Coconut Pecan Frosting
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read the disclosure policy.
Coconut Pecan Frosting is the finishing touch on German chocolate cake. This decadent filling and topping features a mouthwatering custard base with coconut and chopped pecans!
One of my all-time favorite desserts is layered German chocolate cake with this frosting as a filling and topping. Perfect for any celebration, backyard BBQ or whenever you have cravings. So let’s get started!
What Is German Chocolate Frosting Made Of?
German chocolate cake has a frosting made with butter, sugar, eggs, evaporated milk and vanilla heated over low-to-medium heat until thickened. Then shredded coconut and chopped pecans are added. This recipe was invented by a fellow named German at Baker’s Chocolate in 1957 and has remained popular ever since.
Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Chopped Pecans: You can use pre-chopped pecans or chop up pecan halves yourself on a cutting board.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is best to avoid getting a salty frosting.
- Granulated Sugar: This is your typical white sugar although you can use light brown sugar in a pinch.
- Evaporated Milk: You can use regular or low-fat evaporated milk as you like. Substitutes include coconut milk or heavy cream, although they will make the recipe even more decadent than it already is!
- Vanilla Extract
- Egg Yolks
- Coconut: Use coconut flakes or shredded coconut. I recommend unsweetened coconut, as the frosting is already quite sweet, although you can use sweetened if you prefer.
How to Make Coconut Pecan Frosting
The first step is to toast the pecans in the oven on a baking sheet. While strictly speaking it’s not necessary, the enhanced flavor is vastly superior and worth the effort.
Next, make the custard by adding the butter, sugar, evaporated milk and vanilla to a small saucepan. Whisk slowly over low-to-medium heat for about 5 minutes until dissolved completely. Then whisk in the egg yolks one-by-one until it starts to thicken into a custard.
The final step is to transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the pecans and coconut. It will still be slightly runny, but will thicken as it cools at room temperature in under an hour.
Tips for Making Coconut Pecan Icing
- Use unsalted butter: You don’t want a salty icing, so it’s best to use unsalted butter in this recipe.
- Cook over low-to-medium heat: If the heat is too high, the custard will curdle and stick. If the heat is too low, it could turn out grainy. Whisk over low-to-medium heat in a heavy saucepan.
- Cool completely before frosting: The frosting will be somewhat runny while warm, so let it cool to room temperature to reach a spreadable consistency.
How Do You Thicken Coconut Pecan Frosting?
Don’t worry if your coconut pecan frosting is a bit thin. Simply cook it a bit longer in the saucepan stirring continuously so more moisture evaporates. Alternatively, you can make a slurry of one teaspoon of cornstarch combined with one teaspoon of water. Then, stir it into the custard in the saucepan and let it bubble for a minute or two to thicken up.
The most decadent alternative to evaporated milk is substituting heavy cream directly. Healthier options include coconut milk or almond milk.
This frosting is perishable and must be stored in the fridge to avoid spoilage. Refrigerating also helps to maintain a thick and creamy consistency.
This frosting will last up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container. You can also freeze it for up to two months in freezer-safe bags or containers.
This usually happens when the granulated sugar does not dissolve completely in the saucepan. Try heating a bit longer and/or whisking more vigorously after adding the evaporated milk.
There are a number of delicious variations on the traditional recipe:
- Coconut Pecan Frosting Without Evaporated Milk: Swap evaporated milk for coconut milk or even oat milk or almond milk if you prefer. The flavor will vary slightly but still be delicious.
- Healthy Coconut Pecan Frosting: A few substitutes can make this recipe a bit healthier. First, you can use unsweetened coconut and low-fat milk. Second, you can substitute some or all of the sugar with stevia to bring down the calorie count.
- Coconut Pecan Frosting Without Eggs: You can actually omit the eggs altogether in this recipe. The frosting will be less rich but still be delicious.
- Coconut Pecan Frosting With Heavy Cream: Substitute evaporated milk for heavy cream for frosting that’s extra thick and creamy.
You May Also Like
Coconut Pecan Frosting Recipe
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, see note
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 12 ounces evaporated milk, 1 1/2 cups or one can
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 2 cups shredded coconut, or coconut flakes (unsweetened or sweetened)
Toast the Pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the pecans into a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Bake for 7 to 9 minutes until fragrant and toasted, stirring once or twice.
- Remove from the oven and cool completely for at least 15 minutes.
Make the Frosting Base
- To a medium saucepan, add the butter, sugar, evaporated milk and vanilla. Place over medium-low heat and cook for 4 to 5 minutes whisking constantly until fully dissolved.
- Whisk in the egg yolks one-by-one. Continue cooking for up to 10 minutes more, stirring constantly until the sauce has taken on a light caramel color and custard-like consistency.
- Remove from the heat and pour into a mixing bowl.
Finish the Frosting
- Stir in the coconut flakes and toasted pecans.
- Let the mixture stand until it has cooled completely and reached a spreadable consistency, about 40 minutes. Use as directed in the recipe.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is recommended, since salted butter will introduce an unwanted salty taste to the frosting.
Please read our nutrition disclaimer.