Classic German Chocolate Cake Recipe

Learn how to make my family’s recipe for classic German Chocolate Cake. Get the step-by-step instructions and video tutorial for both the cake and the famous coconut-pecan frosting.

Classic German Chocolate Cake

While reviewing all the cake recipes that live on this blog, I was surprised to find there were a few classics still missing. For example, Classic German Chocolate Cake. Any baker worth their salt (and sugar) has an excellent German Chocolate Cake recipe! I haven’t made one in a very long time, and I found myself without a trusty recipe. Seeking one, I called my mom for advice. I knew the most delicious recipe was somewhere, hanging from a branch on our family tree.

“Oh, your Aunt Alice! You should ask her.” mom said. Memories of Aunt Alice’s sweets came flooding back. Mostly of Christmases at Gran’s house, when she’d make something special. I reached out to her, hoping she’d share. She was more than happy to oblige. And boy. Did she ever deliver!

Classic German Chocolate Cake

It may be a family recipe, but it’s no family secret. The recipe is the original Baker’s German’s Chocolate Cake recipe first developed in 1957. Which used to be printed on the backs of the Baker’s German’s Sweet chocolate bar boxes. Speaking of German’s chocolate…

Is German Chocolate Cake, German?

Plainly, no. But yes, it definitely sounds like this cake originated in Germany. It is named for the type of chocolate used in the recipe. In 1852 Sam German created a sweeter variety of dark chocolate (48% cacao) that was marketed under the name German’s Sweet Chocolate for the Baker’s Chocolate Company. The company named the chocolate in his honor.

Much later, in 1957, a recipe for German’s Chocolate Cake (note the possessive) showed up in a Dallas Morning Star newspaper, from Texas homemaker Mrs. George Calay. Made with German’s Sweet Chocolate, it quickly gained popularity nationwide. General Mills, who then owned the Baker’s Chocolate Company, took notice and distributed the recipe under the name German Chocolate Cake (dropping the possessive). And that’s how it came to be!

German Chocolate Cake Batter

Begin with a 4 oz. bar of German’s Sweet Chocolate. If you can’t source this product, use a semisweet chocolate bar with around 50%-56% cacao. Melt the chocolate in boiling water and let it cool.

Next you’ll do some familiar mixing of dry ingredients in one bowl. And creaming butter, sugar and egg yolks in another. The dry ingredients are mixed in alternating with buttermilk. But the real magic happens when you fold whipped egg whites into the finished batter. Fold gently so you don’t knock the air out of the whites, and the baked cake will be supremely fluffy and moist!

The true hallmark of a German Chocolate Cake is its light chocolate appearance. That’s thanks to the German’s Sweet Chocolate bar, which is sweeter and milder than other Baker’s bars. Cool the layers completely. And get started on that amazing coconut-pecan frosting.

Coconut Filling and Frosting

I could eat this stuff straight from the bowl! Place evaporated milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks, and some vanilla extract in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly (see the video for visual cue), about 12 minutes.

Once the mixture is ready, remove it from the heat and pour it over sweetened flake coconut and chopped toasted pecans. Stir it all up until and let it cool completely. Because the mixture thickens to spreading consistency as it cools.

Here’s the tricky part. The frosting is almost too thick to spread. Use an ice cream scoop to portion the frosting on the cake. Then, using an offset spatula, spread it by pushing it around with the tip of the spatula. Pat it down with the flat part of the spatula as evenly as you can.

Classic German Chocolate Cake

Are We There Yet? Maybe!

You could stop right here. With all the layers filled and a coat of coconut pecan frosting on top, you’ll have the original German’s Chocolate Cake, as it was written so long ago. However, I did not stop right there. I went a step further by coating the sides with a simple chocolate ganache. It makes the cake look a bit neater to me. And it’s not just for looks! It’s delicious, and the ganache seals in the cake’s moisture, Which, in my opinion, keeps it fresher longer.

Two Ingredient Chocolate Ganache

You’ll need two cups of chopped chocolate (chips work fine) and 1 cup of heavy cream. Get them together in a bowl and microwave for about 1 minute 30 seconds. The cream should be steaming upon removal from the microwave. Let the mixture stand for about 60 seconds, then whisk together to combine. You can leave the ganache at room temperature to thicken. Or refrigerate it – checking and stirring it often- until spreading consistency. Coat the sides of the cake.

After frosting the sides, pat a small line of toasted pecans into the bottom edge of the cake. And there will be just enough ganache left over to pipe a decorative border (if you so choose).

Classic German Chocolate Cake

Line toasted pecan halves 1/2″ apart around the top edge of the cake for a pretty presentation. This can be optional, but it gives the cake a bakery-made look.

Classic German Chocolate Cake
Classic German Chocolate Cake
Classic German Chocolate Cake

Talk about fluffy! This is one of the most delicious cakes you will ever make. It sounds like hyperbole, but I promise you it’s not. The cake portion is so fluffy and moist, sweet and light. But it’s that ridiculously delicious boiled coconut pecan frosting that makes it really special!

