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Homemade German Chocolate Cake, with two layers of scratch made cake, a sticky coconut pecan topping, and fudge frosting is everyone’s favorite cake!

Everyone loves a good homemade cake. Some may consider it the best dessert there is. And if you’re as big of a fan of cake as I am, you’ll surely want to make a Perfect Tres Leches Cake or a Marble Bundt Cake.

Homemade German Chocolate Cake slice.

German Chocolate Cake

I love homemade cake. I can always tell the difference between a homemade cake where everything was made from scratch. I grew up on boxed mixes and frosting from a tub, but once I realized how wonderful scratch baking was, I’ve never looked back.

I had some extra cake and asked my friends if they wanted any. I could not believe how many people said that German Chocolate was their absolute favorite! For many people, they said it’s been their favorite since they were a kid!

What is different about German Chocolate Cake?

There are actually quite a few differences between a German Chocolate Cake and traditional chocolate cake.

First of all, the chocolate in the cake portion was intended to come from a sweet chocolate. This is different than milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate. If you see any recipes that call for chocolate chips or cocoa powder, know that you’re not going to get a cake that tastes like authentic German Chocolate Cake. In my opinion, milk chocolate is the closest you can get, unless you did what I did and use a combination of semi-sweet and blonde chocolate (which I think is the perfect combination for this recipe). Do you see how light brown the cake color is? Buttermilk is also a common ingredient of German Chocolate Cake.

Second, German Chocolate Cake is known for the custard-like topping that is full of pecans and coconut. I am a huge fan of coconut, and also love making coconut ice cream and coconut pudding.

Third, chocolate frosting is often seen on German Chocolate cake, however it is totally optional. I’ve seen cakes that are smothered in the coconut pecan topping without any frosting, and for me, that’s just too much. I also think a super creamy shortening frosting (like what you might get from a grocery store bakery) is a really bad choice for this cake. No. The only way to go is with a dark, rich, fudge like chocolate frosting like the one I’ve used. It’s the perfect compliment to the subtle chocolate flavor in the cake.

Homemade German Chocolate Cake on a plate.

Why is it called German Chocolate Cake?

Think this cake originated in Germany, and that’s why it’s called German Chocolate Cake? Nope.

This cake was originally called German’s Chocolate Cake, after an American baker named Samuel German.

Does German Chocolate Cake need to be refrigerated?

This cake is most definitely best enjoyed right away, but I was surprised at how well it kept. I stored my cake in an air tight container at room temperature, and we were enjoying it for days.

If it makes you feel better to refrigerate the cake, you can certainly do so, but I kept it at room temperature and it was fine.

Love homemade chocolate desserts? Try these:

Cutting a slice of Homemade German Chocolate Cake.

Watch how to make a German Chocolate Cake HERE:

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German Chocolate Cake

4.34 from 3 votes
By: Alyssa Rivers
Homemade German Chocolate Cake, with two layers of scratch made cake, a sticky coconut pecan topping, and fudge frosting is everyone's favorite cake!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 8



Coconut-Pecan Filling and Topping

For the Chocolate Frosting:


To make the cakes:

