German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake

When it comes to dessert, David Lebovitz knows his stuff. So it should be no surprise that I love his German Chocolate Cake recipe. And when I say love, I mean that I LOVE this cake. I love it so much that I would eat a slice of this cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I confess, I had a slice of the leftovers for breakfast the day after I made this cake.

There is something about the combination of coconut, pecans and chocolate that is so perfect. This recipe excels at producing a cake that is moist and incredibly flavorful. The icing is creamy and extra chocolaty. Trust me when I tell you not to cut any of the steps in this recipe. The coconut-pecan mixture sandwiched between four layers of chocolate cake and the rum-sugar syrup are all absolutely necessary.

If you love German chocolate cake as much as I do, then you need to also check out my favorite Coconut Pecan Brownies. They are delicious bite-sized versions of German Chocolate Cake.

German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake

This recipe does take a little extra time to prepare since you must make the cake layers, filling, syrup and icing. You must also wait for the coconut-pecan filling to thicken. However, this cake is well worth the time it takes to prepare and assemble.

Yields 1 9-inch round cake

German Chocolate Cake
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    For the cake:
  • 2 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tbsp. water
  • 16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • For the filling:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted
  • For the syrup:
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. dark rum
  • For the chocolate icing:
  • 8 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream


  1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the edges of two 9-inch round cake pans. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper.
  2. Melt the chopped chocolate with the water in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Stir until smooth, then set aside until it cools to room temperature.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate. Add the egg yolks, one at a time.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture beating on low speed until incorporated. Mix in the buttermilk and the vanilla until combined. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients.
  5. In a clean dry bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until the form soft, droopy peaks. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining egg whites just until incorporated.
  6. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. While the cakes are cooling, make the filling. In a medium saucepan combine the cream, sugar, and egg yolks. Put the butter, salt, toasted coconut and pecan pieces in a large bowl; set aside. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coat the back of the spoon (about 170-175 degrees F on an instant read thermometer). Pour the hot custard into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. It will thicken as it cools.
  8. To make the syrup, in a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum.
  9. To make the icing, place the chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and butter. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator until firm enough for icing the cake.
  10. To assemble the cake, using a serrated bread knife cut both cake layers in half horizontaly. Set the first layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup then spread 3/4 cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer. Set another cake layer on top. Repeat, brushing each layer with the syrup and then spreading 3/4 cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top. Ice the sides of the cake with the chocolate icing and pipe a decorative border around the top.

Source: barely adapted from David Lebovitz


    • Ashley

      Thanks, Cheryl!

  1. Tina @ Tina's Chic Corner

    First of all, this cake is gorgeous! Second, my husband made a German chocolate cake for me on our first Valentine’s day together and I know how much works goes into make this…kudos to you! I love the flavors in this cake so this is definitely a winner in our home. 🙂

    • Ashley

      Thanks, Tina! That was so sweet of your husband to make you a cake, especially German chocolate 🙂

  2. Kelly

    What a beautiful cake, you did a fantastic job Ashley! It looks so moist and wonderfully decadent! Hehe, I was actually craving German Chocolate Cake the other day but know that would take a few steps to make so I set it aside from my mind – totally wish you could beam that gorgeous slice of cake over, it looks incredible 🙂

    • Ashley

      Ha, I wish I could beam over a slice to you! And then you could send me some of your delicious food too!

  3. Ashley

    Now that is one heck of a cake! I used to never like german chocolate cake (I know, crazy, right??) but I have seen the error of my ways over the last few years. I would love a big thick slice of this!! For dessert … or for breakfast : )

    • Ashley

      I’m actually pretty particular about German chocolate cake, like I am most things. I don’t think all recipes are the same, but this one is a clear winner!

  4. Rachel @the dessert chronicles

    This cake looks so decadent! Your pictures are incredible and make me want a slice of this right about now. Can’t believe I have never tried making a german chocolate cake before.

    • Ashley

      Thanks, Rachel! Looking at these pics again made me want a slice also. While the recipe looks daunting, it really isn’t that bad, just a few extra steps. And this cake is well worth the extra effort!

