Easy German Chocolate Cake

Update: This has become one of my most Googled recipes, so I updated the post with a couple of mouth-watering pictures that do the cake justice. This is a simple, easy-to-make cake with spectacular results.

I asked my mother-in-law what kind of cake she would like me to bake her for her birthday. I wasn’t surprised by her answer. Of course, she wanted a German Chocolate Cake. It is the same cake my husband always wants for his birthday. The cake he grew up eating on special occasions. My mother-in-law gave me her recipe for Coconut-Almond Frosting for German Chocolate Cake when we were first married, and I’ve been making it ever since.

I’m not a huge fan of boxed cake mixes, I think they are too dry unless you doctor them up. But in Anne Byrn’s Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor, she has a recipe for German Chocolate Cake from a mix that is moist and delicious. When combined with the coconut-almond frosting it is almost irresistible. In fact, by the time I remembered I needed a picture so I could post this family favorite recipe on my blog, all that was left was this sad little corner piece. I’ll have to make it again soon and take an Oh Wow picture.


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I am submitting this recipe to Shelby of  The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s Honey Bunch for the June Family Recipes Event.

Easy German Chocolate Cake

Easy German Chocolate Cake


  • 1 package German chocolate cake mix
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Coconut-Almond Frosting
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 (7 oz. package) sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup sliced almonds


Preheat oven to 350º. Mix the cake mix, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl on low speed for one minute until combined. Beat at medium speed for two minutes more. Pour into greased and floured 13 x 9 baking dish. Bake 38 – 42 minutes until the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Can also be baked in two 9 inch round pans for 30 - 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and remove from pans. I like to line my round cake pans with parchment paper before adding batter for easy removal from the pan

Coconut-Almond Frosting

Combined butter, sugar, evaporated milk and eggs* in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 12 minutes or until thickened. Add vanilla, coconut and almonds. Cool to room temperature before frosting cake.

*You can also warm up the butter, sugar and evaporated milk and temper the eggs before adding them to the saucepan.


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    Leave a Comment:

  1. Michelle says

    Im interested in making this into a 3 layer cake because I think it looks pretty….(and doubling the icing recipe). For how long should I bake it?

  2. Mary Bandow says

    Do you really mean 1 TABLESPOON of vanilla for the frosting? In the cake its 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract…is it 1 Tablespoon of pure vanilla extract for the frosting as well?

    • says

      Hi Mary – yes the recipe is correct. The cake is chocolate so you really don’t need as much vanilla in it. It’s mainly just to boost the flavor of the cake mix a bit. If you’re concerned about putting that much in the frosting, just add a little at a time and taste it and see if you want to add more. It’s really just a preference thing.

  3. Lynn says

    Thank you, Barbara! This cake was exactly what I was looking for: easy (but a step above the overly simplified ones), with a 9×13 option (this cake had to travel). I used pecans in the frosting instead of almonds with confidence, as you had said in the comments section that the substitution could be made. Everything went just as you said it should, and I look forward to trying more of your recipes.

    • says

      Hi Megan – I used a traditional 18.25 oz. box, but others have had success using the recipe with a 15.25 oz box. I don’t know why they thought it was a good idea to reduce the size of a cake mix.

  4. Alfreda says

    Looks amazeballs!! Have you ever made this recipe into cupcakes? If so, what is the baking time??

  5. pat utz says

    I located a German Chocolate cake weeks ago using Ann Byrn’s recipe. All I remember is it included adding coconut-pecan frosting in the cake batter. PLEASE send it to me. I am desperate to make this cake!

    Pat Utz

    I originally found this cake on Barbara Bakes!

  6. susan says

    Loved the cake. But had to throw out the first try at the icing. It turned grainy on me — looking more the consistency of breakfast grits. Got too hot too fast I guess. So just be careful when cooking it — 2nd try, I never let it get above a very mild bubbling– and it was a success.

  7. Margie says

    I’m a little late to the party, but…I’m not a fan of almonds. The rest of the recipe sounds perfect. If I used pecans instead, would I use the same amount..1 cup chopped?

  8. Leah says

    My moms birthday is next week and this is her favorite cake. Normally I would just buy her the cake they tend to use soy which she is allergic to. Most mixes have soy. I was wondering if you know any German chocolate cake mixes WITHOUT soy. Please reply ASAP. I need your help. Thank you.

