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The Best German Chocolate Cake

Are you ready to try the best German Chocolate Cake recipe? The cake is extra soft and chocolate-y, the coconut-pecan filling is less sweet and there’s a layer of whipped ganache to balance out the flavor of the cake.

a slice of german chocolate cake standing up on a plate.

To be totally honest, German Chocolate Cake has never been a huge favorite. In general, I prefer tarts and pies to cakes so I am very picky about my cakes and want only the best texture and flavor.

German Chocolate Cake can be bit too sweet and, despite all the ingredients, the flavor can be one dimensional. The gooey filling usually takes over and the chocolate fades into the background.

How to make a better German Chocolate Cake recipe:

Improve the chocolate cake

  • Despite the very name of the cake coming from the brand of chocolate used in the original recipe, this recipe uses Dutch processed cocoa powder.
  • Chocolate is composed of cocoa solids, cocoa butter and, in the case of the original chocolate, lots of sugar.
  • The chocolate used in the original recipe is a 40% chocolate, meaning there’s only 40% cocoa solids in the chocolate. Cocoa powder, on the other hand, is 100% cocoa solids. It actually has a purer chocolate flavor than actual chocolate.
  • I’m partial to using Dutch process cocoa in my cakes. Dutch processed cocoa is darker in color and has a mellow, true chocolate flavor. I highly recommend the brand listed in the recipe card (as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases). You can use natural cocoa if that’s all you have available.

Improve the coconut pecan filling

  • The amount of sugar in this recipe is reduced by 1/3 from the original recipe. The filling is still plenty sweet thanks to the sweetened coconut.
  • A lot of recipes use brown sugar in the filling. This recipe uses only white sugar so the coconut flavor can shine through.
  • Toast pecans and add them just before assembling the cake, this keeps the nuts crunchy.

Frost the cake with Ganache

  • The original cake is served “naked” without any frosting so you can see the layers of coconut-pecan filling. A layer of frosting adds more chocolate flavor and balances out the sweet filling.
  • The perfect frosting for this cake is a whipped dark chocolate ganache. Ganache is not super sweet, it’s rich with a deeply chocolate flavor and the frosting keeps the cake layers moist.
  • Whipping the ganache makes it light and airy. Whipped ganache must be used right away as it will start to set quickly.

a german chocolate cake on a yellow cake stand, front view

FAQs about German Chocolate Cake:

Why is it called “German” chocolate cake. Is it from Germany?

No, the cake recipe was created for the “German” brand chocolate. It is an American cake recipe

Can I use chocolate instead of cocoa in the cake?

You can’t make a 1:1 substitution for this recipe since it would throw off the balance of the recipe.

Can I use “natural” cocoa powder instead of Dutch processed in the cake?

You can, but the cake will be a little lighter in color and flavor.

Can I work ahead to make German Chocolate Cake?

Yes. The cake layers can be baked and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days or wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months. The ganache can be kept, covered, at room temperature for 1-2 days. Whip the ganache just before icing the cake. The filling can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead. Add the toasted pecans just before assembling the cake.

How do I store German Chocolate Cake?

You can leave the cake at room temperature for 1 day. After a day the cake should be refrigerated. If you chill the cake, take it out and bring it to room temperature before serving.

Can I freeze German Chocolate Cake?

Yes, you can wrap the entire cake in a double layer of plastic and freeze. You can also slice the cake and wrap and freeze the individual slices.

a slice of german chocolate cake on a white plate

If you love this sophisticated take on the classic German Chocolate cake, you’ll like these other chocolate layer cakes; Chocolate Buttercream Cake, Chocolate Genoise with chocolate cream filling, Old Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake and Classic Black Forest Cake.

If your favorite part of this cake is the coconut filling, here are two more coconut layer cakes for you to try; Snow White Coconut Layer Cake and Dreamy Coconut Cake with passion fruit curd.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

a lice of german chocolate cake on a plate

German Chocolate Cake

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

This is the best German Chocolate Cake recipe. The cake is extra soft and chocolate-y, the coconut-pecan filling is less sweet & the whipped ganache frosting balances out the flavor of the cake.

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 1/2 cup (2 oz, 56g) dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz, 120ml) boiling water
  • 6 large egg yolks (3.5oz, 100g), room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites (3.5oz, 100g), room temperature
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 224g) sour cream, room temperature, divided in 1/2
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 oz, 340g) granulated sugar, 1/4 cup separated & reserved
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 oz, 200g) cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks (8 oz, 224g) unsalted butter, room temperature

Coconut Pecan Filling

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 can (12 oz, 340g) evaporated milk
  • 1 stick (4 oz, 112g) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 224g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 3/4 cups (7 oz, 196g) sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted

Whipped Ganache

  • 8 oz (224g) semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 240 ml) heavy cream

Instructions

Make The Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 8" round cake pans with parchment paper rounds or butter and flour the bottoms of the pans only, not the sides.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa and the boiling water. Set aside to cool. Add the yolks, 1/2 the sour cream and the vanilla to the cooled cocoa and whisk to combine.
  3. Into a mixer bowl put 1 1/4 cups of the sugar, sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix on low speed to distribute the ingredients. Add the butter to the flour mixture. Mix on low until the butter is incorporated and the batter looks like a paste. Add the other 1/2 of the sour cream. Increase the speed to medium and mix about 3 minutes until the batter lightens in texture.
  4. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer on low, add 1/2 the cocoa mixture, mix to incorporate. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the rest of the cocoa mixture. Scrape the bowl and mix until incorporated. Set the batter aside.
  5. Whip the egg whites on medium high until they form soft peaks. Turn the mixer to medium low and slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Turn the mixer to medium high and whip the whites to full peak. Fold the whites into the batter in 2 parts, folding just until there are no streaks of egg whites.
  6. Divide the batter between the 2 pans and spread to level. Bake about 25-30 minutes until the center of the cake springs back when lightly pressed or a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Cool 10 minutes in the pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack. When fully cooled, wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 3 hours or over night before assembling.

Make The Filling

  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together the yolks, evaporated milk, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt. Heat over medium, stirring constantly, until it begins to bubble and thicken, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the coconut flakes and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Make the Ganache

  1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces, none larger than 1/2". Place the chocolate into a medium bowl.
  2. Heat the cream in the microwave or on the stove until scalding. Pour the cream all at once over the chocolate. Do not stir for 1-2 minutes to allow the chocolate to begin melting then stir until all the chocolate bits are melted.
  3. Chill the ganache until it is beginning to set around the edges, about 20 minutes. Do not allow the ganache to set completely. It should be cooled, but still quite soft. The ganache will whip up better if it's soft.

Assembly

  1. Using a long serrated knife, split each cake in 1/2 horizontally so you have 4 layers. Fold the toasted pecans into the cooled filling.
  2. Place a layer on your serving platter. Place 1/4 of the filling on the layer and spread it evenly to the edges. Repeat with the other layers. Place the final layer on the cake but don't put any filling on the top. Reserve the final 1/4 of the filling.
  3. Whip the ganache on medium speed until it is light and airy and looks like frosting. You need to use the ganache right away since it will set up quickly once it's whipped.
  4. Scoop 1/2 cup of the whipped ganache into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Immediately ice the sides and top of the cake with the rest of the ganache. Pipe a border around the top edge of the cake. Spread the remaining coconut pecan filling within the border on the top of the cake.
  5. Chill the cake until 1 hour before serving. Leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen after a day.

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