This German Chocolate Cake recipe is a classic – a moist, rich chocolate cake base with an irresistibly nutty topping that tastes of creamy, soft caramel studded with deliciously toasted coconut and pecans. Make it as a single layer cake for an everyday treat or turn it into a glorious 3 layer confection for a really special celebration. (Skip to recipe.)

German chocolate cake recipe - cut a big slab to turn any day into a celebration

We all need a little cake in our lives. Sticking to salads and stardust, however tasty they may be, still gets stale sometimes. And cake is just the thing.

It’s just the thing to celebrate something . . . anything . . . everything!

Celebrate the beginning of summer, celebrate the garden growing, or celebrate the end of the school year! I’ve had a very busy school year – starting out and spending most of it in a most lovely grade one class, then finishing off the year in grade six – different from my normal routine as a substitute teacher, but immensely rewarding.

German Chocolate Cake recipe; teach, love, inspire pots

a gift from a student (thanks Emma) – pots I’ve filled with three of my passions: teaching, gardening, and cooking

The joy that comes from connecting with students, truly connecting, and seeing them blossom, grow, and shine, is a very precious gift. I will treasure all the memories made this year: the intense times, the overwhelming times, the hilarious times, and the many, many outstandingly wonderful times. It was the smiles of the students – the shy, tentative little smiles and the big, beaming goofy smiles – that brought me those memories to cherish.

So maybe it’s time for a cake.

German chocolate cake recipe for a 1 layer wonder or a 3 layer extravagance; helping myself to a piece

I’ve been working on this German Chocolate Cake recipe for a few weeks, tweaking it till it is juuuuuuuust right. There are a lot of German Chocolate Cake recipes to wade through online, so it took a few attempts to get this cake how we like it (and gluten free, too). It’s a moist rich chocolate cake spread with gooey layers of a caramelly custard stuffed with toasted coconut and pecans. This recipe works well with my gluten free flour mix, but will work fine with regular all purpose flour, too.

At first I had the cake too darkly chocolatey, but found that German Chocolate Cake is really better with a softer chocolate flavour that harmonizes with the luscious coconut-pecan filling. I found that a single recipe, baked in a springform pan, is just the right size for eight delightful servings after a dinner party, or for two of us to consume for breakfast, snacks, and fridge-raids in one blissful cake-laden day. (No apologies.)

German Chocolate Cake recipe - single layer for a smaller group

The recipe I’ve given is for the single-layer cake – perfect for an everyday treat or a celebration for a few. That’s the one just right for us.

German Chocolate Cake recipe; look at that nice moist crumb

German Chocolate Cake recipe; have a slice

To get the impressive three-layer cake, all you do is double the recipe (instructions below) and bake it in three pans. I made that one to take to a barbecue gathering this weekend, and it served a crowd (and elicited several requests for the recipe). I brought my gluten-free version and it was gobbled happily by gluten-eaters who didn’t seem to care that it was ‘special’.

German chocolate cake recipe; help yourself to a slab

You’d think German Chocolate Cake is a traditional German cake, what with its obvious name and being as the Germans are the creators of so many beautiful cakes and tortes, but you’d be wrong. German Chocolate Cake is a purely North American invention, having been created by a Texas housewife in 1957, using the dark baking chocolate developed by Samuel German (hence the name) in 1852 for the Baker’s Chocolate Company.

My husband has been a very happy boy with this cake in the house. You see, he grew up on these kinds of cakes. In his home, desserts and baking were available every day. His mom always had pies, cakes, and/or cinnamon buns sitting on the counter. It was a never-ending delicious dessert buffet, the stuff of sweet dreams. I think I’ll have to make this one more often so he gets that big chocolate-cake-smile on his face.

German Chocolate Cake recipe; just a bite

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: To make a classic 3 layer cake; double the recipe below and bake it in three layer cake pans (I used 9-inch in the photos). Bake them for a shorter time (see recipe adaptation below).

Don’t skip toasting the nuts and coconut – it really does make a difference in this recipe, where they are the star of the show.

