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German Chocolate Cake

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  • Prep 30 min
  • Total 2 hr 20 min
  • Servings 12
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This is a coconut-lover’s dream! Our rich scratch chocolate cake is layered not once, but three times, with our delicious homemade German Chocolate cake frosting. The signature coconut-pecan recipe is both the filling and frosting for this classic cake.
Whether you’re brand-new to baking or you’ve been around the kitchen once or twice, trust Betty’s easy fool-proof recipe and helpful tips to create a cake that may look like it came from a bakery, but you know better…and we’ll be high-fiving you with our red oven mitt for your success!

The irresistible, indulgent flavors of this cake have made it a holiday tradition with many families, particularly for Christmas or Easter. But it’s not hard to make—why enjoy it only for a holiday meal? Bring it out as the end to any special dinner, whether it’s celebrating a new job or an anniversary, to commemorate the event with style!
Updated Mar 14, 2024
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How to Make German Chocolate Cake

Our luscious German cake recipe described in detail the easy steps, so your scratch cake will be moist and delicious…right down to the very last crumb on your plate! Here are the basic steps—but you’ll want to follow the well laid-out recipe to ensure you’ll bake up the best cake possible:
Making the Cake: Melted sweet chocolate is mixed with the other cake ingredients with an electric mixer, alternating adding the flour mixture with buttermilk. Egg whites are beaten until stiff and folded into the cake batter, for fluffy, light cake texture. The cake is baked in 3 smaller pans (for a 3-layer cake). Or two larger ones.

Making German Chocolate Frosting: Egg yolks, sugar, butter, evaporated milk, and vanilla are cooked in a saucepan until thick and bubbly. Chopped pecans and flaked coconut are stirred in and the delightful mixture is cooled until it’s spreadable.

Filling and Frosting the Layers: The coconut-pecan mixture is spread just on top of each layer of cake, for the signature look.

German Chocolate Cake Ingredients

See what each ingredient brings to the table to create the most scrumptious German Chocolate Cake:
Sweet Baking Chocolate: Found in the baking aisle (also known as German chocolate), it brings the signature chocolatey flavor this cake is known for.

All-Purpose Flour: Added to give structure to the cake.

Baking Soda: Provides some of the lift this silky cake needs for a cake with a fine crumb texture.

Sugar: Adds sweetness but also tenderness to this amazing scratch chocolate cake and sweetness to the filling and frosting.

Butter: Add rich buttery flavor and tenderness to the cake and filling/frosting.

Eggs: Adds richness and provides lift for the batter, as the egg whites are beaten until stiff, which contributes to the cake's structure. And egg yolks help thicken the cooked filling and frosting.

Vanilla: Brings out the chocolate flavor and acts as a “friend of a friend”, to bring together the flavor of the cake with the rich frosting.

Buttermilk: Enhances the chocolate flavor and deep brown color of the cake.

Evaporated Milk: Adds a background of dairy notes to the filling/frosting with just the right amount of liquid.

Flaked Coconut: Less sweet than shredded coconut, flaked coconut adds the rich tropical nutty flavor without making the cake overly sweet.

Pecans: Add crunch and flavor that goes so well with the coconut and chocolate flavors!

How to Store German Chocolate Cake

Leftover German Chocolate Cake stores beautifully in either the refrigerator or freezer, to enjoy later.
Refrigerator Storage: Wrap any remaining cake with plastic wrap in one piece, if possible, to help it retain its moisture. Try to wrap the sides tightly, since they do not have any frosting to help hold in the moisture of the cake. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Freezer Storage: Place any remaining cake on the serving plate in the freezer unwrapped. Freeze for 1 hour or until the top is firm; remove from plate. Wrap cake tightly with plastic wrap and a layer of foil. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To thaw cake, unwrap foil and loosen plastic wrap from the bottom of the cake. Place on a serving plate (with the top and side still wrapped in plastic). Let it thaw in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.



  • Cooking spray to grease pans
  • 4 oz sweet baking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 1/4 cups Gold Medal™ All Purpose Flour or 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Coconut-Pecan Filling and Topping

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar or packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup evaporated milk (from 12-oz can)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Make With
Gold Medal Flour


  • 1
    Heat the oven to 350°F. Spray the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch or two 9-inch round cake pans with the cooking spray. Cut three 8-inch or two 9-inch rounds of cooking parchment paper. Line bottoms of pans with the paper.
  • 2
    Coarsely chop the chocolate. In a 1-quart saucepan, heat the chocolate and water over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is completely melted; remove from heat and cool.
  • 3
    Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking soda and salt until mixed; set aside. In another medium bowl, beat 2 cups sugar and 1 cup butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy; set aside.
  • 4
    On medium speed, beat 1 egg yolk at a time into the sugar mixture until mixed. On low speed, beat in the melted chocolate and 1 teaspoon vanilla. On low speed, beat in 1/2 of the flour mixture just until smooth, then beat in 1/2 of the buttermilk just until smooth. Repeat beating in flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk just until smooth.
  • 5
    Wash and dry mixer beaters. In a small bowl, beat the eggs whites on high speed until beaten eggs whites form stiff peaks when beaters are lifted. Add egg whites to the batter; to fold in, use a rubber spatula to cut down vertically through the batter, then slide the spatula across the bottom of the bowl and up the side, turning batter over. Rotate the bowl 1/4 turn, and repeat this down-across-up motion. Continue folding until batter and egg whites are blended.
  • 6
    Pour batter into pans; use a rubber spatula to scrape batter from bowl, spread batter evenly in pans and smooth top of batter. (If batter is not divided evenly, spoon batter from one pan to another.) Refrigerate batter in third pan if not all pans will fit in oven at one time; bake third pan separately.
  • 7
    Bake 8-inch pans 35 to 40 minutes, 9-inch pans 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • 8
    Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes. To remove cake from pan, invert onto cooling rack, then invert right side up on second cooling rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  • 9
    In a 2-quart saucepan, stir the 3 egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, the evaporated milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla until well mixed. Cook over medium heat about 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.
  • 10
    Place 1 cake layer, rounded side down, on a cake plate; using a metal spatula, spread 1/3 of the filling over the layer. Add second layer, rounded side down; spread with 1/3 of the filling. Add third layer, rounded side up; spread with remaining filling, leaving side of cake unfrosted. Store cake covered in the refrigerator.

