Best Ever German Chocolate Cake

Today’s recipe is a tribute to my Grandpa, who passed this last Thursday at the age of 80.

gpa main
My Grandpa was one of my biggest cheerleaders, and I honestly can’t think of a time he didn’t praise what I was doing. He especially loved my baking. He had a few favorites – really anything I made – but he would often call and offer to pay me to make biscotti, and on his last few birthdays, I would make him his favorite: German Chocolate Cake.
I have the best memories of my Grandpa while I was growing up. I rode in my first convertible with him, talked on my first car phone in that very same convertible, went to my first flea market, and even learned to barter with him. I got my good business sense from him.
My sister, Nicole, and I would fly out to see him and my grandmother in Arizona and make up dance routines in his hot tub. He said we would be famous… and we were to him.
One of the most vivid memories I have was with my first school dance and date, my parents were out of town and I was staying with my grandparents. While I was getting ready, my Grandpa made it clear what would happen to this boy if there was any “fooling around”, and he wasn’t joking.
(That was the last date with that boy. My grandpa read people very well).
My grandpa always had to be somewhere other than where he was and this got worse as he got older. “When are we gonna go grandma?” “Time to get home Betty.” Even though he was always eager to go, we knew he loved being around all of us, especially his 9 great-grandchildren.
He loved to play cards, ride his bike, fish, and he loved people. He worked as a claims adjuster for Prudential and All State and was passionate about his job!
My grandpa was an American hero, serving in the Korean War as a medic in the Army. After returning from the war, he married his “Marilyn Monroe” – my grandma. He was proud of my grandma, and over the years, he relied on her to tend to him as he battled many illnesses, including cancer. He was a proud Eagle Scout and had recently given all of his scout stuff to my husband, a scoutmaster. He was super proud when my son Aiden recently achieved his Arrow of Light in cub scouts. In fact, when Aiden was given the news of his G-pa’s passing, Aiden went and got out G-pa’s Boy Scout sash and said he would wear it in honor of him.
There are many great memories I will cherish, and every time I go to make my biscotti, cookies, and German chocolate cake, he will be next to me, asking for a bite or offering me 5 bucks for a slice.
Love you G-pa!

Best Ever German Chocolate Cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: PT30-35M

Total Time: PT45-55M

Yield: 12

Best Ever German Chocolate Cake

Rich, moist chocolate cake with smooth and creamy caramel like pecan and coconut frosting.


  • Chocolate Cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • German Chocolate Frosting
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup white granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch



Pre-heat oven to 350º F. Grease three 8-inch or two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and lightly dust with flour. I like to do 3 8x8 pans, and just make a 2 layer, cake but set aside the 3rd cake for the kids that don’t like the German chocolate frosting or for my sisters who have nut allergies. This is also great in a 9x13.

In mixing bowl (I use my Kitchen Aid), add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir until well combined.

Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well mixed. Reduce the speed to low and add boiling water to the cake batter a little bit at a time. Once the water is all mixed in, beat on high for about 1 minute.

Evenly distribute cake batter between the three 8x8 pans (or two 9x9) prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely.

Frost cake with frosting.

German Chocolate Frosting:

*Note if you are layering the cake, I always double the recipe above and have a little extra frosting for later. If you are doing a 9x13 a single recipe should be sufficient.

In a large saucepan combine evaporated milk and cornstarch and mix; add in sugar, egg yolks, margarine and vanilla. Cook over low-medium heat until it reaches a slow boil. Stirring constantly until thick, about 12 minutes from when it starts to slowly boil. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and coconut, this frosting will thicken up as it cools. Let cool 1 hour then spread on cooled cake. To make this cake easy to slice, layer cake with frosting, then set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or more, then slice and serve.

Grandpa’s review: “This is the best damn cake I have ever had!”

Gpa with some of his great-grandkids Christmas 2014.



  1. says

    What a beautiful tribute. Some of my most favorite recipes are the ones that remind me of loved ones. Making my grandmother’s upside down cake makes me feel like some small part of her is still here with us on earth.

