German Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting

My favorite cake in the world; ever since I was a little girl. I’ve punched it up a bit since then, a homemade chocolate cake with that decadent topping that I added some buttercream frosting to and additional toasted coconut. I liked it before; I LOVE this!

German Chocolate Cake with Rum Glaze and Buttercream

We’re backkkkkk. It’s Progressive Eats time and after a sabbatical over the Christmas season, our crew is ready to gather together and share some of our favorite recipes again. This month our group has been challenged by Lana with the blog Never Enough Thyme to take a trip down Memory Lane with a comfort food from our past. I chose this German Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting.

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Always my first choice for a birthday cake since I was a young girl and certainly something that fits perfectly in the ‘comfort food’ family. I made the birthday cakes in our family and that included my own and I admit my efforts utilized a box cake mix with coordinated frosting.

That was before icings were pre-made and packaged in cans; they used to be a blend of dry ingredients that you mixed with butter and milk and it made a decent enough frosting.

But I’ve NEVER liked the stuff in a can; I’m just certain there is no butter in there but something hydrogenated or de-hydrogenated or whatever but I just don’t like it. When the dry product was no more, I decided to do it the old fashioned way and went looking for a recipe for both the cake and the yummy frosting.

I’ve made this in times past by simply following the recipe on the German’s Sweet Chocolate Bar but this time around I wanted to change it up a bit and I’m betting it’s no surprise to anyone that I would be adding a bit of booze. The resulting German Chocolate Cake with Rum Glaze and Buttercream is simply divine.

German Chocolate Cake with Rum Glaze and Buttercream

That first effort at locating a recipe was interesting; I suppose like many I had always assumed this cake was a tried and true confection brought to this country by German immigrants; you know, my people. To say the story was a surprise would be an understatement.

Not so much German as simply a cake named after the chocolate bar used in a recipe that was created by an American baker. I had always associated lederhosen but bobby socks would have been more appropriate!

Ah well…despite the letdown that it was not from the country of my great grandparents origin, I still loved the cake and German’s Sweet Chocolate (now owned by Baker’s) and that ingredient would remain…some things are sacred!

German Chocolate Cake with Rum Glaze and Buttercream

I mentioned I changed it up a bit and yes, I do think the end result is even better. Not big changes but just enough to amplify the flavors. I always add espresso to chocolate cakes; it elevates the flavor of chocolate. I also wanted something a bit more unique than the bazillion versions of the same thing scattered over the Internet so I decided to add some rum. There is rum in each component; complimenting but not taking over either.

The Rum Buttercream? Decorative purposes only…do you know how hard it is to try and decorate a German Chocolate Cake? Spreading more of the coconut pecan frosting on the sides didn’t appeal to me; this cake seems to be the original of the ‘no frosting on the sides’ rustic look we see more and more of today and I saw no reason not to keep that.

Drizzling chocolate seemed to be just messy and not enough contrast to really make it more attractive. The idea of buttercream came to me only after the cake was done and cooling and I had been adding rum to all of the separate components…you know, one of those, “Hmm,. maybe a rum buttercream would work?”

I was after a color contrast as much as anything but it’s a nice little flavor surprise too and I know I won’t make a German Chocolate Cake again without it. Ever.

What foods make you think of Comfort Foods? Are any of them similar to what we’ve put together? Don’t forget to check out all of the great comfort foods from my friends after the recipe; you won’t be disappointed!

Progressive Eats

Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is Memory Lane and is hosted by Lana Stuart who blogs at Never Enough Thyme. For our Memory Lane dinner, we all created recipes based on comfort foods which evoke feelings of nostalgia and warmth

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.

