June Bake-Along: German Chocolate Cake

This classic German chocolate cake starts with three layers of moist chocolate cake, then adds a pecan-coconut filling, and simple chocolate frosting. If you’ve been nervous about tackling this iconic cake, now is the time to lay aside those fears; we’re making the most AMAZING German chocolate cake that’s ever passed your lips.

German chocolate cake on a white pedestal cake plate.

Welcome to the June bake-along!

This month I wanted to tackle a classic chocolate cake that seems ever-so-fitting for celebrating Father’s Day in a couple of weeks. I remember my mom making this cake a couple of times growing up, and I made a previous version nearly seven years ago, but I wanted to revisit the recipe and give it a much-needed facelift. I am confident in telling you that this is the best version of German chocolate cake I’ve ever tried.

I hope you’ll bake it with me this month! Let’s get started!

A straight-on photo of chocolate cake on a white cake platter.

The History of German Chocolate Cake

Up until I first made this cake, I assumed that it originated in Germany, due to its name. Turns out, it’s as American as the Big Mac. Who knew?!

Way back in 1852, Sam German developed a brand of dark chocolate for Baker’s Chocolate Company and the resulting product, Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, was named in honor of him. Then, in the late 1950’s, the original recipe for “German’s Chocolate Cake”, which used the baking chocolate, was submitted by a homemaker to a local newspaper. It became insanely popular, so much so, that the company that owned Baker’s Chocolate noticed and distributed the recipe to other newspapers across the country. Reportedly, sales of the chocolate increased 73% , and the cake became famous.

Three layers on chocolate cake filled with coconut-pecan frosting.

The Three Components to German Chocolate Cake

German chocolate cake is made with two essential components, and an optional third one. Let’s discuss!

  1. First and foremost, we need a fabulous chocolate cake. For this, I turned to my absolute favorite chocolate cake that never, ever disappoints. It comes together quickly and bakes up super moist with even layers every single time.
  2. Secondly, the filling. Oh, that precious filling. The coconut-pecan frosting is cooked on the stovetop using egg yolks, cream, sugar, and butter. It is DIVINE. The filling goes between the cake layers AND ON TOP.
  3. Last, but certainly not least, is the chocolate frosting. Many consider this component optional or not at all necessary since the coconut-pecan filling is certainly rich. I know, I know… “naked” cakes are all the rage right now, but I just cannot, under any circumstance, consider frosting optional. We don’t go crazy here, just frosting the sides and a little decorative border on top, enough to finish it off.

The three of these work together to create a cake so wonderfully rich, full of texture and flavor, and deserving of being presented for any and all occasions.

A slice of German chocolate cake on its side on a white plate.

Tips for Success

Below are all of my notes and tips for creating the most amazing German Chocolate Cake you’ll ever eat!

  • You can substitute 9-inch cake pans, but will need to reduce the baking time. Rotate the pans after 15 minutes, then start checking for doneness after 10 additional minutes.
  • If you don’t have buttermilk, add 1½ tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar to a 2-cup measuring cup, then add enough milk to make 1½ cups. Stir together, then use as directed in the recipe.
  • Can’t have caffeine? You can substitute decaf coffee.
  • If you cannot consume coffee at all, substitute hot water.
  • You can make this cake using a hand mixer or stand mixer.
  • Once the cake layers are completely cooled, you can wrap the layers in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 1 day, or refrigerate for up to 3 days before frosting and serving. You can also wrap in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before frosting and serving.
  • Once the coconut-pecan filling is made, it will still be quite thin, but will thicken as it cools. Once it reaches room temperature, you can cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.

A slice of German chocolate cake with a forkful bite taken out.

JOIN THE BEB BAKE-ALONG!

To tackle German chocolate cake and bake along with me this month, simply do the following:

  • Make the cake!
  • Snap a picture and either share it on social media (#BEBbakealong on Instagram or Twitter), upload it to the BEB Facebook group, or email it to me.
  • Check in on Instagram and Facebook throughout the month to see everyone’s churros!
  • And a quick reminder that you can sign up for special Bake-Along emails – be alerted to new recipes, receive troubleshooting tips, and end-of-month recaps (you’ll receive a few emails per month) >> CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!

You’ll Love These Chocolate Cake Recipes!

Once you rock a chocolate layer cake that impresses the masses, you’ll never look back. These cakes will do just that:

The inside of a German chocolate cake that has had slices removed.

Five years ago: Grandma’s Roasted Potatoes
Eight years ago: Creamy Cucumber Salad
Eleven years ago: French Chocolate Brownies

Watch How to Make the Best German Chocolate Cake!