  9. says

    Hi Barbara.. made this cake and frosting for our wedding anniversary today.. so yum.. I did use the 15.25 oz pk and went ahead with using 1-1/4 cup of liquid as mentioned in the pkg.. The cake turned out super soft and tender because of the buttermilk.. I made one 9″ square cake and 4 cupcakes with the batter.
    And the frosting… So good.. I also made a chocolate ganache frosting over the cake and topped with coconut-almond frosting… One question though.. Any suggestions for the leftover frosting?

    • says

      Hi Krithi – thanks for letting me know how much you enjoyed the cake!

      How about topping a shortbread cookie with the coconut almond frosting and a drizzle of chocolate – like a super easy Samoa cookie. Of a German Chocolate S’more?

  10. Marilyn says

    I made Easy German Chocolate Cake last night for work party and it was delicious. I baked into 3 layers and made double run of icing. In March I had made the traditional recipe from Baker’s for the same group of folks. I didn’t say anything about switching recipes and everyone loved this cake! I personally think it is more moist and tender than the scratch version. Thanks so much for this recipe. It will always be my go to recipe for this cake.

  11. says

    OMG – maybe because I live in CO and the altitude factor? WIth all due respect, I followed the recipe to a tea – and had to throw the whole thing out. Very crumbly texture – I had to push the crumbs together to hold the cake shape. Icing texture was somewhere between almost hardened viscous glue and day old porridge. Completely unspreadable. I tried putting it in tiny dollops on the cake and hand pressing with a miniature spoon…It was for my son’s birthday. Just threw the whole thing out (which kills me as I am so frugal!) and my husband, sadly, just went to the market to purchase a cake….I have no clue how anyone could say this was such a hit! Epicurious.com has a fabuluous recipe whiich I wanted to do….should have trusted my instincts. Anyway – thank you for your website and
    my guess is there must have been something that went terribly wrong……thank you…

    • says

      Hi Susan – sorry your cake didn’t turn on on such a special day. I live at altitude as well, so that’s not the problem. My guess is you accidentally left out an ingredient(s) or way over cooked the cake and icing. I’ve made this recipe dozens of times and it’s easy and delicious.

  12. carolyn says

    I was thinking about making the easy german chocolate cake with applesauce instead of oil;

    will it work?

    • says

      Hi Carolyn – I haven’t tried subbing applesauce for the oil in this recipe. If I were to try it, I would probably start by subbing only half of the oil with applesauce. Thanks for the question. Let me know how it goes.

  13. Kristina P. says

    I also found your recipe today looking for a birthday cake recipe for my husband today. I ended up using a Devil’s Food cake mix but followed your frosting recipe exactly and it was absolutely delicious! Thank you so much it was my first time attempting this homemade and I learned what tempering means and how to do it.

  14. Joyce Nance says

    Correction to my last post:
    Sorry Barbara, I should have went back up to the top of my computer screen and looked at the recipe again! I guess I missed it where you wrote in italics that you can put it in two round cake pans!!! Should have read more closely….sure better do that in following the recipe!!! Anyway, I did share with you other amuzing things in that post! Thanks again, and will let you know how all turns out….the cake and the birthday! :) oh one other question, have you ever put almonds and pecans on together? My husban loves both, so in question as to which to put on…or what it would taste like with both. Comment please, thanks!

    • says

      Happy Birthday to your husband. I hope it’s a wonderful day and that he enjoys his cake. Yes, I think you could combine and use both nuts if you wanted. I think the different textures and flavors would compliment each other.

  15. Joyce Nance says

    Hi Barbara, I too am wanting to make an easy German Chocolate Cake for my husbands birthday! Did not realize how many men love German Chocolate Cake! LOL!!! When I read your recipe I was so excited it was so easy, but was totally thrown off when I read to put it in a 9×13 cake pan after looking at the picture you have posted of a double layer round cake…..I want to bake it in round cake pans….do I need to bake it longer or anything? I think your picture should match the cake pan you suggest baking it in. Just a thought, I am going to the store to get the ingrediants to make this cake and frosting. My husbands birthday is tomorrow. I might add…today is May 2nd and we have snow!!! Unbelivable!!! Have never seen snow in May…April? yes, but really, not May!!! Just a thought!…..since we can’t do our outdoor barbeque tomorrow evening!!! LOL!!!

