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German Chocolate Cake

RECIPE: German Chocolate Cake
Riley Wofford
Cook Time:
45 mins
Prep Time:
2 hrs 35 mins

Chef notes

I was well into adulthood before I learned to love and appreciate coconut for the versatile ingredient that it is. It can be blended into smoothies, baked into desserts, added to stir-fries and and even incorporated into rice to serve alongside spicy dishes. It adds a subtle sweetness and slight nuttiness to everything it touches. 

Coconut is an integral part of German chocolate cake. When paired with dark chocolate and roasted pecans, its flavor will shine in this classic dessert. The frosting requires some time to cook and cool, but it is a cinch to make. Start by heating some butter, brown sugar and a can of sweetened condensed milk until the butter is melted. Off the heat, whisk in a few egg yolks and gently boil the mixture until it starts to resemble a thick caramel or dulce de leche. From there, stir in the good stuff —  aka lots and lots of sweet shredded coconut and toasted pecans. I could just eat this frosting by the spoonful while it’s warm. It's that good. But this one in particular was destined for bigger things. 

The cake in this recipe is rich and moist, but not too dense. I like to use unsweetened chocolate here. Since the frosting is very sweet on its own, using unsweetened chocolate helps me control the level of sweetness in the cake batter. The addition of coffee helps both moisten the cake and enhance its overall flavor, making the chocolate flavor pop. The slight bitterness and acidity in coffee brings out even more chocolate flavor in each bite. 

Technique Tip: Adding the egg yolks to the frosting one by one while the frosting is off the heat is key to keeping them from scrambling. 



  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup freshly brewed coffee, cooled
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter,
  • 1 (12-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • cups (11 ounces) pecans, toasted and chopped, divided
  • cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
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Make the cake:


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush two 8-inch round cake pans with oil and line the bottoms with parchment paper; set aside. Melt chocolate in a small bowl. Let cool slightly.


In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate large bowl, whisk together coffee, sour cream, eggs and oil. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until well incorporated. Add melted chocolate and whisk to combine. Divide batter between prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes, then invert cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour.

Make the frosting:

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine butter, condensed milk and brown sugar Cook, stirring, until butter is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in egg yolks, one at a time, until incorporated. Return to medium-low heat. Once mixture begins to bubble in the center, cook, stirring constantly, until thickened to the consistency of dulce de leche, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in all but ⅓ cup pecans, coconut, vanilla and salt. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

Assemble the cake:

Place one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread half the frosting evenly over the surface of the cake, spreading to the edges. Place the second cake layer on top and spread with remaining frosting. Sprinkle reserved pecans over the top; serve.