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Last Updated on December 18, 2022
Have you ever had any cake as heartwarming and delicious as German chocolate cake? I know it’s a classic and thus has an aura of redundancy, especially to the younger generations. But in my opinion, trendy cakes like sugar paste cakes are all flair with a mediocre taste at best because chefs focus on the look so much that they ditch the flavor.
Classic cakes like the German, on the other hand, win because they’re all about rich insides and creamy frostings. It doesn’t matter what they look like, but once you take a bite, your taste buds will have a party.
Today, I’ll give you my special German chocolate cake frosting recipe. It strikes a perfect balance between lightness and creaminess and will give you a euphoric feeling once you try it. What’s more, it’s vegan, so it’s suitable for everybody. So grab your notes and let’s get into it!
Before jumping into the kitchen, take a look at these ingredients and make sure they’re available in your pantry. Here’s what you’ll need to make the most delicious German chocolate frosting:
- Quarter a cup of maple syrup
- 13.5 oz of canned coconut milk
- Half a cup of roasted and chopped pecans
- One teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Half a teaspoon of sea salt
- One cup of unsweetened coconut flakes (preferably shredded)
You can use sweetened coconut flakes if you like(Check out my chocolate coconut cookies recipe too), but when combined with the already sweet coconut milk, they become too intense for my liking.
While the preparation time for this recipe isn’t long, it might take you a long time to cook on the stove top. It differs from one person to the other depending on the pan they use, the heating power of their stove tops, and the room temperature. Here’s the average time you can expect to make German chocolate frosting:
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking time: 60-120 minutes
Total time: 65-130 minutes
How to Make German Chocolate Cake Frosting
Now that you have all your ingredients ready, it’s time to make a patch of mouth-watering German chocolate frosting!
1. Heat the Maple Syrup and Coconut Milk
The first step in making this delicious homemade coconut pecan frosting is to mix maple syrup and coconut milk in a medium saucepan. In other recipes, this step includes egg yolks and evaporated milk, but mine is vegan, so we’ll be using coconut milk instead.
Place the pot on your stove top on medium heat, and let the two liquids simmer. Stir them gently as they thicken and evaporate. You should keep doing so till the amount is reduced by half, no matter how long it takes you. It can take you anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, so there isn’t a rule here.
My advice to you here is to be patient and wait for the frosting to thicken. You want it to be creamy and rich so that it’ll enhance the taste of your German chocolate cake. So don’t turn off the heat while it’s still thin and watery because it won’t give you the desired consistency.
2. Add the Other Ingredients
Once your German chocolate frosting has a perfect consistency, turn off the heat and add the other ingredients to the mix. You should add vanilla extract, coconut flakes, and sea salt. Stir them into the mix gently till they’re dissolved, then leave the mixture aside for a few minutes.
During this while, the frosting will thicken further because the shredded coconut flakes will absorb some moisture from it.
3. Add the Chopped Pecans
Now, it’s time to add the last and most flavorful ingredient, the chopped pecans. You can add the amount you like or follow my instructions. Some people also add other crushed nuts, like peanuts or cashews, but I like to follow the authentic coconut pecan icing recipe, which doesn’t include any other nuts.
4. Frost Your Homemade German Chocolate Cake
An authentic German chocolate cake should have coconut frosting between its layers and on top of it, and that’s what we’re about to do!
Grab one of the rounds you prepared earlier and put it on a cake stand. Add a layer of frosting on top of it, but don’t let it touch the edge so that it doesn’t melt on the sides after you place another cake round. Repeat this step till all the cake layers have frosting, then add another layer on top of the cake. And voila!
Now, you can serve your German chocolate cake with delicious traditional german chocolate cake frosting on top.
Before we go on to the next section, let me give you this piece of advice. If you’re a chocolate lover like myself, add a layer of decorative chocolate frosting on top of the cake. It’ll make your German chocolate cake more rich and flavorful, and it blends nicely with coconut pecan frosting.
Tips and Tricks to Make the Best German Chocolate Cake Frosting
Here’s a list of tips and tricks that’ll ensure you make the best German chocolate cake frosting possible:
- Keep the coconut milk and maple syrup at room temperature before using them
- Let the frosting cool completely before putting it on the cake
- Try to keep stirring constantly while the mixture is on heat because it’ll fasten the evaporation
Creative Ways to Use the Remaining Frosting
Did you make too much icing for your cake and are now left with a bowl full of delicious coconut frosting? I hear you!