  16. Laura Tosto says

    I am planning on making this cake for a grooms cake, 12 inch round. How long would you cook it for? Should I use just one recipe for each cake or maybe 11/2 recipes for each cake? Do you know how much batter it makes? Thanks for any help.

  17. yaji says

    lol had to write back, we cut the cake and though i knew it was delicious from tasting before assembly now its my hubbys and my sons fav. too!!
    and my hubby cant believe i made this myself…its far from the regular box cake w frosting i usually make

  18. yaji says

    omg it looks and taste great, just made it tonight for hubbys birthday… he’s not home yet so it will be a surprise but i’m finding it hard to stop thinking about nibbling it on the bottom corner where he wont see..lol
    tanks for the recipe:)

  19. Elizabeth says

    I’m going to try to make this cake on Saturday for my boyfriend’s birthday. His favorite is German Chocolate, and Ive never made one before. I didnt just wanna do a box cake mix with the store bought icing, I think its terrible. Your recipe looks amazing, and so simple! I’ve never heard of switching the water with buttermilk, does it make it more moist? Anyway, I’m so glad I found this. Thanks so much!

    • Elizabeth says

      Oh and one last thing… How do you temper an egg? I clicked on the link in the recipe, but it didnt make much sense to me.. Thanks again

      • says

        Hi Elizabeth – you boyfriend is going to love this cake and you for making it for him. Yes the buttermilk adds a little extra moisture but it also gives it more of a from scratch taste.

        You temper eggs by beating them in a bowl, then very slowing beating in a little bit of the hot mixture (in this case, heat the butter, sugar and evaporated milk without the eggs). Once the eggs are warmed up you can add them to the hot mixture and the eggs won’t cook before they have a chance to incorporate into the mixture.

        If you are very vigilante about stirring the frosting constantly while it’s heating and have a great pan, you don’t need to temper the eggs, but otherwise it’s best to temper the eggs.

        Hope that helps – good luck!

        • Elizabeth says

          I just wanted to let you know the cake and the frosting was a success!! Ill never make it any other way, and ill be making next month for my dad’s birthday! Oh and I had someone help me with the tempering, and it was so easy. Thanks so much Barbara :)

  20. Debbie says

    I am trying this recipe for my daughter’s birthday today. I am not much of a baker and her friend was going to make the cake, but is now sick. I just put the cake in the oven and then read the comments. I hope my cake turns out okay with the smaller size cake mix. Why would they change up something like that with all the recipes in the world using their original size. Oh well. Wish me luck. Was glad to see someone asked about the chocolate drizzled on top, I will do that as well. Also, I went to 2 different stores and could not find a German Chocolate cake mix so am using a Milk Chocolate…LOL I’ll let you know how it turned out.

  21. Julie says

    I was looking for an alternative to the butter rich from scratch recipe, and this looks like a great option. Thanks so much.

      • Julie says

        I don’t know if anyone else has asked this, but I’ve noticed the cake mixes are getting smaller. Do you know how many ounces the box of mix you used had? If not, the brand you used?

        • says

          I used a Betty Crocker mix before they reduced the size – 18.25 oz. I don’t really understand why they would change the size of the mix. I know most people would rather pay a little more and keep the same size.

          The new mixes call for 1/4 less water, so I’m assuming you could reduce the buttermilk by 1/4 cup and use the new small mixes.

          Great question. Thanks!

          • Julie says

            Thanks so much for your answer. After I wrote my question, I tried it with an organic cake mix. The texture was very unpleasant, sort of grainy, but I could tell that the buttermilk was an improvement in flavor. After sharing a piece and talking to my friend who is big into organic, she confirmed that the texture issue was due to the mix…..I will try it again without trying to be healthier. (laughing.) Thanks so much for your help and the recipe! You’re a sweetie.

          • Julie says

            Hi Barbara, me again. I found a box of Duncan Hines Swiss Chocolate Cake mix today that’s 18.25 oz. I made your recipe again and I’m eating it right now (eat a little, type and chew). It’s still very warm and I’m having it with whipped cream. So good!

            For the frosting I used a coconut pecan broiler frosting recipe. It’s the lazy- cheaty method of giving it the traditional frosting flavors. I almost used your idea of almonds, and I want to try that the next time.

            Anyway, I am keeping your recipe and I want to thank you once again.

