German Chocolate Cake

Lately I’ve been pretty excited for plums, peaches and nectarines. I wasn’t quite expecting to be baking a decadent chocolate cake in the middle of August, but life and family like to change plans. Anyway, I’m glad they do because I finally get to share here one of my all time favorite desserts.

German chocolate cake IS the birthday cake in my family as both my dad and I choose it almost every single year (oh, how my mother must have suffered). This year was my dad’s turn. And, since my parents were traveling the weekend before his birthday, the responsibility of said cake passed to me.

There really is no better way to make German chocolate cake than in the traditional layer cake fashion. My mom once tried to make it into a bundt cake. We soon realized the ratio of filling to cake was much too low. The three layers allow for optimum filling coverage. Not that I’ve studied the subject extensively or anything…

And although it’s traditional, this recipe has a bit of a twist in that it replaces the lighter, sweet chocolate cake with more of a decadent dark chocolate cake. This mixes nicely with the sweetness of the filling. I’ve tried different filling recipes, but keep coming back to a modified version of the classic.

    German Chocolate Cake

    makes one 8-inch 3 layer cake

  • Ingredients

  • cake layers
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2-1/4 cups unbleached cake flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) strong, hot coffee
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk
  • 1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups pure cane sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • filling
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pure cane sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 seven ounce package (about 2-2/3 cups) sweetened coconut
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted

  • Directions

  • make the cake layers

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Butter pans and dust with cocoa powder (instead of flour which leaves white splotches on the chocolate layers), shaking off the excess.

    In a double boiler, melt dark chocolate. Remove from heat and cool. Quicken this step by cooling chocolate in the refrigerator.

    In a medium bowl, sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together coffee and buttermilk.

    In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about three minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping sides of bowl down after each addition. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the coffee/buttermilk mixture. Begin and end with the flour mixture. Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a spatula, fold in the melted chocolate.

    Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Batter should fill pans about half to two-thirds of the way full. Smooth the tops with a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer cakes to a wire cooling rack for 20-30 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack and remove pans and parchment to let cool completely.

    make the filling

    In a large saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, evaporated milk and vanilla until well blended. Add sugars and butter and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 12 minutes, until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat. Mix in coconut and pecans. Cool to room temperature.

    assemble the cake

    Trim tops of cakes to level out surface, if necessary. Place first cake layer on platter or cake stand. Spread one third of filling on top. Add second layer and spread another third of filling on top. Follow with final layer and top with remaining filling.

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  1. Posted August 24, 2010 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    Just look at that gorgeous, towering thing! Love how this looks and I KNOW I’d love how it tastes! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Posted August 24, 2010 at 2:23 am | Permalink

    This is one luscious looking cake and I’ve never wanted a slice of German chocolate cake more than I do now.

  3. Posted August 24, 2010 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    What a showstopper this cake is. Just gorgeous!

  4. Posted August 24, 2010 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Wow, that is one impressive cake! Would be perfect for a fall party. We just got a new apartment, so maybe for the house warming party. Wonderful photographs, like always! xo

  5. Posted August 24, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    that towering masterpiece sure outdoes the german chocolate cake i made last year. the filling has sweetened coconut plus 1 1/4 c sugar — it doesn’t end up too sweet? not that that would be a bad thing…



  6. Posted August 24, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    That is SUCH a beautiful cake! I’ve never made a German chocolate cake but you’re motivating me to give it a try.

  7. Posted August 24, 2010 at 7:55 pm | Permalink


  8. lisi
    Posted August 24, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    this thing is beautiful!!!

  9. Posted August 25, 2010 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    WOW what a cake! That definitely looks worth heating up the kitchen in August!

  10. Posted August 25, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous perfect cake…. I like the way the frosting is just bursting out… great photos too!

  11. Sheyla
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Cake looks Gorg! just foud your blog today and it’s reaally good!! and the photos are just stunning :)

  12. Posted August 26, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Seriously my favorite cake. I just forget.

    I love coconut and chocolate together. Your pictures are lovely and your blog is delish!

  13. Posted August 27, 2010 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    German chocolate is my favorite chocolate cake, and this looks like a great one! The darker chocolate for the cake sounds perfect.

