German Chocolate Sheet Cake With Coconut-Pecan Frosting

German Chocolate Sheet Cake! Same chocolate cake with gooey coconut-pecan topping, but way easier to make.

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Photography Credit: Cindy Rahe

Let’s be honest. The thing that unites those of us who love German Chocolate Cake is our deep appreciation for the coconut pecan frosting.

Essentially, this frosting is a thick, butterscotch custard with tons of shredded coconut and pecans folded in. It’s what that makes this cake so delicious and unique.

German Chocolate Cake

The problem I have with store-bought versions of this beloved cake is that they’re often made with far too little of the coconut-pecan goodness. (My guess is that they can costs by supplementing the traditional topping with plain chocolate frosting.)

I find that unacceptable. Sure, pipe on some ganache rosettes if you want to get fancy, but leave the coconuts and pecan where they belong: slathered atop a chocolate cake.

German Chocolate Cake

Most German Chocolate Cake recipes are multi-layered affairs and therefore time-consuming, so I’ve made some changes to make it a little easier. In an effort to get from Point A to Point Cake more quickly, I bake the cake single 9×13-inch pan and then spread it with a thick layer of coconut pecan frosting — no cutting or stacking of layers required.

While the classic recipe uses a light, sweetened chocolate to flavor the cake, I prefer using a combo of unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder for a deeper, richer-tasting cake. I think this stands up better to the sweet frosting.

I’ll leave you with this fun fact: German chocolate cake gets its name from the type of chocolate often used, Baker’s German Chocolate (named after its creator Samuel German), not country of origin, so it’s actually a classic American cake!

German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Sheet Cake With Coconut-Pecan Frosting Recipe

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  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 10 to 12 servings (1 9x13 cake)

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (21 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional (for deeper chocolate flavor)
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the coconut pecan frosting:

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 8 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (323 grams) lightly packed brown sugar
  • 4 ounces (113 grams, 1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Special equipment:

Method

1 Prep the oven and pan: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.

2 Combine the dry ingredients: Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl.

German Chocolate Cake

3 Make the batter: In a measuring cup combine the boiling water, chocolate, and espresso. Cover and let the hot water melt the chocolate, about 10 minutes, and whisk until smooth. Check the water with your finger; it's fine if it's still a little warm, but it should no longer be hot to the touch.

In a separate bowl (or in your measuring cup, if it's large enough), combine chocolate-water with the sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture and beat, using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, until just combined. Stop periodically and scrape the bottom of the bowl.

German Chocolate Cake

4 Bake the cake: Spread the batter into the pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until the top springs back to the touch, the sides of the cake have pulled slightly away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Leave the cake in the pan, and set it on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting, about 45 minutes.

5 Make the frosting: Whisk together the egg yolks, evaporated milk, and brown sugar in a saucepan. Add the butter and warm over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt, followed by the coconut and pecans.

The frosting should be thick, creamy, and nubbly with coconut and pecans.

German Chocolate Cake German Chocolate Cake

6 Finish the cake: Cool the frosting to room temperature and spread generously onto the cake. Serve the cake from the pan.

The cake can be made a few days ahead, but wait to top it with the coconut-pecan frosting until before serving. This cake is best served the same day it's frosted. Leftovers can be kept, covered, for 2 to 3 days at room temperature.

German Chocolate Cake

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Cindy Rahe

Cindy Rahe is the recipe maker and picture taker behind Hungry Girl por Vida. She loves to bake from scratch and make things that taste as good as they look. Cindy was born near Seoul but grew up in California and Nevada. She believes strongly in homemade birthday cakes, creamy coffee, and making room for dessert.

More from Cindy

Showing 4 of 8 Comments

  • Yuri

    Hi Can I do make half of size or amount ? Our family member is only 3 with Senior.
    Thank you

  • Charlene Youmans

    I love German chocolate cake but my grandson cannot eat the pecans is there any other kind of icing that you could use beside the pecans he is allergic to nuts I also am not crazy about the pecans but I love coconut if there is maybe you could let me know am going to print the recipe anyway thank you Charlene

  • Gary

    What if I want to make it non-dairy, what I can substitute for evaporated milk?

  • NewYorkGirl

    Is there something else you can use in place of canola oil ?

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German Chocolate CakeGerman Chocolate Sheet Cake With Coconut-Pecan Frosting