I’m so thankful to my Aunt Alice for sending me her time-tested recipe. It’s the real deal Classic German Chocolate Cake recipe! I hope you love it as much as I do.

Related recipe: Death by Chocolate Cake

Classic German Chocolate Cake

Heather Baird
This recipe is lightly adapted from the original “German’s® Sweet Chocolate Cake” recipe from Baker’s Chocolate Company, originating in 1957. Both the cake recipe and coconut-pecan frosting recipes are true to the original, with my addition of chocolate ganache to frost the sides of the cake.
If possible, use German’s Sweet Chocolate bar by Baker’s Chocolate Company to make the cake layers. An acceptable substitute is a semisweet chocolate bar with cacao content of 50% to 56% (this percentage will be somewhere on the label).
This recipe requires a cup of buttermilk. If you don’t have any on hand, see the recipe notes for a substitution using whole milk and vinegar.
Special thanks to my Aunt Alice Welch Crutchfield for handing down her best recipe to me.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
1 hour cooling time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12


  • 8-inch cake pans (3)
  • parchment paper


German’s Sweet Chocolate Cake Layers

  • 4 oz. German’s chocolate bar broken into pieces (1 bar)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder optional
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk see recipe notes
  • 4 egg whites

Coconut-Pecan Filling and Frosting

  • 12 oz. evaporated milk 1 can
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups sweetened flake coconut 7 oz. or 1 package
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted chopped pecans see recipe notes

Chocolate Ganache

  • 2 cups chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream


  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 16-18 toasted pecan halves


Cake Layers

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line three 8” cake pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Place the chocolate pieces in a medium bowl and pour over the boiling water. Add the instant coffee, if using. Let stand 1 minute; whisk together until the chocolate is melted and set aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk (begin and end with the flour mixture).
  • In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold half of the egg whites into the batter to loosen it using a large rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining egg whites. Divide the batter between the prepared pans.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick tester inserted near the centers of the cakes comes out clean. Immediately run a knife between the cakes and sides of the pans. Let cool 15 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and peel away the parchment paper. Cool completely on wire racks.

Coconut-Pecan Filling and Frosting

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks, and vanilla. Cook on medium heat while stirring occasionally.
  • When the butter is melted, cook for approximately 12 minutes whisking constantly, or until the mixture thickens and turns golden. Remove from the heat.
  • Place the coconut and pecans in a large bowl. Pour the cooked mixture over them and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature and of desired spreading consistency.

Chocolate Ganache

  • Place the chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at 100% power for about 1 minute 30 seconds. The cream should be steaming upon removal from the microwave. Let the mixture stand for about 60 seconds, then whisk together to combine. You can leave the ganache at room temperature to thicken. Or refrigerate it – checking and stirring it often- until spreading consistency.

Cake Assembly

  • Place a cake layer on an 8” cake board, a cake stand, or serving plate. Scoop 1/3 of the coconut-pecan frosting on top; spread as evenly as possible. Use a spoon or an offset spatula to push the thick frosting into place. Top with a second cake layer and repeat frosting. Top with the third cake layer and spread on the remaining coconut-pecan frosting. (At this point, you could serve the cake without the ganache covering.)
  • Spread a crumb coat of the cooled and thickened ganache on the sides of the cake. Refrigerate 15 minutes; add a second even coat to the sides. Immediately press chopped pecans into the bottom edge of the cake. Transfer any leftover ganache to a piping bag fitted with a small closed star tip, and pipe a shell border around the top edge (this is optional but pretty). Sprinkle any leftover chopped pecans on the shell border.
  • Line pecan halves within 1/2 inch of each other around the top edge of the cake.
  • Store the cake at room temperature in an air-tight cake keeper, or tightly under plastic wrap for up to 4 days. Or, to prolong freshness, store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Bring slices of cake to room temperature before serving.


Buttermilk Substitute: Place 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into a 1 cup measure. Fill the cup to the rim with whole milk. Stir. It may curdle a little; this is normal. Use in the recipe as a substitute for buttermilk. (There really is no perfect replacement for thick, rich and tangy buttermilk – but this substitution works well enough in this recipe.)
2 Layers Instead of 3: Divide the cake batter between two 9-inch round cake pans; increase bake time by 10 minutes, or until cakes test with a clean toothpick.
Toast Those Pecans! For the absolute best flavor, toast the pecans at 350F for 5 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Chopped pecans can vary in size, and small pieces may toast quicker than larger pieces.
Freezer-Friendly: The assembled cake can be frozen for up to 3 months. Chill the cake in the refrigerator first to firm up the ganache. Wrap well in plastic wrap, then double bag in extra-large zip-top freezer bags. Or, if you don’t have freezer bags large enough, wrap cake in at least four layers of plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, to prevent freezer burn.
Keyword Baker’s chocolate bar, buttermilk, coconut chips, egg whites, German chocolate bar, German Chocolate Cake, German’s Chocolate Cake, pecan-coconut frosting, toasted pecans, white chocolate ganache
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 days ago

Hello – I want to make this in a 9×13. Will this be too much batter for that size?