Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

Upgraded German Chocolate Cake

Moist and decadent German chocolate cake with coconut pecan filling and chocolate frosting on top! Recipe on

German chocolate cake, traditionally made with sweet baking chocolate, is known to be unapologetically decadent and indulgent. It’s pretty sweet by itself, but when paired with coconut pecan filling AND chocolate frosting, it makes my teeth hurt. And that says a lot considering I have a mouthful of sweet teeth!!

My variation is a little upgrade. It’s also unapologetically decadent and indulgent, but it starts with my favorite super-moist deeper and darker chocolate cake. We’ll use a coconut pecan filling enhanced with toasted pecans and top her off with chocolate buttercream, coconut, and more toasted pecans.

So don’t worry, there’s still an opportunity for our teeth to ache. 😉

Moist and decadent German chocolate cake with coconut pecan filling and chocolate frosting on top! Recipe on

This has been a highly requested cake recipe, so I’m thrilled to finally share it. And just in case you missed March’s Baking Challenge, I decorated my German chocolate cake naked style. I love seeing that coconut pecan filling peeking out!

There are 3 parts to this upgraded German chocolate cake. Let’s discuss all 3 so you feel prepared and confident when it’s your turn to try it.


If you’ve tried my tuxedo cake, chocolate cream cheese bundt cake, or this chocolate layer cake then you are familiar with the cake itself. It’s simply my favorite chocolate cake recipe. Sour cream, oil, eggs, and buttermilk keep it extremely moist. Cocoa powder supplies all our chocolate flavor, which is enhanced with a little espresso powder. The espresso powder is optional if you don’t keep any. You’ll also need hot liquid to properly dissolve and bloom the cocoa power. You can use hot water or hot coffee. The cake won’t taste like coffee, I promise, but the chocolate flavor will certainly be deep and divine! An upgrade, if you will.

Speaking of cocoa, make sure you’re using natural unsweetened cocoa and not dutch-process. Remember why?

Chocolate cake batter for German chocolate cake on


While the chocolate cake is fantastic, the coconut pecan filling is the star of the show. It’s thick, crunchy, gooey, chewy, and sweet all in one. It’s made from the best ingredients baking has to offer, so you know you’re in for a treat:

  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • egg yolks
  • vanilla
  • pecans
  • coconut

You also need evaporated milk. Not sweetened condensed milk. Evaporated milk is typically sold in a can in the baking aisle. Evaporated milk is concentrated/condensed milk, but it’s unsweetened. You’ll need 1 cup or 8 ounces. You can also use half-and-half. Whole milk is too thin and heavy cream is too thick. Stick to evaporated milk or half-and-half.

The butter, brown sugar, egg yolks, and evaporated milk are cooked together on the stove until thickened. At this thickness, the egg yolks are heated enough to safely consume, but you can always use a thermometer to be certain. To avoid scrambling the eggs, make sure you constantly whisk.

Coconut pecan filling for German chocolate cake on

Toasted pecans for German chocolate cake on

As the mixture thickens on the stove, throw your pecans into the oven for a quick toast. Toasted pecans are my secret for an upgraded coconut pecan filling. What flavor! You have just enough time to toast them as the butter/egg yolk mixture cooks on the stove, so why not?

Stir in the warm pecans, vanilla extract, and sweetened shredded coconut. You can certainly toast the coconut too, but I prefer its chewy texture right from the bag.

Time-saving tip: As the chocolate cake cools, make the coconut pecan filling. The filling, just like the baked cakes, needs to cool down. So cool them all down at the same time. 🙂

Coconut pecan filling for German chocolate cake on


I used my favorite chocolate buttercream recipe to frost the top. The filling is pretty sweet, so I didn’t want to overdo it with frosting. (And naked cakes are pretty!) This chocolate buttercream is thick, creamy, and spreads beautifully. The chocolate buttercream recipe was more than enough for the top, but if you want to frost the top AND sides of the cake, use these ratios. They taste identical.

Will the cake dry out if the sides aren’t frosted? Overtime, yes. But this cake is so moist, especially with the gooey coconut pecan filling, that it’ll take awhile to taste even a smidge dry! If you’re still a little nervous about it drying out, give the sides a light swipe of frosting.

Moist and decadent German chocolate cake with coconut pecan filling and chocolate frosting on top! Recipe on

Moist and decadent German chocolate cake with coconut pecan filling and chocolate frosting on top! Recipe on

Many of you have asked me how I apply frosting to the tops of my cakes. You see all those peaks and twirls of frosting? It takes zero skill. If you have an icing spatula or even a spoon, you can recreate this look. I took a super short video with my phone decorating this exact cake:

So simple! You can do it too!

Moist and decadent German chocolate cake with coconut pecan filling and chocolate frosting on top! Recipe on

Moist and decadent German chocolate cake with coconut pecan filling and chocolate frosting on top! Recipe on

This is not technically “German chocolate cake” since it’s not made with sweet German chocolate. (Don’t be mad at me, cake police!) But it has an ooey gooey coconut + toasted pecan filling, a deep dark chocolate cake, and the perfect amount of creamy chocolate buttercream on top. Definitely an upgrade if you ask me!