German Chocolate Cake

Servings 12 servings
Prep 45 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
Total 1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

This classic German chocolate cake starts with three layers of moist chocolate cake, then adds a pecan-coconut filling, and simple chocolate frosting.

Ingredients:

For the Chocolate Cake:

  • cups
    + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 3
    cups
    granulated sugar
  • 1
    cup
    + 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1
    tablespoon
    baking soda
  • teaspoons
    baking powder
  • teaspoons
    salt
  • 3
    eggs
    (at room temperature)
  • cups
    buttermilk
    (at room temperature)
  • cups
    strong black coffee
    (hot)
  • ¾
    cup
    vegetable oil
  • teaspoons
    vanilla extract

For the Coconut-Pecan Filling:

  • 1
    cup
    heavy cream or evaporated milk
  • 1
    cup
    granulated sugar
  • 3
    egg yolks
  • ½
    cup
    unsalted butter
  • ½
    teaspoon
    salt
  • teaspoons
    vanilla extract
  • 1
    cup
    pecans
    (toasted and finely chopped)
  • 2
    cups
    sweetened shredded coconut
    (toasted)

For the Chocolate Frosting:

  • 2
    cups
    unsalted butter
    (at room temperature)
  • 5
    cups
    powdered sugar
  • 8
    ounces
    chocolate
    (semisweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped)
  • 2
    teaspoons
    vanilla extract
  • 2
    tablespoons
    heavy whipping cream
    (if needed)

Directions:

  1. Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper, grease the parchment, then flour the insides of the pans, tapping out excess; set aside.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or large mixing bowl if you’re using a hand mixer), sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix for an additional 20 seconds (the batter will be very thin).
  4. Divide the batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes and rotate the pans in the oven. Continue to bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cakes comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs), about 12 more minutes. Cool the cakes (in the panon wire racks for 20 minutes, then carefully turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely. [Make-Ahead Tip! At this point you can wrap the layers in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 1 day, or refrigerate for up to 3 days before frosting and serving. You can also wrap in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before frosting and serving.]
  5. Make the Coconut-Pecan Frosting: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cream, sugar, egg yolks, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a low boil. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened (it should reach 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). Remove from the heat and add the butter, vanilla, coconut, and pecans. Stir until the butter is melted and everything is thoroughly combined. Set aside to cool completely to room temperature before using on the cake. [Make-Ahead Tip! Once the filling has cooled to room temperature, you can cover and refrigerate it for up to 1 week before using it in the cake. Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before using so it spreads easily.]

  6. Make the Chocolate Frosting: Place the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second increments on 50% power, stirring after each, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

  7. Meanwhile, using the whisk attachment of your stand mixer or a hand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.

  8. Reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Add the melted chocolate and whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed to incorporate all of the chocolate. If the frosting appears too stiff to spread, add the optional heavy cream and beat until incorporated.

  9. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 4 hours before using. [Make-Ahead Tip! The frosting can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature and re-whip before using. The frosting can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature before using.]

  10. Assemble the Cake: Place the first layer, top-side-up, on the center of a cake plate or serving platter. Spread one-third of the coconut-pecan filling evenly over the cake layer. Place the second cake layer, top-side-up, on top of the filling. Spread evenly with half of the remaining coconut-pecan filling. Place the final cake layer top-side-down and top with the remaining coconut-pecan filling. Frost the sides of the cake with the chocolate frosting and add decorative piping to the top edges, if desired.

Recipe Notes:

  • You can substitute 9-inch cake pans, but will need to reduce the baking time. Rotate the pans after 15 minutes, then start checking for doneness after 10 additional minutes.
  • If you don't have buttermilk, add 1½ tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar to a 2-cup measuring cup, then add enough milk to make 1½ cups. Stir together, then use as directed in the recipe.
  • If you are concerned about the caffeine in the coffee, you can substitute decaf coffee.
  • If you cannot consume coffee, substitute hot water.
  • You can make this cake using a hand mixer or stand mixer.
  • Once the cake layers are completely cooled, you can wrap the layers in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 1 day, or refrigerate for up to 3 days before frosting and serving. You can also wrap in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before frosting and serving.
  • Once the coconut-pecan filling is made, it will still be quite thin, but will thicken as it cools. Once it reaches room temperature, you can cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.

Nutrition:

Calories: 1382kcal
Fat: 82g
Saturated fat: 52g
Cholesterol: 225mg
Sodium: 771mg
Potassium: 426mg
Carbohydrates: 163g
Fiber: 6g
Sugar: 134g
Protein: 10g
Vitamin A: 1690%
Vitamin C: 0.3%
Calcium: 120%
Iron: 3.6%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!