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 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.
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 / 175 C oven.
I shake the pan half-way through to help them brown evenly. It really takes the filling to the next level!
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 if needed.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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! 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 also be used to make one 9×13 inch German chocolate sheet cake. Bake it at 325 F / 163 C 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 you think of it! Please leave a rating and comment below.
Don’t forget to tag me @chelsweets and use #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations on social media.
Other Recipes You Might Like:
- 3/4 cup buttermilk (180g)
- 1/3 cup milk or dark chocolate chips (60g)
- 1 tsp instant espresso or coffee (2g)
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour (98g)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150g)
- 1/3 cup baking cocoa powder (30g)
- 1/2 tsp baking soda (3g)
- 1/2 tsp fine salt (2g)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature (112g)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil (75g)
- 1 tsp white vinegar (4g)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
Caramel Coconut Topping
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk (125g)
- 2 large egg yolks (36g)
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark (133g)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (56g)
- 1/2 tsp fine salt (3g)
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut (100g)
- 1 cup chopped pecans (125g)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
- 1/4 cup or 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature (56 grams)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (2g)
- 1/4 tsp fine salt (1g)
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar (62g)
- 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder (22g)
- 3 Tbsp heavy cream, room temperature (45g)
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate, melted and cooled (6045g)
Chocolate Cupcake Recipe:
- Begin by preheating oven to 350°F / 175°C. Place 12 cupcake liners in cupcake pan.
- 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. Don't worry if the buttermilk separates a little after it's heated!
- Whisk together until the ingredients are combined and all the chocolate is melted. The mixture might look a little separated, but it will come together once you add in the dry ingredients.
- 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. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a spatula.
- Add 2 large eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp vinegar, and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix until the batter is smooth.
- Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
- Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan before moving them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
German Chocolate Cupcake (Caramel Pecan) Topping
- While the cupcakes bake and cool, make the German chocolate cake (or in this case cupcake) filling.
- 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.
- Cook the mixture over a medium heat. 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 center 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.
- Remove the filling from heat and pour into a large bowl.
- Fold in 1 cup of 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 Frosting
- While the cupcakes cool, make the chocolate buttercream. Beat 1/4 cup of unsalted butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a hand mixer until smooth.
- Mix in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp salt on a low speed.
- Slowly mix in 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder, and 3 Tbsp heavy cream on a low speed. Scrape the side and bottom of the bowl as need with a rubber spatula.
- Mix in 1/4 cup of cooled, melted dark chocolate.
- Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached.
- If the frosting seems too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it's too thin, add in another 1/4 cup of powdered sugar.
- 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
- 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.
- Smooth out the coconut mixture with an offset spatula to create a flat, even layer.
- Pipe a rosette on top with the chocolate buttercream using a Wilton 1M piping tip, then enjoy!
Making Mini German Chocolate Cupcakes
If you want to make mini German chocolate cupcakes, this recipe can be baked in mini muffin tins! It makes about 40 mini cupcakes, and they only need to bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 F / 175 C.
Tips for Making the Best German Chocolate Cupcakes
- Ingredients at room temp mix together better. Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
- Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure and then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
- Once you add the flour, mix your cupcake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cupcakes are tender and fluffy.
- Use a large cookie scoop to easily fill your cupcake liners. It also makes sure your cupcakes end up being the same height.
- Bang your cupcake pan on the counter before putting it in the oven. This brings any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface.
- Seal off the top of your piping bag with a rubber band to prevent any frosting from seeping out the top of the bag and make the piping bags easier to use.
German Chocolate Cupcake Variations
To make gluten free German chocolate cupcakes, swap in your favorite gluten free flour blend for the AP flour this recipe calls for and be sure to over-mix your batter and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before baking for best results.
Making This German Chocolate Cupcake Recipe in Advance & Storage Tips
You can make these cupcakes in advance! Frosted cupcakes can sit at room temperature for a few hours or be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days if stored in an airtight container. However, they taste best when they're freshly baked!
These cupcakes can also last up to a month in the freezer. If you plan to freeze them, I suggest waiting to fill and frost them until they're thawed.
You can also make your buttercream ahead of time or save any leftovers. The buttercream frosting will last in the fridge for up to a month.
Be sure to give the frosting a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
You can also store buttercream in piping bags in the fridge. I find they keep their consistency well in piping bags and don't require any mixing after they've thawed.
Amount Per Serving Calories 470Total Fat 29gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 16gCholesterol 107mgSodium 390mgCarbohydrates 47gFiber 3gSugar 36gProtein 7g