German Chocolate Cake


  • 1 and 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 cup (65g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder (optional)*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (180g) full fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) hot water or coffee*

Coconut Pecan Filling

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup (8 ounces; 240ml) evaporated milk or half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (160g) sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup (125g) chopped toasted pecans*



  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) and grease three round 9-inch cake pans. Set aside.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder (if using) together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or you can use a whisk) mix the oil, eggs, sour cream, buttermilk, and vanilla together until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, add the hot water or coffee, and whisk or beat it all until the batter is completely combined.
  3. Divide batter evenly between 3 pans. Bake for 21-25 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool completely in the pan.
  5. As the cakes cool, prepare the coconut pecan filling so it can cool and be ready at the same time. Combine butter, brown sugar, egg yolks, and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk occasionally as the mixture comes to a low boil. Once boiling, whisk constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, toasted pecans, and coconut. Allow to cool completely before layering in cake. It will thicken even more as it cools.
  6. Assemble and frost: First, level the cakes if needed: using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with 1/2 of the coconut pecan filling (half is about 1 and 1/4 cups). Top with 2nd layer and evenly cover the top with remaining coconut pecan filling. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the chocolate buttercream into a thick layer on top. Garnish with extra toasted pecans and coconut, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before slicing or else the cake may gently fall apart as you cut.
  7. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Make ahead tip: Prepare cake through step 4. Wrap the individual baked cake layers tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Bring to room temperature, make the coconut pecan filling and frosting, assemble/frost, and serve. You can also prepare the coconut pecan filling and chocolate buttercream in advance. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Bring both to room temperature before using. Frosted cake freezes well, up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature or serve cold.

Recipe Notes:

Why room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information. Instead of sour cream, try using plain yogurt. The cake won't taste as rich, but it's a fine sub. If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk.

Espresso powder and coffee will not make the chocolate taste like coffee. Rather, they deepen the chocolate flavor. I highly recommend them both. If coffee isn't your thing, you can leave out the espresso powder and use boiling hot water instead of the hot coffee.

Toasting the pecans is a major upgrade and I highly suggest it! Let them toast in the oven as you whisk together the filling on the stove (step 5). Simply toast for 8 minutes at 300°F (149°C). Then can be warm when stirred into the filling.

If you're concerned about consuming any raw egg yolks, use a candy/oil thermometer and make sure the mixture is cooked to 160°F (71°C). If you notice any cooked egg bits, you can run it through a strainer.

9x13 cake: You can bake this cake as a 9x13 sheet cake instead. Top with coconut pecan filling, no need for the chocolate buttercream! The cake will take 35-40 minutes at 350°F (177°C).

Cupcakes: Use this coconut pecan filling to fill a batch of super moist chocolate cupcakes. Half of the filling should be plenty, so you can halve the filling recipe or make the full filling recipe and freeze leftovers for up to 3 months. You can frost with chocolate buttercream.

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.


Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer | 5-qt Tilt-Head Glass Mixing Bowl | Measuring Cups | Glass Measuring Cup | Round Cake Pans | Medium Saucepan | Whisk | Baking Sheet | Silpat Baking Mat | Icing Spatula | Marble Cake Stand

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

How to make German Chocolate Layer Cake! Recipe on


  1. Sally, I think I may be your biggest promoter, I talk about you and your blog as if we were friends in real life â˜ș I am possibly on your site more than you are! I just made this coconut pecan topping with your Seriously Fudgy Homemade Brownies and I can’t wait for the topping to cool so I can taste this amazing combination! I’ll be taking these German Chocolate brownies to work with me and I thought brownies are a bit easier for everyone to cut. You’re always my go-to and your recipes always earn me compliments

    • Kristen thank you so much for the kind note!! I appreciate it so much. And you are definitely in for a RICH treat. That combination sounds incredible!!

  2. Can I make this cake recipe into cupcakes as well?

  3. Hi Sally, how different is this in texture to the Triple Chocolate Cake?

  4. I made this this weekend for my daughter-in-laws birthday!!! A COMPLETE hit!! 😀 Just have to add, that my husband’s birthday was last weekend, so he got the triple chocolate cake! I am getting a serious reputation as “the cake lady”!! 😀

  5. Another absolutely superb recipe Sally. I made this yesterday and honestly could not be more thrilled. It is everything I had hoped for and more. Moist, decadent, delicious gooey coconut and pecan nut filling…OMW….absolutely delicious !!! This definitely will not last long in my house. Thank you so much. Have a beautiful day.

  6. Be still my heart, this cake is everything! Seriously considering skipping dinner to bake this instead. 🙂

  7. Well, to say I am in love is an understatement! Never in my life have I had such decadent German Chocolate cake.  As it’s just my hubby and I was able to freeze half the cake as well as the frosting (in two separate bags) only to bring it out a week later and have it just as yummy as the first go.
    We are attending a diner party Saturday.  I am thrilled to be bringing my new found love!

  8. Is there something you can recomend for me to replace the pecans with? I have several family members that are allergic to nuts and anything related to them, but they deserve cake too!

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