German Chocolate Cake

by Jillian

Layers of incredibly moist chocolate cake, the BEST caramel coconut-pecan filling, and rich milk chocolate buttercream!

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German Chocolate Cake.

AKA, “Man Cake”.

At least, that’s what it SHOULD be called since every single man in my family always requests it for their birthday. This particular occasion was for my brother’s 30th birthday. Fun fact of the day: Did you know that once you turn 30, you will have spent an entire month of your life celebrating your birthday?

Mind blown.

Back to the cake…what is it about German Chocolate Cake that makes it so manly? I guess it’s not your traditional white fluffy cake with light and creamy frosting. 

I’m not exactly sure what makes the cake “German”, except for the fact that it’s traditionally made with German chocolate. This recipe, however, was not made with German chocolate. I know, I broke the rules…instead I opted for a mix of unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder. I also added just a tad bit of espresso powder to really liven up that chocolatey richness. The espresso powder is optional, but if you’re worried about tasting it, you won’t! I promise! You will thank me afterwards.

Trust me.

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While I did break the rule of not using “German” chocolate, there’s one thing I know for sure…you definitely CANNOT call it a German Chocolate Cake if it doesn’t have the classic Coconut-Pecan filling. You just can’t. The filling is what distinguishes it from your ordinary chocolate cake. Plus, I’m pretty sure it’s the main reason why all men flock to this cake, and I can’t say that I blame them.

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Who wouldn’t be in love with such a perfect union of caramely, coconutty, pecan goodness! Seriously guys, this stuff is like crack. And I have to say, I’m pretty darn good at making crack–err, I mean coconut-pecan filling.

There’s something magical that happens when you combine egg yolks, evaporated milk, sugar, and butter together. The heat of the stove not only allows it to thicken up into that perfectly smooth consistency, but it also creates that buttery, caramelized flavor. And when you add the coconut and toasted nuts (TOAST THOSE NUTS–no short-cuts!), you have the most addictive concoction in the world. Just TRY not to eat the entire batch. Don’t even THINK about buying the canned stuff that looks and tastes like ear wax.

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To add to this already decadent cake, I whipped up a simple, yet sweet and creamy milk chocolate frosting. Since the cake is darker and less sweet than the average German chocolate cake, milk chocolate frosting seemed like the best contrast in flavor and color to the dark chocolatey cake. 

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And while I say this should be called “Man Cake”, it doesn’t necessarily leave us ladies out. In fact, if I wasn’t such a wonderful, amazing, generous, super sweet sister, I would’ve gone total caveman-mode on this entire cake.

German Chocolate Cake

I’m such a good sister 😉

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German Chocolate Cake

Layers of incredibly moist chocolate cake, the BEST caramel coconut-pecan filling, and rich milk chocolate buttercream!
Prep Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 10 Servings


For the Coconut-Pecan Filling

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 ½ cups chopped pecans toasted

For the Cake

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate chopped
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 12 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 large whole eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)

For the Milk Chocolate Buttercream

  • 6 ounces milk chocolate chopped
  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


To make the Coconut-Pecan Filling

  • In a medium saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and evaporated milk together. Add the sugars, butter, and salt and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture is boiling and thickened. The consistency should coat the back of a spoon like a thin pudding.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla, coconut, and pecans. Allow filling to cool completely before filling the cake.

To make the Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two 9-inch round baking pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a double boiler, combine the chocolate, cocoa powder, hot water, and espresso powder, stirring until smooth. Mixture will be thick. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the chocolate mixture and vanilla and continue beating until combined.
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by 1/2 of the yogurt, mixing until incorporated. Repeat process with remaining flour mixture and yogurt until batter is thoroughly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and give one last stir before dividing batter equally among the prepared pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula. Lightly tap pans against the countertop to settle any batter and to eliminate any air bubbles.
  • Bake for 27-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with few crumbs attached. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the Milk Chocolate Buttercream

  • Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave until smooth. Allow to cool to almost room temperature. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy.
  • Add the powdered sugar, a 1/2 cup at a time, beating until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the melted chocolate, vanilla, and salt. Beat on high until buttercream is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

To Assemble

  • Slice each cake layer in half horizontally, so that you end up with 4 even cake layers. Place one cake layer on a plate or cake pedestal and spread with 1/4 of the coconut-pecan filling. Repeat, alternating layers of cake and filling, ending with a layer of filling. Using an offset spatula or a butter knife, frost the sides of the cake. Place the rest in a pastry bag fitted with a tip, and decorate as desired. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


*It's best to make the coconut-pecan filling first to give it time to cool before assembling the cake. The filling can also be made up to 3 days ahead.
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[BLOCKED BY STBV] German Chocolate Cupcakes - A baJillian Recipes January 9, 2023 - 9:00 AM

[…] while back, I made my own version of this iconic cake, and I STILL can’t get that addictive coconut-pecan frosting out of my […]

Alice November 4, 2016 - 12:34 AM

the cake dose not have a bake time

Jillian November 7, 2016 - 7:00 AM

It’s been updated. Sorry for the confusion!!

Thryn Saxon October 8, 2015 - 12:57 PM

How much butter goes in the cake?! I’m making it now and there is no amount listed in the cake ingredients please help!

Jillian October 8, 2015 - 8:02 PM

Hi Thryn, so sorry about the mishap! There are 12 Tablespoons of butter in the cake.

Lou Lou Girls October 4, 2015 - 7:13 PM

I’m licking my lips right now! Looks so good! Pinned and tweeted. We truly appreciate you taking the time to be a part of our party. Please stop by and party with us again. The party starts Monday at 7 pm and ends on Friday at 7 pm. Happy Sunday! Lou Lou Girls

June @ How to Philosophize with Cake September 30, 2015 - 11:30 PM

What a pretty cake! I just love the classic german chocolate cake flavor–the coconut pecan topping is so delicious. Yours looks fabulous!

Jillian October 1, 2015 - 2:36 AM

Why thank you, June! German Chocolate Cake is definitely one of those underrated cakes that needs to be made more often!


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