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German Chocolate Cake with Broiled Coconut Frosting

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Great-grandma’s German chocolate cake recipe was topped with broiled coconut frosting. It may be different than you are used to, but it’s really good. The broiler toasts the coconuts and pecans a bit and makes for a really tasty dessert.

Square piece of German chocolate cake topped with broiled coconut and pecan topping ready to eat.

This old fashioned German chocolate cake starts with a soft homemade chocolate cake. It is topped with a coconut, pecan and brown sugar topping that is toasted under the broiler until it is golden and delicious.

It is a bit different than most German chocolate cakes, but oh so good. You will see why this recipe has been treasured by generations of my family.

Ingredients including German chocolate, butter, vanilla, buttermilk, eggs, flour, sugar, salt and baking soda ready to be made into German chocolate cake batter.

I never had the pleasure of knowing my Great-Grandma Peggy.  But all of the stories I have heard about her make her seem like a spunky yet classy lady.  

I know my Great-Grandpa Buchsbaum was head over heals for her and it seems like they had quite the life together.  

My Maw-Maw, her daughter and my maternal grandmother, recently sent a few more family recipes for me to try.  Of course I couldn’t wait to give this cake a go!

The cake itself comes together pretty easily.  Just a few simple ingredients and a big old bowl and you are ready to rock.

It makes 3 nice sized 9 inch round cakes.  Then you pile them up with a coconut frosting and stick them under the broiler for a few minutes to toast up the top of the coconut and make the frosting extra luscious.  

Maw-Maw seems to remember them serving this as individual one layer cakes.  That would probably be the practical thing to do.  

I was not feeling all that practical and stacked them up!  It was a lot more fun to present that way, but it realistically would have been a lot easier to cut and serve in single layers.

Either way you decide to serve it, you should definitely give it a go.  The cake was nice and moist with a great crumb and the broiled frosting made it stand out from the standard German chocolate cakes.  

This is the first time I can remember broiling a frosting and it was kind of fun! Have you ever made a broiled frosting before?

German chocolate cake on glass plate topped with broiled coconut frosting.

How I’ve Altered This Recipe:

Like most German chocolate cake recipes, my great-grandma’s recipe involved making a batter with the egg yolks. Then she whipped the egg whites and folded them into the remaining batter.

Rather than doing that, I add the whole eggs to the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Then I whip it for a few minutes to get some air incorporated.

The mixture turns a lighter, pale yellow color and looks more voluminous when it is ready. I find this much easier than folding in whipped egg whites.

Lifting first piece of German chocolate cake with broiled coconut frosting out of cake pan.

Also, while I have baked the cake in three round nine inch cake pans and it is delicious that way. However, I prefer to bake this cake in a single 9×13-inch pan.

Rather than turn it out, I leave it in the pan and top it with the coconut topping. Then I broil it and serve it from the pan.

It might not looks as fancy, but it still tastes amazing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes German chocolate cake different?

German chocolate cake is actually named after the man who created the mild sweet chocolate, not the country. This cake has a nice sweet chocolate flavor that comes from the namesake chocolate. It is usually topped with a rich coconut frosting, rather than a gooey version this old fashioned recipe has a broiled coconut and pecan topping.

Do I have to use buttermilk?

If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use soured milk. Just sour a cup of milk with a teaspoon of either lemon juice or vinegar.

How Can I Make A Cake Flour Substitute?

If you don’t have cake flour on hand, don’t despair. You can make a good substitute out of all purpose flour and cornstarch.

For each cup of cake flour called for in a recipe, measure out one cup of all purpose flour. Then remove 2 Tablespoon of that flour and replace them with 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch.

This keeps the starchy property of flour but reduces the overall protein amount in the flour. It helps you to get a soft cake.

Piece of German chocolate cake topped with golden broiled coconut topping on small plate with a fork, ready to eat.

More Great Cake Recipes

My great-grandma was also known for her french butter cake with fudge frosting.  It was my mom’s birthday request every year.  You should check out that recipe as well!

If you are looking for the more known German chocolate cake with gooey coconut frosting, I have a recipe for that too!

Square piece of German chocolate cake topped with broiled coconut and pecan topping ready to eat.