  5. Melissa

    I can’t stop looking at the chocolate frosting! It looks so perfect!! What a great holiday cake!
    – stopping by from the happy idiot!

    • Ashley

      I think the rich, creamy frosting makes this cake unique. And it really enhances the chocolate flavor.

  6. Amy @ Homey Oh My!

    I’m a HUGE fan of German chocolate cake. This one looks so perfect. Beautiful job with the icing, Ashley.
    And you’re killing me with your descriptions… moist… creamy… chocolatey… SANDWICHED… I would for sure eat this for breakfast.

    • Ashley

      Thanks, Amy! I never feel like my words actually describe how delicious the recipes actually are.

  7. Kelli @ The Corner Kitchen

    This cake is absolutely gorgeous, Ashley! It looks so chocolate and over the top decadent…I love it!

    • Ashley

      Thanks, Kelli! I love anything chocolate and over the top decadent 🙂

  8. Chris at Hye Thyme Cafe

    I haven’t tried one on my own yet, but German Chocolate is definitely my favorite cake. Yours turned out beautifully! 🙂

    • Ashley

      Thanks, Chris!

    • Ashley

      Me too, I wish I still had some left over!

  9. Jamie@Milk 'n' Cookies

    Ashley, what an absolutely gorgeous cake! You did a superb job decorating it — I’m truly impressed. Whether in cake, brownie, or macaroon form, I love all versions of German Chocolate Cake. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful recipe!

    • Ashley

      Macaroon? Now that is one I haven’t tried, but it sounds amazing!

  10. Elizabeth @

    Hello, beautiful! What a gorgeous cake. German chocolate cake was always the “birthday” cake we had growing up in our family, so I associate it with fun times and happy memories. I haven’t made one in years–obviously time for me to make one again!

    • Ashley

      I love when food reminds us of fun times. I’d say that it is time for you to make one!

  11. Lindsay @ Life, Love and Sugar

    Wow! Beautiful job! The cake looks great and it sounds delicious! Definitely going on my “to bake” list. Pinned!

    • Ashley

      Thanks Lindsay!

  12. Winnie

    This is an amazing looking cake!!
    Seems it has a heavenly taste 🙂

  13. Meri

    Gorgeous! I’m making it right now!! Is there no powdered sugar in the icing? Will the recipe cover the whole cake?

    • Ashley

      Meri, that is correct. There is no powdered sugar in the icing. The key is to chill the icing in the refrigerator until it is thick enough to ice the cake. I just put it in the fridge and check it every few minutes until it firms up. The icing recipe is enough to frost the entire cake and pipe a decorative border around the top.

      • Meri

        Great , thank you!

  14. Christin@SpicySouthernKitchen

    My mouth is watering! What a gorgeous cake! You did a fabulous job frosting it and the inside looks so moist!

  15. Deb@CookingOnTheFrontBurner

    Ashley, thanks for dropping this off to our Marvelous Monday party – please send me a sliced… Pinned!

    • Ashley

      I wish I could send you a slice! I always look forward to stopping by Marvelous Mondays. Thanks for hosting, Deb!

  16. Joan - My Cookie Clinic

    Ashley, This cake looks gorgeous and I would love a slice! I dropped by from Marvelous Mondays Link Party. Have a nice week.

    • Ashley

      Thanks for stopping by, Joan!

  17. Krista @ Joyful Healthy Eats

    Ok, yet again. Looks ridiculously good! I seriously just want to lick that chocolate frosting right off! Yum.. Pinned. 🙂

    • Ashley

      Thanks, Krista! The frosting is the best part!

  18. Renee @ Two in the Kitchen

    You did a beautiful job with this cake! I am also a big fan of David Lebovitz. I love his stories about life in Paris!

    • Ashley

      I know, I can’t imagine living in Paris and enjoying all the wonderful culinary adventures. All of his recipes that I’ve tried are perfect.