We’ve all been there. That’s why I’ve listed some creative ways to use the remaining frosting without throwing any of it away. Here’s what to do:
- Make some chocolate cupcakes alongside your cake and frost them
- Use it as a glaze for cinnamon rolls or donuts
- Serve it alongside ice cream scoops and chocolate sauce
- Heat and drizzle on a Bundt cake
- Use it as a dip for cookies or Graham crackers
If you don’t have time to make any of these desserts, you can store the frosting in your refrigerator till you’re able to use it. The frosting should survive for one or two weeks if you put it in a covered container, so no pressure!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Make a Non-Vegan German Chocolate Frosting?
To make a non-vegan frosting, heat powdered sugar, light brown sugar, egg yolks, evaporated milk, and vegan butter in a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat. Stir constantly till you get the desired consistency, then let the mixture cool down. Once it’s cool enough, add the rest of the ingredients.
Is Granulated Sugar or Powdered Sugar Better for Cake Frosting?
Powdered sugar consists of smooth powder that dissolves quickly in liquids, while granulated sugar consists of rough granules that might take a long time and give you a grainy frosting. Personally, I prefer the former for German chocolate frosting because it also has a thickening effect.
How Do I Thicken My Cake Frosting if It’s Too Thin?
If your frosting refuses to thicken while on heat, you can add a thickening agent like arrowroot flour or tapioca while stirring. Make sure to add a small spoonful so that they don’t affect the taste of your delicious recipe. You can also put it in the refrigerator for a while before using it.
How Long Should I Leave the Frosting to Cool Before I Use It?
Ideally, you should wait for one or two hours. This way, you’ll give the frosting a chance to cool down and thicken. If you want to speed the process up a bit, push the bowl into the refrigerator after covering it with saran wrap.
Watch the video tutorial
German Chocolate Cake Frosting Recipe
Coconut flakes, maple syrup and coconut milk make a delicious German chocolate cake icing.
- 13.5 oz Coconut Milk, canned
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
- 1 cup shredded unsweetened Coconut Flakes
- 1/2 cup roasted pecans, course chopped
Cake (makes One 9" layer cake)
- Put the coconut milk and the maple syrup in a small pot on medium high and simmer until it's reduced by half. This can vary quite a bit. It took me 20 minutes but some readers have shared it takes 1 hour to 2 hours.
- Remove from heat and mix in the vanilla, sea salt, and coconut flakes. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. The coconut flakes will absorb some of the water and thicken it.
- Lastly add in the chopped pecans
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 193Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 144mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 2gSugar: 7gProtein: 2g
That is my favorite frosting and cake! Looks delicious!
That looks yummy! I can think of all kinds of uses for this, including (paleo) carrot muffins 🙂
Oh Leslie I love how you think!!!
That looks wonderful. I will have to try it myself!
Oh man, this looks tasty. Great pictures, too!
Wow this looks amazing. One of the things I do miss is frosting on cakes. Can’t wait to try.
Dang, I want a piece of that!
MMM this sounds delicious! I’m going to try it next weekend!
Oh wow. This looks delicious!
Yummy. I need to try this. I love German Chocolate Cake.
Oh my gosh, heavenly!
Happy Birthday!! At least you get what you like!!
Happy Birthday! What a fantastic cake!
Whoa, this looks AWESOME! I hope you had a great birthday–with this cake, how could it not be?! 😀
Aw, thanks Kiersten. It’s not my best photo but man the frosting is so tasty.
This is my dad’s favorite cake. Yum!
Happy Birthday!!! I love German Chocolate cake. I’ll definitely try this frosting!
I’ve never been a fan of coconut, but you make it look delicious.
What size pan did you use to bake the round cake? 9″? 🙂 Thanks! This looks absolutely amazing!!!
Aw, thanks Jessica. I use an 8″ round pan.
Kelly, I made this frosting this past weekend. It was AMAZING!! Thank you soooo much! It did take me longer to reduce the coconut milk. It took about 1hour. This week I came a crossed a recipe for a “paleo” seven layer / magic bar recipe where you basically make your own sweetened condensed but with coconut milk. The method was very similar to your frosting method. This recipe said to expect 2 hours for the coconut milk to reduce to the right consistency. I am guessing the differences may have to due with the climate that your in. Thanks again for the GREAT recipe it was wonderful.