Great Grandma’s German Chocolate Cake with Broiled Coconut Topping

Servings: 16 Servings (a 9×13 or 3 9-inch cakes)
Author: Carlee
My great grandma topped her German chocolate cake with a coconut frosting, but it’s different than what you may be thinking.  It’s a broiled coconut frosting! You just have to try this!
4.88 from 8 ratings
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes



  • 4 oz. German’s Sweet Chocolate
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • cups cake flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk


  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or additional coconut


  • Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare 3 9-inch cake pans or one 9×13" pan.
  • Place chocolate in a small glass bowl and pour boiling water over it. Set aside to melt. 
    4 oz. German’s Sweet Chocolate, ½ cup boiling water
  • In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.
    1 cup unsalted butter, 2 cups granulated sugar
  •  Add the eggs, one and a time, beating until well mixed.  
    4 large eggs
  • Once all of the eggs are incorporated, turn the mixer to medium speed and mix for two minutes. The mixture should be pale and fluffy.
  • Stir the chocolate to make sure it is completely melted. If it's not melted, microwave it for a few seconds until it is. Stir the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla extract into the butter mixture.
    ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt.
    1 teaspoon baking soda, 2½ cups cake flour, ½ teaspoon salt
  • Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just combined.  Stir in the butter milk and then the remaining flour mixture, beating until smooth.
    1 cup buttermilk
  • Spoon into prepared pan(s) and bake for 30-40 minutes for the round pans or 35-45 minutes for the 9×13. The tops should spring back when lightly touched with a finger.  
  • If you plan to turn the cakes out, cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.


  • In a medium mixing bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in milk until incorporated.
    6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, ½ cup packed light brown sugar, ¼ cup whole milk
  • Add the coconut, vanilla, salt, and pecans, stirring to combine.
    ⅛ teaspoon salt, 1½ cups sweetened shredded coconut, ½ cup chopped pecans, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Spread over the cake.
  • Place under a preheated broiler for 3-4 minutes or until golden and bubbly.


If you don't have cake flour you can measure out 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour. Remove 5 Tablespoons of flour and replace it with 5 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Stir together and use in place of the cake flour.


Serving: 1ServingCalories: 444kcalCarbohydrates: 56gProtein: 5gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 362mgFiber: 1gSugar: 37g

Nutritional Disclaimer

“Cooking With Carlee” is not a dietitian or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.

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Recipe Rating

Jessica Jarrell

Friday 28th of October 2016

Oh yum! I've been thinking about chocolate cake a lot lately which tells me it's time to make some 😀 I'm intrigued by the broiled frosting, I've never heard of that technique. I can't wait to try!


Saturday 29th of October 2016

You definitely need to make some!! This was my first time making a broiled frosting too and it was so much fun!It was a perfect way to toast some of the coconut, caramelize some sugar and allow some butter to melt into the cake, mmmmmmm!


Wednesday 26th of October 2016

Oh my gosh, this sounds divine!! My grandmother made a Lazy Daisy cake with a broiled frosting, but I never seem to think to make it!



Wednesday 26th of October 2016

Do you have it on your blog? I'd love to see it!!! Thank you!


Tuesday 25th of October 2016

Oh wow...does this ever sound delicious! :)


Wednesday 26th of October 2016

Thank you!


Sunday 23rd of October 2016

My sweet tooth is now screaming for attention! Loudly! LOL I love German Chocolate Cake and this one is begging to get made. I love hearing about your family history, you come from a long line of inventive cooks and bakers, so cool to have recipes that you have received from family. I cannot imagine how good the icing is with a bit of broil and a little caramelization. OMG!!!


Tuesday 25th of October 2016

Ha! My sweet tooth is a loud mouth (and it likes company!) I am lucky to have so many fun family recipes to make, that is for sure!

The Better Baker

Friday 21st of October 2016

Looks fabulous! And you know if it's worthy of being passed down for generations, it's gotta be good. Thanks so much for sharing with us at Weekend Potluck.


Saturday 22nd of October 2016

Thanks, Marsha! It is really good and so much fun to bake some of the same recipes that so many generations of my family have enjoyed!