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German Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

While I’ve eaten german chocolate cake for years, I haven’t made many in the past! I’ve been playing around with that classic german chocolate cake “frosting” this month and I’m finally happy with my own version of it. With that being said, it’s high time I share my german chocolate cupcake recipe.

Getting The Topping Just Right for This German Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

While a delicious cupcake base and decadent chocolate frosting are all good and dandy, what really makes anything german chocolate is the iconic coconut pecan topping.

Some people even call it german chocolate frosting! I can’t really get behind that, because a caramelized coconut and pecan mixture just isn’t frosting in my mind.

image of german chocolate cupcake frosting made with coconut and pecans

Regardless of what you call it, it’s the star of the show. It’s what gives this german chocolate cupcake recipe all its pizazz!! After a few rounds of recipe testing, I found that I prefer equal portions of shredded coconut and chopped pecans.

If you really want to pack this filling with flavor, I recommend toasting your chopped pecans on a parchment lined baking sheet for 5-7 minutes in a 350 F oven.

I shake the pan half-way through to help them brown evenly. It really takes the filling to the next level!

image of chopped pecans ready to be put into a german chocolate cupcake filling

Substitutions and Swaps – Chocolate Cupcakes

These German chocolate cupcakes use quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have all of them on hand. Or if you have food allergies or restrictions, I’ve got you covered.

Below are some swaps and substitutions that you can make:

  • Chocolate Chips – You can use milk, dark or semi-sweet chocolate to make these chocolate cupcakes! Just be sure it’s a good quality chocolate, so it will melt down smoothly.
  • Buttermilk – You can also use full fat yogurt, sour cream, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat) if you’re dairy free.
  • Instant Espresso or Coffee – This ingredient is optional, so if you hate coffee you can omit it. However, you can’t really taste the coffee once the cupcakes are baked! I just like adding a bit of coffee because it enhances the chocolate flavor.
  • All Purpose Flour – This recipe turns out best with AP flour, but you can use a gluten free flour blend (be sure to also follow my tips below) or cake flour if that’s all you have on hand.
  • Granulated Sugar – I do not recommend reducing the amount of sugar or changing the type of sugar, as it will change the texture of these cupcakes.
  • Vegetable Oil – You can use any flavorless oil in this recipe. Canola or sunflower oil would work great!
  • Eggs – If you have an egg allergy you can use 2 flaxseed eggs or 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce.
  • Vinegar – This recipe needs a bit of vinegar because it uses baking soda as a leavening agent. The vinegar activates the baking soda and helps the cupcakes rise. You can use white or apple cider vinegar.
image of german chocolate cupcakes

Substitutions and Swaps – Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) will work fine in this frosting recipe if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Vanilla Extract – Other extracts can also be used in place of the vanilla extract. Feel free to use coconut extracthazelnut extract, or even pistachio extract.
  • Cocoa Powder – If you’re out of cocoa powder, you can use additional powdered sugar in its place.
  • Dark Chocolate – you can use milk, dark or semi-sweet chocolate to make this chocolate frosting! Just be sure it’s a good quality chocolate, so it will melt down smoothly.
image of a german chocolate cupcake recipe made with chocolate cupcakes and a german chocolate topping

Tips for Making The Best German Chocolate Cupcakes:

  • Make your own buttermilk if you don’t any! Add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup of whole milk for every cup of buttermilk you need.
  • Be sure to properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better! Be sure you set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Mix your cupcake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cupcakes are tender and fluffy.
  • Amp up the flavor of the coconut pecan topping by toasting your chopped pecans on a parchment lined baking sheet for 5-7 minutes in a 350 F oven.
  • Constantly stir the coconut pecan topping as you make it!! Otherwise the egg yolks can scramble.
  • Use a small cookie scoop to add the coconut pecan filling onto each cupcake. It helps you add the exact same amount to each cupcake and makes it easy to spread it into a perfectly even layer.
  • One batch of batter can be also be used to make one 9×13 inch german chocolate sheet cake. Bake it at 325F for 33-38 minutes.

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try making this german chocolate cupcake recipe, I’d love to hear what think of it! Please leave a rating and let me know your thoughts by sharing a comment.

Also please tag me @chelsweets! Use the #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations on social media.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 12

German Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

image of german chocolate cake

This german chocolate cupcake recipe is made with moist chocolate cupcakes, decadent chocolate frosting and that classic coconut pecan topping we know and love.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Additional Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 13 minutes


Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (170 grams)
  • 1/3 cup milk or dark chocolate chips, melted (57 grams)
  • 1 tsp instant espresso or coffee (2 grams)
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour (98 grams)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150 grams)
  • 1/3 cup baking cocoa powder (32 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (3 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (2 grams)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature (114 grams)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (70 grams)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar (4 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)

Caramel Coconut Topping

  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk (125 grams)
  • 2 large egg yolks (36 grams)
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark (133 grams)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (56 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut (100 grams)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (125 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 1/4 cup (or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (56 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (2 grams)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (1 grams)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (62 grams)
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder (25 grams)
  • 3 Tbsp heavy cream (40 grams)
  • 1/4 cup melted dark chocolate, cooled (45 grams, 2 oz.)


