German chocolate cake is an indulgent dessert perfect for special occasions. Made with two different types of frosting, it’s the ultimate combination of chocolate, coconut, caramel, and pecans.

Want a great gluten-free German chocolate cake recipe? You’ve found it! Check out this post for all the tips you need to make an amazing cake worthy of any celebration.

A slice of German chocolate cake on a plate

The chocolate pecan filling is what makes this a truly great recipe. It’s such a unique topping that you won’t find on any other cake!

Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, Father’s Day, or any other special occasions, everyone will be delighted by the impressive layers of chocolate cake on display in this recipe. (PS – if you like chocolate you also might like this reader-favorite gluten-free chocolate mousse cake!)

This cake is definitely rich, but I think it’s worth it to indulge occasionally with the real deal!

For more show-stopping gluten-free cake recipes, try this gluten-free birthday cake, gluten-free red velvet cake, and easy gluten-free chocolate cake. You also might like this full collection of gluten-free cake recipes.

Why You’ll Love this Gluten Free German Chocolate Cake Recipe

  • Rich and indulgent
  • Two types of frosting
  • Made from scratch
  • Moist and tender crumb!
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Ingredients for the Cake

Here are some of the key ingredients in this gluten free German chocolate cake recipe:

  • A high-quality gluten-free 1:1 baking flour: I like to use gluten-free measure-for-measure flour blend like King Arthur Flour in my baked goods. It works best to use a blend that contains xanthan gum in this recipe.
  • Sour cream: Using part sour cream in place of what would usually be buttermilk gives this cake stability. It also gives it a delicious flavor and richness!
  • Oil: Oil allows for a light, moist crumb that doesn’t clump up as it tends too with butter.

How to Make Gluten-Free German Chocolate Cake

Make the Cake

German chocolate cake ingredients being whisked in a bowl, then mixed into the stand mixer
  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans. I also like to line the bottom of the 8-inch round pans with a circle of parchment paper then grease again.
  • In a medium bowl or large bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  • In a separate bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, add the eggs and sugar. Whip on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer running on low, slowly drizzle in the oil. (You want to do this slowly so you don’t lose the air that you’ve mixed in.) Mix in the vanilla extract and lemon juice.
German chocolate cake being mixed in the stand mixer
  • With the mixer on low, add ⅓ of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until incorporated. Add the sour cream and mix to combine. Add another ⅓ of the dry ingredients and continue to mix. Add ½ of the milk followed by the last ⅓ of the dry ingredients. Add the remaining milk and stir until totally combined. (You want to add the dry ingredients alternately with liquid ingredients so the flour absorbs into the batter.)
German chocolate cake batter in two round pans
  • Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. (Start making the coconut caramel frosting while the cakes bake so it has time to cool before frosting!)
  • Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Then turn out the cakes onto a wire rack to continue cooling. Cool completely before frosting.

Ingredients for the Chocolate Caramel Frosting

German chocolate cake ingredients laid on the countertop

Here are a few notes on the key ingredients for the coconut caramel frosting.

  • Evaporated Milk: This gives the frosting the best flavor! Don’t substitute regular milk for the evaporated milk.
  • Sweetened Shredded Coconut: You want to choose sweetened shredded coconut that’s nice and soft for this recipe.

Note: You’ll only use the egg yolks for this recipe. Save the extra egg whites to make gluten-free angel food cake or 7-minute frosting!

Make the coconut caramel frosting

Coconut caramel frosting ingredients being heated in a saucepan
  • Once your cake is in the oven, begin preparing the German coconut pecan frosting. 
  • In a medium saucepan add brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, egg yolks, and evaporated milk. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a low boil over medium heat. Stir constantly for several minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.
Coconut shreds being mixed into the coconut caramel frosting
  • Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, nuts and coconut. Allow to cool completely before spreading over cake.

Make the chocolate frosting

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using an electric mixer and a large mixing bowl), add the cocoa powder. Mix to smooth any lumps. Cream butter and mix until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix on low until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy.

Assemble the cake

  • Once your cake layers have cooled and your coconut/caramel filling is no longer warm to the touch, you can assemble the gluten-free German chocolate cake!
  • Place one cake round on a serving tray or cake platter. Use your chocolate frosting to spread or pipe a border around the edge of the cake. Fill the border with half of your coconut-pecan filling.
  • Top with the second cake round. Frost sides of the cake and top of the cake with remaining chocolate frosting.
  • Top off the cake with the remaining half of coconut/caramel frosting. Pipe decorative chocolate frosting along the edges if desired. 

Slice, serve, and enjoy this traditional German chocolate cake, with a gluten-free twist!

A whole German chocolate cake on a platter

Storage Instructions

Store any leftover cake covered tightly with plastic wrap at room temperature, or in an airtight container. This gluten-free German chocolate cake will stay good for up to 2 days.

Gluten Free German Chocolate Cake FAQs

What’s the difference between a German chocolate cake in a regular chocolate cake?

German cake stands out from regular chocolate cake because it’s a layer cake that includes coconut pecan filling, rather than simply being frosted with chocolate frosting.

What is a substitute for German chocolate cake mix?

I make this gluten-free German chocolate cake base from scratch, using high-quality gluten-free flour, cocoa powder, sour cream, oil, and other cake ingredients.

What makes German Chocolate German?

