If there was ever going to be a time for speaking in extremes, then that time is now.
This is the best German Chocolate Cake you will ever have … in your lifetime … on this planet … ever.
And it’s no surprise that my mom Noni tuned me in to this recipe. For as long as I can remember she has been the master of the mixmaster. We’re talking about a woman who drove the carpool to high school field hockey games while serving up hot apple turnovers à la mode at red lights.
She tweaked a classic recipe to transform basic chocolate cake into undeniably the moistest, richest, most amazing boxed cake mix-turned-homemade confection ever. A made-from-scratch coconut and toasted pecan filling layered between four tiers of espresso-enhanced chocolate goodness is simply an out of this world bonus.
It’s the perfect birthday cake. It’s the perfect dinner party cake. It’s the perfect anytime cake. It’s the best German Chocolate Cake (ever).
For the cake:
- 1 package (18.25 ounces) Devil's Food cake mix
- 1 package (3.9 ounces) chocolate instant pudding mix
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons espresso powder
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
- Butter, for greasing pans
For the frosting:
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups chopped pecans, toasted
- 2 cups lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Grease two 9" cake pans with butter. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cake mix, instant pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, water, vegetable oil and espresso powder mixed with water. Beat on low speed, scraping down the sides, until the ingredients are throughly combined.
- Stir in the chocolate chips then divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
- Bake the cakes on the center rack for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then invert them onto a cooling rack and allow them to continue to cool while you make the frosting.
For the frosting:
- Combine the egg yolks, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until combined.
- Beat in butter, then gradually beat in heavy cream and vanilla, scraping down sides as necessary.
- Pour the mixture into a medium non-stick saucepan. Cook it over low heat, stirring constantly, for 15-20 minutes or just until the mixture thickens and begins to fluff.
- Pour the mixture into a medium bowl and let cool until it is room temperature.
- Stir in the chopped toasted pecans and flaked coconut.
Assemble the cake:
- Halve each of the cakes (using either a serrated knife or a piece of floss), to make 4 equal layers of cake.
- Place the first layer on the serving plate, top it with one-fourth of the prepared frosting. Add a second layer of cake, top it with one-fourth of the frosting and repeat the layering, ending with the last one-fourth of frosting on top.
- ★ Did you make this recipe? Don't forget to give it a star rating below!
Did you try this recipe?
Share it with the world! Mention @justataste or tag #justatasterecipes!
Recipes adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor and Cook's Illustrated.
So delicious! Cake is dense, rich, and moist with a deep chocolate flavor. I didn’t adapt a thing and it turned out perfectly.
I’m so thrilled you enjoyed the recipe, Belinda!
Making ANOTHER one today, since my dad *only* got two slices (wedges). Says it’s better than his southern-raised sister’s cakes. High praise.
WOWZA! I’m so happy to read this, Belinda!
This cake is awesome! Made it for a condo social and person after person commented how delicious it was. It was the hit of the night! (I must admit, though, that I used another German Chocolate Cake recipe for the frosting, so I can’t comment on the frosting.)
I’m so thrilled you enjoyed the cake recipe, Marilyn!
Can you make cupcakes out of this?
Absolutely! I’m not sure the exact quantity it would yield (or the bake time), but it’d definitely work.
Can’t wait to try it! Question, have you ever made this with a German Chocolate cake mix?
I haven’t, but that should work!
Hi! Thank you so much for this recipe! It has become a family favorite! My daughters birthday is coming up and she wants a vanilla cake. I’ve never had good luck with vanilla cake recipes, they tend to come out dry. Do you by any chance have one?
Hi Laura! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying the recipe! I don’t have a vanilla cake recipe, however, I do have a recipe for vanilla bean cupcakes. Here’s the link in case you’re interested: https://www.justataste.com/vanilla-bean-cupcakes-buttercream-frosting-recipe/ Hope that helps!
Where in the recipe does it mention cooking the frosting.? I know it should if you are using egg yolks. I want to make this, but want to make sure that And for how long should you cook the frosting, and what do you do if it comes out soupy like I read in a review?
Hi Marjorie – The directions for the frosting are above under “For the frosting.”
I love this recipe. Thank you Kelly. I have read the comments about the frosting and mine always fluffs up and comes out great, I just need little bit more of it, so will increase recipe by 25% next time. As far as cake mixes, I have bought an extra devils food mix, since they come smaller now, and just add some of that. To make life easy I also use one of the starbucks instant packs for the espresso.
So glad you’ve been enjoying this recipe, Jane!
My frosting didn’t set up either. It wouldn’t thicken. I cooked it 55 minutes before it became remotely “fluffy”. When I let it cool, it became a separated mess! The cake is delicious however.
Hi Jennifer – Were you cooking it at the right heat?
I’m going to be making a gluten free version of this and the person I’m making it for only wants a 9″ x 13″, nothing fancy. Do I need to reduce the recipe?
Hi Tiffy! I have never made this recipe as a 9×13″ cake so I’m not sure what measurements you’d need to change.
I cannot find 18.25 oz cake mix anywhere. What is espresso powder? Where may I find these items please?? I need to make this cake right away!!! Thank you. Barbara
Hi Barbara – You can use a standard size boxed cake mix (the quantity of ounces varies for each brand), and espresso powder can be found in the baking aisle of most major supermarkets or by the coffee products. Enjoy!
The first time I made this cake was in 2012 for my dad’s birthday and it’s been a hit with our family ever since! At least one of the five of us requests this cake for their birthday every year. Thank you for the recipe!
Awesome! So glad you’re enjoying the recipe, Andrea :)
I’ve been making German Sweet Chocolate Torte for YEARS. I use 3 8″ pans and cut them using thread. Of coarse you must double the frosting. I use Heavy cream and evaporated milk. I also do not use a cake mix.
It is the most requested cake I make. I have one friend who has requested it as his birthday present for the last 30+ years. This one looks pretty good so everyone enjoy!!
Monika, Sorry but a German chocolate cake has absolutely nothing to do with the country of Germany, although I admit that it can be confusing. Originally, in 1852, an American man named Sam German developed a sweet chocolate bar for the Bakers chocolate company. It was called Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. In 1957, a woman sent in a recipe using that chocolate bar. It was a huge hit and was called German’s Chocolate cake. Over time, the apostrophe and the “s” was dropped, and now it’s called German Chocolate Cake — strictly American, and named for Sam German.
Looks amazing! I really want to try the frosting–pecans and coconut, yum!
I love your website I can spend hours checking out your recipes. But here is the thing, I am German and I am really into baking, and I don’t want to burst your bubble, but there is no such a thing like a typical german chocolate cake in Germany ;P
If you are interested in real typical German cake recipes ask me I can send you some if you like!
Thanks so much, Monika!
I made this cake yesterday and it is definitely one of the most delicious cakes! My frosting didn’t really set up though and resulted in sort of a drippy mess after I assembled the cake. It still tastes great. Have you ever run into the frosting separating? Maybe I didn’t cook it long enough? Thanks!
That is a beautiful cake! Looks delicious, too – I love anything coconut.
Please do not understand, as criticism …
but it is not typical German as much dough to use in
so little cream.
The ratio is reversed in our
wow.. you really got up close and personal with this cake. this looks amazing. seriously good. i love all those layers and coconut frosting in between, yum!
Thanks so much for your comment! It wasn’t hard getting up close and personal … in fact, it was hard staying away!