There’s no holding back on this rich and decadently moist German Chocolate Cake! I’m talking about layers of moist cake infused with espresso that adds a subtle depth of flavor, a classic buttery coconut pecan frosting, and the addition of creamy chocolate frosting. All from scratch, you’ll want to serve this dessert over and over again.

german chocolate cake in black cup with white stars and dots

This recipe takes into consideration each part of the recipe. The cake is rich, it’s full-bodied with espresso and coffee, and oh-so moist. Unlike the coconut pecan frosting which is buttery sweet and nutty. Then the chocolate frosting is light, less sweet than the other two parts, and also has a tad bit of espresso, as well.

My favorite part of this German chocolate cake recipe is the toasted shredded coconut garnished on top! Pictured here is a square cake. I usually use round pans but had square pans on hand. There’s no difference in the baking time.

top view of square cake topped with toasted coconut and pecans

Tips for preparing German chocolate cake

  • For best results on consistency, be sure to use room temperature ingredients. For the cake, that includes butter, eggs, sour cream, and buttermilk.
  • Don’t have buttermilk? No worries. Instead, stir in a teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1/2 cup of milk and let sit for about 5 minutes. It should be slightly curdled.
  • Don’t worry about the espresso powder and coffee overwhelming the flavor of the cake. It will only deepen the chocolate flavor. It’s not necessary as you can easily substitute hot water for the coffee and simply leave out the espresso.
  • The water must be boiling hot to ensure the proper blooming of the cocoa powder and that it dissolves in the batter.
disassembled german chocolate cake with bowls of toasted coconut, chopped pecans and coconut pecan frosting
Can sweetened condensed milk be used?

This is a plain no. Sweetened condensed milk is not the same as evaporated milk and will not be a good substitute.

What can be used instead of sour cream?

Try using plain Greek yogurt. It should still offer a good consistency for the cake, though it may not be quite as moist as with sour cream.

Can I make this cake ahead of time?

Absolutely. There are a few options for making this German chocolate cake ahead of time. Make the cake and after cooling, wrap each cake layer with plastic wrap.

sliced square three layered german chocolate cake

You can refrigerate these up to 2 days, or freeze up to 3 months. When ready to use, pull the cake from the freezer in thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Then, set out and bring to room temperature.

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bowl of coconut pecan frosting
Coconut Pecan Frosting

For the frosting, prepare as instructed and store in air-tight containers. Both frostings can be refrigerated up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw and stir before using.

For a fully prepared cake, slice and fold a piece of parchment around each slice and store slices in an air-tight container.

You can freeze these slices up to 3 months, and thaw to room temperature. Or, store the whole prepared cake.

More desserts, please!

Want to make this Coconut and Pecan Frosted, Espresso-infused, German Chocolate Cake even MORE decadent?

Yeah, we can go there! Whip up a chocolate ganache to spread on the top with the coconut pecan frosting and toasted coconut on the outer edge, with chocolate frosting on the sides.

german chocolate cake on purple plate

This cake is a great way to impress your family and friends with a rich, decadent dessert made from scratch! It takes a bit of work but well worth it. I’ve made this for birthdays and dad on Father’s day and it’s always a hit.

I hope you enjoy this German Chocolate Cake. Let me know in the comments if you tried this recipe. Be sure to tag #ladleandgrain on facebookinstagram, and twitter!

German Chocolate Cake
from Scratch

Recipe by DiannaCourse: All Recipes, DessertCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time



This German Chocolate Cake is oh-so decadent with a rich, dark cake infused with coffee, coconut-pecan frosting, creamy milk chocolate frosting, and toasted coconut.


  • German Chocolate Cake
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 3/4 granulated sugar

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 2 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp cornstarch

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 tbsp espresso powder

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk*

  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

  • 3/4 cups hot coffee or water

  • Coconut Pecan Frosting
  • 1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)

  • 1/8 tsp salt

  • 3 large egg yolks

  • 1 can (8 oz) evaporated milk

  • 2 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, divided

  • 1 cup chopped pecans* + extra for topping

  • Chocolate Frosting
  • 1 1/4 cup (2.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

  • 1 tsp espresso powder

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 9-inch round cake pans (or 3 6-inch pans) with parchment paper, then lightly grease.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, salt, and espresso powder.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix oil, eggs, sour cream, buttermilk, and vanilla until combined. Add the Pour this into dry ingredients until just combined and with the mixer still on low, slowly add the hot coffee (or water). Continue mixing until well combined.
  • Equally, divide the batter into each pan. Bake for about 25 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and cool in the pan for about 10 minutes; remove from pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Coconut Frosting
  • While oven is still warm, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use half the pan for pecans and the other side for 1/2 cup shredded coconut. Toast about 5 minutes. Keep an eye on this so it doesn’t burn. Remove from oven and set aside.
  • While the cake is baking, start your frosting. In a medium saucepan, whisk butter, salt, egg yolks, brown sugar, and evaporated milk over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, whisking occasionally. When it begins to boil, continue to whisk constantly until it starts to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, pecans, and shredded coconut.
  • Chocolate Frosting
  • In a large bowl, use a hand held or stand mixer with the whisk attachment to cream butter until smooth. Add in sugar, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, heavy cream, and espresso powder. Beat on low until combined, then increase to high for about 3 minutes. If the frosting is too thick, add a tablespoon of cream. If too thin, add more sugar. Set aside.
  • Assemble Cake
  • Remove cakes from pans and parchment paper. If needed, level the cakes with a serrated knife. On your cake stand, smear a small amount of the chocolate frosting. This will help keep the cake from moving.
  • Add 1/3 of coconut frosting on top, then add second cake round. Add another 1/3 of frosting, then last cake. Top with remaining coconut frosting on top.
  • Spread the sides of the layered cake with the chocolate frosting. Take the toasted coconut and sprinkle on top of the cake. Use whole pecans to line the top and around the bottom, or however you’d like to spruce up your cake.
  • Keep covered at room temp or in the refrigerator up to 5 days.


  • If you don’t have buttermilk, use milk with a tsp of lemon juice or vinegar. Let sit about 3-5 minutes.
  • If you want to add another flavor element, toast up your pecans for a few minutes before folding into the coconut mixture.

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