Earthquake Cake

I can’t believe it took me so long to try this recipe; and hopefully in years to come I’ll be serving it at potlucks, teacher appreciation events and Girl Scout meetings to make up for lost time. For now, I’m just glad I have a small “Earthquake Cake” to serve tonight.

Earthquake Cake

So what is Earthquake Cake? Well, some of you may know already. But if you’re late to the party like I was and had never even heard of this cake, it’s composed of layer of coconut, nuts, chocolate chips, German chocolate cake, and cheesecake. And making it is really simple. You just layer all the ingredients in the pan, bake, cool, chill and serve. Here’s a visual of stitched together photos. I just learned how to do this today, so they’ll be nicer looking in the future!

Earthquake Cake

As you can see, I made a half version (the recipe below is full, don’t worry) and used an 8 inch square metal pan. I also lined the pan so that I could easily lift the cake and cut squares. Of course if you’re serving this for an event, you’d probably want to use a nicer pan or maybe even a glass baking dish, in which case you should probably reduce the temperature by 25 degrees and bake a little longer. Either way, you get a pretty neat looking cake. The sides bubble up around the cream cheese mixture and some of the cake batter in the center puffs up into bumps.

Earthquake Cake

And here’s one final tip: Like a dummy, I started making this without checking to see if I had all the ingredients. Sure enough, I was completely out of confectioners’ sugar. Since I was making a half batch and needed about a half pound of confectioners’ sugar, I ground 1 cup of granulated sugar into a fine powder using my trusty old Mr. Coffee mill, then stirred in 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. It worked, and I didn’t have to drive all the way to the store for sugar.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Earthquake Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
An easy cake with layers of coconut, nuts, chocolate chip, German chocolate cake and cream cheese.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 24
  • 1 1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, softened (salted or unsalted okay)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 pound (3 3/4 cup) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 box German chocolate cake mix plus eggs, oil and water as called for on box
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rub a 9x13 inch metal baking pan thoroughly with butter. If using a glass dish, preheat to 325.
  2. Sprinkle the coconut over the bottom of the pan, then layer with the nuts and chocolate chips.
  3. In a medium bowl, using a hand held electric mixer, beat the softened butter, cream cheese, confectioners sugar and vanilla until smooth.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, using the same mixer (you don’t have to clean it), beat the cake mix and other ingredients called for on box (eggs, oil and water) until smooth.
  5. Pour the cake mix over the coconut mixture.
  6. Drop spoonfuls of cream cheese mixture over the cake mix and gently spread it to make one even layer. Don’t spread it all the way to the sides.
  7. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes.
  8. Let the cake cool completely at room temperature, then transfer it to the refrigerator and chill before serving. You can serve it chilled or bring it back down to room temperature after chilling, but chilling makes it easier to slice.


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  1. CindyD says

    Sounds like this should be called “A Little Bit of Everything Cake”. Can’t wait to try it!

  2. Denise B. says

    I’ve always served this inverted like an upside down German chocolate cake with the nuts and coconut on top. I’ve never chilled it first, but that would probably hold it together to flip it better. I’d always thought they called it an Earthquake Cake because it more often than not cracks and splits when I flip it and looks like it got shaken in an earthquake… But either way this cake is FABULOUS! It’s one of my favorites.

  3. says

    I’ve had this cake and it is so good. It’s sooooo rich. It’s one of those things I never make myself because I can’t stay away from it and don’t want it in the house. It’s great for potlucks where there is a greater calorie distribution.

  4. says

    One more thought. It’s also good with chocolate cake mix instead of the German chocolate. It’s a little less sweet that way.

  5. says

    Sue, I was wondering how it would be with regular chocolate cake mix. I think for my next shot at it I’ll follow the recipe as directed, but use the batter for Hershey’s Perfect Chocolate Cake or something like that. Denise’s comment is interesting because she mentioned she serves it inverted. I guess the early versions are inverted (hence the layer of coconut and nuts on the bottom) and the later versions are just served from the pan. What really surprised me was that the cream cheese layer was just the right sweetness. It was sweet, but I thought with that much sugar it would be overly so.

  6. says

    I’ve never seen it inverted but it s a good idea! I like the idea of making a home made version with a basic chocolate cake recipe.

  7. says

    Cool looking cake-I’ve never heard of this. I like the idea of using a darker chocolate cake since I’m not a German chocolate fan.

  8. olga says

    OMG… got to try this..
    can´t believe i started my diet today.. i wish i had seen this blog yesterday.

  9. LinC says

    Wow! This is a great dessert. I made it over the weekend to take to a cook-out, and it was a big hit. I inverted it as Denise suggested, lining the pan with parchment paper to guarantee a good release. I couldn’t find a German chocolate cake mix, so I used a Duncan Hines “Swiss” chocolate cake mix. (Have you noticed how much Betty Crocker mixes have been downsized?)

  10. says

    Lin, thanks for the review! I need to make it again using the inverted technique. Also, I’m glad to hear Swiss Chocolate worked well. And yes, I’ve noticed the downsizing across cake mix brands. Luckily, with this recipe you just follow whatever directions are on the box for making the batter.

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