          • says

            Warm cake with whipped cream sounds like a perfect way to eat the cake. I’ve heard about subbing prune baby food. Good to know it works in this recipe. Thanks for the update.

          • Julie says

            One of thing….I meant to tell you I substituted about 2 Tablespoons of the oil with prune baby food. It something that works really well with chocolate cake recipes. Sort of the same idea as using applesauce and no one knows it’s in there.

  22. Michelle says

    Alrighty thank you so much Barbara! :)

    I’ll be making the cake for my boyfriend for his birthday tomorrow, I’m sure he’ll love it again thank you so much for your fast reply and this recipe! ((:

    • says

      It is vanilla extract. I just melted some chocolate chips, put it in a Ziploc storage bag, snipped the corner and drizzled a bit on top. Enjoy!

      Wish him Happy Birthday!

  23. Michelle says

    Hello, I have two questions if you could please help me. :)

    First in the frosting I notice it calls for vanilla is that vanilla extract as well orrrr what exactly does you mean by “vanilla” (:

    && second I notice on the top two pictures there is chocolate drizzled on the cake, what kind of chocolate would that be?

    If you can help me ASAP I greatly appreciate it thank you. 😀

  24. Naomi says

    Would it be possible to just leave out the nuts? Would i need to double the coconut? Also, we only have the general dried coconut here, not the beautiful shredded kind, would this work?

    • says

      Hi Naomi – yes you can leave out the nuts. Sometimes if I have people over who don’t like nuts, I’ll bake a sheet cake and frost one half with just the coconut added and then add nuts and frost the other half. I don’t add extra coconut when I do that way.

      I haven’t tried it with dried coconut, but it should work well. Perhaps it would absorb more of the liquid, so just add the coconut a little at a time until you have a spreadable consistency.

      Good luck! I’d love to hear how it goes. Thanks!

  25. Christine says

    My husband absolutely loves German Chocolate cake and requests it every year for his birthday. With two kids, and both of us working, it was always easier to just buy a box cake and pre-made frosting. One year I got the wrong frosting (hey, it had coconut in it…that counts, right? Wrong) and he noticed right away. He did so much for my birthday a few weeks ago that this year, for his birthday in a few days (!), I’m going to show him how great he is by trying this recipe. I’m very excited to see his expression and thank YOU for the recipe that sounds 100% homemade, but still has a few shortcuts.

  26. amanda says

    my husband absolutely loves this german chocolate cake. i made it today for our anniversary and he pretty much licked the plate clean. thank you for this simple delicios recipe.

  27. says

    I have had that happen to me occasionally if I heat up the eggs to quickly. That’s why I noted that you could temper the eggs in the recipe. Fortunately, once you add the coconut you don’t really notice the bits of cooked egg white.

  28. Lisa says

    I was just wondering have you ever tried making this cake with pecans or do the almonds just make it so much better??

    • says

      Hi Lisa – traditionally German Chocolate Frosting has pecans and I did substitute the almonds for pecans once and thought it was great, but my hubs liked the almonds better.

      • Lisa says

        So I’m making the frosting and I’m having issues with the eggs, the whites are cooking up and making chunks in the frosting? Did you ever have this issue?

  29. Janelle says

    This is a great recipe. I had never tried doctoring the German Chocolate cake mix before but this is a huge improvement. If you have only tried store bought frosting, you’re missing out! This is easy and delicious and a hit!

    • says

      You’re so right, homemade frosting is so much easier than store bought, and not really much work. Thanks for taking the time to let me know how much you enjoyed this cake!

  30. Sarah says

    I made this for Valentines day and it’s absolutely delicious! Next time I will cook it in 2 rounds pans so I can put a layer of the frosting in the middle too!

    • says

      Unless you want to frost the sides of the cake as well, you won’t need to do a double batch of icing for the middle layer. It makes enough frosting to frost a 9 x 13 pan or the top and middle of the layer cake as shown. Thanks for the great question!

  31. Ashley says

    Barbara, This is my Husbands Favorite Cake. I am going to make it for his birthday tonight. Im super excited to try this recipe. Thanks so much for the time saving and fairly easy to follow recipe. This is exactly what I was looking for as a working mother. =) Have a great day!

      • Danielle M says

        I too am making it for a birthday. My husband loves chocolate and I wanted a quicker, easier version of my mother’s old German Chocolate Cake. This was recommended to me. It smells great, I am sure he will love it when we cut into it tonight!