German Chocolate Cake

I hesitated about running the same picture twice in a row, but I promised to deliver the recipe, so there’s not much I can do about it. Besides, at the risk of sounding terribly immodest, I really like this picture.

As many of you guessed, this is indeed a German Chocolate Cake. Despite the name, the cake is thoroughly American and was invented in Texas, or at least, that is where the recipe was first published. The name comes from the fact that the chocolate cake made with a type of chocolate sold by Baker’s Chocolate Company called German’s Sweet Chocolate, named after an employee named Sam German in 1852. The cake recipe didn’t appear in print until 1957, but it has been a favorite ever since.

Eventually, the “‘s” was dropped and the cake simple became German Chocolate Cake. There is pretty much just one standard recipe for it, with slight variations. All produce a relatively mild chocolate-buttermilk cake with a really gooey, rich frosting that is thick with coconuts and pecans. The frosting is really too rich to eat on its own, so even though it seems like there is only just enough to fill and top the cake, as you eat you’ll discover that the amount is just right.

The cake is quite easy to make and very impressive to look at. The only tricky part is dividing the batter evenly into 3 pans. Instead of pouring directly into one pan, use a spoon of some kind to ladle out the batter until they are even, ensuring an even baking time. In my experience, no serious damage will be done to the third layer if it has to wait for the first two to be baked, if you have a small oven and cannot fit them all at once.

German Chocolate Cake
4 oz. Bakers’S German’S Sweet Chocolate (or semisweet chocolate)
1/2 cup water
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three 9-in. round cake pans and line the bottoms using parchment paper.
Melt chocolate and water together in a large bowl, in the microwave or on top of a double boiler. Stir well and set aside to cool.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time and then stir in the vanilla.
Add the flour mixture alternately with the chocolate mixture and buttermilk, working in three or four additions. Mix only until just combined.
Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Cool in pans for 15 min., then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely, removing the parchment paper.

Coconut Pecan Frosting
(from AllRecipes)

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir together the condensed milk, egg yolks, and butter. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes, or until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut, pecans, and vanilla.
Cool to room temperature (stirring to loosen, if necessary) and spread between cake layers and onto top of cake.

12 comments

  1. That’s my mom’s favorite! My great aunt makes fantastic ones.

  2. My sister loves this kind of cake, though I would never eat it while growing up! I adore the photo Nic!

  3. Wow! My mouth is watering. I’m wondering how that frosting would be on the tomato soup cupcakes I recently made…?

  4. One of my all-time favorite cakes. I swear I could eat that icing with a spoon.

  5. I love german choc. cake. did you use the baker’s choc. or something else? I’d like to try it, but Id use some coffee instead of the water. I’ve made a frosting with evap milk, eggs, butter, sugar. Yours looks way easier.

  6. This used to be my birthday cake every year when I was younger.

  7. That German Chocolate Cake looks fantastic i am a bad chocoholic and so i love chocolate cake so i will have to try making one. Thanks for the recipe and great blog.

  8. My husband loves this cake, especially the icing. I enjoyed that little bit of history, as I really had no idea where it originated…thanks!

  9. My flatmate loves coconut and chocolate. Yum. Love the picture, by the way!

  10. The Baker’s cake recipe is SUCH a classic – as of yet, I’ve yet to see another recipe that improves upon it. Your frosting recipe looks much easier than the traditional evap milk version but still, I HATE standing at the stove and stirring. It feels like my ankles are going to crack off. I found this recipe on epicurious and LOVE it. The milk gets almost flan-like in the oven:

    INSIDE-OUT GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE FILLING/FROSTING – you may want to double this recipe(from Gourmet Magazine & the Bridge Street Bakery in Waitsfield, VT)

    7 oz sweetened flaked coconut
    4 oz coarsely chopped pecans (1 cup)
    4 oz coarsely chopped slivered almonds (1 cup)
    14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (lowfat works just as well)
    1 tablespoon vanilla

    Preheat oven to 325°F.

    Spread coconut & nuts in a large shallow baking pan. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pan from oven.
    Increase oven temperature to 425°F.

    Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Bake milk in a water bath in middle of oven 45 minutes. Refill baking pan with water to reach halfway up pie plate and bake milk until thick and brown, about 45 minutes more.
    Remove pie plate from water bath.

    Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla and let cool slightly. Spread between layers and on top of cake. Enjoy!

  11. Don’t take it personally but I have to avoid your site for a while. I’m on a diet. Reading your posts makes me want to shove my face headfirst into a bucket of baked goods. :)

  12. An Occasional Chocolate

    My brother’s favorite cake! He is turning 50 this month! Eeek!

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