Memory Lane Comfort Food

PIN ‘German Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting and Rum Glaze’

German Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting and Rum Glaze PIN

German Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting and Rum Glaze PIN

German Chocolate Cake with Rum Glaze and Buttercream

5 from 50 or more votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 10 slices
Calories 1165 kcal


For the Cake

  • ¼ cup cocoa to dust the pans
  • 1 pkg. 4 oz. BAKER'S GERMAN'S Sweet Chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp instant espresso
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 eggs separated
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons Dark Rum
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the Rum Syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum

For the Coconut Pecan Frosting:

  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 4 slightly beaten egg yolks
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon Dark Rum
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • 1 ½ cups chopped pecans

For the Rum Buttercream:

  • ½ cup of salted butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Rum
  • 3-4 Tablespoons half and half

For Garnish:

  • ¼ cup toasted coconut optional


To Make the Cake:

  • Heat oven to 350°F.
  • Cover bottoms of 3 (9-inch) round pans with parchment; butter sides of pans and parchment and dust with cocoa.
  • Warm chocolate and water in a small pan on medium heat until chocolate is melted; stirring constantly. Add instant espresso and stir to combine. Set aside to cool.
  • Beat egg whites in small bowl with mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form; set aside. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Blend in melted chocolate, vanilla and rum. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating until well blended after each addition.
  • Add egg whites; stir gently until well blended. Pour into prepared pans.
  • Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Immediately run small knife around cakes in pans. Cool cakes in pans 15 min. Remove from pans to wire racks; cool completely (See Notes).

Make the syrup:

  • In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum; allow to cool.

Make the Coconut Pecan Frosting:

  • Combine heavy cream, sugar, slightly beaten egg yolks, butter, vanilla and rum in saucepan.
  • Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat.
  • Stir in shredded coconut and chopped pecans.
  • Cool until thick enough to spread.

Make the Rum Buttercream:

  • Cream the butter in a mixer until fluffy using the paddle attachment.
  • Add the powdered sugar and mix until combined.
  • Add the rum and half and half and mix until smooth and spreadable (you might need to add more cream to get to the perfect consistency for you).

To Assemble:

  • Put the first cake layer on a plate and brush with 1/4 cup syrup. Top with 1/3 of of the Coconut Frosting. Repeat for the next two layers; leaving a one inch edge on the outside of the top layer un-frosted.
  • Pipe the Rum Buttercream around the outside edge of the top layer. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.


This cake has the most delicate crumb; use caution when removing the cake layers from the pans to keep them from breaking apart. Allow to cool completely before assembly and use the same caution. I simply used a large spatula to help me support each layer as I put it on the plate.


Nutrition Facts
German Chocolate Cake with Rum Glaze and Buttercream
Serving Size
1 grams
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


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  1. I love this cake, made it twice. I am having a dinner party, can I make it a day ahead and refrigerate,
    Thank you for this amazing cake recipe


  2. Ma’am if I could hug you I must certainly would. You deserve a hug, high five, and an award for this buttercream. It is STUPID good! I found myself with a spoon (a clean one each time) going back and forth to the fridge getting small scoops of buttercream and the filling eating it by itself. I made this cake for my daddy b-day (08-17) he said I have to help him eat it. My respond “yes sir”. Thank you!

    1. I’m certain I did the same thing! So love to hear when someone is as enamored of a baked goodie as I am and I LOVED this cake. It used to be my favorite of all time so not sure how you beat that but that buttercream managed to make it even better than all time. 🙂


      1. 5 stars
        Question about the recipe. It adds butter 2X; one time for the cake and the other for the coconut frosting. It doesn’t specify salted or unsalted. Which is it? Thank you so much

  4. I’m not getting your directions on the Filling…you’ve got a ? Mark in between some of your measurements of the ingredients…could you you clarify this for me…. please….your cake looks very yummy….can’t wait to try it out?… Thanks, Angie Reneau

    1. Thankfully that was an easy fix Angie. A change to a new format program for my recipes apparently had issues and input a ? instead of a / mark. I’ve fixed it and you should be good to Go!

      Have fun…now I’m craving this BAD!

  5. Wow! Now this is a great looking German’ chocolate cake.
    I’m going to make it for a friends B-day.
    You mentioned how delicate the cake layer are,
    Can you refrigerate the cake layers after they are cool
    before assembling to reduce chances of breakage?
    Thanks for any info!

