German Chocolate Snack Cake With Coconut-Pecan Frosting

Chocolate CakeCoconutSheet Cake

It's the same classic chocolate cake you love, but with more of that decadent, gooey coconut-pecan topping. Plus, it's way easier to make because you don't have all those layers to deal with. Win!

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.

What is German Chocolate Cake?

German chocolate cake is typically made as a chocolate layer cake with a sweet frosting loaded with shredded coconut and pecans. It’s delicious, when done right.

German Chocolate Cake

The Thing That’s Wrong with Most 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 cut 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.

How to Make Easier (and Better) 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. It’s basically a snackable sheet cake.

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.

And speaking of that sweet frosting, making this all in one layer increases the ratio of frosting to cake, which I fully support.

German Chocolate Snack Cake

How to Make Gooey Coconut-Pecan Frosting

This coconut-pecan frosting is made like no other frosting. It’s cooked over the stove and lands somewhere between a thick custard and curd. Evaporated milk, egg yolks, brown sugar, and butter are whisked in a saucepan over medium-high heat until thick. Then you fold in your coconut and pecans and that’s it!

Can I make this as a layer cake?

If you want to make this cake into a layer cake, divide the batter between two 8-inch round cake pans and bake until the tops spring back to the touch, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cakes completely and level the tops if needed.

Place on cake layer on a plate and top with a generous layer of the coconut pecan frosting, top with the second layer, and gently spread the remaining frosting over the cake.

Make-Ahead Tips for German Chocolate Cake

Yes! You can make both the cake and frosting ahead of time. The baked cake should be wrapped well in plastic before refrigerating (for up to 3 days) and wrapped in both plastic and foil if freezing (1 month). The frosting should be stored in an airtight container and can be refrigerated for day or two. Bring the frosting to room temperature and stir before using.

German Chocolate Cake Recipe

Storing German Chocolate Cake

This cake will stay fresh at room temperature on the counter for a couple of days after baking if it is kept well covered. If you want to keep it longer, you can refrigerate it, covered, for a few more days before the cake begins to really dry out. 

Who Invented German Chocolate Cake

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!

More Chocolate Dessert Recipes

Updated October 30, 2019 : We spiffed up this post to make it sparkle! No changes to the original recipe.

German Chocolate Snack Cake With Coconut-Pecan Frosting Recipe

  • 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

23 Comments / Reviews

No ImageGerman Chocolate Snack Cake With Coconut-Pecan Frosting

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Sharon

    Hi! This sounds fantastic. How would I bake these if I want to make cupcakes (the standard size cupcake)?

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Barb

    This sounds delicious. The only thing that puzzles me is the description as a ‘German’ chocolate cake. I am German myself and we don’t have that kind of cake anywhere in Germany! In fact, most of our cakes are not as rich and sweet as American ones and most do not have frosting. This doesn’t mean that this cake will not be delicious (it sure sounds great), it just makes me wonder how authentic a recipe is, next time I am reading about a ‘classic Italian stew’ or a ‘traditional Thai noodle soup’. Why not simply call the recipe ‘terribly delicious chocolate cake’?

    Show Replies (2)
  3. Jaana Fogt

    Love It, going to make it. What is espresso powder though? Similar to instant coffee? I want to use the proper ingredients.
    Thanks!!

  4. Kay

    I made the cake and frosting and it was so amazing!!! I always thought I hated this cake, turns out I hate it from the store!!! So good and easy!!!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  5. Bree

    Loved this! One of my favourites. There certainly is a generous amount of the frosting, which is excellent.

    xxxxxyyyyy

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Best German Chocolate Cake RecipeGerman Chocolate Snack Cake With Coconut-Pecan Frosting