Vegan German chocolate cake - layers of moist, fluffy chocolate cake with a coconut, pecan caramel custard filling and rich chocolate ganache topping.
This delicious cake is easy to make and perfect for birthdays and celebrations.
This vegan German chocolate cake is a delicious celebration cake that is easy to make, totally indulgent and utterly irresistible.
With it's moist, fluffy chocolate cake layers, sweet, rich coconut pecan caramel filling and decadent dark chocolate ganache topping, this cake is a real showstopper.
What Is German Chocolate Cake?:
Contrary to the name, German chocolate cake (originally called German's chocolate cake) is not actually from Germany. It is named after Samuel German, an American chocolate maker who developed a type of dark baking chocolate that was later used in the cake recipe.
It consists of a light chocolate cake which is filled and topped with a caramel custard mixed with shredded coconut and chopped pecans. It may also be coated in a chocolate frosting.
What Ingredients Do I Need?:
For The Cake:
Plain flour: Just regular plain (all-purpose) flour. I don't recommend swapping it for wholemeal, it will make the cake too dense.
I haven't tried making this cake gluten-free, but I suspect that it would work ok with a gluten-free flour blend plus ¼ tsp xanthan gum if the flour doesn’t already contain it.
Cocoa powder: I use dutch processed. For those of you in the UK, that is just regular cocoa powder.
Sugar: I use caster sugar but granulated, light brown soft or coconut sugar will also work.
Baking powder and soda: A mix of the two provides the best rise and light, soft texture.
Milk: You can use any kind you like but it should ideally be unsweetened and soy milk is best as it has the highest protein content.
Oil: Use a neutral flavoured oil such as sunflower or a mild olive oil. I wouldn't use coconut oil here unless you have no other option.
Vinegar: This cake uses the reaction between the acid from the vinegar and the bicarbonate of soda to help it rise. I use either apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar. You can also use lemon juice instead.
Vanilla: Extract is better than essence and you can also use vanilla bean paste.
Espresso powder: This is optional, but adding a bit of instant espresso powder helps to deepen the chocolate flavour. It doesn't make the cake taste like coffee.
For The Filling:
Coconut: Dried shredded coconut is traditionally used but that can be hard to find in the UK. I used defrosted frozen shredded fresh coconut which I found in Morrisons, but unsweetened desiccated coconut or dried coconut flakes will also work.
Pecans: Pecans are traditional but really any kind of nut will work. I like to decorate the cake with some extra nuts as well as using them in the filling.
Cornflour: Usually the filling for German chocolate cake is thickened with egg yolks, but cornflour (cornstarch) makes a great substitute.
Coconut milk: Traditionally, evaporated milk would be used, but full fat coconut milk works well in it's place. I have also seen evaporated coconut milk from Nature's Charm so you could also use that.
Butter: I reccommend using a block vegan butter rather than the spreadable kind in a tub as it will help the filling to set better. I use Naturli vegan block or Flora plant butter.
Sugar: Light brown soft sugar is best here as it adds a lovely caramel flavour. Dark brown soft will also work if you want a stronger flavour, and coconut sugar would also be fine.
For The Ganache:
Dark chocolate: I use 70% dark chocolate. Don't use anything with a higher cocoa percentage than that or it can make the ganache more likely to split.
Cream: You can either use full fat coconut milk or a vegan double cream alternative such as Elmlea.
Syrup: I add a touch of maple syrup to sweeten the ganache slightly. Golden syrup or agave would also work.
How To Make Vegan German Chocolate Cake:
(Full measurements and instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page)
Whisk together the non-dairy milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla extract in a jug.
In a large bowl sift together the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
Gradually whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until the batter is smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between two greased and lined 20 cm 8 in round cake tins. Bake for about half an hour until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
To make the filling, place the cornflour in a bowl and gradually stir in the coconut milk.
Melt the butter and sugar together gently in a pan then whisk in the cornflour mixture.
Bring the mixture up to a simmer and whisk constantly until it thickens.
Stir in the toasted pecans and coconut, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.
To make the ganache, finely chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl.
Place the coconut milk and maple syrup in a pan and heat until it is almost simmering.
Pour the hot milk over the chopped chocolate and leave to sit for five minutes.
Stir gently until melted and smooth. Set aside until it thickens enough to spread.
To assemble the cake, trim the tops of the cake layers with a cake wire or a sharp serrated knife to level them.
Place one layer on a cake stand or plate and spread over all of the filling.
Place the other cake layer on top, upside-down. Spread over the ganache and decorate with chopped pecans if you like.