    1. I know I did! Just wrap them in some cellophane and freeze for a couple of hours. I always do that just thinking it gives me a strong base to frost no matter which kind I’m using…hope you love it too!

      1. Was wondering how many days the cake cane stay in the fr3ezer before assembly? Hours or maybe 4?

    1. The rum adds a nice touch but if I had to add one thing that everyone loved it was that rum frosting. Everyone loved the flavor but we all agreed it did wonders in the looks department too!

  6. German Chocolate is both mine and Bill’s favorite cake of all time. He asks for it most years for his birthday and guess which version he’ll be getting this March? Yep. This one! I can just imagine how the rum enhances this wonderful cake. Thanks for such a comforting recipe in this month’s Progressive Eats, Barb, and for steering our group along. I know it takes a lot of time and effort and I, for one, truly appreciate it!

    1. I hope you do make it Lana; this updated version did nothing to change my opinion about it being my favorite cake too. As a matter of fact now I love it more!

    1. Wish you had a slice with me! I bet I’ve been making this since I was maybe 10 years old so yes, it’s not only a great dessert but such sweet childhood memories come with it.

  7. Now that’s one cake I will eat anytime , anyday!! Just love the rum glaze and how moist and beautiful your cake looks!! It’s good to be back doing Progressive Eats!

  8. German chocolate cake is the first thing I can remember eating with coconut. Not a bad gateway! This looks like a wonderful celebratory version.

    1. I do save it for celebrations and now wondering why; it’s not hard to make at all especially since I think frosting the sides of cake are the worst. I think all my future cakes will be ‘rustic’ and save me that hassle!

    1. Thank you Laura; exactly what I was looking for! As much as I love the cake components I’ve never EVER made it and felt it was a pretty cake. Now I do. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Susan; and trust me, it was hard to not have a thin slice every few minutes. I know I could have too!

  9. Like you Barb, I’ve always loved German Chocolate Cake. And also like you, I assumed that it’s origins went back to Germany. I’m ready to put away the dreams of lederhosen if the result is as beautiful as yours. I wouldn’t have thought to add rum, but now that you’ve done it, I’m totally on board with the idea.

    1. I was crestfallen the year I discovered that bit of history…but I’ve gotten over it and now it’s just a fun story to share. The rum offers a nice touch for sure, especially in the buttercream. I didn’t use it all and can assure you that graham crackers were a fine fix. 🙂

  10. What a masterpiece, Barb! This is my dad’s favorite cake, and I wish I was in Denver to bake one for him (though who knows what your altitude would do to my attempt!). I sure wish I had a slice!!!

    1. I do have to fiddle with the recipes I post to try and circumvent altitude problems but if you ever do bake here? I’ve found the most success with raising the oven temp 10 degrees and baking for less time. The dough starts to cook faster and helps to eliminate it falling after rising too fast.

      Next year give me a heads up and I’ll make one for your dad…probably better than gin right? 🙂

  11. The addition of rum makes so much sense here, Barb! What a gorgeous cake–I can understand why you always requested it.

    I’ve missed PE–it feels like ages and not just 2 months. So glad we’re back in the saddle!

  12. This look fabulous! I’m sure the added rum to the cake and the frosting gives it a nice subtle flavour. I love your buttercream swirls, very pretty looking cake.

    1. Only another food decorator will understand why I never bothered to post this cake before; it was figuring out how to make it look pretty that made ALL the difference. It sort of seemed a bit much to also include buttercream no matter how much prettier it looked but you know what? NO ONE complained about the extra frosting and just gobbled it up. SCORE!! 🙂

  13. Hi your recipe is very attractive,but i do not take any alcoholic drinks , is there any way to replace rum, or modify the recipe, thank you

    1. No problem. Just omit from the cake ingredients including the cake itself, the glaze and the coconut pecan frosting. For the Buttercream you might need to replace the rum with a tablespoon of half and half to get the right consistency. Hope that helps!

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