How to toast nuts: Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast them for 10-15 minutes in a 350°F (180°C) oven. How long it takes will depend on the size of the nuts. They should have darkened slightly in colour and be smelling nutty and toasty. Start checking them at 10 minutes and check every 2 minutes after, so they don’t get too dark.

To toast coconut: spread the coconut out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Toast it for 5 to 8 minutes in a 350°F (180°C) oven. After 5 minutes, check the coconut and stir it, turning the browner flakes at the outside of the pan toward the middle. Check and stir it every minute after that until it has reached the shade of golden toastiness you like.

*To make a buttermilk substitute: Stir 1 teaspoon white vinegar into ½ cup (120mls) milk and let it sit to curdle for 5 minutes, then use it in the recipe.

Canned evaporated milk is traditional in the original recipes. I’ve used light cream (also called cereal cream or half-and-half), and have used 2% milk in a pinch (still tasted fantastic). I’m sure non-dairy milks would work, too – especially coconut milk.

German chocolate cake recipe for a single layer cake (you can double the recipe for a 3-layer cake

German Chocolate Cake Recipe

This recipe makes a single layer cake in a 9-inch springform pan. For a triple layer cake, double the recipe and see the instructions at the bottom.

for the cake:

  • ½ cup (120mls) boiling water
  • 1/3 cup (60gms) chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (130gms) gluten free flour mix (or regular all-purpose flour)
  • 2 tablespoons (20gms) cornstarch
  • ¼ cup (25gms) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200gms) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (120mls) oil
  • ½ cup (120mls) buttermilk* (see above)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

for the coconut pecan topping:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup (120mls) light cream, milk, or canned evaporated milk
  • ½ cup (100gms) sugar
  • ¼ cup (57gms) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup (85gms) toasted, flaked coconut, unsweetened
  • ¾ cup (75gms) toasted pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 9 inch (24cm) springform pan and line the bottom of it with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit. While the oven is preheating, you can toast the coconut and nuts for the topping (see notes above).

Stir together the boiling water and chocolate chips. (I like to pour the boiling water into a one-cup glass measuring cup and add the chocolate chips.) Stir with a fork until the chocolate chips are melted. Allow to cool to lukewarm.

In a separate bowl, sieve the flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. (The cocoa powder can have lumps, so it’s best to put all the dry ingredients through a sieve – no need to use a flour sifter.) Whisk the dry ingredients together and set aside.

In the mixing bowl of an electric beater, combine the eggs and sugar and beat them until they are light coloured and fluffy. Gradually add the oil, then the buttermilk and vanilla, then the lukewarm chocolate water, scraping the glass to get all the bits of chocolate out.

Add the flour mixture, one heaped tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat the batter for a further minute until it is smooth. It will be quite a thin batter, but thickens a bit as the flour gets absorbed.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top springs back when touched. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan.

While the cake is baking, make the topping: In a small saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and cream or milk until they are well beaten. Add the sugar and butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbles start to form. Continue cooking for 1 more minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, coconut, and pecans. (See how to toast coconut and nuts in the notes above the recipe.)

Allow to cool completely, then spread over the cooled cake.

If this cake is not eaten on the first day (unlikely), it is best to store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days.

Makes one 9-inch (24cm) single layer cake.

triple layer German chocolate cake on a white stand



For a three layer German Chocolate Cake: Double the cake recipe above and double the topping recipe, too. Divide the batter among three round layer cake pans, greased and lined as above. If using 9-inch (23cm) cake pans, bake them for 25 – 30 minutes and if using 8-inch (20cm pans), bake them for 30 to 35 minutes. (I used 9-inch/23cm pans in my photos.) Let the cakes cool, then divide the cooled topping into roughly thirds. This will be enough to spread between the layers and on top of the cake, leaving the sides bare so you can see the layers. You can also frost just the sides of the cake with regular chocolate icing, if desired, and leave the coconut/nut layer as the filling and top.

Guten Appetit!


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This German Chocolate Cake recipe is a classic; moist rich cake layered with gooey coconut and pecan studded custard. Make it as a single layer or go all out and make a three layer showstopper. Gluten free!

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