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with the cooking spray. Cut rounds of cooking parchment paper to fit each pan and then line bottoms of pans with the paper.
  • Coarsely chop the chocolate. Gently heat the heavy cream on the stove over medium heat or in the microwave on 50% power until almost boiling. Pour over chopped chocolate and allow to sit, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes. Stir to combine (chocolate should be fully melted by the time you stir. If not, you can heat in microwave on 50% power in 30 second increments). Allow mixture to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt until mixed. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat sugar and butter with paddle attachment on medium to high speed until light and fluffy; set aside. Note - you can't overmix the butter and sugar, so be sure to keep mixing until it is very light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed to ensure it is fully mixed.
  • Reduce speed to medium and add 1 egg yolk at a time into the sugar mixture until mixed. Reduce speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate and vanilla. With speed still on low, alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk until fully incorporated. Once all ingredients are mixed in, increase speed to high for just a few seconds to really whip it together. Transfer this batter to a large clean bowl and wash stand mixer bowl you were using.
  • Add the egg whites to the stand mixer and attach the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Do not overmix. You basically want the whites to be light and fluffy so that when you stop mixing and pull the whisk out, the peak that it pulls on it's way out holds it's shape. If you over mix, the whites will break.
  • Add egg whites to the batter and genltly fold in using a rubber spatula to turn the batter over the egg whites, continuing until all of the egg whites are fully mixed in. Be sure to be as gentle as possible using the least amount of mixing required to fully incorporate.
  • Pour batter into pans, using a rubber spatula to scrape the batter from bowl. Spread batter evenly in pans and smooth top of batter.
  • Ensure oven racks are adjusted so that cakes bake in center of oven and bake in preheated oven 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cakes should also start pulling away from sides of pan once cooked.
  • Cool cakes in pans on cooling rack. When pans and cake are still hot but cool enough to touch, flip cakes out of pan by placing your hand on the cake, inverting pan to release, then set back down on cooling rack with parchment round side down. Allow to fully cool on cooling rack.

To make the coconut topping:

  • In a medium sized saucepan, stir the egg yolks, sugars, butter, evaporated milk and vanilla until well mixed. Cook over medium heat about 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick and bubbly. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Cool about 30 minutes, beating occasionally with a spoon, until mixture is spreadable.

To make the frosting:

  • Add butter to bowl of stand mixer. Using paddle or whisk attachment, beat until light and fluffy. Add the cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Mix on low speed to combine. With the mixer running, add the evaporated milk and the vanilla. Once combined, increase speed to high and blend until fully mixed and smooth. Frosting will be thick.

To assemble the cake:

  • Remove parchment rounds from cakes. Place 1 cake layer, rounded side down, on a cake plate. To keep plate clean, you can slide strips of parchment paper under the edges of the cake while you frost and then remove once the cake has been decorated.
  • Spread half of the coconut mixture over the top of the cake. Add second layer and spoon the rest of the coconut mixture on top. I left about an inch of space around the edge of the cake for the frosting.
  • Add the chocolate frosting to a pastry back with a star tip. Pipe stars around the top edge of the cake. Pipe remaining frosting around the sides to coat and then use a spatula to smooth, taking care not to touch the stars on the top.
  • Store cake in airtight container.


Calories: 1397kcalCarbohydrates: 170gProtein: 15gFat: 78gSaturated Fat: 43gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 24gTrans Fat: 2gCholesterol: 307mgSodium: 642mgPotassium: 513mgFiber: 7gSugar: 134gVitamin A: 1992IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 210mgIron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic!

About Alyssa Rivers

Alyssa Rivers is the author of 'The Tried and True Cookbook', a professional food photographer and experienced recipe-developer. Having a passion for cooking, her tried and true recipes have been featured on Good Morning America, Today Food, Buzzfeed and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    OMG…I didn’t make this recipe, but I had to try to offset Tera’s low rating – Tera, it doesn’t sound like you made this cake either, but what’s worse is that it doesn’t sound like you ever even read this recipe….in which she explains that it isn’t a German cake, it’s an American cake named for someone with German as a last name. If you are going to go around trashing cake recipes (and why?), at least read them first. Also, this recipe seems well constructed and worth a try. I’d love to hear from someone who gives it a go!

    1. 5 stars
      I am making it tomorrow, I wish I could post pictures. I have made a different scratch German Chocolate and the cake isn’t as moist as I like but my topping is crazy good! I want to try Alyssa’s and the recipe is different than mine and in hopes of a different result. I will definitely review it tomorrow!

  2. 3 stars
    I appreciate this very much, but contrary to what everyone thinks… I visited germany for 2 weeks, in search of “the best chocolate cake” for my pallet and to recreate when i returned to the states and… they dont use coconut. It’s not a thing. At all.