Dark Chocolate Devil's Food Cupcakes topped with a generous spoonful of rich, caramel German Chocolate topping packed with toasted pecans and coconut, and covered in a drizzle of chocolate ganache.
Want to make a layer cake instead of cupcakes? Get the recipe for German Chocolate Cake.
When I was a little girl, my Grandma made a salad that had sweetened dried coconut in it, and (as I've been told), I pushed it aside and said, "Grandma, I don't like those lines."
I like shredded coconut more than I used to as a child, but am generally still pretty picky about it. I still don't like it in any kind of salad. But, I have found that I love it toasted and sprinkled over a bowl of curry (Cauliflower and Chickpea is my favorite). And, I can't resist a good Coconut Cake.
And pecans... well, I'd much rather have almonds. Or peanuts. Or pistachios. Or any kind of nut, really, other than pecans. So, you'd think that German Chocolate Cake, with its caramel pecan and coconut topping, isn't something I would like. And yet, I do. I REALLY do.
Taste buds are fickle friends. Suffice to say, not being a German Chocolate Cake connoisseur, a lot of R & D has gone into this recipe. I have made these cupcakes for many, many German Chocolate Cake lovers, not daring to click "publish" without their approval. The winning recipe includes a sinfully rich dark chocolate cake and a filling that's crunchy and sweet, and heavy on the caramel.
The Cake: Devil's Food for the Win
In working through version after version of this recipe, I realized quickly that even though the chocolate-pecan-coconut topping makes German Chocolate Cake what it is, a good cupcake is still all about the cake. No matter how good the German Chocolate topping, it can not make up for mediocre, bland, dry cake.
So, this recipe begins with my favorite Devil's Food Cake batter. I love this chocolate cake recipe so much because:
- It’s so rich and fudgy that it blurs the line between chocolate cake and brownies.
- It produces layers of cake that bake up perfectly flat and stackable.
- The velvety crumb practically melts in your mouth, and yet…
- It’s sturdy enough to stack up to every imaginable filling and frosting.
How to Make the Best German Chocolate Cupcake Topping:
- Toast the pecans and don’t add them until right before assembly,
- Use all dark brown sugar for maximum caramel deliciousness, and
- Let the filling simmer until it’s rich and thick enough to not run off the top of the cupcakes
Toasting the pecans brings out their flavor and contributes depth and complexity to the filling that you just can’t get if you leave the nuts raw. Wait to add them to the filling until right before you assemble the cake so that they retain their crunchy texture.
After testing multiple batches with a variety of white sugar to brown sugar ratios, I found that I much prefer all dark brown sugar to any other option. The molasses in brown sugar gives the filling a wonderful caramel flavor that is delicious with the toasted pecans and coconut. I felt that adding any proportion of white sugar just diluted the effect.
Finally, be sure to let the filling simmer for a few minutes so that it thickens up. Many German Chocolate Cake recipes tell you to bring the filling to a simmer and then stop cooking it, but this results in a runny filling that doesn’t hold up well in-between stacked layers of cake. Letting the filling simmer for a bit will ensure that it’s thick enough to hold its own and stay put on top of your cupcakes.
Don't Forget the Chocolate Ganache
Chocolate ganache makes a kind of chocolate sandwich of your German Chocolate Cupcake - Dark Chocolate Devil's Food cake on one side, rich Chocolate Ganache on the other, caramel and pecans and coconut in the center. How could that ever not be positively delicious???
Making chocolate ganache is a piece of cake (😂). Equal parts chocolate and heavy cream = silky smooth chocolate sauce perfect for drizzling over the top of German Chocolate Cupcakes.
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
German Chocolate Cupcakes
Want to make a layer cake instead of cupcakes? Get the recipe for German Chocolate Cake.
Dark Chocolate Devil's Food Cupcakes are topped with a generous spoonful of rich, caramel German Chocolate topping packed with toasted pecans and coconut, and covered in a drizzle of chocolate ganache.
For the Devil's food Cupcakes:
- ½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder (*see note)
- 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 1 ¼ cup boiling water
- 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs + 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
For the German Chocolate Toping:
- 4 large whole eggs
- 12-ounces evaporated milk
- 1 ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into six pieces
- 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 ⅓ cups sweetened shredded coconut, divided (reserve 1 cup for sprinkling over the tops of the cupcakes)
- 1 ¾ cups pecans, toasted and chopped into pieces about the size of a pea (*see note for instructions on toasting pecans)
- 1 recipe Chocolate Ganache
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Fill a couple of cupcake pans with paper liners. Spray the top of the pan lightly with non-stick spray. (*See note)
- Add the cocoa powder, chopped unsweetened chocolate, and espresso powder to a bowl. Pour the boiling water in and whisk until smooth. Set aside
- In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, oil, and light brown sugar, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a time or two, until it looks fluffy and lightened in color, 4-5 minutes.