  2. says

    I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you have some wonderful memories of your very special grandpa, and that is a blessing.

    The German Chocolate Cake looks amazing!!

  3. says

    I’m sorry about the loss of your grandpa. He sounds like he was a very special man. I will be sure to make and enjoy this delicious-sounding German chocolate cake in his honor!

  4. says

    What a sweet post. And I do see the Marilyn in your grandma. :)

    Thank you for the recipe, German Chocolate Cake is my oldest son’s fave, and it happens to be his birthday month. :)

  5. says

    My, my, my….this looks so delicious. I have gotten away for icing or frosting any cakes. However, this can change my mind. Haven’t had a German Chocolate Cake in ages. Really liking the looks of this one…

  6. says

    I’m sorry for the recent loss of your grandpa. Thanks for sharing your German Chocolate Cake recipe here to honour one of his favourite dishes.

  7. says

    It’s so hard to say goodbye to our loved ones. But, it sounds like you have some amazing memories of your time with your Grandpa. And, this recipe for German Chocolate Cake sounds amazing!

  8. Mary says

    Your g-pa sounds like he was a wonderful man, I’m sure he was very proud of you. So sorry for your family’s loss.

  9. says

    I’m so sorry for your loss, your grandpa sounds like a special guy. I would “pay” you for a slice of that german chocolate cake though! 😉

    • Sandra says

      Heather, I have been meaning to email you to tell you, I love your blog name!!!! Thanks for coming by! xo San

  10. says

    I’ve very sorry for your loss. This is such a beautiful tribute to your grandfather. I understand why he liked this cake, it looks delicious.

  11. Amy Desrosiers says

    Recipes like these make me miss eating full flour sweet treats! I love German chocolate, and miss it!

  12. says

    Hey! I live in Arizona! :) What awesome memories to have of your grandfather. It sounds like it would be bitter sweet to make any one of his favorites.

    • Sandra says

      Love AZ!!!! Love the smell of the citrus, anytime I smell fresh citrus it takes me back to my childhood vacations there!

  13. says

    I am so sorry for your loss, I am glad though that you found a way to do something in his honor. The cake looks and sounds absolutely delicious. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

  14. says

    Sorry to hear of your loss. It’s always hard when someone special passes, but it sounds like you have great memories and had special moments with him. Thanks for sharing your recipe with us.

  15. says

    I am sorry to hear about your grandpa’s passing, he sounds like a wonderful man and I feel privileged to know a little about such a great person! Thank you for sharing. That German chocolate cake looks so yummy! It’s been a long time since I had any! Mmmm

  16. says

    I absolutely love German Chocolate Cake. My grandmother used to make it and it just reminds me of growing up! Such a wonderful recipe!

  17. says

    I’m so sorry for your loss Sandra! This is a special, beautiful post and know that he will be with you and your family always. It’s so nice how making a certain food (this cake looks amazing by the way) can remind us of a special person and our memories with them. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family ((hugs))

  18. says

    Sandra, So sorry for the passing of your Grandpa. What wonderful memories you have with him!! German Chololate cake is my favorite, I will have to try this recipe sometime. Thanks for sharing at Freedom Fridays :-)

  19. Germaine says

    I’m sorry about your grandpa…

    I’m new in baking, your cake looks very delicious!!! I have tried your recipe but my cake comes out the texture is very compact n not as fluffy as yours, would u mind to share your experience with me? Thanks!

  20. Annie Esparza says

    I just finished your recipe and my husband is already picking at it and eating the icing. The best German chocolate he’s ever had. Followed your instructions to the letter and so easy to understand. So sorry about grandpa but we feel he was blessed with a beautiful family, and able to enjoy this delicious cake.
    Husband is already demanding “one a month” pleaseeee!!!

    Thank you for sharing and God Bless

    • Sandra says

      Annie – so happy you loved it! Thank you for letting me know, it’s these comments that make my day! xo San

  21. says

    I’m so sorry to hear about your grandpa passing. What a wonderful tribute to the celebration of his life. Although I haven’t ever made German Chocolate cake before, I just may try this recipe. May the memories sustain you through the healing time.

