This decadent chocolate cake features layers of moist, tender and rich vegan chocolate cake with a lusciously sweet and indulgent coconut pecan frosting. It’s one of the best vegan cakes and is incredibly easy to make. This vegan version is a spot on replica of authentic German chocolate cake. A must try recipe that everyone will love!
German chocolate cake is not actually from Germany. The original recipe was first published in 1957 by a woman in Texas named Mrs. George Clay, who named it after the brand of baking chocolate she used in the cake, Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. The chocolate received it namesake from the man who invented it, Samuel German, back in the 1850’s.
What sets this delicious cake apart is the decadent coconut pecan filling made which is loaded with toasted pecans and coconut flakes. This is my husband’s favorite cake that I make. If you have a sweet tooth then you will love this cake!
I’m partial to my go-to vegan chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache that I adapted from an old war-time recipe, so that’s what I used for the cake layers. The frosting is made with coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, arrowroot powder to thicken it, chopped toasted pecans and toasted coconut. The sweet frosting goes well with this not-too-sweet moist chocolate cake. All you’ll need is a tall glass of ice-cold plant-based milk to go with it.
Table of contents
Flour – This recipe calls for all purpose flour which creates a tender moist cake. Substitutions: Use white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour to replace some or all of the white flour to make a whole grain cake. Use a 1-1 gluten-free flour blend in place of the regular flour to make a gluten free German chocolate cake. Other gluten-free flours have not been tested.
Sugar – Use regular granulated sugar or caster sugar to sweeten the cake. Substitutions: Use unrefined sugars like whole cane sugar (aka panela or rapadura), maple sugar, or coconut palm sugar as replacements for white sugar to make this cake refined-sugar-free.
Coffee – The flavor of coffee helps to bring out the flavor of chocolate in the cocoa powder. Use hot brewed coffee or add instant espresso or coffee to hot water. Substitution: Use hot water in place of coffee.
Oil – Use a neutral tasting oil such as extra-light olive oil, canola oil, grape-seed oil, avocado oil or vegetable oil.
Apple Cider Vinegar – Vinegar is an acidic ingredient used to react with the baking soda and creates a very light and airy cake. Substitutions: Distilled white vinegar or white wine vinegar may be used in place of apple cider vinegar.
Coconut Milk – Use full fat canned coconut milk to create a rich and creamy frosting. Or use homemade coconut milk. Don’t use the beverage style coconut milks which are not as creamy. Substitutions: other non-dairy milk such as almond milk can be used in the frosting but it will not be as creamy.
Maple Syrup – Use dark maple syrup to sweeten the frosting. The maple flavor goes well with the toasted nutty flavors of the pecans and coconut flakes. Substitutions: Use any other sweetener of your choice such as brown sugar, agave nectar, coconut sugar, etc.
Arrowroot – Arrowroot powder is used to thicken the frosting. Substitutions: Cornstarch can be used in an equal amount to replace the arrowroot powder.
Pecans – Toasted pecans are the star of the sweet nutty coconut pecan frosting. Use whole pecan halves or pecan pieces. Toast them until they are golden and fragrant for the best flavor. Substitutions: Pecans can be replaced with other nuts such as walnuts.
Coconut – Use flaked coconut and toast it with the pecans for the best flavor. Substitutions: Shredded coconut can be used as well.
See the full list of ingredients and amounts in the recipe card.
How to Make The Best Vegan German Chocolate Cake
Step 1: Prepare the Chocolate Cake Batter
First preheat the oven and grease two 8-inch cake pans then line the bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Dusts the sides of the cake pans with cocoa powder.
Brew the hot coffee or boil water if not using coffee.
Combine the hot coffee or hot water together with the other wet ingredients in a medium bowl then add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and whisk until the batter is just combined, being careful not to over-mix it. Some lumps are ok.
Step 2: Bake the Chocolate Cakes
Divide the batter evenly into the two prepped cakes pans and bake them until they are puffy and spring back when pressed, the sides of the cakes come away from the pans and a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes then invert them onto a cooling rack, remove the pans and parchment paper, and let the cakes cool completely to room temperature. Keep them inverted on the wire rack to help flatted out domed cakes.
