Grandpa’s German Chocolate Cake

My dear Grandpa Charlie and I share a birthday month. His birthday is just 10 days after mine, and my aunt always throws a family party. It is primarily for my grandpa, because let’s be honest, an old man needs a day of glory once a year. 🙂

When I was little my aunt would always purchase a german chocolate cake because that was grandpa’s favorite. Little did she know that I hated coconut so I would always secretly whine to my mom about it. Eventually the truth came out and since my aunt is sweet, she started ordering other delicious cake flavors, just for me. They have always been wonderful bakery-ordered cakes, until last year. Last year Kristina and I were in the middle of cake-testing for Michal’s wedding so I had a decent amount of cake recipes at my disposal. My aunt asked if I would bring a cake since I had told her about the baking adventure, and I was happy to. I made the Banana Friendship Cake with the Mascarpone Cream Cheese frosting from the Red Velvet Cake recipe.

The Sparkler Candles weren't as exciting as we thought. We know better for this year :)

The Sparkler Candles weren’t as exciting as we thought. We know better for this year 🙂

This year is a different story. I decided to surprise my family with a homemade German Chocolate Cake. I like coconut now after all, and I think I love german chocolate cake as much as my grandpa does now that I’ve tasted this one.

I combined a few different recipes: the cake itself was from this recipe, the frosting from here (it makes tons, I recommend halving it), and the gooey coconut and pecan filling I used from here (way at the bottom). The result: heaven. The cake has coffee in it so it has a unique chocolate flavor from that, the frosting is simply chocolate goodness, and don’t even get me started about the filling. It made so much that I have a large Tupperware full of extra, and I didn’t exactly go light with it on the cake.

I was alone when I baked this one so I got impatient trying to take photos one-handed and gave up at one point, but there are a few things I will show that I have found extremely helpful for cake making, and other baking, in general.

Getting out ALL the ingredients ahead of time: very helpful.


One thing that is also very helpful is measuring out every ingredient ahead of time, but I am usually too impatient to do that.

The next step is almost always to prepare the pans. From all the cake-baking Kristina and I did, we have discovered a couple of rules for the pans. #1 is always grease, line with parchment, and flour dust. #2 is always let the cakes cool in the pans on a rack for about 10-15 minutes before turning the cake out of the pans and onto a cooling rack. I took a few photos to demonstrate rule #1. Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to take a photo of yourself drawing around a pan and then cutting parchment paper, so hopefully you all know how to cut a parchment round (or square) for your cake pans.

I love using ziploc bags for greasing. No fuss, no mess.

I love using Ziploc bags for greasing. No fuss, no mess.

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The you just press the parchment rounds into the pans, and grease the top of the parchment.

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I have this fun little shaker from Williams Sonoma. It is perfect for this step if you fill it with flour, and perfect for doing any powdered sugar dusting for decorating if you fill it with powdered sugar.


Make sure to get the sides of the pans too, it’s a very important step for stubborn cakes.DSCF2449 DSCF2450

The next step is tapping out the excess and tossing it in the garbage (usually a two-handed job)


Another nifty trick I learned involves chopping baking chocolate. If I use a knife, I find that chocolate bits go everywhere: my hands, my clothes, the counter, the floor, etc. which makes it a pain to clean up. My solution is to put the chocolate in a Ziploc bag and mash it with a meat mallet (or a hammer), like so.

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I poured it into a liquid measuring cup because the next step was adding the hot coffee to melt the chocolate with. :d  A messy business I’m afraid.


The next few steps I did not document, which may have been my downfall. There were some directions I sort of ignored (like adding ingredients gradually) that by skipping filled my batter up with air and caused a strange catastrophe.

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Both cakes bubbled over the sides, causing batter to drip down into the oven. Then this cake on the right (which I still don’t understand why it only happened to one), sunk into itself at least halfway. That means Half of this cake must be sliced off, creating uneven layers. Well, I was fortunate to have a way to outsmart it because I simply sliced the other cake layer in half (which was mostly flat), creating three even layers. I did make sure the cake tasted exceptionally first, otherwise I would have begun from the beginning with another chocolate cake recipe. This one was worth saving, despite it’s ugly unfrosted appearance.

The filling was extremely easy to make, it just took some time, which I had plenty of since the cake cooks for over an hour. I just had to let this mixture sit on low FOREVER while I waited for the butter to melt.


While I waited, I called our insurance company with a question, called a company about a product return, and signed Ian and I up for birthing classes and a hospital tour online. It took SO LONG to melt. Then once it did I just had to turn up the heat, stir constantly for about 10 minutes, and then add the coconut and pecans to it, making it a heavenly gooey mixture.


Here is my mishmash recipe for you. 🙂

German Chocolate Cake

For cake layers:

  • 3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut or Ghiradelli
  • 1 ½ cups hot brewed coffee
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 300°F and grease 2 round cake pans. Line bottoms with rounds of parchment paper and grease paper. Dust pans with flour, tapping out the excess.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool layers completely. Once cool, wrap layers in plastic wrap and freeze before slicing or frosting.


  • 1 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
  • 4 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups baking cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk

Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, cream butter. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and vanilla (mixture will be dry). Add enough milk until frosting reaches spreading consistency.

Coconut Pecan Filling:

  • 1 ½ cups evaporated milk
  • 5 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 ½ cups flaked coconut
  • 2 cups toasted pecans

For the Filling: To toast the pecans, set the oven temperature to 350°F. Spread them out on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes (do not over-toast). Once they are cool, coarsely chop the pecans and set aside.

Combine the evaporated milk, slightly beaten egg yolks, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and butter in a large saucepan or heavy pot over low heat. When the butter melts raise the heat to medium, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken after 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the coconut and pecans and cool before frosting the cakes.

Assembly: To assemble the cakes, use a serrated knife or cake-slicing saw to cut the layers in half (if desired). Pipe a little row of chocolate frosting around the very edge of the first layer, then spread the coconut pecan filling over the top, right up to the frosting. Place your next cake layer on top and make sure it is centered. Repeat the first step until you get to the last layer of cake. Place your last layer bottom-side up so that the top is the least crumby. Do a crumb coat layer of frosting over the entire cake (A thin layer, where you can still see the cake itself underneath is perfect). Refrigerate the crumb-coated cake for 15 minutes (This will make it easier to frost). Frost the sides of the cake, and spread some coconut filling over the top, decorate further as desired.

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2 Responses to Grandpa’s German Chocolate Cake

  1. Pingback: Cake #3 Banana Cake with Coffee Walnut Buttercream frosting | Sweet Tooth Mama

  2. This has to be the best cake I have ever tasted!

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