      • says

        This cake looks really delicious, it really does. I’d like to make it for my mother’s birthday cake, but my question is how would I incorporate actual German chocolate instead of cocoa powder? That way it is really a German chocolate cake? Would you know how? I’ve never seen German chocolate in powder form, on in bar form.

  22. Patti says

    I am thinking about making this for my brother’s bday this week. Do you toast the coconut (sweetened or unsweetened) and also do you toast the pecans?
    I know it’s hard to lose a loved one, but I bet your grandpa is smiling down upon you and loving that you are sharing his favorite recipe!

    • Sandra says

      Patti – sorry I am just replying it was a busy weekend, with Easter. I use sweetened coconut. And as for the pecans, I did not toast them, but my grandma does – so you could do it either. I personally think toasted brings out an earthy flavor but still delicious. xo San

    • Sandra says

      Stephanie – So what this does it allows the cocoa to dissolve, making it smooth. I believe this is all it does but I will be checking into this more. xo San

  23. destiny says

    For the white sugar are you using confectioners sugar or regular sugar? I can’t wait to try this!

    • Sandra says

      Destiny –
      You will want to use white granulated sugar, I just changed that in the recipe to say that. You will be bringing the frosting to a boil, so don’t use powder sugar.

      You will love this, come back and let me know what you think. Making this for any special occasion?

      xo San

  24. says

    Your Grandpa was right! That’s one beautiful and tasty looking cake. I can hardly wait to make it. And what a lovely tribute to your G-pal! Thank you for sharing

  25. Becky says

    Sorry for your loss, we lost both my husband’s mother and father last fall. In their honor we continue to celebrate their birthdays with their favorite cake. It brings the family together to share memories and make new ones.

  26. debbie says

    i tried your recipe and i liked it- however to remove the eggy taste I melted 5 carmels and added a touch of real cream and it was perfect-

  27. Chelsea says

    I’m sorry for your loss, but just because you put coconut pecan icing on a cake doesn’t make it German chocolate. The cake isn’t made with cocoa, but with real “German’s sweet chocolate”. It’s a totally different flavor & texture. I do recommend REAL German chocolate cake however.

  28. Auntiepatch says

    OK, I came late to the party but I’m so sorry that you lost your G-pa! Grandparents are so special to all of us but especially to children. G-pa left you with a great “scrapbook” of love and memories. How beautiful.

  29. Andie says

    Hey, I just wanted to let you know that has adapted your recipe to include 1 tbsp of vinegar mixed with baking soda to the recipe. BAD IDEA! The addition of vinegar destroys the CO2 production before the cake even enters the oven resulting in a sunken center and a bad rise. So for anyone thinking of trying the adaptation do so only for food-science teaching purposes (of what not to do) to your own kids or students.

    This recipe is great as it is!

  30. Klarissa says

    Thank you for sharing your recipe! I would like to try it in a 9×13 pan (to make it easy). How long should I bake it?

  31. DB says


    I have never made a cake from scratch before. Yours was the first. I can’t believe how delicious this cake is! G-Chaocalte is my favorite, and now I can make it whenever….how dangerous is that? Thank you!

  32. says

    Just starting making this cake and have not yet out it all together but have tasted the cake. It is the most delicious chocolate cake I have ever eaten! I could eat the entire cake unfrosted! Thats how good it is! Thank you for the recipe! I will never buy another boxed chocolate cake again!

  33. BBuffington says

    I’ve never made anything from scratch but since it was hubby’s birthday gave it a shot. It turned out amazing! So moist n and everybody loved it! He even said its just like how his grandma used to make it! N fyi he’s the cook in this household, I burn even biscuits lol. Now he wants me to make this all the time lol! Thank you so much for the recipe and our new birthday tradition, making memories!

  34. Rebecca Spivack says

    I made your German Chocolate Cake recipe for my father-in-law’s birthday, after finding out it was his favorite type of cake. This was my first experience making a German Chocolate Cake from scratch. Even my husband, who typically does not like chocolate, said it was great. Thanks for sharing your recipe. It’s a unique way to honor the memory of your grandfather.

