German Chocolate Cake (Vegan)

slice of vegan german chocolate cake with the rest of the cake in the background

♫ Listening to: Favourite Ex by Maisie Peters ♫

This multi-layered vegan german chocolate cake is a moist chocolate cake with a decadent gooey caramel coconut pecan walnut filling and a chocolate ganache drip. It’s inspired by the vegan german chocolate cake from Black China Bakery in Santa Cruz, because they use a chocolate ganache instead of chocolate buttercream, and I just adore it! The recipe gives clear instructions and shortcuts so you can make this for an upcoming Christmas or Birthday celebration. Even if you don’t have a special occasion, you should still make it on a rainy weekend to reward yourself for surviving a rough week.

I read a lot of vegan german chocolate cake recipes and a lot of non-vegan ones while thinking about what I wanted this cake to become. The recipe that inspired this vegan german chocolate cake recipe the most was Sally’s Baking Addiction’s chocolate cake. Their suggestion of incorporating yogurt to make a super moist chocolate cake is brilliant. If you asked 5 people how to make a vegan german chocolate cake recipe with frosting, you might get 5 different answers, so keep in mind that this is just my take on it. But my take is dairy-free, eggless, and cruelty free, so at least you’ll know that you can enjoy this without any guilt. If you like chocolate and coconut, you might also like this other cake.

This recipe makes a 2-layer 8-9” or a 3-layer 6” german chocolate cake.

Vegan Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups (240g) flour (I use unbleached)
  • ¾ cup (55g) cocoa powder (I use fair trade)
  • 1 ½ cups (330g) organic, raw, or vegan sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (11g) baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (8g) baking powder (I use non-aluminum)
  • ¼ teaspoon (1g) salt
  • ½ cup (120ml) sunflower or safflower oil (or sub coconut oil or any vegetable oil)
  • ¾ cup (180g) vegan yogurt (I use soy that I make myself)
  • 1 cup (240ml) soymilk (or sub any nondairy milk)
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (or sub white vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (never use imitation vanilla - it’s often not vegan)
  • ½ cup (120ml) hot coffee (or sub hot water if you can’t have caffeine)

Vegan Chocolate Cake Directions

prep time: 15 min | baking time: 30 min

Dollhouse Shortcut

Make the cakes up to 3 weeks ahead of time, wrap them in cling wrap, and store them in freezer bags in the freezer until the day you want to assemble the cake.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Oil two 9×2 inch or 8" round cake pans if you’re making a 2-layer cake. Oil three 6" round cake pans if you’re making a 3-layer cake.

Cut out pieces of parchment paper that are the size and shape of your cake pans, put them in the bottom of your cake pans, and then oil the top of the parchment paper. Parchment paper on the bottom of cake pans just helps the cake come out of the pans, but you can make this cake (and all my cakes) without parchment paper too.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl: 1 ¾ cups (240g) flour, ¾ cup (55g) cocoa powder (I use this cocoa powder because it’s fair trade), 1 ½ cups (330g) sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons (11g) baking soda, 1 ½ teaspoons (8g) baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon (1g) pink sea salt (or any salt). Set aside.

Whisk the wet ingredients either by hand or with a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or a handheld electric mixer): ½ cup (120ml) oil, ¾ cup (180g) vegan yogurt, 1 cup (240ml) soymilk, 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and ½ cup (120ml) hot coffee.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix until you no longer see any dry ingredients, but don’t continue mixing after that point. You want to move quickly because as soon as wet meets dry, the chemical reaction of the vinegar and baking soda are starting to work their magic, and you want that magic to happen in the oven, not on your kitchen counter.

Divide the batter evenly between your 2 or 3 cake pans.

Place all of your cake pans on the same rack in the oven so that they will all bake at the same temperature. I know this sounds weird, but our ovens are actually different temperatures in different spots.

Bake for 29-30 minutes for an 8 or 9” cake. Bake for 30-35 minutes for a 6” cake. Baking times vary depending on different ovens, so I always set my timer for the lowest baking time, and then check the cake with a toothpick. If the toothpick doesn’t come out clean after poking the middle of the cakes, then I bake them a few more minutes, and continue.

Remove the cakes from the oven as soon as the toothpick test comes out clean, and set them on a cooling rack.

the chocolate cakes fresh from the oven

Cool the cakes for 15 minutes before flipping them upside down on the cooling racks. You can start on the frosting while you wait for the cakes to cool completely.

flipping the cake pans upside down to cool on the cooling racks

Stand Mixer
KitchenAid KP26M1XIC Professional 600 Stand Mixers, 6 quart, Ice Buy on Amazon
Cocoa Powder
Volupta Organic & Fair Trade Unsweetened Super Food Cacao Powder 32 OZ Buy on Amazon
6" Round Cake Pans
Focus Foodservice (900625) Commercial Bakeware 6" Round Cake Pan Buy on Amazon

Vegan German Chocolate Cake Frosting Ingredients

Dollhouse Shortcut

This recipe is easier if you skip toasting the nuts. However, if you want the best vegan german chocolate frosting, spend the extra time to toast the pecans or walnuts.

