This unbelievably vegan German chocolate cake tastes just like the real deal. Rich and decadent easy chocolate cake with layers of sticky coconut pecan filling!

vegan German chocolate cake on a cake stand

If you love chocolate, caramel, coconut, and nutty pecans, then you’re going to fall in love with this absolutely decadent and rich, entirely VEGAN German Chocolate Cake recipe!

Now, I do love our vegan chocolate cake recipe (as do all of you!)- it’s one of my all time favorite vegan cake recipes on the blog (and check out all of our vegan cake recipes here! Tons of classics turned vegan!). But this German Chocolate Cake takes chocolate to a whole new level!

With layers of rich caramel, pecans, and coconut, this upgraded chocolate cake is an absolute dream. What’s more, it’s actually easier to make than other layered cakes in terms of assembly! 

Since we’re making this a naked-style German chocolate cake, there’s no need to crumb coat or perfect the outer frosting, which can sometimes be daunting. Just simply layer, slice, and enjoy!

close up of German chocolate cake layers

What Is German Chocolate Cake?

Many people actually don’t know that German Chocolate cake is not German. It’s actually named after the baker, Samuel German, who was credited with inventing this delicious creation in America in 1852. 

I discuss this a bit more in my cookbook, but it’s often confused that German chocolate cake originated in Germany. Quite the opposite!

It’s a one bowl delicious, moist chocolate cake layered with a sticky pecan coconut custard filling made with evaporated milk and eggs.

However, the original creation is obviously not vegan; so we must veganize both the chocolate cake and the custard filling, which is actually quite easy.

And even better yet, this chocolate coconut pecan cake can easily be made gluten free as well! 

Vegan German Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • Flour: We’re using all purpose flour here, but you can use gluten free 1:1 baking flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill in the blue bag. If using gluten-free flour, be sure that you use the cup measurements rather than the weight, as gluten-free flour weighs differently from all purpose.
  • Cocoa powder: Make sure that you’re using all natural cocoa powder, and not cacao powder. While filled with antioxidants, cacao powder is not acidic enough to help our cakes rise. Cocoa powder, on the other hand, contains the perfect amount of acidity to react with the baking soda, and create a rise in our cakes.
  • Vegan butter: This will be used in both our coconut pecan frosting and in the actual cake. I recommend Miyoko’s vegan butter.
  • Vegan buttermilk: This is a combination of both dairy-free milk, such as soy milk or almond milk, with apple cider vinegar.
  • Hot coffee: While most baking recipes call for room temperature ingredients, you can and should use hot liquid here, as it helps to bloom the cocoa powder.
  • Dairy free yogurt: You can also use unsweetened applesauce. 
  • Sweetened condensed coconut milk: This creates our custard-like caramel for the coconut pecan frosting. 
  • Pecans: I recommend chopping the pecans to help with slicing the cake.
  • Coconut shreds: I used unsweetened coconut flakes, and then you’ll blitz them. You can also purchased sweetened coconut shreds already shredded, but I’ve found it makes the frosting too sweet.. For an even stronger coconut flavor, use toasted coconut flakes. You can also blitz the coconut flakes to finer shreds. 
slice of vegan German chocolate cake

I also recommend topping your vegan German chocolate cake with vegan ganache and vegan chocolate buttercream!

Overview: How to make vegan German chocolate cake:

You’re just going to absolutely love simple and easy this German chocolate cake is to make. You only need one bowl to make the chocolate cake part (no stand mixer or hand mixer required!).

To start:

1. Make the chocolate cake batter: Simply whisk together the wet ingredients, then sift in the dry ingredients. Make sure that you add the vegan buttermilk and hot coffee last.

2. Bake the cakes: Divide the batter into three 8 inch cake pans. Then bake your cakes!

vegan chocolate cakes baked

3. Make the coconut pecan frosting: While the cakes are cooling, make the coconut pecan frosting. Add the condensed milk and vegan butter to a pan and melt. Then stir in the sugar, and continue to whisk until it comes to a boil and thickens, a few minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in the vanilla extract, along with the pecans and coconut flakes. 

chocolate pecan frosting in a saucepan

4. Make the ganache and buttercream: While the coconut pecan frosting is cooling as well, you can prepare the chocolate ganache and vegan chocolate buttercream.

5. Assemble the cake: Once everything is cooled to room temperature, you’ll assemble your vegan German chocolate cake! Simply apply a layer of the frosting to one cake layer, and repeat for the second. Then top the cake with chocolate ganache, piped buttercream, and the remaining pecan frosting!

