A decadent German Chocolate Cake Recipe, made an extra moist and fudgy chocolate cake, a rich caramel/coconut frosting, and iced with a sweet and simple chocolate frosting.
German Chocolate Cake
…Or, as I originally wanted to call it, “Not Your Mama’s German Chocolate Cake”.
I’m taking some liberties with the traditional German Chocolate Recipe today. After lots of testing, I wasn’t satisfied with many of the classic versions of this cake. Maybe you’ve tried them before: Chocolate cakes made with melted bars of German chocolate and whipped egg whites. They yield a lighter but more dry and not terribly chocolatey cake.
While I tried to love it, I kept going back to my classic chocolate cake instead. Maybe its my recent intense chocolate cravings (thank you, pregnancy), but I wanted a dense, fudgy cake that actually tasted like chocolate.
While our caramel/coconut layer stays (fairly) true to tradition, this German Chocolate Cake is honestly the most decadent, best version I’ve ever tried. Which, of course it is or I wouldn’t be sharing it with you here today 😉. Let’s get to it.
German Chocolate Cake Frosting
When most people think of German Chocolate Cake, they usually think about the frosting.
Traditional frosting is something of a cross between a frosting, a custard, and a caramel. The base is made primarily with egg yolks, evaporated milk, and brown sugar and cooked on the stovetop until thickened. Once cooked, we’ll stir in shredded (sweetened) coconut and toasted pecans.
When making this frosting, it’s so important that you don’t turn up your heat too high or you’ll end up cooking bits of your egg. Also, make sure you let your frosting cool completely before trying to decorate your cake or you’ll likely end up with a runny mess.
This caramel-esque frosting is the only frosting that some German Chocolate Cake recipes use, and if that’s how you want to make yours then go for it.
Personally I wanted a little bit more chocolate (shocking), so I made a simple chocolate frosting to frost the outside of the cake and decorate the top. I also used it as a dam on the first layer of the cake to help hold the coconut frosting inside, making it easier to frost the outside (see below).
Why is it Called German Chocolate Cake?
This cake actually does not come from Germany, it’s considered an American cake. The recipe was named because of the creator of German chocolate, a man named Samual German. However, these days German Chocolate Cake is now generally used to describe any chocolate layer cake frosted with this coconut/caramel frosting. And while I do feel a little guilty about cutting Mr. German’s chocolate out of our recipe today, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the results.
You can read here to find out more about the origins of this not-so-German cake.
Does German Chocolate Cake Need to be Refrigerated?
If you plan to enjoy your German Chocolate Cake within a day or two it will keep just fine at room temperature in an airtight container (so long as you aren’t in a particularly humid climate). You may refrigerate this cake, just be sure to keep in an airtight container (to help keep it from drying out, as refrigerators are notorious for drying out cake!).
This cake will keep for a week in the refrigerator.
Can You Freeze German Chocolate Cake?
Yes! this cake can be frozen. It will keep for several months in the freezer, granted it is properly sealed and stored (I would wrap it well with plastic wrap and foil).
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German Chocolate Cake
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 215g
- 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed 200g
- 1 cup sugar 200g
- 3/4 cup natural cocoa powder 75g
- 1 ½ teaspoons instant coffee
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil 120ml
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted (113g)
- 2 large eggs room temperature preferred
- 1 large egg yolk room temperature preferred
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk¹ 236ml
- 1/2 cup very hot or boiling water 120ml
Coconut Caramel Filling
- 1 cup salted butter softened (226g)
- 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar 440g
- ½ cup natural cocoa powder 50g
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons evaporated milk³
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and prepare two 9" round cake pans by lightly greasing and flouring I also recommend lining the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper. Set aside.
- Combine flour, sugars, cocoa powder, instant coffee, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) and use an electric mixer to stir until well-combined.
- Add oil and melted butter and stir well (mixture will be very thick), then stir in eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla extract.
- Gradually add buttermilk, stirring until completely combined.
- Slowly add hot water (be careful not to splash yourself!), stirring until ingredients are well-combined. Pause occasionally to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to ensure all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Evenly divide batter into prepared pans. Transfer to oven and bake on 350F (175C) for 25-30 minutes and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Allow cakes to cool for 15 minutes before inverting onto cooling rack to cool completely before filling and frosting.
Coconut Caramel Filling
- Once your cake is in the oven, begin preparing your coconut/caramel German Chocolate Cake Filling. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine egg yolks and evaporated milk and whisk until eggs are lightly beaten.
- Add butter, sugars, and salt and place saucepan over medium/low heat (keep heat low so you do not cook your eggs!). Stir constantly until mixture is a light golden brown and thickened (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract, chopped pecans, and shredded coconut.
- Allow to cool completely before spreading over cake.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer OR in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar and cocoa powder until completely combined. Stir in vanilla extract and milk.
- Once your cake layers have cooled and your coconut/caramel filling is no longer warm to the touch, you can assemble your German Chocolate Cake!
- Place one cake round on serving tray or cake platter. Use your chocolate frosting to spread or pipe a border around the edge of the cake. Fill the border with half of your coconut/caramel filling.
- Top with second cake round. Frost top and sides of entire cake with remaining chocolate frosting.
- Top off cake with remaining half of coconut/caramel frosting.
- Slice, serve, and enjoy!
³I recommend evaporated milk because you will likely have some over from your coconut filling if you purchased a 12 oz can. However, regular milk will work just as well!