Gluten Free German Chocolate Cake

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You’re probably familiar with this traditional chocolate confection known as German Chocolate Cake, but you probably also thought its roots date back to Germanic origins (for fairly obvious reasons).

Far from the case, as this unique style of cake was actually first credited to a Texas homemaker who used Sam German’s sweet baking chocolate — made for the Baker’s Chocolate Company — to create this classic light chocolate cake with coconut-pecan frosting.

gluten free german chocolate cake slice on blue plate 2 | gfJules

 

For our gluten free German Chocolate Cake, we use this same unique chocolate, fortunately still available today, still made by the Baker’s Chocolate Company, and even still known as German’s Sweet Chocolate. However, it’s still pretty yummy when made with other chocolates you may be even more familiar with, like semi-sweet (Baker’s even makes that too).

I always like to try out my gluten free recipes on non-gluten-free friends, so I know if they really are great and share-worthy. Let’s just say that in this case, many friends tried to argue that they hailed from German roots and therefore should be entitled to a second, larger slice. 

gluten free german chocolate cake slice head-on CU | gfJules

They were deeply saddened to learn that this argument was all for naught, since the German origin story was a myth. 

Nevertheless, I was left with only one piece of cake to photograph. As you can see, this was a popular recipe.

gluten free german chocolate cake slice on blue plate CU | gfJules

Making the Gluten Free German Chocolate Cake

To make my gluten free German Chocolate Cake, I like to add brewed coffee, as coffee enhances chocolate flavor, but feel free to use water instead. You won’t taste the coffee if you do decide to use it, that I promise. If you’ve ever made my Best Gluten Free Brownies recipe, you know what I’m talking about!

As for cocoa, use natural baking cocoa powder here, but if you only have “Dutched,” you’ll be ok because there is buttermilk and both baking powder and baking soda in this recipe.

gluten free german chocolate cake on plate | gfJules

Speaking of buttermilk, I also make this recipe – ok, all my recipes, actually – dairy free, so I have you make your own “buttermilk” by adding lemon juice to your milk/mylk of choice. If you happen to have actual buttermilk on hand and you can tolerate dairy in your diet, simply combine the milk and lemon juice ingredient into one and add only 1 cup of buttermilk instead.

You’ll notice that I don’t offer egg substitutes in this recipe. That’s a bit unusual for me. The reason is because the frosting is an egg yolk-based frosting. I told you it’s unique. At any rate, I’m sure it can be done, but I haven’t worked it out yet. Consult my egg substitutes article and give it a go if you’re dying to try this recipe but need to forego the eggs. I have made recommendations for the cake itself, and my article discusses recommendations for substituting egg yolks, so I’ve given you a head start.

gluten free german chocolate cake cooked frosting | gfJules

One other note on the frosting: if you are using one of the new coconut evaporated milks (like I did), you will likely find that you need to add one tablespoon of my gfJules Flour to the frosting while it’s cooking to thicken it.

I’ve had several readers reach out to me to lament that canned coconut sweetened condensed and evaporated milks don’t behave in quite the same way as dairy milk when baking, but I found that this simple fix made the frosting behave just like it’s supposed to! Adding one tablespoon of my flour added just enough thickening to cause it to set up like it should and not to run off the top of the cake like it shouldn’t.

And speaking of my gfJules Flour, I invariably get questions about using other flours in my recipes instead. Here’s the thing: All. Gluten-Free. Flour. Blends. Are. Different. And whatever you do, don’t go using a single ingredient flour like almond or coconut in place of a gluten free blend.gfJules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour 4.5

There is a so much science behind gluten free flour blends it is quite maddening to work out the details, but trust me when I say that my gfJules Flour works in this recipe as pictured and this recipe was developed for it. The cake is soft and light and not gritty and no gluten eating person would ever know they were enjoying a slice of gluten-free cake. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work?

When I first created my blend well over 15 years ago now, I thought all the science was behind me and I had created the magic key to unlock great gluten free baking in all recipes going forward, but since then, I have actually kept improving and modifying the blend so it performs even better!

The results speak for themselves and the fact that it has been voted #1 Gluten Free All Purpose Flour for 4 times in the Gluten Free Awards is a testament to the fact that many, many people agree!

gluten free german chocolate cake slice on fork CU | gfJules

While this gluten free German Chocolate Cake does require a few more steps than your average chocolate cake, it’s so worth it!