  35. Taylor says

    I’ve read that 100% pure olive oil is a good substitute for vegetable oil in chocolate cakes. Would you recommend that for this recipe?

  36. Bruce McNair says

    Very sorry to hear of your granpas’s death. My condolences. RIP. Regarding both his and my own favourite cake, can you confirm:
    1) is it sweetened coconut flakes?
    2) is it canned evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk?
    3) is the cocoa sweetened or not.

    Grateful for your assistance.

  37. Lisa says

    So I’m in the process of making this cake… I have followed your recipe to the “T,” but the batter seems quite thin. I’m going to pop it in the oven and see what happens when I bake it anyways, but is this recipe normally more runny than other recipes? I’m sorry to hear about your lost loved one. Its always nice to be able to share recipes from the ones who have gone. I make some pretty amazing “coconut dream bars” that were my great grandmother’s recipe… I’ll post the recipe soon!

  38. Linzy Estrada says

    What a great way to keep your grandfathers memories alive. Your story is similar to mines. I was very close to my grandfather as well and he also loved all my baking. He too had a few favorites he would request once in a while especially on his birthday. My grandfather passed away in 2013 and really left an empty space in my heart. He too was one of my biggest cheerleaders. Baking just wasn’t the same without his loving words of praise. But time has passed and his absence in our daily life’s has becoming a great way to remember all the little things he did to make us smile and laugh. I seriously can’t sit to try your recipe! It’s looks delicious and I love that it’s from scratch. Hopefully it’s comes out great! Thanks for sharing:)

  39. says

    Hey Sandra, stumbled on you at Pinterest. I truly enjoyed reading your fond memories of your grandpa. These little comforts from the kitchen will always serve to remind you of someone very dear to you. By the way, German chocolate cake is my FIL’s favorite, too. My FIL IS 93. He sounds very much like your grandpa.

  40. Franzi says

    Very nice tribute to your grandpa. I’m from Germany and I have to ask: why is it called “German” chocolate cake? I have never seen such a cake in Germany and the ingredients aren’t that German either (like pecans or coconut). Do you know the story behind this?

  41. noodlehead says

    I’m making this cake for my husbands birthday, it looks great!

    Just wondering if anyone has any tips on how I could adjust the frosting recipe as I’ve only got sweetened coconut flakes. Or were sweetened coconut flakes used here? The recipe doesn’t specify so I assumed they are unsweetened but any help or tips would be great!

  42. Angela says

    My boyfriend requested a German chocolate cake for his birthday and I found your recipe on Pinterest. The cake and frosting were easy to make and the directions were very clear. I ended up with three 8″ layers so I decided to be fancy and use them all. I doubled the icing recipe and it was more than enough. Next time I will follow your instructions and just frost two of the layers but I probably won’t double the icing and see how that works out. Everyone loved the flavor of the cake and icing and the texture was spot on. Thank you for sharing your recipe!

  43. Jessica G says

    Hry, I just had a question. I’m making this on a half sheet tray and I’m going to cut it into small pieces and make it into little shooter desserts. How sturdy is the cake? Would it be best to freeze it or refirigerate it before cutting it? I’m mostly worried about pushing it into the bottom of the shooter glasses that it might crumble.

  44. Adrianne says

    Hi. I’ve tried making this cake twice, and although it tastes AMAZING, both times it has sunken really bad in the center. I made this both times in a 9×13 and it was nice and fluffy around the edges and flat as a pancake in the center. Any ideas why this happened? We do live at higher elevation, 4500 ft.

  45. Ann Smith says

    When you use “best ever” in the title of the recipe, it had better be spectacular. This was not. I followed the recipe exactly as written. The cake was fine on its own, but the frosting was an unappealing texture, taste, and look. It had a thick layer of melted butter that sat on top of the cooked frosting and when cooled, the excess butter could even be drained off. After spreading it on the cake, it didn’t get better as it remained a big greasy mass. Very disappointed it was a waste.