- Add the whole eggs one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the three egg yolks. Beat until the yolks are fully incorporated into the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
- Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until the batter is smooth and homogenous, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary, about 60 seconds.
- Add the chocolate and flour mixtures in alternating additions: ⅓ of the flour, ½ of the chocolate, ⅓ of the flour, ½ of the chocolate, ⅓ of the flour. After each addition, beat on low speed just long enough to barely incorporate. Be careful to not overbeat.
- Give the batter one final stir with a spatula to fully incorporate all ingredients and distribute the batter amongst the prepared cupcake pans, filling the cavities about ¾ full.
- Bake the cupcakes for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 15 - 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cupcakes comes out without any visible cake batter.
- Remove the pans from the oven and set them on wire racks. Allow the cupcakes to rest in their pans for 5-10 minutes, then gently lift them out onto the wire racks and allow to cool completely.
- Crack the eggs into a medium size saucepan and whisk to combine. Slowly pour in the evaporated milk, whisking it into the eggs as you pour. Add the brown sugar and salt and whisk to combine.
- Add the butter and set the pan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the filling is slightly thickened about 6-8 minutes.
- Pour the filling into a bowl and stir in the vanilla and 2 ⅓ cups of the shredded coconut. Let cool to room temperature then cover and refrigerate until completely cool – at least 2 hours, and up to 3 days.
- Follow this recipe to make chocolate ganache.
- Top each cupcake with a generous spoonful of German Chocolate Topping then drizzle chocolate ganache over the top. Sprinkle with reserved shredded coconut.
- These cupcakes are best the day they are assembled; however, each of the components - the cupcakes, German Chocolate topping, and ganache - can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Store leftover cupcakes in the refrigerator in a covered container.
Make the Cupcakes:
Make the Topping:
Make the Ganache and Assemble the Cupcakes:
- Why use Dutch Process Cocoa? In chocolate cakes that call for acidic ingredients – like the unsweetened chocolate, baking powder, espresso, brown sugar, and sour cream in this recipe – Dutch Processed works best because, unlike natural cocoa powder, it’s gone through a process to neutralize its acidity. In this recipe, using Dutch-processed cocoa powder means we can add enough to get a super rich chocolate flavor without overdoing the amount of acid in the batter.
- Even if you're using a non-stick cupcake pan, I encourage you to spray the top of the pan lightly with non-stick spray. This Devil's Food Cake recipe is rich and fudgy, and you don't want the tops of the cupcakes sticking to the top of the pan.
- To Toast Pecans: Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dump the pecans onto the sheet, spreading them out into an even layer. Toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until they are a rich brown and smell super fragrant. *Watch them carefully. They burn easily.
- Chocolate Ganache will thicken up as it cools, so if it's too runny, simlply let it sit out on the conter, or pop it in the refrigerator until it's the consistancy you want it to be. If allowed to cool completely, it will become quite thick - too thick to pour. To reheat, simply place the bowl over a small saucepan filled with an inch or two of simmering water. Allow the steam to gently heat the ganache while you stir.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 30 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 358Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 89mgSodium: 258mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 3gSugar: 25gProtein: 6g
Rebecca Blackwell says
The topping is definitely softer than traditional German Chocolate cake, Liz. I like it better - but wouldn't recommend it for a regular cake, unless you were just adding it to the top of a one layer cake. For cupcakes it's perfect. Some of it will soak into the cupcakes - and you're right. It just adds a bit more flavor and moisture. Thanks for dropping me a line and I hope you try it! xo
Rebecca Blackwell says
Hi Angel! The reason I suggest putting the topping on the cupcakes right before serving them is because the topping is softer than most other german chocolate topping recipes and will start to drip down the sides of the cupcakes if they sit out for a while. This won't affect the flavor at all, and if you put the topping on the cupcakes and then stored them in the refrigerator over night, they would be fine. The thing I love most about the topping is how flavorful and rich it is without being super sweet. Most german chocolate frostings have a lot more sugar - making it possible to frost a cake without it dripping down the sides. I wanted the topping for these cupcakes to be a lot less sweet with a dark chocolate flavor. Since the topping here is just piled on top of the cupcakes, the thinner consistency works.
So, all that to say, I think you have 2 options: 1. Assemble them the night before and just keep them in the refrigerator. 2. Present the topping alongside the cupcakes at work and allow your co-workers to scoop as much or as little onto their cupcake as they like. This might be the most appealing option because the cupcakes are delicious all on their own. If any of your coworkers aren't a fan of coconut or pecans, this allows them to enjoy a cupcake without the topping.
Regardless of what you choose to do, please drop me a line and let me know how you like the recipe! xoxo