  19. Andi @ The Weary Chef

    This is gorgeous! Not only does the cake sound delicious, I’m so impressed with how perfectly you were able to decorate it. You are one talented lady 🙂

    • Ashley

      Thanks, Andi! I never now how a cake is going to turn out after I’m done decorating it 🙂

  20. sneha Kurien

    Wow! This recipe works. Made it for my husband’s birthday and he loved it. Thank you ! Will definitely make it again.

    • Ashley

      Sneha, I am so glad that you enjoyed it! It is one of my favorites that I make time and time again.

  21. Fran

    I planned to make a German Chocolate cake for Christmas using my usual recipe. However, after looking at this one, this is it! Really look forward to making this one! I, too, love the flavors here. Thanks.

    • Ashley

      I think you will love it, Fran!

  22. Annikki Matthan

    Absolutely delightful. Would give it to my husband as it is up his street.

    Author and cake designer
    Annikki Matthan
    Oulu, Finland

    • Ashley

      Thanks, Annikki!

  23. Larissa

    Wow! This cake looks amazing! I’m trying to find an amazingly delicious german chocolate cake for my sister’s birthday. Would spiced rum work instead of dark rum?


    • Ashley

      Larissa, I always use dark rum for baking, but the spiced rum should produce similar results. I hope that you enjoy it, this is one of my favorite cakes!

      • klarisa

        Is there any substitute for the rum at all?

        • Ashley

          I highly recommend using the rum but you can omit the rum and just use the sugar syrup.

  24. Ellen

    I made this cake a couple months ago, but I made it as cupcakes (for a work function). I find cupcakes are easier when lots of people want it (plus you can have one early and no one will ever suspect!). This recipe (though involved) was amazing. Every part of it turned out fabulously. I’m back here again, because my dad now wants one for his birthday and I can’t imagine any recipe being better.

    • Ashley

      So glad that you enjoyed this recipe, Ellen! It is one of my favorites!

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  27. Claudia

    I just made this cake. It’s sitting and cooling right now and the filling is sitting as well. Roughly how long does the icing need to be refrigerated? It’s been in there for about 30 minutes and it has gotten thicker but it’s still really really thin. I made this for my grandparents after New Years party and I really wanted to impress those old timers!

    • Ashley

      I usually chill the icing for about an hour, but the time doesn’t matter so much as the consistency. Sometimes it takes more or less time. It should be thick enough to stay on the cake. If you think it is too thin then it probably is. Just chill it a little longer and check again. It will thicken up the longer it chills. I hope that you enjoy, Claudia!

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  29. Zoe

    Made this today – worked beautifully except my melted chocolate seized the first time – don’t know about melting chocolate with water? In any event, great recipe and I can only hope it tastes as good as it looks!! Thank you!!

    • Ashley

      I’m sorry to hear that you had problems with the chocolate the first time. I’ve never had an issue with the chocolate seizing with this cake. The water to chocolate ratio seems to work well for this recipe. Glad that it finally worked out. Enjoy!

  30. Krystal

    Do I need to add rum? Is there anything else I can use? Or will it make a big difference without the syrup layer?

    • Ashley

      I highly recommend following the entire recipe as it is written, it’s delicious! But it certainly won’t harm the cake if you skipped the syrup layer.

  31. Diana Salyer

    Can I use rum extract instead of rum? If so, how much extract should I use?

    • Ashley

      Hi Diana, I wouldn’t recommend using rum extract instead of rum. The amount of the liquid in the rum plays an important role in the consistency of the syrup, so I’m not sure it would be the same without the rum.

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  33. Angie

    This looks amazing , can this cake sit out or does it get melty. Want to take it to a auction but want it to hold up. Also what tip did you use for the piping?

    • Ashley

      Hi Angie, I wouldn’t recommend letting this cake sit out for too long unless it is in a cooler environment. I don’t remember exactly what tip I used, but I think it was a closed star tip.

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  35. Verla

    I have to say this cake was incredibly delicious. I did have to do a butter cream frosting but only because I was taking it to a barn raising and the heat would have melted your beautiful frosting. Thank you for sharing this recipe your details made it impossible to fail.

    • Ashley

      Hi Verla! I am so glad that you loved the cake!

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