German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Sauce

German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Sauce is a lovely chocolate cake topped served with a luscious sauce on the side!

German Chocolate Cake on a beige plate

One of my all-time favorite cakes is German Chocolate Cake. I just love that chocolate cake and its traditional coconut-pecan frosting. My mother made it for me countless times because she knew how much I loved it.

This German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Sauce veers a bit off the path of that classic dessert 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. And the answer is that (shockingly) not every chocolate lover likes coconut. I discovered this when I met my husband, and I was taken aback to discover that there were people who don’t love coconut.

overhead view of German Chocolate Cake on a beige plate

That difference in flavor preferences is what initially led me to make this cake. Now when I have a serious craving for German Chocolate Cake, I offer this cake served with the sauce on the side so that Quinn and anyone else who doesn’t like coconut or pecans can opt for a different topping for their cake. Think ganache or something fruity or anything else you can imagine!

All discussion of coconut haters aside, one of the other great things about this sauce is that it’s served warm on slices of this cake. This cake is a little denser than most German Chocolate Cakes, which means that the sauce soaks in and softens the cake a bit. And it’s SO good.

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. You will usually still see it on the packaging from Baker’s Chocolate.

Tips for Success

  • Measure accurately. Use a scale to measure by weight if necessary. 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.
  • Use a light-colored metal pan. Dark pans tend to bake the outside edges and the bottom too quickly, leaving the center under-baked. Non-metal pans usually require time or temperature adjustments as they conduct heat differently than metal.
  • Don’t over-mix the cake batter. Mix the batter just until combined. Too much mixing can lead to dense, chewy cake.
  • Use German’s chocolate if possible. 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.
slice of German Chocolate Cake on a beige plate

If you’re a fan of all things German Chocolate, this is a great recipe to add to your baking arsenal. It offers something just a bit different while staying true to the flavors of the classic dessert.

Find more cake recipes in the Recipe Index.

More Chocolate Cake Recipes

Yield: 20 servings

German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Sauce

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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