Holy smokes, that is a tad longer to cook but I’m so glad that it came out for you. It seriously is heaven on a spoon in my opinion 🙂 Thanks for the comment Brandi!
Looks delicious. When you say triple the recipe does that mean triple all of the above? ie 9 eggs.
Well if you make the Gluten Free Coconut Flour Brownies as is, you will need 9 eggs to make 3 layers. If you make the changes I share in the frosting recipe you will need 12 eggs. I have gotten feedback that the coconut flour brownie recipe makes an excellent cake recipe as is.
thank you! 🙂 making for my sons 26th bday!
Help! delicous but fell apart when turning out of pan. too moist! used brownie recipe.
Did you let it cool? Hrmm. Was it very liquidy when you poured it into the pan to bake or was it thick like cake batter? If it was liquidy I would add more coconut flour. Add 1 tbsp at a time until it is thick like a cake batter.
Also, let it cool completely. You can freeze it also to help get it out of the pan. I grease the pan up really well too.
He’s a lucky kid 🙂
a little more loose than a cake. I did not let it cool completely. trying again!
Success! thanks. i greased the pan more this time. for the frosting, do i triple the recipe?
Yeah!!! Hrmmm. I would do that to make sure you have enough. More than likely you will have some left over but it won’t last 🙂
frosting is runny. not sure if I did not cook the coconut milk long enough. added the coconut thinking it would thicken. Should I cook it longe?r
Cook it longer. A previous reader said to took her 1 hour to get it to reduce by half. I would watch it since the coconut will soak up the milk since you’re cooking it.
Thanks for allure help!
You are so welcome! I hope that you all enjoy it and Happy Birthday to your son:)
I just made the icing and it only took 20 minutes for me as well and I am in AR in very high humidity. I am wondering if it is taking others so long because they are “simmering” it rather than allowing it to boil. Just a thought…
The icing is awesome though!
Yeah! I’m so glad it worked for you 🙂 That might be why the time varies so much person on this recipe.
Hoping the cakes freeze well? Made them tonight for hubby’s birthday on Friday and don’t plan on frosting until then. The cake smells delicious…can’t wait to taste them!
I don’t see why they wouldn’t freeze well. I haven’t done this to tell you the truth. We always tear through it in 3 days, lol.
I made this (cake and frosting) for my birthday yesterday. It was perfect! I like my “sweets” on the less-sweet side, but ended up adding extra coconut sugar and maple syrup so my family members would enjoy it. The frosting is delectable. I’m so glad it can be done with wholesome ingredients. Everything tastes best refrigerated, in my opinion.
For others’ information, you do need to boil the coconut milk for quite a while. Keep an eye on it, for it needs to be stirred, and it will bubble over if left to itself. You are essentially caramelizing it like sweetened condensed milk. So when it’s done, it should be thick, syrupy, and probably darker in color.
Thanks for sharing this recipe and giving us a wholesome option to a favorite dessert!
Oh now you’ve got me wanting to make this tonight, lol. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
German Chocolate Cake is my favorite – I always make it for my birthday. I make my own cake every year too. 🙂 This year I’m going to have to try your frosting – it sounds amazing!
Aw, thanks so much hun!
I just came across your website and was looking for a chocolate cake (going to use your brownie recipe) and found the German Chocolate Cake Frosting. I don’t have coconut milk out of a can but I do make my own coconut milk to drink. Would I be able to just use my homemade coconut milk instead?
Love your website and your incite to everything Paleo. We are just starting our journey with Paleo to heal some stomach issues and food sensitivities.
Honestly, I’ve only made it with full fat coconut milk because you need the fat to caramelize to make the frosting. I make my own coconut milk and it doesn’t really have as much fat as you need to make this work properly. I hope you enjoy it hun!
I am 1mth new to the Paleo world and I’m a diabetic that loves (needs) the sweets to keep me sane. Lol
I’ve been doing low carb Paleo (and I still haven’t lost any weight) so I’m wondering what I can use in place of the syrup. I’ve used either Splenda or Stevia, but I think I need to replace the “liquid” part of the syrup to help with the moisture.
Do you have any suggestion? Maybe adding extra milk?
You could use stevia and I don’t think you need to add more liquid. I would just adjust the cook time slightly. I hope you like it Gayle!
