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 127mgIron: 4mg
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Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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  1. The German Chocolate Cake recipe calls for three 8” parchment lined pans yet in the assembly directions it only mentions two layers and 1/2 the frosting for each. Please correct this. 5 stars