Making Gluten Free German Chocolate Cake | gfJules
(click photo to enlarge)

gluten free german chocolate cake slice on blue plate | gfJules

Gluten Free German Chocolate Cake

Yield: serves 12
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 24 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2 hours 14 minutes

Pair a perfectly soft, moist, chocolatey layer cake with the most decadent coconut-pecan frosting and you have German Chocolate Cake. Make it gluten free, dairy free and totally delicious, and you have this recipe!

Ingredients

German Chocolate Cake

Coconut-Pecan Frosting

  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk or evaporated coconut milk
  • ½ cup butter or vegan butter (e.g. Earth Balance® Buttery Sticks)
  • 3 large egg yolks, whisked or substitute
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon sifted gfJules® Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
  • 2 cups shredded coconut, unsweetened or sweetened (sweetened will make sweeter frosting)

Instructions

To Make Cakes:

Butter, then line bottoms of three 8- or 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Over low heat in a small saucepan, gently melt chocolate with coffee or hot water, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Combine lemon juice with milk in a glass and set aside to curdle.

Separate eggs and beat whites until stiff peaks form but the whites aren’t dry. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer for 3-4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in cooled, melted chocolate/coffee mixture and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, whisk together gfJules Flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add flour mixture to creamed sugar mixture, alternating with lemon/milk mixture and beating after each addition until smooth. Gently fold in egg whites and be sure not to over-work the batter. (See photos above recipe card)

Distribute batter evenly between the three pans. Bake in preheated oven for 24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.

Remove to cool on a wire rack before removing to fully cool after the first ten minutes in the pans.

To Make Frosting:

Arrange chopped pecans in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes, stirring once to prevent burning (remove if you start to smell the pecans cooking). Remove to cool completely.

In the meantime, combine sugars, evaporated milk, butter and egg yolks in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to help the butter melt and prevent the mixture from burning.

Continue to cook once it begins to bubble, stirring constantly for 15 minutes until the mixture is light brown in color and has thickened somewhat. If using coconut evaporated milk, whisk in 1 tablespoon sifted gfJules Flour after about 12 minutes of stirring in order to thicken the mixture. Continue stirring until all lumps are smoothed.

Remove pan from the stovetop and stir in pecans, coconut and vanilla extract. Transfer to another pan to help dissipate the heat and place pan in a larger pan filled with ice water to help the frosting chill faster or cover and refrigerate overnight. Be sure frosting is completely cooled before frosting cakes.

Cover the tops of each of the three cake layers with frosting and refrigerate the cake if the room is particularly warm.

Nutrition Information
Yield 12 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 709Total Fat 48gSaturated Fat 29gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 16gCholesterol 199mgSodium 539mgCarbohydrates 65gFiber 4gSugar 60gProtein 9g

Please keep in mind that nutrition information provided is per serving, which may vary. While we have taken care to provide you with the most accurate nutritional values possible, please note that this information may differ significantly depending on the exact ingredients and brands that you choose to use to make this recipe. Additionally, where options are given for ingredients, the resulting calculation may include all ingredient options instead of only one per line, skewing the totals significantly.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment (and maybe even a picture!) below or share a photo on Instagram! Be sure to tag me! @gfJules

I hope your friends and family save a slice for you!

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Gluten Free German Chocolate Cake | gfJules

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Frosting

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  1. I made this today. It is a labor of love…and completely worth it!!!! The cake is so flavorful and delicate! The frosting is so caramel flavored. Much better than the ones from a can!
    Just don’t’ make the mistake I did. Don’t try to make cupcakes – the cake is far too delicate – it falls out of the wrappers too easily. I had a big hot mess on my hands. A delicious mess, but a mess.
    Next time I will bake it in a pan!

    Reply
    • Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with this recipe — cupcakes and all! I’m so glad that the cake was so delicious and so worth it! Here’s to huge, delicious cake slices next time!
      ~jules

      Reply
  2. I’m getting the ingredients together to make this. I read where coconut milk doesn’t curdle so did you use almond milk? Also what kind of cocoa did you use, like unsweetened Hershey’s natural cocoa powder? I’ll have to order the coconut evaporated milk. Can’t find it where I live. Thanks for your help. I can’t wait to try this. Use to make it all the time before I became gluten and dairy free.