All of my recipes are developed using grams, and as with all of my baking recipes I really do recommend using the metric measurements with a digital scale rather than the cup coversions. Cups are a wildly inaccurate measuring system and you will get far better, more consistent results using a scale, not to mention that it is also easier and less messy than cups!
Make sure that you don't over-beat the batter as that can make the cake tough. Just mix it until no dry lumps remain. I recommend stirring it by hand with a balloon whisk.
Because it is important not to over-beat the batter, you need to make sure that your wet ingredients and your dry ingredients are extremely well mixed in their separate bowls before you combine the two together.
I chose to just fill my cake with the coconut pecan caramel rather than topping it with it as well as I wanted it to be less sweet. If you want to top the cake with the filling as well as or instead of the ganache then you can easily double the filling recipe.
I used defrosted frozen shredded coconut, but dried shredded coconut, unsweetened desiccated coconut or coconut flakes will all also work.
Instead of the pecans you can use any kind of nut you like. Walnuts would work well.
I toast both the pecans and coconut before using them in the filling as it enhances the flavour. This step is optional however.
How To Store It:
The assembled cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for two days. If it is warm out then store the cake in the fridge.
The cake layers can be baked in advance, cooled completely then wrapped and frozen for up to three months.
The filling can be made a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
More Vegan Layer Cake Recipes:
- Vegan chocolate fudge cake
- Vegan carrot cake
- Vegan pumpkin cake with cinnamon buttercream and maple pecans
- Vegan banana cake with chocolate peanut butter frosting
- Orange and almond cake with chocolate buttercream
- Coconut layer cake
- Vegan Victoria sponge cake
- Vegan mulled wine chocolate cake
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Vegan German Chocolate Cake
- 400 ml (1 ½ cups + 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp) unsweetened non-dairy milk (I use soy)
- 160 ml (⅔ cup) neutral oil (I use sunflower)
- 2 teaspoons vinegar
- 280 g (1 + ¼ cups + 2 Tablespoons) caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 260 g (2 cups + 2 Tbsp) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 90 g (⅔ cup + 1 Tbsp) cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 10 g (1 packed Tablespoon) cornflour (cornstarch)
- 120 ml (½ cup) full fat coconut milk
- 100 g (packed ½ cup) light brown soft sugar
- 60 g (¼ cup) vegan block butter (I use Naturli Vegan Block)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 65 g (2 ⅓ oz) shredded coconut (or unsweetened desiccated coconut) toasted
- 65 g (2 ⅓ oz) pecans toasted and chopped
- pinch salt
- 150 g (5 ⅓ oz) dark chocolate (no more than 70% cocoa solids) finely chopped
- 150 ml (½ cup + 2 Tablespoons) full fat coconut milk or vegan double cream alternative (such as Elmlea)
- ½ Tablespoon maple syrup
- whole and chopped pecans for decoratring (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 4. Grease two 20cm/8in round cake tins and line with baking parchment.
- Whisk together the milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla extract in a large jug.
- In a large bowl sift together the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, espresso powder and salt.
- Gradually whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until the batter is smooth. It is important not to over-mix it however or the cake can become tough, so I recommend using a hand balloon whisk rather than an electric mixer.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared tins (I use a scale for accuracy) and spread it level. Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes until they are firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
- To make the filling, place the cornflour in a bowl and gradually stir in the coconut milk, making sure that there are no lumps.
- Melt the butter and sugar together gently in a pan then whisk in the cornflour mixture. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and whisk constantly until it thickens.
- Stir in the toasted pecans and coconut, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.
- To make the ganache, finely chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl.
- Place the coconut milk and maple syrup in a pan and heat until it is almost simmering. Do not let it come to the boil. Pour the hot milk over the chopped chocolate, making sure that it is fully covered, and leave to sit for five minutes.
- Stir gently until melted and smooth. Set aside until it thickens enough to spread. If you accidentally leave it for too long and it sets, you can gently re-warm it in short bursts in the microwave, stirring often.
- To assemble the cake, trim the tops of the cake layers with a cake wire or a sharp serrated knife to level them. Place one layer on a cake stand or plate and spread over all of the filling.
- Place the other cake layer on top, upside-down. Spread over the ganache and decorate with chopped pecans if you like.
- See post above for tips, details and step-by-step photos.
- All of my recipes are developed using grams, and as with all of my baking recipes I really do recommend using the metric measurements with a digital scale rather than the cup coversions. Cups are a wildly inaccurate measuring system and you will get far better, more consistent results using a scale, not to mention that it is also easier and less messy than cups!