German chocolate cake didn’t originate in Germany. Instead, it gets it’s name from the “German’s sweet chocolate bar” that many recipes call for when making this cake.

Expert Tips and Tricks

  • Start making the German chocolate frosting as soon as you put in the cakes into bake. That way the frosting will have time to cool completely before frosting.
  • Almond extract is the key to a delicious chocolate frosting! Just a little gives the cake an unmistakable gourmet flavor.
  • Be sure to use high-quality gluten-free flour for this recipe. It makes all the difference when you’re wanting the absolute best gluten-free chocolate cake!
A slice of German chocolate cake on a plate, with a fork taking a bite

More Gluten-Free Cake Recipes

I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you try this decadent German chocolate cake, be sure to leave me a comment/rating below. I’d love to hear from you!

Slice of German chocolate cake with a fork taking a bite
5 from 18 votes

Gluten-Free German Chocolate Cake

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 14 mins
Total Time 1 hr 24 mins
Servings 12 servings
German chocolate cake is an indulgent dessert perfect for special occasions. Made with two different types of frosting, it's the ultimate combination of chocolate, coconut, caramel, and pecans.

Ingredients

DRY INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups gluten-free 1:1 baking flour 270 grams
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder 50 grams
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

OTHER INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 ¾ cups sugar 380 grams
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable oil 100 grams
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ cup sour cream 120 grams (regular or light)
  • 1 cup milk 250ml (I use 2%)

COCONUT CARAMEL FILLING:

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup evaporated milk 236ml
  • 8 Tablespoons butter cut into 8 pieces
  • ½ cup granulated sugar 100 grams
  • ½ cup light brown sugar firmly packed, 100 grams
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans 125 grams
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut 160 grams

CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

  • cup unsweetened cocoa powder 35 grams
  • ½ cup butter softened to room temperature
  • 3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar 340-450 grams
  • ¼ cup heavy cream or milk
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract

Instructions 

MAKE THE CAKE:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease two 8-inch round pans. I also like to line the bottom of the 8-inch round pans with a circle of parchment paper then grease again.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the eggs and sugar. Whip on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer running on low, slowly drizzle in the oil. (You want to do this slowly so you don’t lose the air that you’ve mixed in.) Mix in the vanilla and lemon juice.
  • With the mixer on low, add ⅓ of the dry ingredients. Mix until incorporated. Add the sour cream and mix to combine. Add another ⅓ of the dry ingredients and continue to mix. Add ½ of the milk followed by the last ⅓ of the dry ingredients. Add the remaining milk and stir until totally combined. (You want to add the dry ingredients alternately with liquid ingredients so the flour absorbs into the batter.)
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. (Start making the coconut caramel frosting while the cakes bake so it has time to cool before frosting!)
  • Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Then turn out the cakes onto a wire rack to continue cooling. Cool completely before frosting.

MAKE THE COCONUT CARAMEL FROSTING:

  • Once your cake is in the oven, begin preparing the German Chocolate Cake Filling.
  • In a medium saucepan add brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, egg yolks, and evaporated milk. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a low boil over medium heat. Stir constantly for several minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.
  • Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, nuts and coconut. Allow to cool completely before spreading over cake.

MAKE THE CHOCOLATE FROSTING:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), add the cocoa powder. Mix to smooth any lumps. Add the butter and mix until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix on low until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy.

ASSEMBLE THE CAKE

  • Once your cake layers have cooled and your coconut/caramel filling is no longer warm to the touch, you can assemble the gluten-free German chocolate cake!
  • Place one cake round on a serving tray or cake platter. Use your chocolate frosting to spread or pipe a border around the edge of the cake. Fill the border with half of your coconut/caramel filling.
  • Top with the second cake round. Frost top and sides of the entire cake with remaining chocolate frosting.
  • Top off the cake with the remaining half of coconut/caramel frosting. Pipe decorative chocolate frosting along the edges if desired.
  • Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Notes

MAKE IT DAIRY-FREE: You can use dairy-free sour cream and almond milk in the cake. My favorite brand of dairy-free sour cream is Kite Hill. You can also use earth balance buttery sticks in place of the butter in the frostings. Use full-fat canned coconut milk in place of the evaporated milk in the caramel filling. 
  • Start making the German chocolate frosting as soon as you put in the cakes into bake. That way the frosting will have time to cool completely before frosting.
  • Almond extract is the key to a delicious chocolate frosting! Just a little gives the cake an unmistakable gourmet flavor.
  • Be sure to use high-quality gluten-free flour for this recipe. It makes all the difference when you’re wanting the absolute best gluten-free chocolate cake!

Nutrition

Calories: 755kcal | Carbohydrates: 104g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 160mg | Sodium: 512mg | Potassium: 495mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 87g | Vitamin A: 764IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 187mg | Iron: 3mg

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Hi, I’m Erin!

BS Food Science,

MS Nutrition

I believe you can make amazing, gluten-free food with everyday ingredients that everyone will enjoy. I’m here to share my tried-and-true recipes with you!

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Comments

  1. May I make this cake ahead of time and freeze for 2 weeks? Is it better to freeze with or without frosting? Thanks!

    1. Yes you can make the cake in advance and freeze it! I would be sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then foil before freezing. Wait to frost it until after freezing!

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