German Chocolate Cake

Mar 22

Rich, dark chocolate cake layers, filled with toasted coconut “crack” filling and pecan wafer crunch, topped with a classic chocolate buttercream.

I’m so excited about this cake and I never thought I’d say that about German Chocolate Cake. I’ll be honest, it’s one cake I’ve never understood the hype about. I know some people love it, but I just couldn’t jump on the bandwagon. For me, the texture of the pecans and raw coconut were an immediate turn off. I’ve also never tried a German Chocolate Cake that had decent chocolate cake layers.

I ended up making this cake only because a good friend told me it was her husband’s favorite and asked if I’d come up with a recipe for it. Of course I accepted the challenge 😉
I just knew, however, that I needed to make some changes to the classic version. I started to look around at recipes and didn’t see anything that really caught my attention until I turned to Milk Bar, one of my favorite bakeries in New York City. (They share a few of their recipes online, but you need the cookbook to get ALL the good stuff.)
Per usual, Milk Bar went off the beaten path and created a unique twist on this classic cake (which they actually call “German Chocolate Jimbo Cake”), with layers of chocolate cake, chocolate malt soak, chocolate fudge sauce, crack pie filling, coconut, pecan wafer crunch and chocolate malt frosting. Sounds pretty incredible, right?!
While all of these elements make my heart skip a beat with pure joy, I didn’t think my cake needed to be this extravagant. Instead, I took inspiration from Milk Bar and decided to use my dark chocolate cake recipe instead of a more basic milk chocolate cake. I also used my chocolate buttercream for the outside of the cake ( because all cake needs frosting!).
I did, however, love the idea of adding serious texture to the cake with the coconut and pecan fillings! But, back to my aversion to raw coconut, I went with toasted coconut in what Milk Bar calls their “crack” pie filling. (You guys, it’s truly that – addictive as all heck! You won’t be able to take just one bite.)
I was also blown away with the pecan crunch filling. Instead of using raw whole pecans, Christina Tosi whips up a toasted pecan butter and tosses it with crushed chocolate wafer cookies. So, you still get the nutty flavor without the gritty texture of a raw nut. Perfection!
I really loved how this cake turned out and will be adding it to my list of favorites! Just make sure you have a class of milk nearby with this one!

German Chocolate Cake

Yield One 3-layer, 8-inch cake

Rich, dark chocolate cake layers, filled with toasted coconut "crack" filling and pecan wafer crunch, topped with a classic chocolate buttercream.


For the Chocolate Cake

  • 1 3/4, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups, minus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs, room temperature (I use extra large eggs)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup hot water or hot coffee
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

For the Coconut Crack (recipe adapted from Milk Bar)

  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons milk powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 cup toasted sweetened coconut 

For the Pecan Crunch (recipe from Milk Bar)

  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
  • 1-3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup chocolate wafer cookies, chopped 

For the Chocolate Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream


For the Chocolate Cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 360 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round pans with nonstick spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper and spray again. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Stir to combine.
  3. In a separate medium sized mixing bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, hot water or coffee and vanilla. Stir to combine.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix for about one minute, until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for about 30 seconds.
  5. Evenly distribute the batter between the pans, about 16 ounces of batter in each.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Let cool for 5 -10 minutes before inverting them onto cooling racks to cool completely.
  7. Once cooled, you can level the cakes, wrap in plastic wrap, and store in the freezer until ready to use. If you're storing the cake layers longer than a week, also wrap each layer in foil. 

For the Coconut Crack

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray the bottom and sides of a 9x13" with with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, brown sugar, milk powder, and salt. Mix on low speed until evenly blended.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, add the melted butter and stir for one minute until all the dry ingredients are wet.
  4. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and continue mixing on low speed for about one minute, until any of the white streaks from the cream have completely blended into the mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg yolks, stirring them into the mixture until combined. Be careful not to over beat (aerate) the mixture, but certain the mixture is glossy and homogenous.
  6. Pour the filling into the prepared pan and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. You want the filling to be firmer and more set toward the outer edges of the baking pan but slightly jiggly and loose in the center. If the filling is still jiggly all over, give it another 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Let the filling cool slightly and add the toasted coconut. The filling can be used immediately or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

For the Pecan Crunch

  1. Heat your oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Pour the pecans on a sheet pan and toast in the oven for 15 minutes.
  3. In a food processor or blender, puree the warm pecans with grapeseed oil, salt and brown sugar.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, combine the pecan butter with the crushed wafer cookies. The crunch can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 5 days or up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. 

For the Chocolate Frosting

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and light in color, about 2 minutes.
  2. With the mixer on low speed, gradually stream in the cooled, melted chocolate. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for another minute.
  3. Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, followed by the salt and vanilla.
  4. Add the heavy cream and then turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat for 5 minutes.
  5. Frosting can be store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week.
  6. When you're ready to frost the cake, bring the frosting back to room temperature and mix by hand with a wooden spoon to push out all of the air pockets. 


  1. Level each cake layer with a cake leveler.
  2. On a cake board, spread a dollop of frosting to act as "glue" to the cake. Place the first cake layer, top side up, on the center of the cake board. You will have a little edge of the cake board showing around the cake.
  3. Spread one half of the coconut crack filling on the cake layer, followed by one half of the pecan crunch.
  4. Place the second cake layer, top side up, on the fillings and repeat step 3.
  5. Place the final cake layer, top side down, on the second layer of fillings. Apply a thin coat of frosting around the entire cake to lock in the crumbs. Place the cake in your freezer for 10 minutes to set the frosting.
  6. Remove the cake from the freezer and continue to frost the cake with the remainder of the frosting.
  7. If you want to pipe swirls or any decorate design on the cake, I suggest adding another half recipe of the chocolate frosting to what is listed above. 

3 thoughts on “German Chocolate Cake

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  1. Oh, gosh, so many things I’m not doing right. I assumed 9×13 glass dish and my crack pie is taking forever to bake. Did I ruin it? It also took forever to toast my sweetened coconut. I gave up before it reached the brown I was thinking of. Is there hope?