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Grandma’s German Chocolate Cake

This is one of the best German chocolate cake recipes you’ll find. It comes straight from the recipe vault of Mason’s late grandmother, Brenda Norman. Mason said she made this at every holiday hootenanny, and he became skilled in the art of fisticuffs when going for seconds. He also said that last part isn’t true because his family is comprised of saints that would never throw fisticuffs in Grandma Brenda’s kitchen.

Okay, to the cake. While I never got the chance to meet Mason’s grandmother or try the cake from the chef herself, I’ve done my best to do it justice. Fingers crossed!

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German Chocolate Cake Recipe Walkthrough

I am going to show you how to make this fantastic cake by including a visual recipe walkthrough below. Each step includes tips and ingredients notes that you might find helpful. But, if you’re feeling extra confident you can skip down to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

What’s in German Chocolate Cake?

The ingredients for german chocolate cake are a bit extensive, but that’s what makes it so tasty! For the cake you’ll need german chocolate, butter, salt baking soda, buttermilk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and flour. And, for the frosting you’ll need evaporated milk, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, coconut, and chopped pecans.

While this cake can be a little labor intensive, none of the individual steps are all that difficult. So, do not let the volume of instructions included in this recipe sway you from making this special treat. The extra steps required to make this cake are worth it! The result is a light, fluffy, moist cake that literally melts in the mouth.

Starting off the cake by creaming the butter and sugar together and ending it it with folding in whipped egg whites, elevates this cake from a plain chocolate sponge into something special!

Step 1: Cream the butter and sugar together for 3 minutes.

Creaming the butter and sugar together is generally a technique used for cookies, but doing so in this recipe helps the cakes become light and fluffy.

Step 2: Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing until each fully incorporates before adding another.

Adding the egg yolks one at a time, allows each one to full incorporate easier. It also helps prevent any kind of liquid splatter as the mixer does it’s work!

Step 3: Add the German Chocolate to the boiling water and stir until the chocolate completely melts.

Adding the chocolate to already boiling water allows the chocolate to melt, while preventing the chocolate from possibly burning.

Step 4: Add the melted chocolate to the batter and mix until fully incorporated, about 3 minutes on medium speed.

Waiting for the chocolate to cool before adding to the batter is key, since there are egg yolks in the mixture. Adding boiling chocolate to the mix could very well scramble the eggs and that would not be good.

Step 5: In a separate bowl, add flour, baking soda and salt and sift together.

Sifting the flour mixture helps aerate the mixture and prevent any lumps from forming in the batter. It’s another way of helping us create a light and fluffy cake!

Step 6: Add the flour mixture alternatively with the buttermilk to the chocolate batter.

Add the buttermilk and flour mixture one third at a time, alternating between the two. This allows the ingredients to fully incorporate with the rest of the mixture and prevent any lumps from forming.

Step 7: Mix on medium to high speed for 5 minutes or until everything completely combines.

Be sure to scrape down the bowl as needed to make sure that all of the batter is getting mixed. I typically will pause the mixer halfway through to do this.

Step 8: Whisk the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks begin to form.

It will take about 3-4 minutes for the egg whites to be stiff if you use the stand mixer on the highest speed with a whisk attachment. It will take about 2 minutes to see a real rise from the eggs, so be patient!

Step 9: Gently fold in the egg whites until the batter is smooth.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the egg whites. This method will allow the egg whites to retain their volume which results in a fluffy cake.

Step 10: Pour the cake batter into two cake pans and bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes.

The cakes are done when the middle is no longer wobbly and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. A great way to tell if a cake is done is if the edges start pulling away from the cake pan. I always use a thermometer to make sure my cakes are 210ºF before taking out of the oven.

Be sure to use a cake pan that is at least 3 inches deep to allow room for the batter to rise during the bake. If a shorter pan is used, you will run into batter spilling out of the pan while baking.

German Chocolate Cake Frosting

Unlike the cake portion of this recipe, the frosting only requires a few steps. All you have to do is add your ingredients to a pan and stir. It doesn’t get any easier than that!

However, if you are not a fan of coconut frosting like me, you might want to try our German Chocolate Bundt Cake that uses chocolate ganache instead.

Step 1: Add the evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla, butter and beaten egg yolks to a sauce pan and cook over medium heat until thickened.

It will take about 12 minutes for the mixture to thicken up to the right consistency. Make sure that you are constantly stirring to prevent any burning.

Step 2: Add the coconut and chopped pecans to the mixture and stir.

Make sure you allow the mixture to completely cool before spreading on the cake. This will prevent the cake from breaking apart from a frosting that is too hot. Don’t worry, the icing will be super easy to spread on the cake layers even when it is cooled.

While the instructions for this cake may look overwhelming at first glance, it’s actually pretty easy once you get going. Something I have learned from baking, is that extra steps are not added to recipes just for the fun of it. Each bit of extra effort creates a measurable difference in the result of the bake. So, if you want to have the best cake of your life, you have to make this one!

