This German chocolate cake recipe is the most delicious, moist, flavourful cake ever! It features a super moist chocolate cake but the real star is the butterscotch frosting loaded with pecan and coconut. Beyond how beautifully the flavors bond together it is also a super easy recipe you can literally make in no time without any special equipment.
📖 What is German Chocolate Cake
German chocolate cake, originally German's chocolate cake, is a layered chocolate cake filled and topped with a coconut-pecan frosting. The cake, in fact, has nothing to do with Germany, the name rather refers to Samuel German, who invented a type of chocolate that was traditionally used to make this cake. There is a whole long story behind it and its history dating back to the 19th century.
Nevertheless of the German Chocolate cake origin, it is my favorite type of cake made with easy elements and the most delicious result!
🌟 Why this is the best recipe
- It is super delicious – I never compromise on taste! Moist chocolate sponges and crazy delicious nutty butterscotch frosting with shredded coconut make this German chocolate cake absolutely irresistible!
- It is extremely easy – The ingredients are not fancy and the cake is very easy to make from scratch for even the most beginner bakers. No need to bother fully frosting the cake, we will leave the cake naked just as the original recipe
- It is super quick – The steps are clear and uncomplicated. The chocolate sponge layer comes together in no time and the frosting is again, super simple
- From scratch recipe – Some recipes call for a boxed cake mix to keep it simple. My recipes are always made from scratch, but so easy and never complicated. Baking from scratch produces the most tender and moist cake.
- No special equipment is needed – All you need is a few round cake pans to bake the cake and a digital scale, of course!
- It is an honest, detailed tutorial – While this recipe might look long, all the information I have written here, every tip and trick will help you achieve the perfect results without any issues on the way. Remember, baking is a science, and every little detail written here is to help YOU!
📝 Ingredient notes
For the Chocolate cake
- Egg: Use room temperature eggs, as always. Please do not underestimate this recommendation as cold eggs can´t properly emulsify with the rest of the ingredients
- Oil: This chocolate cake is an oil-based cake (no butter) that keeps the cake super moist. Butter-based cakes tend to harden a lot in the fridge, with oil we won’t have this issue. Use no flavor vegetable oil
- Milk: Whole milk at room temperature is what I recommend, again room temperature is key
- Coffee: If you are not using coffee in your chocolate desserts, you are missing out and I think you should seriously consider trying it. Believe me, the cake won’t taste like coffee at all, however, it enhances the taste of chocolate. I recommend brewing a strong espresso type of coffee and using it straight away fresh (at room temperature). It does not impact the taste whatsoever! If you don´t have coffee at home, use lukewarm water instead
- Sugar: Use a mix of brown and white sugar in this chocolate cake recipe. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my sugar guide.
- Flour: All purpose flour, cake flour, or pastry flour makes the best cakes. They are so-called “soft flour” which are low on protein resulting in a delicate, tender texture. Make sure you sift flour before using it in the recipe to avoid lumps. If you want to be a Pro when it comes to deciding what type of flour to use in your baking, please read my Flour guide.
- Baking powder + Baking soda: They have two important functions; increase the volume and lighten the texture of the cake
- Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: Generally always use unsweetened, 100% cocoa powder in baking. I use a so-called Dutch-processed cocoa powder, it has a lovely dark color, and it is lower in acidity. Make sure to sift the cocoa powder before using to avoid lumps
- Salt: An absolutely essential ingredient in most dessert recipes, particularly in chocolate desserts, do not leave it out. It balances the sweetness and brings the flavor out
🛒 You’ll find detailed measurements for all Ingredients in the printable version of the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post
For the Butterscotch coconut pecan frosting
- Dark or Light Brown Sugar: Butterscotch frosting is made of brown sugar, which will give the deep molasses flavor of the cream
- Egg: Room temperature as always, you will only need the yolk part of it
- Butter: Use always unsalted as you want to be in control of the quantity of the salt. I am using 82% fat content butter in all my recipes. In this recipe, the butter will need to be melted with the rest of the ingredients therefore you can use it at any temperature you like
- Heavy Cream: Also known as whipping cream, has a fat content of 36% -40%, I prefer using 36% in this recipe. Heavy cream will make the frosting extra cream. Some recipes use sweetened condensed milk, however, it is way too sweet in my opinion
- Milk: Besides cream, I also use some milk to balance the richness of the frosting, use high-fat content milk. Evaporated milk can be also used, although it is thicker
- Salt: We always need at least a pinch of salt to balance the flavors for such sweet, brown sugar-based frosting
- Unsweetened Shredded Coconut: Shredded coconut, try to use organic that has a natural beautiful coconut flavor
- Pecan: Toast pecans in advance to bring out their amazing nutty flavor, then chop them into small pieces
🛒 You’ll find detailed measurements for all Ingredients in the printable version of the Recipe Card at the bottom of this post
👩🍳 How to make this recipe
1. How to make moist chocolate cake
Check out my signature chocolate sponge cake recipe that contains much more information. This is a super moist chocolate cake with velvety crumbs and is crazy delicious. The best thing about it is that it comes together in less than 5 minutes!
