This old fashioned german chocolate cake is filled with a coconut-pecan filling and covered in a decadent chocolate buttercream. The chocolate cake layers are super soft and have the best chocolate flavor!
This recipe was originally published in August of 2020, but was updated on July 14, 2023 with newer content.
This is hands down the best german chocolate cake recipe! Everything you expect to find inside of this classic cake is there: coconut, pecans, and chocolate.
Each bite just melts in your mouth from the moist cake layers and that delicious coconut-pecan frosting. This will definitely be a new family favorite!
Why You'll Love This Cake
- It has three layers of chocolate cake.
- It's filled with a sweet coconut pecan frosting.
- The chocolate frosting is smooth and creamy.
- You can serve it at any birthday party or holiday gathering.
- Chocolate, coconut, and pecans are tasted with every bite!
Expert Baking Tips
- Cake Pans: This recipe calls for three 6-inch cake pans. Line each pan with parchment paper and non-stick spray.
- Measuring Flour: To help ensure you don’t add extra flour, follow these three simple steps: 1) Fluff up the flour using a fork. 2) Spoon the flour into your measuring cup. 3) Scrape a knife across the top of the measuring cup to level out the flour.
- Coconut Frosting: Start making the filling as soon as the cakes go into the oven. That way, they will both be cooled around the same time. You can also make this filling one day ahead of time.
- Crumb Coat: This is where we add a thin layer of frosting on the cake in order to catch the crumbs and keeps them secure. You’ll want to chill the cake in the refrigerator or freezer for 10 minutes after the crumb coat has been put on before the final frosting layer.
Here are some notes on the ingredients we'll be using. For the full ingredients list, look at the recipe card below.
- Flour: I used all purpose flour. Be sure to properly measure your flour (check out "Expert Baking Tips" above).
- Cocoa Powder: Use a high quality cocoa powder for the best flavor! I used Scharffen Berger, but Hershey's is good too.
- Oil: You can use either vegetable oil or canola.
- Egg Yolks: Needed to make the pecan filling.
- Evaporated Milk: One 8-ounce can is all you need.
- Shredded Coconut: I used sweetened coconut flakes.
- Pecans: Use crushed pecans.
- Heavy Whipping Cream: You could also use heavy cream or milk. This is needed for the chocolate frosting.
Here are the step by step instructions on how to make the most amazing german chocolate cake.
Step 1: Dry ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Step 2: Wet ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the warm water, milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract until combined.
Step 3: Combine the ingredients. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, whisking until a wet batter forms.
Step 4: Bake. Divide the cake batter amongst the three prepared cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes come out clean.
For best results, allow the layers to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before removing them and placing on a wire rack to finish cooling.
Step 5: Make the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the egg yolks, butter, brown sugar, and evaporated milk. Occasionally whisk until it comes to a boil.
Once boiling, whisk constantly for another 2-3 minutes until it starts to thicken.
Step 6: Cool. Remove the filling from the heat and whisk in the shredded coconut, crushed pecans, and vanilla extract. Cool completely.
Step 7: Make the frosting. Beat together the unsalted butter in a large bowl using a hand mixer until light and creamy. Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, heavy whipping cream, and vanilla extract and mix on low until combined.
Then beat on high speed for an additional 1-2 minutes until smooth and creamy.
Assembling The Cake
Make sure the cake layers and filling are completely cooled before assembling and decorating.
Place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate and pipe a border of frosting around the edge of the cake. Then spread 3-4 tablespoons of the coconut pecan filling in the center using an offset spatula.
Repeat with the second layer. Top the cake with the last layer and spread on about ¼ cup of frosting. Frost and smooth the outside of the cake with a thin crumb coat (I used my offset spatula and cake scraper).
Place the entire cake in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill. Then, finish frosting the sides of the cake and decorate the top.
I used the Wilton 6B to pipe a border and then added more of the filling to the center.
Keep any leftover cake slices in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
You could also wrap the individual pieces of cake in plastic wrap before placing it into the refrigerator. This helps to keep a moist cake.
Frequently Asked Questions
The classic recipe traditionally has a coconut pecan filling instead of a buttercream frosting. If desired, you do not have to add the chocolate frosting to this cake.
I used three 6-inch cake pans, but you could also use two 8-inch or two 9-inch cake pans.
It brings me so much joy to see you make my recipes. 🙂
More Cake Recipes
Old Fashioned German Chocolate Cake
- Three 6-Inch Cake Pans
- Electric Stand Mixer
- Mixing Bowls
- Cake Decorating Tools
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- ¾ cup cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 cup milk room temperature preferred
- 2 large eggs room temperature preferred
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil (or canola)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Coconut Pecan Filling
- 3 egg yolks
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 8 ounces evaporated milk
- 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
- ¾ cup crushed pecans
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature (3 sticks)
- 3 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ¾ cup cocoa powder, sifted
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream (or milk)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line three 6-inch cake pans with parchment paper then nonstick spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the warm water, milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry, whisking until a wet batter forms (do not overmix).
- Divide the batter amongst the three prepared cake pans and bake for 23-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes come out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 20 minutes before removing and placing them on a wire rack to cool completely.
Coconut Pecan Filling
- As the cakes are cooking, start making the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the egg yolks, butter, brown sugar, and evaporated milk. Whisk occasionally as it comes to a boil (about 10-15 minutes). Once boiling, whisk constantly for another 2-3 minutes until it starts to thicken.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and mix in the coconut, crushed pecans, and vanilla extract. Pour the hot filling into a heat-safe bowl and allow it to cool completely. I place mine in the refrigerator.
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the butter on high speed until light and creamy (2-3 minutes). Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, heavy whipping cream, and vanilla extract and mix on low speed until combined. Then beat on high speed for 1-2 minutes until smooth and creamy.
- Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate and pipe a border of chocolate frosting around the edge of the cake. Then spread 3-4 tablespoons of the coconut pecan filling in the center of the cake using an offset spatula.
- Repeat with the second layer. Top the cake with the last layer and spread on about ¼ cup of frosting. Frost and smooth the outside of the cake with a thin crumb coat. Place the entire cake in the refrigerator or freezer for 10 minutes to chill.
- Refrigerate the cake for at least 15 minutes before serving so it's easier to cut. Keep any leftover cake slices in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.