It’s been a cherished family recipe for years for a reason. You can taste the love with which this cake was made in each bite. It’s perfect for a special occasion or family events, where adding extra care to a dish is much appreciated. If you make this recipe, let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!

We have a few more family recipes to check out, like our Chocolate Meringue Pie or Mama’s Hash Brown Casserole. We hope your family loves these recipes as much as we do.

German Chocolate layer cake with a slice taken out

German Chocolate Cake

Yield: 1 Cake
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

Our favorite layered chocolate cake with a coconut pecan frosting.


For the Cake

  • 1 (4oz) package German Chocolate
  • 1/2 C (4oz) Boiling Water
  • 2 Sticks (226g) Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 C (8oz) Buttermilk
  • 2 C (400g) Sugar
  • 4 Egg Yolks, unbeaten
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 C (240g) All-Purpose Flour
  • 4 Egg Whites

For the Frosting

  • 1 (12oz) can Evaporated Milk
  • 1 1/2 C (300g) Sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks (170g) Unsalted Butter
  • 4 Egg Yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 (7oz) package Bakers Coconut
  • 1/2 C (65g) Chopped Pecans


  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Prepare two 8" x 3" round cake pans by lining the bottom with parchment paper and greasing the sides with butter.
  2. In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium to high speed for 3 minutes. Be sure to scrape the bowl halfway through to prevent lumps forming at the bottom of the mixing bowl.
  3. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Mix on medium to high speed for about 4 minutes, until all of the egg yolks have been fully incorporated.
  4. Add the German Chocolate to the half cup of boiling water and stir until it is fully melted. Once cool, add the melted chocolate and vanilla to the mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes, until the chocolate and vanilla are fully incorporated.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add alternatively with the buttermilk to the chocolate mixture. Mix on medium to high speed for 5 minutes, scraping the bowl halfway through, until everything is completely combined.
  6. In a separate mixing bowl, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed for 5 minutes, until stiff peaks begin to form. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter until fully combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pans and bake for 45 minutes.
  8. While the cakes bake, start the frosting by adding the evaporated milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks, and vanilla to a small sauce pan. Stir everything together and cook over a medium heat for 12 minutes, until the mixture has thickened.
  9. Remove from the heat and add the coconut and pecans to the mixture. Stir until everything is combined. Cool entirely before spreading on the cake layers.
  10. Enjoy!
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 slices Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 918Total Fat: 53gCarbohydrates: 103gProtein: 10g

Janie M

Wednesday 6th of December 2023

My friend wanted this cake but I used a box cake mix Betty Crocker German Chocolate mix then for the icing to be not too sweet I used one cup of evaporated milk 1/2 cup of light brown sugar then 3 egg yolks only not the whites mixed it up well then on medium heat in pan to cook till it thickens stirring or whisking constantly then add one cup or more of coconut then one cup or more of chopped pecans my friend said cake was good an icing made the cake good but soon I'm gonna try this recipe step by step to know how it is so thanks!

Laura Richardson

Tuesday 18th of April 2023

4/18/2023-Laura Richardson. I made this cake today for my husband’s 60th birthday tomorrow. It’s his favorite , his mother used to make it for him. She passed from Cancer 15 years ago, and this was something I wanted to surprise him with. First time I’ve ever made one of these, I’ve never even tasted them! He was shocked and delighted. He said it reminded of his mother. It was every bit as good as hers. I am over the moon. What a compliment! I even like it and I don’t care for chocolate at all. Thank you so much for helping me make his day so special.❤️


Tuesday 18th of April 2023

I keep seeing buttermilk used in the current German chocolate cake recipes, but my grandmothers and mother always used clabbered milk. Always! I finally found a recipe that calls for it- polish clabber cake. It is simpler than this one and very good.


Sunday 9th of April 2023

Attempted this cake and unfortunately couldn't get it right. Before going into details, let me say that the middle baked right and tasted AMAZING! Despite not doing something right, I will try this again. Now, as for what happened. I followed the directions exactly. My batter ended up getting really light and fluffy and puffed up to pretty much the top of my kitchenaid mixing bowl. Not sure if that was my problem? I THINK with such a large "quantity" of batter , I should have not used it all in my 2 pans. About 15 minutes into baking, it had puffed up so big, I don't know how they didn't overflow. At 45 minutes it wasn't done. At 50 minutes, the whole rim and sides (not sure about underneath) were black. Like I mentioned above, the middle was perfect. Amazing. I've never had a cake get so black on the whole rim. I've been trying to figure out what exactly I did wrong. Of course, it sounds overdone, but not sure how I should have avoided that when the inside was perfect. All the reviews I read talk about how good this cake is and I don't doubt it.


Wednesday 1st of March 2023

This is the original recipe from the Baker's German Sweet Chocolate wrapper. Accept no substitute, it is the best!!

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