- Prepare your baking pans: 3x 15 cm (6 inch) round cake pan as per instructions later. It will be a 3 layer cake and the layers can be baked either all at once, or third the recipe and bake them one by one.
- The baking temperature will be 180 C / 356 F but preheat oven +20C / 68F as the oven temp will drop when you open the door and place the baking tins in
- Consider using a Digital oven thermometer to understand your real oven temp
- Ingredients must be all measured with a Digital scale
- Eggs, milk, and coffee must be at room temperature
- Whip the wet ingredients (oil, sugar, milk, coffee, and eggs) with an Electric hand mixer for a minute or two until combined. Alternatively, this step can be made with a hand whisk too
- Sift dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder) then pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients
- Dry ingredients must be folded in by hand (using Rubber spatula). Do not use a mixer at this point
- Please note that the chocolate sponge cake batter will be very liquid at this point, do not add more flour to it
- Pour cake batter into the prepared baking pans (15 cm (6 inch) round cake pan), divide the batter equally into the 3 pans using a Digital scale
- Do not open the oven door during baking. After 25-30 minutes check the middle of the cake with a toothpick. Bake until the toothpick inserted comes out clean.
💡 Top Tip: Let the chocolate sponges cool completely on a cooling rack. Best, if you chill them before assembling. Please note that the sponges are very fragile while hot, do not break them
2. How to make the Butterscotch coconut pecan frosting
The German Chocolate Cake frosting is a Butterscotch coconut pecan frosting which makes this recipe super special! Butterscotch sauce is effectively a caramel kind of buttery sauce made with brown sugar. While I love my caramel sauce I must say this butterscotch sauce is equally smooth, creamy, and buttery but with a way more complex molasses flavor profile due to brown sugar and egg yolk.
- Place all the ingredients (except the coconut and pecan, those will be added later) into a saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickens, around 10 minutes on my stove but please look for the right consistency, do not stick to the 10 minutes mark!
- Whisk the mixture while cooking so egg yolks won´t curdle. If the sauce breaks during cooking, it means that probably you heated up the mixture too much, try to fix it with a hand blender or start again
- The mixture will thicken as you cook, then it will further thicken as it cools due to the butter.
- Once the sauce slightly cools to room temperature mix in toasted and chopped pecan pieces and shredded coconut then try not to eat the frosting before assembling the cake, good luck!
💡 Top Tip: The frosting will need 30-60 minutes in the fridge before it will achieve a really thick consistency to frost the cake as per below.
3. How to assemble
Assembling this German chocolate cake could not be easier. This is a naked style, sort of rustic cake, all you need to pay attention to is to divide the frosting into 3 equal portions and spread it in between the chocolate cake sponges then decorate according to your liking.
Chocolate frosting can be added as decoration, honestly, it is rather a complete, delicious cake even without that so I would say it is optional.
💡 Top Tip: After assembling, the cake should be chilled for another 30-60 minutes and I must say it is even more delicious the next day!
🥣 Equipment notes
I am using relatively small, 15 cm (6 inch) round cake pans. You can use bigger or smaller cake pans if you wish. However, you will need to adjust the ingredients and baking time. You also need to make sure that you divide the batter evenly between the pans for even baking, use a Digital scale.
To prevent your sponge layers from sticking, it is very important that you properly prepare the cake pans so that you can easily remove the sponges from the tins after baking. To do this: Use a pastry brush, just brush the inside of the cake pans with a tiny bit of oil, and then use parchment paper to line the bottom and sides of the pans as well. The oil is only needed for the parchment to stick to the pans. And make sure you prepare the cake pans before you start mixing the ingredients!
