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+ servings

6 Inch German Chocolate Cake Recipe

yield: 1 6-inch, 3-layer cake
Prep Time: 25 mins
Work Time: 1 hr 15 mins
Bake Time: 34 mins
5 from 11 votes
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Special Equipment

  • 3 (6-inch) round cake pans
  • a digital kitchen scale
  • a cake board
  • a rotating cake stand
  • an offset spatula
  • a piping bag with a star tip

Ingredients

For the Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

  • 1 cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) cake flour
  • 1 cup tightly packed (7.5 ounces or 213 grams) light OR dark brown sugar
  • cup plus 1 Tablespoon (1.15 ounces) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) sour cream, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces or 57 grams) melted virgin (unrefined) coconut oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) boiling hot coffee

For the Coconut Pecan Filling

  • 1 cup (3 ounces or 85 grams) sweetened coconut flakes
  • ½ cup (2 ounces or 57 grams) pecans, roughly chopped into ½- to 1-inch pieces
  • 4 Tablespoons (2 ounces or 57 grams) melted unsalted butter
  • 1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • ½ cup tightly packed (3.75 ounces or 106 grams) light OR dark brown sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache

  • 9 ounces (255 grams) dark chocolate (between 60% and 70% cacao), finely chopped into ¼- to ½-inch pieces
  • 1 ½ cups (12 ounces or 340 grams) cold sour cream

Instructions

For the Chocolate Sour Cream Cake

  • Prep the oven and pans. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously spray three 6-inch cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottom of each with a parchment paper circle. Spray the parchment, too.
  • Mix the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • Mix the wet ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, oil, egg, and vanilla. Gradually whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined. Slowly pour in the coffee. The batter will be fairly runny; use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Use the rubber spatula to finish mixing until smooth and well combined, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  • Assemble the cakes. Divide the batter evenly between the pans; if using a digital scale to measure out layers, note that this recipe makes around 24 ounces (680 grams) of batter—pour 8 ounces (227 grams) of batter into each cake pan.
  • Bake the cakes. Bake for 24 to 26 minutes. When done, the top of the cakes should bounce back when gently pressed. A skewer inserted into the center of the cake should come out with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely in the pans on a wire rack before frosting.
  • Prep for assembly. Once the cakes are cool, tightly wrap each cake layer in its own sheet of plastic wrap. Freeze while you make the chocolate sour cream ganache and coconut pecan filling.

For the Coconut Pecan Filling

  • Toast the coconut and pecans. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Spread the coconut flakes and pecans in a single layer across a half sheet pan. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant and toasted brown. Use a heatproof rubber spatula to toss the nuts every 2 to 3 minutes to ensure even toasting. Once toasted, scrape the mixture onto a plate to prevent the coconut and pecans from cooking further.
  • Make the butterscotch custard. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the melted butter, evaporated milk, brown sugar, egg yolks, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, whisking continuously, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla until smooth. Add the toasted coconut and pecans, and mix until combined. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling the cake.

For the Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache

  • Melt the chocolate. Place the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan filled with a few inches of simmering water (be sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Cook over medium heat, using a heatproof rubber spatula to stir the chocolate and scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally, until it has completely melted, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the sour cream. Remove the chocolate from the heat, immediately add the sour cream, and whisk until melted and combined. The resulting ganache should be thick, but silky and spreadable. Proceed with assembling the cake. If the ganache is too loose and drippy, scrape the ganache into a new bowl, and cool on a wire rack until spreadable, 10 to 60 minutes.

Assembly

  • Prep the cake for assembly. When ready to assemble the cake, remove the cakes from the freezer. Unwrap each cake and discard the plastic wrap. If necessary, level the top of the cakes. Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving platter in the center of a rotating cake stand. This will be the first layer of the cake.
  • Build the layers. Use a rubber spatula or cookie dough scoop to drop a slightly heaping ½ cup (4.30 ounces or 122 grams) of the coconut pecan filling in the middle of the first cake layer. Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly all over the top, just like you would spread butter on toast. Place the second cake on top of this frosting, stacking it evenly on top of the first layer.  Use the rubber spatula or cookie dough scoop to drop another ½ cup of the coconut pecan filling in the middle of this cake layer. Spread it evenly all over the top. Finally, place the third cake on top of this layer, stacking it evenly on top of the first two cakes.
  • Next, crumb coat the cake. Use the offset spatula to cover the surface of the entire layer cake with a thin layer of chocolate ganache frosting. Use just enough frosting to cover the entire cake completely. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes to stiffen and "set" the frosting.
  • After the crumb coat sets, finish frosting the cake. Transfer about ¼ to ⅓ cup of the remaining frosting to a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Use the offset spatula to cover the cake with the remaining frosting. Once the cake is completely covered, hold the length of the offset spatula's blade against the frosting as you rotate the cake stand to smoothen it. Alternatively, you can use the offset spatula to create swirls or patterned lines in the frosting.
  • Decorate the cake. Use the piping bag to pipe a shell border around the top edge of the cake—doing so results in an empty circle in the middle of the frosting. Use the rubber spatula or cookie dough scoop to drop the remaining coconut pecan filling in the middle of the circle and use an offset spatula to spread it to fill the circle.
  • Serve and store. Serve immediately. The assembled German chocolate cake can be stored at room temperature, under a cake dome or a large bowl turned upside down, for up to 1 day. Press a sheet of plastic wrap against any cut surfaces to prevent the cake from drying out. After that, cover the entire cake loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Notes

  • When making the cakes, pay attention to the temperatures of the ingredients listed in the recipe. Coconut oil needs to be melted and cooled slightly (just so it’s not scalding hot) before use in the recipe. Similarly, both the egg and sour cream needs to be at room temperature before use in the recipe. If you combine melted coconut oil with cold egg and sour cream, the cold ingredients will resolidify the coconut oil. You’ll end up with an extremely lumpy and dry batter that’s hard to mix. Adding hot coffee will help thin it out, but it’s best to avoid the situation in the first place!
  • Make sure that the coffee is very hot, as close to freshly boiled as possible, when you add it to the cake batter. This is the secret to a super moist and fluffy cake! To ensure that my coffee stays very hot, I pour it into an insulated mug right after boiling. Then, I place a ceramic plate on top of the mug to act as a makeshift lid to trap heat inside.
  • For even cake layers, I like to actually weigh out the layers with a digital kitchen scale to make sure they’re even. The easiest way to do this is to set a prepared cake pan on a digital scale and tare it to “0”. Pour batter into the pan until the scale registers the weight listed in the recipe (because yes, I’ve included the approximate weight of the batter needed for each pan!). Repeat with the second and third cake pans. 
  • Whenever I bake, I always look for ways to prevent myself from doing any more dishes than I need to. In this recipe, there are a few ways you can save yourself a bowl: First, if you have a microwave, you can melt the coconut oil for the chocolate cake in a large bowl (it should be big enough to eventually mix the batter in). Simply add the rest of the liquid ingredients (specifically, the sour cream, egg, and vanilla) to the melted coconut oil. And voila! You’re basically halfway done with making the chocolate cake. Second, the coconut pecan filling instructs you to use melted butter in its custard. Simply melt the butter in the pot you’re planning on making the custard in, then, once it’s melted, add the rest of the ingredients for the custard, too. Congrats! You just turned the recipe into a “one pot” recipe.
  • The chocolate sour cream ganache is really bittersweet and tangy on its own. If you want a sweeter frosting, I suggest using a dark chocolate that is between 60% and 65% cacao (as opposed to one that's 70%+). You can also stir in up to 2 Tablespoons of agave or maple syrup for additional sweetness.