German Chocolate Cake

My family has what I call birthday bunches–all of our birthdays come in pairs. This is pretty common when you have a large family, but my family isn’t that large. On my husband’s side, it’s just him and his parents, but all their birthdays happen in the same week! Everyone in my family has a birthday buddy, everyone that is, except my sister.

When the first birthday bunch rolled around last month for my mom and dad, I went ahead and asked my sister what she wanted her cake to be. Last year, the cake I made her was pretty awesome, in my humble opinion. I had my expectations high for what she would ask, anticipating fondant and colors and layers–the works! What she asked for, though, surprised me! All she wanted was a simple German chocolate cake.

German Chocolate Cake

Simple? Me, simple? I don’t usually do simple, so this was going to be quite the task for me. So did I go simple on her cake? Not really.

A German chocolate cake is, shockingly, not German at all! The name comes from the type of baking chocolate (German’s baking chocolate). What really makes it a stand-out, though, is the gooey, delicious caramelized coconut and pecan filling. It is crazy good.

All the recipes I was researching before I started quoted this cake at taking hours to complete. I don’t know about you, my friends, but I don’t like it when recipes call for several hours of work. You know it always takes longer than it estimates! So I’m not sure what I did wrong (or I guess right!) with the recipe I concocted, because it only took about an hour to bake start to finish, and after cooling, about thirty minutes to assemble. So that’s a bonus, right!?

Normally, German chocolate cake doesn’t have any frosting other than the filling smeared all over the layers. That didn’t seem right to me, though, so I covered my cake with the best chocolate buttercream recipe I have ever used! It’s soft, sweet, creamy and so easy! But the best reason to use this buttercream is because it’s crusting. It’s great for piping. So how could I resist piping some beautiful roses for my sister?

What I could have resisted (but didn’t!) was putting gold luster dust all over the petals of the roses. You can’t really tell the petals have been dusted in the photos, but I promise it was noticeable in person!

German Chocolate Cake

Normally, my family puts up a little fight at the end of the birthday celebrations because the birthday person has to take the leftover cakes at the end. Everyone loves cake, but no one can live with themselves after eating that much cake on their own! This year, though, my sister had no problem taking the rest of it home. She even cut our slices so thin so there’d be more to go home! Hahaha!

For the cake


1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups boiling water

2 1/2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease three 9-inch-round cake pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and 1 1/2 cups boiling water until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt until well-combined. Add eggs, vegetable oil, sour cream and vanilla. Beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. Reduce speed and add cocoa mixture, mixing until just combined. Finish incorporating the cocoa using a rubber spatula.

Warning, the batter will be thin! Don’t panic.

Divide the batter between the pans (yes, the layers will be thin). Tap against the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan before removing.

For the filling


1 1/2 cups pecans

1 cup milk

3 large egg yolks

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

On a lined sheet pan, spread the pecans to form an even layer, and toast in oven for 8-10 minutes. Roughly chop pecans, and set them aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together milk and egg yolks until smooth. Add brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon (will be reminiscent of eggnog). This will take about 5-6 minutes.

Pour mixture into a large bowl. Add coconut and pecans. Stir until combined. Allow filling to cool before adding it to cake.

For the buttercream


1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature

5 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup milk

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled.


In a medium-sized bowl, beat butter until smooth and creamy. Using a mixer set on a low speed, slowly add powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Add the vanilla and salt. Pour in the milk slowly, allowing to fully incorporate before adding more. Be sure to stop the mixer and scrape the sides at least once during this process.

Turn the mixer to high and allow frosting to beat until light and fluffy.

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