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German Chocolate Cake

Updated on December 3, 2011

I love days when I get to don my red boots and cape, and rush to someone's culinary rescue! In this case my friend Tabitha had lost her recipe for German Chocolate Cake and wanted to know if I had one. Well - yes! Yes I do matter of fact!

Ok - I didn't really wear the boots and cape. Instead of dashing around looking awesome, this kind of rescue usually involves poking through monstrous stacks and files of dusty recipe boxes and notes - but that's ok. I'd like the think the end results are just as Fabulous, and this will let Tabitha serve up one rockin' cake. She said it was traditional for her family's Thanksgiving, so maybe this year she can wear the boots and cape this time. Besides - I needed a subject today anyway. ;-)

Despite the name, German chocolate cake is 100% American, following in the traditional of Southern and Midwestern Ridiculously High Layer Cakes. In this case, a gentleman by the name of Sam German invented a new type of dark, sweet baking chocolate for the American Baker's Chocolate Company. The powers that be at Baker's Chocolate named the chocolate after him, and therefore cakes using this particular type were known as German Chocolate Cakes.

Traditionally, German Chocolate Cakes are several layers tall, filled and topped with a caramel icing with coconut and pecans, and finished with an edging of chocolate buttercream. For this alone they join the legendary layer cakes - Red Velvet, Coconut, Caramel, and Spice among them - as being over the top and therefore delightful. If you have a piece of this cake, you KNOW you had a piece of cake. And quite possibly a nap.

MY cake!

How to Make Vanilla Extract

The Recipe - for the cake!


  • 4 (1 oz.) squares German sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut and line the bottom of three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper. Give them each a quick, light spray with cooking spray.
  2. In the top of a double boiler, melt together chocoloate and water. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together (don't skip sifting!) flours, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy - at least five minutes. Keep going until every grain of sugar is dissolved! Add yolks one at a time, beating after each addition.
  5. Stir in the chocolate and vanilla.
  6. In three additions each, starting with the flour, add flour alternately with buttermilk, beating after each addition until smooth.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat eggs whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Fold into chocolate batter. Divide batter evenly among three prepared cake pans.
  8. Bake at 350F for about 20-25 miutes or until a skewer inserted into center of cakes comes out clean. Note - time can vary significantly based on the accuracy of your oven! Watch this carefully! My own oven takes 23 minutes, although I rotate the pans halfway through baking to help them rise evenly..
  9. Prep caramel coconut pecan filling while the cakes bake. Fill the cakes while they're still slightly warm.

Note: The caramel filling can be used warm, and I usually do. However, this helps make sure it 'sinks' into the layers - it becomes one with the cakes. This is nice in that it helps keep the cakes even, but it doesn't show up as obviously when the cake is cut. If you want the layers more obvious - do this. Spread a very thin layer of buttercream on the top and bottom of each layer before you assemble the filling layer. And let the caramel filling and the cakes both cool completely. You'll have much more obvious 'stripes' of pretty cake and filling, and they contrast beautifully.

To put the cakes together, layer one cake, then the caramel filling, then another layer, then more filling, then the final layer. Coat the sides of the cake with the chocolate fudge buttercream, leaving a slight rim around the top edge, then pour any remaining filling on top.


For the Filling! Coconut Pecan Carmel Frosting

This filling goes in between the layers and is close to a caramel candy. You can use this while its warm, and while the cakes are warm, making an easy step to skip - you don't really have to wait for the cakes to cool completely. Don't use it too hot though - you want it warm, so it'll spread on top of the cakes, but not so much so it runs off the edges.

Something to watch for - be careful not to get any egg white in your mixture - or it'll look like you have stray bits of white rubber running around. If you see these, don't panic - just fish them out. Shhhh.

You'll need:

  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 cup flaked coconut, toasted

  1. In a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast coconut for about five minutes or until golden and fragrant. Stir constantly - it can scorch easily. Set aside.
  2. Wipe out dry skillet with a paper towel, and return to heat. Add pecans to the skillet and toast those in the same manner, until golden and fragrant. Set these aside.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium low heat, stir together milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat, and stir in toasted coconut and pecans. Spread on cakes while still a little warm.


A couple of notes!

 These are very moist cakes - and somewhat delicate. Handle with care!

When stacking cakes, wooden skewers can be used to help stabilize the layers.

Trimming each layer flat on top with a serrated knife will also help stabilize the final cake, and make the finished product much more 'finished' looking!

For the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Fabulous on its own, this chocolate frosting is the final touch. Spread it on the sides and top of the cake once it's assembled. Make sure you don't add too much milk or it'll be hard to work with - it does go over the caramel stuff after all. On the other hand, it needs to be spreadable, so be careful with the milk. If you'd really like to knock yourself out, pipe rosettes around the top edge, and dot those with maraschino cherries!

This recipe makes acres of frosting - plenty for the cake sides, and for crumb coating in between layers if you wish, as well as enough for decorative piping. If you just wish to frost the sides, then feel free to cut the amounts in half.

You'll need:

  • 2 cups butter, room temperature
  • 10 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 1/2 cups cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • about 1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
  1. Sift together powdered sugar and cocoa. Set aside.
  2. In the mixing bowl of a stand or hand mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy.
  3. Working slowly, add sugar/cocoa mixture and mix slowly until fullly incorporated.
  4. Add vanilla. Mix well.
  5. With the mixer running, add just enough milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.



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    • DixieMockingbird profile image

      Jan Charles 7 years ago from East Tennessee

      Thanks K9! The only thing worse, in my opinion, than reading a bad recipe is reading a boring one! I hope you enjoy this!

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 7 years ago from Northern, California

      Fantastic intro for your hub! I enjoyed reading it from an entertainment stand point as well as a culinary one. The cake recipe looks delightful. Tasty hub!