I loved the frosting the problem I had was with the brownies! I ended out throwing the whole batch out, total waste of time & money. It took about an hour for the milk & syrup to reduce, end result was worth the wait. I personally think the brownie recipe has waaaaay too much liquid & not enough flour, I’ll make the frosting again BUT not the brownies.
Ive used your frosting recipe several times & love it! It did take longer then 20 minutes, both times it took about 45 but sure worth the wait. Great recipe 🙂
Does this frosting make enough to frost 12 cupcakes?
I just doubled the recipe and it made PLENTY for 12 cupcakes! And it tastes amazing!!! And yes, it took me about an hour and a half to reduce it by half with the recipe doubled.
Yeah! Enjoy hun 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing this at Savoring Saturdays last weekend, Kelly! It was our most popular link, and we’ll be featuring it tonight at this weekend’s party! I hope you’ll come back and share with us again!
This cake was perfect for my birthday! Thank you so much! Better than grain-based.
Happy belated birthday Michael and I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
I don’t know how you figured this recipe out, but it’s delicious and I love you. 🙂 My favorite birthday cake has been german chocolate ever since I became an adult many moons ago. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Now I’m ready for my birthday in April.
AW! I hope you love it Wendy and Happy Birthday hun!
I have to thank you for this amazing cake recipe! I made it for a family dinner over the weekend and it was a huge hit! I made the cake layers a few days in advance and then froze them. The day of the dinner, I thawed them on the counter and they turned out perfectly. The cakes held together very well and they were still very moist even after freezing! The coconut milk did take a little bit longer to cook down but it was great. The coconut flakes that I used in the frosting were huge and too big for a cake topping. Next time, I will either cut them smaller or use shredded coconut instead. Also, since I made 2 layers, one batch of the frosting only covered the middle layer and the top layer. It still looked great but next time, I would make a double batch (or triple for 3 layer cake) to be able to cover the sides too. Thanks again for another fabulous recipe. I will be making this again very soon!
So glad you enjoyed it hun!
Wondering if coconut cream could be a sort of shortcut for the reducing of the coconut milk. I’m thinking of something like the native forest coconut cream, which has more moisture than the bulk coconut cream in my local store. I want to make this for my partner’s birthday, but the possible 1-2 hours is scaring me!
I cook this so it’s bubbling the entire time and it seriously takes me 20 minutes. The higher the cook temp, the faster it cooks hun. Just make sure you watch it so it doesn’t burn.
Well, I must agree that it is like coconut candy! I followed your recipe exactly and it came out perfectly! The reduction only took 25 minutes using the canned organic full fat coconut milk from Whole Foods.
I love this recipe and have made it many times over. I used unsweetened coconut chips for the first time and it seemed to go well. But within 10 minutes the texture totally fell apart. I had an incredible amount of oil collecting at the bottom… should I have cooled it more before adding the coconut chips?
I have always made it with the coconut shreds in the mixture. How high is your heat? You may try to lower the heat to keep the fat from separating from the milk.
Ok how long do you bake three layers in the oven are 8 or 9 inch? And
You said to make the cupcake recipe x 3. Do you double the pecan
And coconut frosting recipe.? I did not have enough frosting to top
Two 9 “ layers let alone the sides. Texture was great but think I over
Cooked the frosting.
Yes, I doubled it. The video is super helpful in making the frosting.
This worked great! I live overseas and it’s hard to find evaporated milk but easy to find coconut milk. I doubled the recipe and it was perfect. I boiled the coconut milk and maple syrup, stirring the whole time. It took about 20 mins. You seriously cannot turn away for a second. I turned to press the button on my coffee maker and it boiled over LOL. It turned out perfect!
So glad you enjoyed it!
This is the most confusing cake and frosting recipe. What is the cake recipe, you
Talk about coconut flour but when you go to link for cake recipe you get an almond flour cupcake recipe for 10 cupcakes. What is the recipe for the 3 layer cake?
And the frosting recipe is that enough for frosting 3 layers?
Thanks for the feedback Mary. I’ve updated the instructions for clarity. For 3 layers you will need to triple the recipe. I’ve linked to the recipe to make the cake. It is a cupcake recipe however I use it for the cake. Again you will need to triple the recipe and increase the cook time for 22 to 28 minutes – check the center for doneness.
How in the world do I make it set up like thick frosting??
As you cook down the mixture, it will thicken.