🎓 Expert tips
- Always use room temperature ingredients so that they will properly emulsify. If your milk, coffee, or egg is too cold or too hot, the cake batter might even break.
- Do not overbake your sponge layers as that will result in a dry texture.
- Add the salt to all chocolate-based desserts
- You must chill the sponges before assembling the cake
- While cooking the frosting (butterscotch sauce), make sure you do so on medium heat as the sauce can easily curdle if over-heated
Yes of course you can, this recipe works no matter what size or shape of cake you want to bake. However, you will need to adjust the baking time and ingredients accordingly. This is a 6 inch round cake and the recipe can easily doubled for example.
Probably yes, you can. However, you can't just leave out or change an ingredient without reformulating the entire recipe. When one ingredient changes, some other ingredients need to be changed too in order to keep the balance in the texture and flavor. Sadly, I am not able to provide substitutes for different types of allergies and diets
The most common reasons for dry cake are that the ingredients were not measured correctly, improper mixing technique or the cake has simply been over-baked
You will want to follow my tips above regarding how to cook the frosting. Please also make sure to let it cool as the butter will set the butterscotch cream further as it cools
Once you assemble the cake, it should be stored in the fridge. I suggest you cover the cake to make sure it does not absorb any smell from the fridge. Leftover cake - if there is any - can be stored in the fridge for 1-2 days in an airtight container.
I do not recommend freezing the entire cake as the frosting does not freeze well, but you can easily freeze the sponges prior to assembling the cake
🍰 More Cake Recipes
German chocolate cake
Chocolate Sponge for 3 x 15 cm ( 6 inches)
- 170 g (1⅓ cups) All purpose flour sifted
- 45 g (½ cups) Cocoa powder unsweetened dutch processed, sifted
- 120 g (⅔ cups) Granulated sugar
- 120 g (⅔ cups) Brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Baking soda
- 1 teaspoon Baking powder
- 90 g (½ cups) Vegetable oil
- 2 Eggs room temp
- 165 g (⅔ cups) Milk room temp
- 120 g (½ cups) Coffee freshly brewed, room temo
Butterscotch coconut pecan frosting
- 120 g (½ cups) Unsalted butter
- 4 Egg yolk
- 120 g (½ cups) Whole milk
- 120 g (½ cups) Heavy Cream 36% fat
- 150 g (⅔ cups) Brown sugar
- 120 g (1½ cups) Coconut unsweetened shredded
- 120 g (1¼ cups) Pecan toasted, chopped
- Pecan few pieces
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
- Heat oven to 180 C / 356°F (no fan)
- Prepare 3 x 15 cm (6 inch) round cake pan with parchment paper
- With an Electric hand mixer , whip together the wet ingredients: room temperature egg, oil, milk, sugars and coffee for 2-3 minutes
- Sift dry ingredients; flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, and salt
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients then fold just until combined
- Divide batter equally into 3 cake pans with the help of a Digital scale
- Bake for 25 min or until skewer inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean
- Before assembling, cool the chocolate sponges on Cooling rack
Butterscotch coconut pecan glaze
- Cook all ingredients (except pecan and coconut) in as saucepan over medium heat until slightly thickens, this will take about 10 minutes. Pay attention to the consistency and remove it from the stove as soon as it thickens. Stir constantly while cooking to avoid egg yolk curdling
- Let the cream cool down to approx. room temperature, it will thicken as it cools. Fold coconut and toasted chopped pecans in and let it rest in the fridge for 30-60 minutes until sets
- Once chocolate sponges are on room temperature and frosting sets in the fridge start assembling the cake
- Divide the frosting into 3 equal portions and spread it over the sponges with the help of an Offset spatula or spoon. Decorate with some more toasted pecans.
- Let the cake set in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. Store in the fridge
- Measure your ingredients with a Digital scale for accuracy
- All ingredients for the chocolate cake must be at room temperature to properly emulsify: eggs, milk, coffee, etc.
- Do not skip salt that will balance the sweetness of this cake
- Make sure you read my Expert tips section above to maximize your success. A short recipe alone is not able to cover all the necessary details, and science behind baking.
- Chill the chocolate sponges before assembling
- Assemble the cake on the serving tray you are planning to serve as at a later stage you won´t be able to move the cake easily
- Cook the butterscotch sauce on medium heat only to avoid curdling