Homemade German Chocolate Cake

Best German Chocolate Cake

Regular and High-Altitude German Chocolate Cake Recipe

I spent a month in Berlin to study the German language.  I’d studied it in college, but of course, over the years, I lost most of it.  But I never lost my fascination with German culture and history.  So I spent some time there, re-learning the language, visiting all the sites and museums, and enjoying the food!

In Berlin, I discovered this homemade German chocolate cake recipe (which isn’t really German, but that’s a story for another time).  All-natural, rich and moist, this cake quickly became a favorite when I would go for coffee in Kurfürstendamm. I was a bit shocked when, in my terrible German, I asked, “Könnte ich das Rezept haben?” – and the shop clerk said “Ja, ja!”

Germans insist on natural ingredients in their food.  They are quite strict about the ingredients in beer, for instance.  The Reinheitsgebot – the German Beer Purity Law – insists that beer contain “only hops, barley, water (and, later, yeast) in every Stein.”  And they are much the same about their food.  Artificial colors are very tightly regulated, as are flavorings.  So it was predictible that this recipe would only contain natural ingredients.


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But I was surprised at one thing.  The recipe called for “golden syrup” rather than corn syrup. Most German chocolate icings and fillings call for corn syrup.  And I’ve always avoided them because of that.

I call this site “Baking Naturally” because I’m committed to finding recipes that avoid unnatural and overly-processed ingredients.  That can be quite a feat sometimes.  It’s surprising how many of those things can creep into our cooking without a lot of thought.

Why I Avoid Processed Corn Syrup

At the International Clock in Alexanderplatz, Berlin

Corn syrup is a good example.  It’s a really common ingredient in baking.  I used to work near a plant that made it – it looked like an oil refinery.  I’d watch the tanker trucks coming in and out, knowing they were full of this stuff and there just seemed something wrong about it.  It was so far removed from that lovely ear of sweet corn that grew in the fields I remember as a kid.

So I was excited to see that this cake, with the best German chocolate cake icing I’d ever had, did not use corn syrup.  I learned how to make golden syrup on my own, and have made it several times since.  It keeps for quite a long time on the shelf, and is not difficult to make.  See my post on making your own golden syrup here.

There are three parts to the recipe: the cake, the coconut and pecan topping/filling and the chocolate frosting that coats the sides.  You can’t use the coconut/pecan filling on the sides as it’s just not stiff enough.  But you need something to seal in the moisture of the cake (which was the original point of icing on cake.)

This cake is best when made one day and served the next.  Giving the filling time to settle makes the cake moister and easier to slice.

I have both regular and high-altitude recipes below.  If you make the cake, leave me a comment later and let me know what you thought.  I always appreciate your comments.

Best German Chocolate Cake
Homemade German Chocolate Cake

Homemade German Chocolate Cake

This recipe for homemade German chocolate cake was given to me from a coffee shop on der Kurfürstendamm in Berlin.  Not only is it the best German chocolate cake recipe but it’s also the best German chocolate cake frosting recipe I’ve found, as it does not use overly-processed corn syrup.  Be sure to use high-quality chocolate for the best flavor.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Icing/Assembly30 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: German
Keyword: Homemade German Chocolate Cake, Old Fashioned German Chocolate Cake
Servings: 12 Servings
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

Cake

  • 3/4 cup Vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 2.5 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 4 oz. Semisweet Chocolate around 50% fat, chopped finely
  • 2.25 cups Sugar
  • 5 lg Eggs room temperature
  • 1 cup Milk

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups Pecans
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 3 lg Egg Yolks
  • 3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar packed
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1/4 cup Golden Syrup See link to recipe below. Or use corn syrup.
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Sweetened Shredded Coconut

Frosting

  • 6 tbsp Butter softened
  • 2 1/3 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/3 cup Milk
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp Salt

Instructions

Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two 9-in round cake pans.
  • In a large bowl (not the mixing bowl) whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Microwave the chopped chocolate in a small bowl on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, then repeat until it’s melted – maybe 2 more times. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar, oil and eggs until smooth – about 3-4 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate just until blended. Alternate adding the flour mixture with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Beat until blended – about 2 minutes. Do not overbeat – it makes cakes tough.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out almost clean – just a few sticky crumbs clinging to it (see example below). Mine took 35 minutes.
    Toothpick almost clean
  • Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes. I ran a thin knife just around the edges of the pan, then inverted them on a cooling rack and they released perfectly. Cool completely.

Filling

  • Chop the pecans and roast then in a 350 F oven for about 8 minutes, stirring once. Put them in a large bowl with the coconut and let cool while you make the custard.
  • In a medium saucepan, whisk the milk and egg yolks until smooth. Add the brown sugar, butter, golden syrup, vanilla and salt. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, just until it starts to form swells (see photo). Do not overcook!
    Swells
  • Add the custard to the bowl of pecans and coconut and stir to coat. Let cool completely.

Frosting

  • Beat the softened butter until smooth. Add sugar and cocoa and blend slightly. Add vanilla and slowly add the milk until you reach a spreadable texture. You want a fairly stiff frosting for this cake.

