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German Chocolate Cake Frosting

By: Pfoinkle
Category: Frosting Recipes

German chocolate cake covered in coconut pecan frosting.

German chocolate cake covered in coconut pecan frosting.

When my sister wants a cake, it’s not about novelty or cool decorations, it’s all about one thing: German Chocolate Cake with German Chocolate Frosting.

For the cake, I use the Duncan Hines German Chocolate Cake box mix. From the listed ingredients, I replace the water with milk and I also throw in a box of chocolate pudding (dry), but those are the only changes I make. The box mix makes a nice cake with little work. I like that.

But canned German Chocolate frosting is… cloying. German Chocolate frosting is pretty easy to make from scratch and well worth the effort. If you’re nervous about making a “cooked” frosting, don’t be — just be ready to do some serious stirring. :D

Frosting Recipe Ingredients

  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sugar (see note below about “Types of Sugar”)
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • 4 oz butter (one “stick”) cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup flaked coconut

German Chocolate Frosting Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan (I use a 3.5 quart saucepan)
  2. Cook over medium heat. If this recipe doesn’t start bubbling/thickening at about the 10-14 minute mark, try upping the temperature. If the recipe starts bubbling/thickening much earlier than the 10 minute mark, lower the temperature.
  3. Stir constantly (yep, for the entire cooking time). When the mixture starts bubbling, stir faster — because you really don’t want this concoction sticking to your pan.
  4. Once the mixture starts bubbling (at about the 10-14 minute mark), stir for an additional 3 minutes (it doesn’t have to be exact).
  5. Allow the frosting to “rest” for 30 minutes prior to using. You can speed up this process by moving the frosting to a room temperature bowl and placing it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

This recipe makes enough frosting for the traditional German Chocolate Cake with frosting in the middle and on the top, but not on the sides. If, like my sister, you prefer a completely covered cake, make two batches of this recipe. The recipe can be doubled, but because of the cooking method it is much easier to cook two separate batches and then combine them.

German Chocolate frosting can be made with a variety of sugars.

German Chocolate frosting can be made with a variety of sugars.

Types of Sugar

For German Chocolate Frosting, you can use granulated white sugar or brown sugar (light or dark). The choice of sugar is dependent on your own taste and appearance preferences. In the pictured cake (above), I used dark brown sugar. For a lighter color frosting, use white sugar. Whether you use white or brown sugar, this coconut pecan frosting will be delicious and the cooking instructions are exactly the same.

Troubleshooting German Chocolate Frosting

Be forewarned: German Chocolate Cake frosting is traditionally thinner than most contemporary frostings (and way thinner than canned frostings). Because it was originally designed to be spread on the cake top and middle only, it wasn’t important for the icing to be stiff enough to stick to the cake sides.

However, if you can’t get this recipe to thicken up enough to use as frosting, there are three possible problems:

  1. The cooking temperature is too low. Stovetops vary. Some people recommend cooking German Chocolate frosting on low heat. On my stovetop, “low heat” is about the equivalent of “off” — try upping the temperature.
  2. The saucepan is too small. If you use a small saucpan (even if all the ingredients fit), the mixture might be too “deep” to heat up in the given time.
  3. Not enough cooking time. For this recipe, you really do have to stir the mixture over heat for a minimum of 13 minutes and more likely 15-18 minutes.

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