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German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Sauce

This German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Sauce is like a snack cake version of the classic recipe! A dense chocolate cake is topped with a rich, creamy vanilla-scented sauce full of coconut and pecans.

slice of German Chocolate Cake on a beige plate

Easy Homemade German Chocolate Cake

This German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Sauce veers a bit off the path of the classic layer cake by skipping the frosting in favor of a simple sauce with similar flavors.

Now, you may ask yourself why you’d want to do that. Well, first, not everyone likes coconut! If you’re making this dessert for a crowd, it allows the coconut haters to forego the coconut. Second, it’s a much easier cake to make without the frosting and layering; it’s more like a snack cake or sheet cake.

This cake is a little denser than most German Chocolate Cakes, which means that the warm, coconut-infused sauce soaks in and softens the cake a bit. Needless to say, this is absolutely divine. If you want an option for guests who aren’t coconut fans, you can get the same effect with warm dulce de leche or salted caramel sauce.

What You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need to make this simplified version of German chocolate cake.

ingredients for German chocolate cake

For the cake:

  • All-purpose flour – Measure by weight or use the spoon and sweep method.
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter
  • Sweet baking chocolate – Either German’s or semisweet.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Water
  • Vanilla extract
  • Egg whites – A chilled egg will separate more easily into yolks and whites.
  • Egg
ingredients for coconut-pecan sauce

For the sauce:

  • Granulated sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Evaporated milk – This isn’t the same as condensed milk! Be sure to buy evaporated.
  • Unsalted butter
  • Chopped pecans – Since you’ll be chopping the pecans anyway, buy pecan pieces instead of whole pecans, which are more expensive.
  • Flaked sweetened coconut
  • Vanilla extract

Why Is it Called German Chocolate?

I often get questions about the name of desserts that include “German chocolate.” It can be confusing, as most people assume it’s related to the country of Germany. However, the name is a nod to Samuel German, a chocolate maker who developed a way to make sweetened chocolate.

It is actually called German’s Chocolate, but that apostrophe is rarely used anymore in recipe names, although it is on the packaging from Baker’s Chocolate.

overhead view of German Chocolate Cake on a beige plate

How to Make German Chocolate Cake With Coconut-Pecan Sauce

If you want to get a head start on this recipe, the cake can be made a day in advance; make the sauce just before serving so it’s warm off the stove.

To make the cake:

Prepare. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9″x 13″ baking pan.

Mix the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Butter and chocolate melted together in glass bowl

Melt the butter and chocolate. Place the butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at half-power in 30-second increments until the butter has melted and the chocolate melts when you stir it. Stir the mixture until it’s smooth and the butter is fully incorporated into the chocolate; set aside to cool a bit.

Mix the wet ingredients. Combine the sugar, water, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl, then stir in the chocolate mixture. Whisk in the egg whites and egg.

Combine wet and dry ingredients. To the bowl with the chocolate mixture, stir in the dry ingredients. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.

Bake. Place the pan in the oven and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack.

To make the sauce:

Make the base. Whisk the sugar, cornstarch, and milk in a medium sauce pan, then add the butter. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then continue to cook for about a minute. Remove from heat.

coconut-pecan sauce in a sauce pan

Add the remaining ingredients. Stir in the pecans, coconut, and vanilla extract.

Overhead view of German chocolate cake on plate before adding sauce

Serve. Cut the cake into pieces, then serve with the warm sauce. Garnish with additional pecans and coconut, if desired.

Overhead view of German chocolate cake square on plate with fork

Tips for Success

Here are some tips to help you make the best German chocolate cake!

  • Measure accurately. Use a scale to measure by weight if you can. Otherwise, use the spoon and sweep method to make sure you don’t over-measure. This is especially important for the flour, which you can read more about here: How to Measure Flour.
  • Use a light-colored metal pan. Dark pans tend to bake the outside edges and the bottom too quickly, leaving the center under-baked; glass pans usually require time or temperature adjustments as they conduct heat differently than metal. Learn more: How to Choose Baking Pans.
  • Use German’s chocolate. It has a cacao percentage somewhere in the mid-40s, making it sweeter than most darker chocolates. You can use semisweet chocolate, but be mindful of its cacao percentage. It can range from 60% up to and sometimes past 70%. Aim for the lower end of that range for comparable flavor.
German Chocolate Cake on a beige plate

How to Store

The sauce should be refrigerated, while the rest of the cake can be covered and stored at room temperature for about 3 days. To reheat the sauce, warm it in the microwave or in a saucepan set over low heat.

Can This Recipe Be Frozen?

While you can freeze the German chocolate cake wrapped well for up to 3 months and let it thaw at room temperature, the sauce isn’t ideal for freezing. It can be frozen, but the nuts won’t have quite the same texture after freezing and defrosting. 

Closeup of German chocolate cake on plate with fork

German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Sauce

Yield 20 servings
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Love German Chocolate Cake? You'll adore this version with its warm, gooey sauce!

slice of German Chocolate Cake on a beige plate

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup (75g) unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces (113g) sweet baking chocolate, chopped (either German's or semisweet)
  • 1 & 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) water
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg

For the sauce:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups (250g) granulated sugar
  • 2 & 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 12 ounces (340g) evaporated milk
  • 3 tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup (40g) chopped pecans (plus more for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup (21g) flaked sweetened coconut (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9"x 13" baking pan.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Place the butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave at half-power in 30-second increments until the butter has melted and the chocolate melts when stirred. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
  4. Combine the sugar, water, and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Whisk in the egg whites and the egg.
  5. Add the flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
  6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

To make the sauce:

  1. Place the sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the milk. Add the butter.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the mixture boils. Continue cooking for 1 minute.
  3. Remove from the heat. Stir in the pecans, coconut, and vanilla. Serve warm over slices of cake. If you like, garnish with more pecans and coconut.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Southern Living and MyRecipes.

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    18 Comments on “German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Sauce”

  1. I love this idea! German Chocolate cake is one of my favorites, but my husband doesn’t like the coconut-pecan sauce. now we can both have our cake and eat it too!

  2. I can’t wait to see the concoctions that you and T dream up when you guys finally make the MS to RTP transition!

    Can I claim my kaluha topping now?

  3. Mmmm, german chocolate cake is sooo good…yours looks fantastic.

  4. I taste this cake when I was in Berlin two months ago, it’s so delicious!

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  13. Hi, Linda. Welcome! There is a link to the original recipe in the post. I have also added it to this page now.

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  15. How could I make this recipe vegan? 

  16. This is perfect – I was mentally debating the same situation you described – that is some non coconut and non pecan lovers. This is an amazing solution!! Thank you so much. Do you think this cak could be made in a bundt pan or is that not enough batter?

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