Assembly

  • Place one layer cake right-side up on serving plate. Top with half the filling, to about 1/2 inch from the edge. Place the second layer right-side up on top of the filling and secure. Top the second layer with the rest of the filling, again to about 1/2 inch from the edge.
  • I then coated the outside edge with the chocolate buttercream, sealing it well. Then I came in with a pastry bag and dotted the top rim with chocolate stars. Or you could scallop the top edge.
    Best German Chocolate Cake
  • Cover and let the cake sit for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. This will soften the sugary layer of the chocolate cake and make it easier to cut and serve.

Notes

See my recipe for Golden Syrup here.  Or substitute corn syrup.

You can make your own powdered sugar quickly and easily and avoid the addition of corn starch (which can cause allergic reactions occasionally).  Just blend, cup for cup, 1 cup of regular granulated sugar until you reach a powder consistency.  You may need to sift it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any large pieces left over, but I’ve not needed to.  The corn starch is added simply to avoid caking while sitting on the shelf.  But if you use it immediately, you need not worry about that at all.

Homemade German Chocolate Cake – High Altitude Version

This recipe for homemade German chocolate cake was given to me from a coffee shop on der Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. Not only is it the best German chocolate cake recipe but it’s also the best German chocolate cake frosting recipe I’ve found, as it does not use overly-processed corn syrup. Be sure to use high-quality chocolate for the best flavor.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Icing/Assembly35 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: German
Keyword: Best German Chocolate Cake, Old Fashioned German Chocolate Cake
Servings: 12 Servings
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

Cake

  • 3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 1/2 cups PLUS 2 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 4 oz. Semisweet Chocolate around 50% fat chopped finely
  • 2.25 cups LESS 2 tbsp Sugar
  • 5 lg Eggs room temperature
  • 1 cup PLUS 3 tbsp Milk

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups Pecans
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 3 lg Egg Yolks
  • 3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar packed
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1/4 cup Golden Syrup See link to recipe below. Or use corn syrup.
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Sweetened Shredded Coconut

Frosting

  • 6 tbsp Butter softened
  • 2 1/3 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/3 cup Milk
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp Salt

Instructions

Cake

  • Preheat oven to 370 F. Grease and flour two 9-in round cake pans.
  • In a large bowl (not the mixing bowl) whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Microwave the chopped chocolate in a small bowl on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir, then repeat until it’s melted – maybe 2 more times. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar, oil and eggs until smooth – about 3-4 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate just until blended. Alternate adding the flour mixture with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Beat until blended – about 2 minutes. Do not overbeat – it makes cakes tough.
    Homemade Lemon Pound Cake Batter
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out almost clean – just a few sticky crumbs clinging to it (see example below). Mine took 35 minutes.
    Toothpick almost clean
  • Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes. I ran a thin knife just around the edges of the pan, then inverted them on a cooling rack and they released perfectly. Cool completely.

Filling

  • Chop the pecans and roast then in a 350 F oven for about 8 minutes, stirring once. Put them in a large bowl with the coconut and let cool while you make the custard.
  • In a medium saucepan, whisk the milk and egg yolks until smooth. Add the brown sugar, butter, golden syrup, vanilla and salt. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, just until it starts to form swells (see photo). Do not overcook!
    Swells
  • Add the custard to the bowl of pecans and coconut and stir to coat. Let cool completely.

Frosting

  • Beat the softened butter until smooth. Add sugar and cocoa and blend slightly. Add vanilla and slowly add the milk until you reach a spreadable texture. You want a fairly stiff frosting for this cake.

Assembly

  • Place one layer cake right-side up on serving plate. Top with half the filling, to about 1/2 inch from the edge. Place the second layer right-side up on top of the filling and secure. Top the second layer with the rest of the filling, again to about 1/2 inch from the edge.
  • I then coated the outside edge with the chocolate buttercream, sealing it well. Then I came in with a pastry bag and dotted the top rim with chocolate stars. Or you could scallop the top edge.
  • Cover and let the cake sit for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. This will soften the sugary layer of the chocolate cake and make it easier to cut and serve.
    Best German Chocolate Cake

Notes

To make Golden Syrup, see my recipe here.  

To get the very best flavor, you must use the very best chocolate. I’ve found the best at Savory Spice. Their Black Onyx is amazing for a rich dark flavor.

Black Onyx Cocoa Powder – 2 Cup Bag | Savo…

This cocoa powder has been alkalized to the extreme, producing a dark, purplish black cocoa that makes for an impressive black-as-coal baked good. This extreme alkalization neutralizes the natural bitterness, removing some of its chocolate flavor and a lot of its butter fat(10-12%). “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” -Charles M. Schulz We recommend replacing 25-50% of the standard “Dutch“ cocoa in a recipe with black onyx. Using this ratio will produce darker, rich tasting baked goods without losing the moisture. If still too dry, you can increase the fat content by adding more shortening, butter, egg yolk or changing to a heavier milk; whichever applies to your particular recipe. The fat content of Black Onxy Cocoa Powder is 10-12%. [More]

Price: $19.95

Questions or comments about the recipe? Leave them below and I’ll get right back to you.

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1 Comment

  1. Dear Don,

    Today is Sunday and I am thinking about making some kind of dessert. Here come your recipe for “German Chocolate Cake”. 

    The cake looks so delicious. I see your recipes and have no materials at home. I bookmark the page and will do it next weekend. I went to the page you suggest for purchasing “Black Onyx Cocoa Powder”. How do I know it is natural? I agree with that all material should be natural for making German Chocolate Cake.

    Thanks for sharing the cake and German culture. I will show you my cake next weekend.

    Regards

    Anthony

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