Chocolate Cupcake Recipe:

  1. Begin by preheating oven to 350°F (175°C). Place 12 cupcake liners in cupcake pan.
  2. Add 3/4 cup buttermilk, 1/3 cup chocolate chips, and 1 tsp instant espresso powder into a heat proof bowl. Heat in the microwave at power level 8 for 1 minute or over a double boiler until the chocolate has melted.
  3. Whisk together until the ingredients have combined, making sure all the chocolate is melted. The mixture might look a little separated, but it will come together once you add in the dry ingredients.
  4. Sift 3/4 cup all purpose flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt into chocolate espresso mixture, and stir until combined.
  5. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a spatula.
  6. Add 2 large eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp vinegar, and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix just until the batter is smooth.
  7. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for about 18-19 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  8. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan before moving them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

German Chocolate Cupcake (Caramel Pecan) Topping

  1. While the cupcakes bake and cool, make the german chocolate cake (or in this case cupcake) filling.
  2. In a medium saucepan combine 1/2 cup evaporated milk, 2 egg yolks, 2/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 tsp salt.
  3. Cook the mixture over a medium heat, being sure to stir constantly until the mixture thickens (you don't want to the egg yolks to scramble!). This usually takes me 7-10 minutes. Test the mixture by dragging a rubber spatula through the mixture and against bottom of the pan. If it's ready, you should be able to see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds before the filling covers it.
  4. Remove the filling from heat and pour into a large bowl.
  5. Fold in 1 cup shredded coconut, 1 cup chopped pecans and 1 tsp vanilla extract with a rubber spatula. Mix until the coconut and pecans are fully coated in the mixture. Set aside to let the filling cool to room temperature.

Chocolate Buttercream:

  1. While the cupcakes cool make the chocolate buttercream. Beat 1/4 cup of unsalted butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. 
  2. Mix in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp salt on a low speed.
  3. Slowly add in 1/2 cup powdered sugar, followed by 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as need with a rubber spatula.
  4. Add 3 Tbsp of heavy cream half through adding in the powdered sugar to make it easier to mix.
  5. Mix in 1/4 cup of cooled, melted dark chocolate.
  6. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached.
  7. If the frosting is too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it's too thin, add in another 1/4 cup of powdered sugar.
  8. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula to get the frosting SUPER smooth. Place into a large piping bag fit with a Wilton 1M frosting tip.

Decorating These German Chocolate Cupcakes

  1. To decorate these german chocolate cupcakes, use a cookie scoop to add a generous dollop of cooled coconut pecan filling on top of each cupcake. If you don't have a cookie scoop, use a large spoon to add about 1 Tbsp of filling on top of each cupcake.
  2. Smooth out the coconut mixture with an offset spatula to create a flat, level layer of filling.
  3. Pipe a rosette on top of the german chocolate filling with the chocolate buttercream using a Wilton 1M piping tip, then enjoy!


This recipe can also be used to make mini german chocolate cupcakes! This recipe makes about 40 mini cupcakes, which only need to bake for 9-10 minutes.

These cupcake can be made in advance! If stored unfrosted in an airtight container, they can last for:

  • 2 days at room temperature
  • Up to a week in the fridge
  • Up to 3 months in the freezer

If you have extra buttercream you don't use, it can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container or piping bag for up to 2 weeks.

Leftover filling can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 446Total Fat 26gSaturated Fat 9gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 97mgSodium 392mgCarbohydrates 48gFiber 3gSugar 36gProtein 7g


Thursday 16th of September 2021

How would I convert this to make a 8” three layer cake? I can’t wait to try it!


Friday 9th of April 2021

I made these with Gluten Free flour with everything else the same and they were AMAZING!!


Monday 28th of December 2020

The “decadent “ description caught my eye & this description is under rated. Thank you for the video & the step-by-step instructions. Oh my goodness! Absolutely scrumptiously delicious, moist, rich & “decadent!”

Olivia Smith

Monday 28th of September 2020

How long does the filling keep by itself? Can I make the filling ahead and store?

Heather Klein

Friday 28th of August 2020

I haven’t made this recipe yet but I did notice it looks very similar to your regular chocolate cupcake recipe. It seems you only swapped out the water for the buttermilk. What is the purpose in doing this?

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