    • Sandra says

      Ann – Sorry the frosting did not turn out for you. I have made this recipe countless times, so I am not sure what happened. Wish we could do this in the kitchen together – so you could taste how amazing it is.

  46. Sylvia says

    It’s not german chocolate cake because you don’t use german chocolate. But its a delicious cake. Made it last night and it tastes amazing. Turned out perfect.

  47. Lee says

    I made this for a co-worker, the cake is excellent, thanks for sharing a part of your heritage & family love with us.
    I’ll be making this cake again and again.

  48. Brandee says

    I was in search of a German chocolate cake when came across this and I have never read the history behind someone’s recipe before and I’m so glad I did. I recently lost my sweet grandpa and this brought back such good memories of him taking care of me when I was young and putting a flower in my hair and taking me to church every Sunday in his 1957 caddy, which I called the green car. He would laugh so easily too! It’s bittersweet when we loose someone like that. I’ll be making this cake for my mother in laws birthday tomorrow and will be enjoying it in honor of these two wonderful men ♥️ Thanks for sharing!!

  49. Shannon says

    This Cake so shiny and pretty. That plus the best CHOC cake recipe I have tried ., super scrummy! Making frosting now . thanks for this!

  50. Kendall says

    My own sweet grandfather was looking for a bakery to make him a German Chocolate cake…I made him this one and he loved it. It’s also my husband’s new favorite cake ever. Thanks for sharing your recipe!!

  51. Sharon Tharp says

    I made this cake today and I have never had a cake frost up as easy as this cake, it is beautiful to look at and if it tastes as amazing as it looks I will never use another recipe. Of course I had a bite of this frosting and it was delicious. I followed your instructions to the letter and couldn’t be happier. Thanks for the beautiful story

  52. Heather says

    This recipe was amazing! I made this tonight. I was a little worried because I haven’t dealt with a batter so thin. But it cooked beautifully! Its super moist and so delicious! I substituted the all purpose flour with cake flour. Every time I use all purpose it gives my cakes a corn bread texture. Lol. This was my first chocolate cake I have made from scratch and its definitely a keeper! I’m a beginner at baking so I was very surprised it came out perfect! I will have a very happy hubby when he gets home tomorrow! He requested a German chocolate cake 3 weeks ago and I was hesitant about experimenting with chocolate cake! Now I don’t know why I was so hesitant! Recipe well done! I wish I could post the pics. ☺

  53. Danielle says

    I made this cake for my little sisters birthday in September, and it was a big hit! I want to make it again for her college graduation party in June, but am hoping to make cupcakes. Have you ever made this recipe into cupcakes? Do you have any suggestions? Thank you!

  54. Elayna says

    I made this cake and it came out great! One of the best cakes I’ve ever made. I only changed one thing, I used coffee in place of the boiling water. I think it added some depth to the flavor profile. Wonderful recipe!!!!

  55. Sally says

    I made this for my husband in honor of his mom. His mom is passed on, but she is fondly remembered often. She would bake a German chocolate cake that he absolutely loved.
    I tried your recipe in April on her birthday – a way to celebrate her memory. It turned out beautifully. Absolutely delicious!
    I made it again today. For a neighbor lady’s birthday. We are having a surprise party for her 81st Birthday. I know she will love it.
    Thank you for passing on a damn good recipe!

  56. says

    This is the best german chocolate cake I have ever made, and the icing is amazing! Don’t cut corners and use that canned garbage, my kids are begging me to make this again! Thanks for the great recipe- and your Grandpa is right.


  1. […] The Pumpkin Cake recipe is from my cousin Amy, aka baker and mom extraordinaire. You see being a McCollum genetically means you love two things: food and family. And there for every get together is full of fun, laughter and lots and lots of food. The first time I met Jake’s family, I knew that regardless of where he and ended up (even though I knew it would be marriage, he just didn’t yet) I would always stay in touch with all of his cousins. But it was Amy who first smiled, hugged and greeted me. She was an instant friend. She has the biggest heart and she makes the best food. And her pumpkin cake recipe was just a perfect match with the layers of cream cheese and German chocolate cake frosting. […]

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