  • ½ cup (120g) vegan butter or margarine (I use organic whipped earth balance)
  • 1 cup (300g) vegan, raw, or organic sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 3 tablespoons organic cornstarch*
  • 1 can (11.5oz; 340ml) vegan evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  • 1 cup (125g) toasted and chopped pecans or walnuts (I used half pecans and half walnuts)

Vegan German Chocolate Cake Frosting Directions

prep time: 5 min | cooking time: 25 min

Whisk together a little bit of the evaporated milk and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Set aside.

Add the remaining evaporated milk to a medium saucepan along with the following ingredients: ½ cup (120g) vegan butter, 1 cup (300g) sugar, and 1 tablespoon molasses.

Heat the mixture over medium-high heat until it boils, and then reduce the heat slightly. While you wait for it to boil is a good time to toast your nuts if you haven’t already. I toasted mine for 8 minutes at 300°F.

Add the cornstarch liquid you made before.

Whisk continuously until the mixture thickens and gets gooey like caramel. This usually takes about 5 minutes for me.

Remove from heat.

Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 cups shredded coconut, and 1 cup (125g) chopped nuts. If all you have are coconut flakes, you can just put them in a blender or a food processor and use the pulse button to turn the coconut flakes into shredded coconut.

making the caramel coconut pecan frosting for the german chocolate cake

Cool completely before using it to assemble the cake. It will continue to thicken as it cools.

Assemble the Vegan German Chocolate Cake

assembling time: 10 minutes

Cut the tops off of any cakes that have domes at the top. They need to be level and flat before layering. This is my favorite part because everything I cut off the cakes I get to eat. Don’t worry about getting them perfectly even or you might just keep cutting and cutting until you have no more cake left (but a very happy tummy I presume, so I get that it’s a tradeoff).

Top the bottom layer of cake with a thick layer of pecan-walnut-coconut frosting and make sure you spread it all the way to the edges of the circle. I use an offset spatula for this step, but if you don’t have one, you can use a silicone spatula as well. Repeat with however many cake layers you have.

layering the chocolate cakes with german chocolate cake frosting

Chill in the fridge while you make the ganache.

Easy Vegan Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

cooking time: 10 min | cooling time: 15 min | decorating time: 5 min

  • 1 cup (6oz / 170g) vegan chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup (2oz / 60ml / 60g) non-dairy milk (I used milkadamia)

Easy Vegan Chocolate Ganache Directions

Dollhouse Shortcut

To save time, you can make this rich chocolate ganache in the microwave in 30-second increments.

Heat ¼ cup (2oz / 60ml / 60g) non-dairy milk on the stove until it starts to simmer.

Add 1 cup (6oz / 170g) vegan chocolate chips and remove from heat, cover the pot, and swirl it around.

Wait for 5 minutes before uncovering and whisking the chocolate ganache until smooth and melted.

Cool the ganache for around 15 minutes before decorating the cake. You can test one drip to see how far it goes down the side of the cake to determine if it has cooled long enough. The cooler it gets, the slower and thicker drips you’ll get. My ganache in this cake was extra thick, so I probably could have cooled mine less.

assembled and decorated vegan german chocolate cake

Optional: add some chocolate cuties to the top of the cake when you decorate it (like I did) if you like cute food, kawaii food, or anything from Japan.

a bite of vegan german chocolate cake on a fork on a plate with a slice of cake with the rest of the cake out of focus in the background

I made this cake on a livestream where I learned that the origin of German Chocolate Cake wasn’t in Germany like I had thought, but German is actually the last name of the person who first invented the cake in the U.S. Yeah, I was disappointed too.

Here’s an alternative way of decorating the cake using the same recipe. For this cake, I made a 2-layer 9” cake, and instead of leaving the sides of the cake bare, I covered the entire cake in chocolate ganache and skipped the chocolate drip. I used the extra cooled ganache to pipe little dollops around the perimeter.

a 2-layer vegan german chocolate cake on a cake stand

You know this is the best german chocolate cake because it will stay good for a week, as long as it’s in a container with a lid. After the initial cutting of the cake, You basically have 2 options: store it at room temperature in a cake dome or cut the rest of the cake into slices and store them in a tupperware in the fridge. I ate this cake for an entire week after making it both times (once on the counter and once in the fridge), and it stays moist and delicious the entire time. If you’re not the dessert queen that I am, you can also wrap individual slices in cling wrap and freeze them for a later date. I used to do this when I had vegan kids that would be invited to their classmates’ birthday parties, so I could send them to the party with a slice of cake to have while the other kids ate cake. But now that there are no kids in my house to hog my cake slices, the cake never lasts long enough to see the dark of freezer.

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* I use mostly organic ingredients when I cook, but I realize that not everyone has the disposable income to purchase all organic ingredients. Therefore, I only specify organic on the ingredients that really matter - when buying the organic version is the only way to ensure that the item is vegan.

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