gluten-free german chocolate cake

No, German Chocolate Cake is not really German. A recipe for German's Chocolate cake appeared in a newspaper in Dallas, Texas in 1957, sent in by a homemaker. It used a chocolate bar called "German's," created by Englishman Sam German for Baker's Chocolate Company. The cake was an immediate hit, and the possessive in "German's" was dropped, resulting in the current misnomer. The cake soon became a regular in bakeries all across America.

For my family, all big fans of coconut, pecans, and dark chocolate, german chocolate cake is a perennial guest at birthdays. Fortunately, I can still enjoy this cake after becoming vegan. And as happens with many vegan recipes, using coconut cream instead of dairy makes the cake if anything more delicious than traditional versions. This cake takes a lot of work, but for special occasions it's worth it.

Makes 16 rich, filling slices
Cook time: several hours total, including cooling time (this is NOT a last-minute dessert)

complete ingredients list:
2 cans coconut milk
4 cups maple syrup and/or agave nectar (these are pretty much interchangeable, but in each individual recipe I list whichever one I tend to prefer)
5 tablespoons vanilla
8 oz. dark chocolate, around 70% (check for milk fat in the ingredients)
3 cups unsweetened coconut flakes (the finer the better unless you want chewy frosting)
1-1/2 cup pecans
1 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons rum
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
2-1/2 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups brown rice flour
3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1-1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda

chocolate cake:
1-3/4 cups brown rice flour
3/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
1-1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut oil
2 cups maple syrup
2 cups water
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, water, vanilla, and coconut oil. In a medium bowl, sift together the remaining ingredients and whisk together thoroughly. In a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until there are no lumps.

Pour the batter into the pans and bake for about 25-28 minutes, or until somewhat firm. Set the cakes on the counter to cool. Once they are no longer hot, I recommend chilling them in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the cake; when they are cool they're more likely to come out of the cake pans without falling apart.

While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the coconut filling, rum syrup, and chocolate frosting.

coconut filling:
1 can + 1 cup coconut milk
1-1/4 cup maple syrup or agave nectar
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 cups coconut flakes, toasted
1-1/2 cups pecans

To toast the coconut, spread evenly over a cookie sheet and bake for about 5 minutes at 350F. Take it out, stir it around with a spatula, and put back in the oven, checking and stirring every few minutes, until evenly golden brown.

While the coconut is toasting, spread the pecans over another cookie sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes, until well browned and fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a cutting board and chop.

In a stainless steel saucepan, bring the coconut milk, agave, and salt nearly to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for around 10 minutes. Try not to boil it, because the coconut milk can lose some of its flavor. Mix together the arrowroot and vanilla and whisk in. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until thickened, whisking often to activate the arrowroot. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans and coconut. It will thicken slightly as it cools.

rum syrup:
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rum
1 tablespoon vanilla

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan and simmer for around 10 minutes, until it resembles a thin syrup. It will thicken slightly upon cooling.

chocolate ganache:
3/4 cup coconut milk (the rest of the can partially used in the coconut frosting)
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla
8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

Place the chocolate in a heat resistant bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk, agave, and vanilla until it is about to boil. Pour over the chocolate and let it stand a minute. Stir with a spatula until smooth, slowly as to not create air bubbles. Let sit until room temperature, refrigerating if it is not firm enough to spread as frosting.

to assemble the cake:
With a plastic spatula or utensil, loosen the cake around the edges of the pan. Remove the cake layers (this is easer if you refrigerate or freeze them for a short while beforehand) and place several toothpicks around the perimeter of the cake, halfway down. Using these as a guide, cut the cake in half horizontally with unflavored dental floss, wrapping it around the cake and tugging the ends toward each other until cut all the way through.

Set the first layer on a cake plate and with a pastry brush, douse liberally with the rum syrup. Spread a little less than 1/4 of the coconut frosting over the layer, being sure to reach the sides. Set another layer on top and repeat, brushing each layer with syrup and coconut filling. Be sure to save enough coconut filling for the top; it's okay if there is more frosting on top than in the other layers, but too little frosting on top would be a problem.

With a frosting spatula, ice the sides with the chocolate frosting, saving a little to pipe around the edges. Run the spatula under hot water, dry, and use it to smooth the chocolate icing around the sides. With a piping bag and tip (you can buy kits relatively cheaply at cooking supply stores), pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top and bottom edges of the cake.

Serve with vanilla or toasted coconut ice cream. The cake can be covered and stored in the fridge for several days.


  1. Fabulous! Wonderful history and photo...and richly "layered" recipe! You should submit it to the Splendid Table.

  2. This is an AMAZING CAKE!!!
    THANKS for creating and sharing it!

    Sandy B

  3. Gauri Radha गौरी राधाJanuary 2, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    That looks magnificent!!!

  4. My friend Noreen made these in cupcake form for my birthday. They were phenomenal! Great gluten-free / paleo chocolate cake recipe. YES!


  5. This recipe is really awesome and seems delicious. I want to eat it this weekend.