  14. Posted August 27, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    thanks everyone for your kind comments.

    heather, I know it seems like a lot of sugar with the sweetened coconut, but I actually even cut out 1/4 cup from the original recipe. Any German chocolate cake filling I’ve had is always pretty sweet, which I think is why I like the dark chocolate cake to balance it out.

  15. Posted August 27, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    good to know — i always end up cutting out sugar, too. thanks for the response and that impressive cake as inspiration!



  16. Posted August 29, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    It’s my first time on your site and I am blown away by your food photos and delicious recipes.

  17. Posted August 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    so gorgeous! must be super tasty!

  18. Posted September 11, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Fabulous! Fantastic! Beautiful! This is exactly how my mom used to make it. I love it. Wonderful post.

  19. Posted September 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Stunning! I love your photos!

  20. Lanie
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Mara — this german chocolate cake looks amazing. I’ve also made my fair share — it’s the birthday cake pick for both me and my dad as well! I’m going to link this to my mom — she’ll get a kick out of it.

  21. Posted September 30, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    this blog is amazingly beautiful… and mouthwatering.
    agnes szucs

  22. Posted September 30, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Love your blog, love your photos, and LOVE this cake! : )

  23. Posted October 17, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    oh my lord that looks incredible! i’m in awe of all that chocolate!

  24. Posted October 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Oh my gracious, this looks absolutely heavenly!

  25. amanda
    Posted November 23, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    I have made this cake for Christmas for the past 3 years and have two issues. One, is after lining the pans with wax paper and spraying them with non-stick spray and dusting with flower. I still get the paper to stick to the cake and have to rip off the paper from the cake. This is such a struggle without tearing cake off in chuncks. I do not know why it sticks so much. Two, I end up having to stir and cook the filling for like 30 minutes before it gets the right consistency. Is that how long you cook yours over medium heat? Any tips I would greatly appreciate. Although my family loves this cake and looks forward to it each year, I would love to make it a little easier for me. Oh yes, I use the Bakers recipe.

  26. Mara
    Posted November 29, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Amanda, I haven’t had that problem with the paper sticking. However, I usually use parchment paper so you might try that. I usually just have to lightly peel it off, and no chunks of cake come off. It usually takes me 12-15 minutes to cook the filling. You could try turning up the heat a little. Although, be careful that the egg doesn’t cook too fast.

  27. jackie
    Posted December 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I had to make a German Chocolate cake for my fiance’s dad’s birthday – and I was freaking out a bit because I’ve never made one. So, I started out with David Lebovitz’ recipe, made his filling and ganache, but his cake recipe was out of my league. And then I found your cake and what a lifesaver! Those cake layers are to die for! Seriously good. My cake looks totally kick ass, too! Thank you for posting!

  28. Posted December 13, 2010 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    I love chocolate!

  29. Posted February 4, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I baked a German Chocolate Cake for my fiancé’s birthday using this recipe and it came out soooooooooooo delicious!!!! He loved it! Thank you so much for sharing. I used one large cake tin and sliced it into three layers instead of using three separate tins, which meant that I had to cook it for longer, but other than that it all went exactly to plan! YUMMMMMM! I will definitely be making this again next year! :)

    You can see you my efforts turned out here:


  30. Posted February 22, 2011 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    That is a stunning cake! and German chocolate is the best. Thanks for the recipe.

  31. Brenda horton
    Posted October 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the german chocolate cake recipe. I know this cake will be in heaven. It was so heavenly. God bless you and all that your hands touh.

  32. Erika
    Posted October 27, 2011 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    Does the buttermilk need to be @ room temp?

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  35. Aisha
    Posted June 13, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    This cake looks GREAT!!! I was wondering if you used a 8 x 1.5 or 8 x 2 cake pan? The layers look nice and big.

  36. Mara
    Posted June 14, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Aisha. I used 8 x 1.5 inch cake pans. Hope you like it!

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    God bless you and all that your hands touh.

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    Does any one know how to make a dry powder for german chocolate frosting. I used to buy the dry powder in a box and when ready to put on cake you add a pint of whipping cream and the powder together and put on cake it was very good but you can’t buy just the powder any more i sure do miss it? Sure hope some knows how to do this i would be very happy . Thank you please send to my e-mail if you know how to make it.

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