    Reply
  3. I’m getting the ingredients together to make this. I read where coconut milk doesn’t curdle so did you use almond milk? Also what kind of cocoa did you use, like unsweetened Hershey’s natural cocoa powder? I’ll have to order the coconut evaporated milk. Can’t find it where I live. Thanks for your help. I can’t wait to try this. Use to make it all the time before I became gluten and dairy free.

    Reply
    • Hi Jari,
      I typically use almond or soy milk when baking cakes, yes. The cocoa I used is linked in the recipe if you click on the ingredient. I hope you love this recipe – my family couldn’t get enough!!
      ~jules

      Reply
  4. Made this recipe as cupcakes for my brother’s 40th birthday and everyone at the party raved about them. So chocolatey and fluffy and not cloyingly sweet like box mix German chocolate. I used unsweetened coconut in frosting. Perfect. Thank you Jules!

    Reply
    • They look fantastic, Andrea! What a lucky brother you have!! So glad this gluten free German Chocolate Cake was easily made into cupcakes for a delicious birthday cake cupcakes recipe! Thanks so much for sharing your delish pic, too!
      ~jules

      Reply
    • Absolutely gorgeous, Sheryl! Thanks so much for sharing your photo – this must’ve made for quite a sweet birthday!
      ~jules

      Reply
  5. Can I sub with monk fruit sweetener in this German Chocolate Cake recipe? If so, any adjustments I need to make with other ingredients?

    Reply
    • Hi Yvonne, there shouldn’t be any other modifications as long as you’re using a monkfruit product that touts itself as a 1:1 for sugar in baking. Enjoy!
      ~jules

      Reply
  6. German chocolate cake looks very nice, but when I read the directions it calls for two cups of sugar that is way too much, diabetic attack for sure to happen.. What else can be used instead of all that sugar …

    Reply
  7. I’m so excited about this recipe! My husband eats gluten, but my son and I don’t. I always make hime German Chocolate cake for his birthday and we always feel left out, lol. I’m going to make it before his birthday!
    Thank you for all of your amazing recipes!

    Reply
    • I’m so excited for you all to enjoy this delicious gluten free German Chocolate Cake TOGETHER! Happy Birthday to your husband, too!!!!
      ~jules

      Reply
  8. Hi, Jules–
    Can I make these into cupcakes? If so, how much should I modify the time baked? Any other advice? Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Sue, yes you could certainly bake this gluten free German Chocolate Cake recipe into cupcakes! I’d start checking them at 25 minutes with a toothpick to be sure you don’t overcook them. ENJOY!
      ~jules

      Reply
  9. You suggest aquafaba as the substitute for the 4 eggs. On your substitution page, it says to use at least 2 substitute types for recipes of more than 3 eggs. So can I use only aquafaba for all 4 eggs?

    Reply
    • Hi Barbara, I would use the aquafaba only for the whipped egg whites and choose another egg substitute for the egg yolks. Aquafaba is the only egg substitute that I really like as a stand-in for whipped egg whites and I think you’ll find it works successfully in this recipe for that purpose, but you’re correct in thinking that it shouldn’t replace the entire 4 egg ingredient. I will add a note in the recipe to make that more clear!
      ~jules

      Reply
  10. I need to make a double chocolate bundt cake (requested) and noticed the german chocolate cake recipe. Is this a good one for bundt?

    Reply
    • Oh I’m sure it will be lovely in a bundt! Bundt pans are the best – they really bake cakes nicely and evenly. Should turn out well – let me know how it goes!
      ~jules

      Reply
  11. May be a silly question, but if you choose to use actual German chocolate is the measurement the same as the sweet or semi-sweet you stated in the recipe and do you still use the coffee?

    Reply
    • Hi Audrenia, not a silly question at all! I’ve made this recipe with German Chocolate and also with Sweet and Semi-Sweet and they all work and measure the same. The flavor is just slightly different in each case, and you may prefer one over the other. As for coffee, it enhances any chocolate flavor, so feel free to use it or use water instead — again, up to your taste preferences. I hope that helps!
      ~jules

      Reply
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