Tips from the Betty Crocker Kitchens

  • tip 1
    Bake cakes on center oven rack, arranging pans so that there is at least 1 inch of space between the pans and the sides of the oven. If not all pans will fit on one rack, refrigerate one pan of batter until the others are baked, and then bake remaining layer separately.
  • tip 2
    Egg whites will beat up more stiffly with more volume, if they don't have any egg yolks in them, which will help you achieve the best cake texture.
  • tip 3
    Pour the last of the evaporated milk in a container, cover and refrigerate. Try stirring into a creamy soup or a slow-cooked breakfast hot cereal.
  • tip 4
    If you're making this recipe using two cake layers rather than three, follow the directions in Step 10, but use half of the frosting to frost each layer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to frost German Chocolate Cake

Frosting a German Chocolate Cake is about the easiest layer cake to frost, since you are using whole cake layers, rather than horizontally cut cakes, which can make it more difficult.
Start with Cooled Cakes: Be sure the cake layers are completely cooled before frosting, so they won’t fall apart.

Brush off the Sides: The cake layers will have lacy-like crumbs on the sides when they are removed from the pans. Gently brush these off with a pastry brush or your fingers before you begin frosting them.

Let it Cool: The German chocolate cake frosting recipe say to let the filling cool until it is spreadable. It thickens as it cools, so if it is too runny, let it cool longer before frosting the cake.

Drop in Big Dabs: Spread the filling evenly in the pan and use the metal spatula to draw lines in it to divide it into thirds. To spread the filling easily, drop large spoonfuls of one portion of the filling around the center of the cake layer, using the spatula to spread them until they touch and cover the top of the cake. Repeat with the other layers.

What are other variations of this recipe?

Change Up the Nuts: Try swapping other nuts for the chopped pecans. Macadamia nuts add to the tropical vibe, or almonds take the flavors in a new and exciting direction!

Other German Chocolate Treats: If you love the flavors in German chocolate cake, then you will also love all the terrific ways we’ve discovered to deliver the flavors in entirely new ways! Try any of these other treats in a brand-new form: German Chocolate Pie, German Chocolate Bars, German Chocolate Sheet Cake, German Chocolate Torte or Gluten-Free German Chocolate Brownies are some of the other amazing ways to dive into the luscious flavors of sweet chocolate, coconut, and pecans! You can type “German chocolate” on the search line and see just how many ways we have created to keep enjoying the German chocolate flavor combo. YUM!

Will the cake dry out if the sides aren’t frosted?

Since this cake is so special to eat, it is important to time when you make it to get the best texture. We recommend making the German Chocolate Cake recipe either the day you plan to serve it or the next day when the cake has the best texture with a perfectly moist interior. Because the side of the cake is not frosted, it’s important to wrap the cake with plastic wrap, paying close attention to getting the side tightly wrapped. See How to Store German Chocolate Cake above for all the delicious details.

When are the best times to serve German Chocolate Cake ?

The rich, indulgent flavors and appearance of German cake give it a specialness that lends itself nicely to holiday meals. It is a showstopping end to an Easter brunch or a Christmas dinner…or can stand in for pie on your Thanksgiving table. Mix it up by making it instead of homemade carrot cake. Bring it to a potluck and be ready for it to disappear in a hurry!
But it is also a wonderful choice for other special events throughout the year, as well! Use it to mark special occasions such as a birthday or anniversary. Bring it out for a graduation open house or shower. Celebrate a promotion or even the first day of spring! For coconut lovers, this cake will always be requested!


730 Calories, 40g Total Fat, 9g Protein, 83g Total Carbohydrate, 62g Sugars

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 Serving
Calories from Fat
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Total Carbohydrate
Dietary Fiber
% Daily Value*:
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
1 Starch; 0 Fruit; 4 1/2 Other Carbohydrate; 0 Skim Milk; 0 Low-Fat Milk; 0 Milk; 0 Vegetable; 0 Very Lean Meat; 0 Lean Meat; 1 High-Fat Meat; 6 Fat;
Carbohydrate Choice
5 1/2
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

More About This Recipe

  • If you love a great homemade chocolate cake like German Chocolate Cake, then try some of our other chocolatey favorites! Chocoalte Turtle Cake pairs chocolate cake with a caramel topping, pecans, and chocolate chips, for a decadent treat. Or Chocolate Rum Cake adds real rum to both the chocolate cake and dreamy, creamy whipped cream topping, with coconut and pecans. Like the denseness and moistness of a great flourless cake? Then Flourless Chocolate Cake is the ticket!
    For even more scrumptious cake recipes, from those that start with a Betty Crocker™ Super Moist™ cake mix or when you love to get out your canisters of flour and sugar and whip one up from scratch, we have cake recipes for every occasion. Whether you have 15 minutes to get it in the oven or want to immerse yourself in baking for a few hours, we have the perfect recipes you’ll love to serve your family and friends.
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