Final tips:

  • Make sure that the pecans and coconut flakes are chopped and blitzed!  Otherwise, you’ll struggle to slice the cake.
  • Cool everything before assembling: Including the chocolate ganache if you want a neat drip down the sides! The reason you’ll need to also cool the coconut pecan frosting is because when applying hot frosting to the cakes, you’ll begin to cook the cakes again and create a mushy texture for your vegan chocolate cake.
  • Use this oat flour chocolate cake for another gluten free option! If you prefer to use oat flour instead of a gluten-free 1:1 baking flour blend, you can use this amazing oat flour gluten free chocolate cake recipe!
slice of German chocolate cake on a plate

Want to save this recipe for later? Add it to your favorite recipe board on Pinterest!

German chocolate cake pin

If you make this recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and a rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. This helps others to find the recipes! As always, I absolutely love to see your beautiful creations on Instagram and Pinterest, so be sure to tag me there as well!

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vegan German chocolate cake on a cake stand

Easy Vegan German Chocolate Cake (Gluten Free Option)

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Britt Berlin
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cooling time: 180
  • Cook Time: 40
  • Total Time: 3 hours 55 minutes
  • Yield: 16 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This unbelievably vegan German chocolate cake tastes just like the real deal. Rich and decadent easy chocolate cake with layers of sticky coconut pecan filling!


Ingredients

Scale

Chocolate cake:

  • 1 1/4 cup (300 mL) vegan buttermilk, room temperature
  • 3 cups (375 g) all purpose flour or gluten free 1:1 baking flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (110 g) brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 2/3 cup (150 g) unsalted vegan butter*, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsweetened applesauce or dairy free yogurt, room temperature
  • 1 cup (95 g) all natural cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240 mL) hot water + 1 tsp dissolvable espresso powder (or 1 cup (240 mL) brewed coffee, decaf if desired)

Coconut Pecan Caramel Filling:

  • 14.8 ounces (2 7.4-ounce cans) sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) vegan butter
  • 1 cup (200 g) coconut sugar or granulated organic sugar
  • 2/3 cup (6 ounces) chopped raw pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups (150 g) unsweetened shredded coconut (or coconut flakes that you then shred)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 batch vegan chocolate ganache
  • 1/2 batch vegan chocolate buttercream

Instructions

  1. Prep: Measure out all ingredients for the cake. Prep three 8″ cake pans with oil and parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350F. Make sure that the vegan buttermilk is prepped. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Make the vegan chocolate cake first: In a large bowl, whisk together the vegan butter, unsweetened applesauce or yogurt, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract until combined. Siftin the cocoa powder and whisk again until combined.
  3. Add in the dry ingredients: Sift in the flour mixture, and add in the vegan buttermilk to the batter. Begin to whisk just until the flour starts to incorporate into the chocolate mixture. Then add in the hot coffee, and continue whisking until the flour is JUST combined.
  4. Bake: Pour the chocolate cake batter into the three cake pans, and place the cakes into the oven to bake for 30-33 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Once baked, remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes in their pans. Then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  5. While the cakes are cooling, make the pecan coconut filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the condensed coconut milk and vegan butter on medium heat until the butter is melted. Add in the sugar, and bring the mixture to a boil, continuing to whisk all the while. Reduce the heat to medium once boiling, and continue to whisk until the mixture begins to thicken a bit more, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat. Add in the vanilla extract, along with the pecans and coconut shreds, and fold the ingredients into the caramel until evenly distributed. Set the filling aside to cool completely before assembling the cake.
  6. Prepare the vegan chocolate ganache and vegan buttercream: While the filling is cooling, prepare the vegan chocolate ganache acceding to instructions first, followed by a half batch of the vegan chocolate buttercream. Set the ganache aside to cool and if your kitchen is too warm, you can set the buttercream in the fridge for a few minutes before bringing it out to room temperature again while the remainder of the components cool to room temperature.
  7. Assemble the German chocolate cake: Place one cake layer onto a cake stand or plate. Apply about 1/3 of the coconut pecan filling to the top of the cake, and spread evenly. Place the second cake layer on, and repeat. Then place the third cake layer on, and spread the chocolate ganache over the top of the cake. Gently drip it down the sides. Place the cake into the fridge to set the ganache for 10-15 minutes. Then remove the cake and pipe the chocolate buttercream in swirls along the top of the cake. Finish the cake by applying the remainder of the filling on top.
  8. Slice and serve: Serve your vegan German chocolate cake immediately or store in a cake box until ready to serve. Store any leftover slices in an airtight container and in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Notes

Gluten free: Please use gluten-free 1:1 baking flour, and the cup measurements for the flour. You can also swap in this oat flour chocolate cake for the chocolate cake part.