Sometimes the best recipes come from special requests, like this amazing German Chocolate Cake! My husband’s Grandfather was celebrating his 88th birthday earlier this year and had asked for a German Chocolate Cake. Not wanting to disappoint, this cake pulls out all the stops! Rich moist cake, fluffy chocolate buttercream icing, toasted crunchy coconut, and of course – that AMAZING rich coconut pecan frosting that ties it all together!
Let’s Talk Cake!
So let’s breakdown this cake so you know exactly why this cake is THE CAKE RECIPE you want to spend your afternoon making. We all know German Chocolate Cake is the least chocolatey cake in the chocolate cake family – perfect for both chocolate and not so much chocolate lovers. The layers of chocolate cake are rich and moist, adding espresso to bring out the delicate chocolate flavor. I’ve opted to separated the egg whites and incorporated them at the end of making the batter to give you a light, fluffy batter that more resembles chocolate mousse than batter. Can you say velvety end result?
Next is the chocolate buttercream frosting. I’ve cut way back on the normal amount of cocoa powder because this frosting is to keep the cake together and give a little texture – not to overpower the cake with a strong chocolate taste. I’ve used heavy whipping cream and the end result is a delicious light and airy frosting that compliments the cake without overtaking it. If you absolutely love chocolate and want it to come through a little stronger – this is the place to add it. If you add it to the batter the cocoa will absorb all the moisture and give you a really crumbly and dry cake. You can add ⅓ cup of cocoa powder without drastically changing anything else in the frosting recipe (you may have to add a little more whipping cream) but giving you a little more chocolate flavor. You can always tweak the recipe as you are going, adjusting the cocoa powder and cream until you get the taste and consistency that you like.
Let’s talk about the real star of all German Chocolate Cakes – the unbelievably delicious coconut pecan frosting. Honestly, is there anyone out there that wouldn’t just sit down with a bowl of it and eat it with a spoon. It’s really is that good! The key to this frosting is time and patience, making sure it’s being stirred continuously so that the sugar can caramelize just enough to make it come together for that rich taste this cake is known for.
Worried about decorating the cake? Don’t be! I’m am not an expert at cake decorating at all (I might be a cake eating expert though) so take your time and make it your own. I’ve opted to add a layer of toasted coconut around the cake because I love the crunchy texture it provides but also because it hides so many flaws! Icing not completely smooth? No problem! Got a little icing on the cake plate? Hidden! Just take your time and enjoy the process because I promise your family and friends will be enjoying this INCREDIBLE cake.
While this cake may seem a little overwhelming – don’t let that hold you back! This cake comes together fairly quickly and can be done in segments if you are lacking in time. I’ve made both the frostings ahead of time and I’ve baked the cake a day ahead as well depending on what my schedule looks like. Simply let the frosting warm up on the counter for about an hour if you make ahead of time to make it both spreadable and pipe-able when putting the cake together.
German Chocolate Cake
- 4 oz Baker's German's sweet chocolate finely chopped
- ½ cup hot espresso or bold coffee
- 2¼ cup all purpose flour
- 4 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup granulated sugar reserve 1 tbsp for egg whites
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 4 large eggs room temperature, separated *SEE NOTES
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
Coconut Pecan Frosting
- 1 cup pecans chopped or buy "cookie pieces" size
- 1½ cup light brown sugar
- 12 oz evaporated milk
- 4 large egg yolks lightly beaten
- ¾ cup unsalted butter cut into 1 tbsp chunks
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1½ cup shredded coconut flakes
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1½ cup shredded coconut flakes (optional) *SEE NOTES
- Preheat oven to 350°F and make sure your oven racks are in the middle of the oven. Spray 3 8" x 2" cake pans with baking spray (or lightly butter and flour), then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then spray parchment paper with baking spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, take chopped chocolate and mix with hot espresso until the chocolate is fully dissolved. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
- In a different large bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir all ingredients together and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites at a medium speed until they appear foamy. Then increase speed to high until the egg whites are firm enough that if you run the beaters through them they leave a line and egg whites will cling onto your beaters. Slowly beat in 1 tbsp of reserved white sugar until well incorporated.
- In a large mixing bowl (preferably a stand mixer) beat egg yolks, white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract together until well combined and fluffy. Slowly drizzle in vegetable oil on medium speed to emulsify the oil into the egg mixture. Add espresso chocolate mixture and combine well.
- Switch to a paddle attachment (spatula if hand mixing) and add ⅓ dry ingredients and combine well, then add ½ buttermilk, alternating until all ingredients are mixed into the batter. Make sure to only mix until combined and no more or your cake will get tough and chewy. Fold in ⅓ egg whites at a time into cake batter until well incorporated but still fluffy. Do not mix as this will break the air of the egg whites and leave your cake dense instead of light and fluffy. Your batter should resemble chocolate mousse in terms of airiness when the egg whites are all folded in.
- Separate cake batter equally between the 3 cake pans, gently tapping the pans on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Make sure to rotate your cakes about half way through baking time for even baking. Let cool on baking rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto the baking rack to finish cooling completely before frosting.
Coconut Pecan Frosting
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread pecans onto a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes, until the pecans are light brown and fragrant. Stir occasionally to ensure even browning. Let cool.
- In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar and egg yolks until the egg yolks are combined into the sugar, this will help prevent accidental strings of egg yolk in the end result. Then add evaporated milk, butter chunks, and salt and turn the burner on to medium heat. Bring to a gently boil, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and turns golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in toasted pecans, coconut flakes, and vanilla and let cool until it has a spreadable texture, about 45-60 minutes.
- Sift cocoa powder and powdered sugar together to make sure you have no lumps. Using your stand and hand mixer, cream butter and ⅓ of the cocoa/sugar mixture together. Once well combined slowly drizzle ½ whipping cream, mixing well. Alternate with remaining sugar mixture and whipping cream until both ingredients are completely used. Mix in vanilla extract and sugar. You may need to add more cream to get your desired texture, making sure it's firm enough to hold it's shape while still easy to push through a piping nozzle.
- Add ⅓ of the chocolate frosting to a piping bag (if you want a decorative piped edge on top of your cake use that nozzle now do you don't have to worry about switching it out). Put a small dollop of chocolate frosting in the center of your cake stand and gently place the first layer of cake. Pipe icing around the top edge of the cake in a smooth line, this will allow you to add the coconut pecan frosting without having it spill over when you add the additional layers. Add ⅓ of the coconut frosting to the first layer, smoothing it out to the chocolate frosting. Repeat with the second and third layer.
- Now use the chocolate icing that's not in the piping bag to ice the sides of the cake. I like to use a long icing spatula for this to make it quick. Once smoothed out over the whole cake, then use the rest of the icing in the piping bag to pipe a decorative edge on the top border of the cake. Finish by pressing toasted coconut around the bottom sides of the cake. Now, dig in and enjoy your amazing creation!
If you’ve decided to add toasted coconut for decorating your cake simply add to a baking sheet in a single layer and bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes. Stir every few minutes to allow for even toasting. This is a great step to do right after you toast the pecans since you can reuse the baking sheet (YAY! Less dishes!) and the oven is already at the right temperature. Just make sure coconut is completely cooled before using or it will melt your icing and make a mess.