Step 3: Prepare the Coconut Frosting
First toast the pecans and flaked coconut in the oven until they are golden brown and fragrant.
Whisk the all of the frosting ingredients aside from the pecans and coconut flakes together in a medium saucepan off heat until there are no lumps. Then stir in the pecans and coconut with a rubber spatula.
Heat the frosting over medium-low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened after about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the frosting to cool to room temperature before frosting the cake.
Step 4: Assemble the Layer Cake
If the cakes have domed tops, first trim them off with a serrated knife so they are level.
Place one cake on a cake stand or cake plate. Pour half of the frosting onto the first cake layer and spread it to the edges with an offset spatula.
Place the second cake layer on top of the filling and spread the remaining frosting over the top of the cake.
Decorate the top with pecan halves or more shredded coconut if you wish.
Store German chocolate cake in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days or refrigerate it for up to 4 days.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
Weigh the Ingredients: I always recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh ingredients when baking. It is the most accurate way to bake and ensures that you will get the correct results from any recipe.
Use a thermometer: Because all ovens are different it is always a good idea to use an oven thermometer so you know the true temperature of your oven. They are inexpensive and widely available.
Make ahead: The vegan chocolate cake layers can be made ahead and frozen for up to three months. To freeze them, wrap them in plastic wrap then store them in freezer-safe bags labeled with the date. The frosting can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container.
It was invented in 1957 by Mrs. George Clay, who named it after the brand of baking chocolate she used in the cake, Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate. It was originally called German’s Chocolate Cake but the apostrophe was dropped over the years and is now more commonly known as German Chocolate Cake.
The cake can be kept at room temperate for 1-2 days but should be refrigerated if storing it for longer. I t will keep for up to 4-5 days if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Yes, it is best to freeze the unfrosted cake layers separately then frost them once they are thawed. The unfrosted cake layers can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. The frosted cake can be frozen as well. Freeze individual slices in freezer bags or airtight freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months. Thaw before serving.
This cake is so delicious it has its own Day! This great recipe is celebrated on June 11th.
More Decadent Cake Recipes
- Vegan Chocolate Cake with Whipped Coconut Ganache Frosting
- Vegan Spring Carrot Cake
- Maple Spice Cake with Wine Poached Pears
- Easy 3 Ingredient Cranberry Icebox Cake Recipe
- Strawberry Shortcake Cake
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- 420 g unbleached all-purpose flour 3 cups
- 400 g granulated sugar 2 cups
- 40 g cocoa powder 1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoons for dusting the pans
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 480 g hot brewed coffee 2 cups, or hot water
- 150 g canola oil 3/4 cup
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Prepare the Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350ºF with rack in center.
- Cut 2 8″ round circles of parchment paper. Grease two 8″ round cake pans with 2 Tbs. of vegan shortening/butter or canola oil and place parchment circles in each pan. Dust side of each pan with the extra tablespoon of cacao powder by tapping the sides of the pan as you turn it with the other hand.
- Whisk together flour, sugar, cacao powder and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
- Combine hot coffee, oil, vinegar and vanilla in a large mixing cup. Add to the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined-a few lumps are ok. Divide batter evenly between pans.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
- Cool for 10 minutes on a rack and then invert them onto the rack. Lift pans off of cakes and remove parchment. Leave the cakes inverted as this will help flatten a domed top. Allow to cool completely before assembling the final cake. The cakes can sit at room temperature loosely covered with foil overnight as well.
Prepare the Frosting:
- In a saucepan (off -heat) whisk together coconut milk, maple syrup, arrowroot powder and vanilla bean seeds until arrowroot is dissolved and there are no lumps. Add pecans and shredded coconut.
- Stir constantly on medium-low heat until mixture has thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Should be thicker than a glaze and looser than a frosting.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- If necessary, trim domed tops off of cakes with a serrated knife so that they are level.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving dish. Pour half of frosting on top of first layer of cake. Spread out evenly with an offset spatula. Place the second layer of cake on top of the frosting. Spread the remaining frosting across top of cake. Allow some to drip down the side if you wish.
- Sprinkle some more chopped pecans and shredded coconut over the top if you wish. Serve at room temperature and enjoy!
- Store leftover cake covered at room temp for 1-2 days or refrigerate it in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days.