German Chocolate Brownies

Recipes » Brownies + Bars » German Chocolate Brownies

German Chocolate Cake is my dad’s favorite cake, so it holds a special place in my heart. But I don’t want to make the same cake year after year so I like to find ways to keep the classic flavor while changing it up to keep it interesting.

I always used to think that German Chocolate Cake was something that came to us from Germany, but it’s actually a specific type of chocolate named after Sam German. The cake was created using German’s chocolate by a woman in Dallas who published it in the local newspaper. Over time the name changed from German’s Chocolate Cake to German Chocolate Cake. German’s chocolate certainly makes a delicious cake, but this easy and delicious German Chocolate Brownies recipe might just be your new favorite!

top down view of the corner of a batch of german chocolate brownies topped with a traditional coconut pecan frosting. The brownies are sliced into squares. The bottom left brownie is the only one fully in the shot, and the brownie above it, to the upper right, and to the right are all partially in frame.

Why this recipe works

These German Chocolate Brownies keep the key elements of a German Chocolate cake but are richer and denser and fudgier (and more delicious!) than a cake. They are then topped with a gooey homemade coconut pecan frosting that is the traditional German chocolate frosting. While I love to use my Better than Box Mix Brownie recipe for every brownie base, I did not do that here because I did want to keep the key elements of german chocolate cake. This isn’t just a chocolate pecan brownie or a chocolate coconut brownie. German chocolate brownies have the tartness from the buttermilk and the sweetness of the German chocolate.

Ingredients and notes

Cocoa Powder, Butter, and Sugar – I’ve listed these three together because this is a substitution for German chocolate. If you are able to find German chocolate you can certainly use that, but it is not easily available everywhere, and these three ingredients are pantry staples that make a perfect substitution.

Milk and Lemon Juice – These two ingredients are a substitution for buttermilk. You can use buttermilk in this recipe if you have it, but it’s not something I generally keep on hand. I always have milk and lemon juice on hand which works just as well.

Coconut and Pecans – These two ingredients make up the classic filling and topping to german chocolate cake. We’re just putting it on brownies instead!

How to make this recipe

Brownies

Step 1

Grease or line a 9×13 pan and preheat your oven to 350 F.

Step 2

Melt the butter, then add cocoa powder and 1 cup of sugar over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the mixture resembles smooth melted chocolate, remove from heat and cool for about 5 minutes.

Step 3

In a mixing bowl, stir together eggs, espresso, vanilla, remaining 1 cup of sugar, milk, and lemon juice. Stir in melted chocolate mixture.

Step 4

Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix well.

Step 5

Pour into the prepared baking pan, and spread the batter around to edges. Bake at 350 F for approximately 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out clean.

Step 6

Cool completely.

Topping

Step 7

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except pecans and coconut, and cook over low heat until the mixture thickens.

Step 8

Remove from heat and stir in coconut and pecans.

Step 9

Let cool, then spread over top of the brownies.

Step 10

Cut into squares and enjoy!

angled view of a batch of german chocolate brownies that go out of frame to the left. The three farthest right front brownies are angled out of formation of the rest of the batch.

Recipe FAQs

How do I cut brownies without tearing them?

Especially with these brownies, you don’t want to lose the topping while you’re cutting them. The best way to get clean cuts is to use a clean, sharp knife. I use a large, very sharp knife, and I wipe the knife off between every single slice. Every time the knife goes into the brownies, it’s wiped down first. This helps keep the brownies from sticking to crumbs or batter or topping on the knife and gets clean and crisp cuts.

What’s the difference between brownies and chocolate cake?

The texture of the two treats, and the richness of flavor are the key distinctions. Brownies tend to be richer, more chocolatey, and denser than cake. Cake tends to be light and fluffy and airy.

What is the best substitute for the eggs?

I have not tested any substitutions with this specific recipe, however there are some general egg substitutes that you can try. 1/4 cup of applesauce or 1/4 cup of mashed banana can serve as an egg substitute. You can also make a flax egg or a chia egg by combining 1 tablespoon of flax seeds or 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. If you let it sit for a bit, it will take on an egg-like consistency. You can also get my free Substitutions Guide for more egg substitutions, and substitutions for many other standard ingredients!

Close up angled view of the corner of a batch of german chocolate brownies before the brownies have been sliced.

Tips & Tricks

  • Cocoa powder needs a hot liquid to dissolve. Heating it on the stove with butter and sugar will create a substitute for melted chocolate.
  • Make sure both the brownies and the topping are fully cooled before topping the brownies.
  • You can choose to top the brownies before you cut them, or after. I like to do it before for uniform sizing, but the topping spreads to the edges nicely so would work fine to top them after you cut them!

Related Recipes

Better Than Box Mix Brownies
Chocolate Cherry Brownies
Stout Beer Brownies
Bailey’s S’mores Brownies
Peppermint Mocha Brownies
Manischewitz Brownies

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German Chocolate Brownies

A twist on German Chocolate Cake, this chocolate brownie recipe is topped with a classic coconut pecan frosting.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy, kid-friendly, one bowl, quick
Servings: 25 brownies

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Mixing bowl
  • silicone spatula
  • 9×13 baking pan

Ingredients

German Chocolate Brownies

  • 3 1/2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups cocoa powder
  • 2 cup sugar divided in half
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt Diamond Crystal

German Chocolate Frosting

  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Instructions

German Chocolate Brownies

  • Grease 9×13 pan and preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan.
  • Add the cocoa powder and sugar and stir frequently until the mixture resembles smooth melted chocolate. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.
  • In a mixing bowl, stir together eggs, espresso, vanilla, remaining 1 cup of sugar, milk, and lemon juice. Stir in melted chocolate mixture.
  • Add flour, baking powder and salt, and mix well.
  • Pour into greased pan, and spread batter around to edges. Bake at 350 F for approximately 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into batter comes out clean.

German Chocolate Frosting

  • In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except pecans and coconut.
  • Heat over low heat till the mixture becomes thick.
  • Remove from heat and stir in coconut and pecans.
  • Allow to cool, and then spread overtop of the brownies.
  • Cut into squares and serve.

Notes

Make sure both the brownies and the topping are fully cooled before topping the brownies.

This post was updated in May 2021 with new photos, an updated recipe, and additional information about the recipe.

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