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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.

Making The Cake

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.

Making The Icing

Unlike the cake portion of this recipe, the icing 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!

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!

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.

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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

Barbara Williams

Wednesday 19th of January 2022

Making a German Chocolate cake is my specialty. I experienced this cake for the first time in November 1964, my freshman year of college. My roommate mom, Mrs. Hicks o Raleigh,NC brought it to campus for her. It was such a wonderful experience, I asked her mom for recipe and she told me that it was printed on back of Bakers German Chocolate. I made the cake the first time Christmas 1964 and have been making it on special occasions ever since. 57 years! I have request to make this cake for family and friends. Expensive to make, but worth every penny. I made 4 this past holiday season.

(The original recipe did not frost sides of cake. Recipe was invented in 1957 by Mrs. George Clay.) Barbara Williams

Sandra

Saturday 15th of January 2022

To my surprise this recipe, is the same as my Grandmother's. And I'm the only one that knows how to make it. My family also wants to get more that their fair share. One Christmas I made two cakes, much to their surprise. The only difference in the recipe is that I prepare a three layer cake. And my Grandmother always did a chocolate fudge icing studded with black walnuts. Once ice made the coconut-pecan frosting for the inside layers and put the chocolate fudge on the outside.

Peggy In San Jose

Wednesday 5th of January 2022

This looks fantastic. I’m old enough to know what a good German chocolate cake should taste like and they are impossible to find, even at an expensive deli. The icing is always wrong. I’m excited to introduce this recipe to my family. One question is whether you can substitute whipping cream for evaporated milk. Is evaporated milk necessary and why did they create it? Thanks, Peggy

Vanessa Woodruff

Monday 10th of January 2022

I have not tried substituting heavy cream for evaporated milk, so I cannot confirm if it will work. What an interesting idea! In theory, it should work. Your frosting will likely have a different consistency, if the ingredients are substituted. If you try it, let us know how it works out!

Kee

Tuesday 4th of January 2022

I love love this cake. I come from a family with a strong culinary background, My grandma and my aunts made it all the time for the holidays. I plan to do so as well. Great recipe!

Vanessa Woodruff

Monday 10th of January 2022

Thanks, Kee! Let us know how you like it :)

John Schaefer

Sunday 2nd of January 2022

When do you add the vanilla to the cake mix? Cant find it

Vanessa Woodruff

Monday 10th of January 2022

The vanilla is added in step 4, along with the melted chocolate.

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