This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.
Featuring a made-from-scratch chocolate cake layered with coconut pastry cream and covered in coconut buttercream frosting, this Chocolate Coconut Cake is a true show stopper.
A Decadent Chocolate Coconut Cake
This decadent dessert features chocolate cake layers that are thick, dense, light, and super moist, all at the same time. In between the cake layers is a simple coconut pastry cream. Then, the entire cake is covered in my popular coconut buttercream frosting. It’s a lusciously silky texture that glides across the tongue.
This cake is no more complicated than a regular layered cake. The ingredients and instructions may look intimidating but it really isn’t that difficult to prepare.
The chocolate cake layer is my favorite chocolate cake to date. The flavor is intense! With melted baking chocolate and cocoa powder, it has a dark, rich color and taste – very similar to a brownie.
If all of this sounds like too much chocolate (is that possible?!), don’t worry – the chocolate overload is all balanced out by the coconut filling and silky coconut buttercream.
If you’re searching for a dessert to impress the guests, or you just love the combo of chocolate and coconut, this Chocolate Coconut Cake is for you.
If you love coconut, you might want to try my coconut cream pie and pineapple coconut cake.
If you’re not a fan of chocolate, give my plain coconut cake a try. It’s decadent and full of coconut flavor.
What You’ll Need
Don’t let this long ingredient list intimidate you – the majority of the ingredients appear on more than one list.
- All-purpose flour
- Baking soda – Only a small amount of baking soda is needed for this cake to rise.
- Salt – Enhances the other sweet flavors in this chocolate cake.
- Semisweet chocolate – You can also use bittersweet chocolate but I don’t recommend unsweetened. Be sure to use baking chocolate and not chocolate chips.
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- Eggs – Whole eggs and yolks are needed for various layers of the cake.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder – Gives the rich chocolate taste throughout the cake. You’ll want natural cocoa powder, not Dutch-processed cocoa.
- Unsweetened coconut milk – I love the flavor this adds to the cake. However, you can also use whole milk.
- Cornstarch – Helps thicken the filling.
- Coconut extract – Ensures there’s coconut flavor in every bite.
- Shredded coconut – Sweetened coconut is the best option for the filling and garnish.
- Coconut buttercream frosting – The frosting has just enough coconut flavor to enhance the flavors in the filling.
- Light corn syrup – This makes the glaze shiny but is completely optional.
How to Make Chocolate Coconut Cake
Read through the instructions before you begin so you are prepared for what’s to come. I recommend this with any recipe to avoid errors while in the middle of baking.
Make the cake batter. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring until melting and smooth.
In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Mix in the cocoa powder and melted chocolate.
Add half of the flour, then the coconut milk, and the remaining flour. Beat just until combined.
Bake. Divide the batter between 3 prepared cake pans, taking care to ensure the batter spreads all the way to the edges of the pan. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Cool completely.
Make the coconut filling. Simmer the coconut milk. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and extract. Slowly pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly.
Return to heat until thickened, then pour through a fine-mesh sieve. Stir in the butter. Place plastic wrap on top of the cream, making sure it is touching. Cool completely in the fridge, then stir in the shredded coconut.
Layer the cake. Place a cake layer on a serving plate. Spread half of the pastry cream on top. Top with another cake layer, then the remaining pastry cream and the final cake layer.
Add the frosting. Prepare the coconut buttercream according to the direction in the recipe, then spread over the top and sides of the cake.
Make the chocolate glaze. Melt the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a bowl over simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
Spoon ¼ cup of the chocolate glaze over the top of the cake then drizzle the remaining glaze along the edge so it drips down the sides. Sprinkle shredded coconut over the top.
If you love the look of drip cakes, you should see my chocolate peppermint cake. It’s a showstopper!
Tips for Success:
Before you jump into making this chocolate layer cake, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Make sure all cake ingredients are at room temperature. The batter will blend together easier when all ingredients are at the same temperature.
- Let the cake layers cool completely before you assemble the cake. The cake will crumble if you try to handle it before it’s completely cooled.
- In a pinch, freeze the cake layers.If you are in a hurry, carefully wrap the warm cake layers in plastic wrap and freeze them for 30 minutes to an hour to speed up the cooling process and make the layers easier to work with.
- Chill the frosted cake. I like to pop my frosted cake in the refrigerator for a few hours before adding the glaze. The warm glaze will set quicker when it comes into contact with the cold cake. This ensures those drips down the sides don’t run all the way to the bottom of the cake.
This chocolate coconut cake is perfect for a party or friendly gathering. It can easily serve 10 to 12 people, maybe more. I like to display it on a nice serving plate, to impress the guests just a bit.
Since this cake is so rich and has so many layers, you can cut the slices thinner than you would normally.
Can I Make This in Advance?
With recipes that have several parts that require cooling, I like to prepare as much in advance as possible, so I’m not spending hours just waiting for things to cool. Luckily, several parts of this chocolate layer cake can be prepared ahead of time.
- The cake layers will last in the fridge for up to 2 days before assembling the cake. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
- The cake layers can also be frozen for up to 2 weeks. Triple wrap in plastic wrap to avoid freezer burn. Thaw on the counter slightly before use.
- Both the frosting and filling can be prepared and refrigerated a day before use.
How to Store Extras
- How to store leftover cake. The fully assembled cake will last for up to 3 days in the fridge. Bring to room temperature just before serving.
- Can I freeze this cake? Yes, the frosted cake (without the glaze) cake be frozen for 2 months. Thaw in the fridge then allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
More Chocolate Recipes
Did you try this recipe? I would love for you to leave me a 5-star rating or comment. This way, I have a better understanding of which recipes you like and can create more of them.
Please take a moment to follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Youtube or sign up for my free newsletter to never miss the newest recipes and blog updates.
You can also shop my favorite baking tools. Thank you so much for your support!
I am in the middle of constructing my cake to mail to a child hundreds of miles away. I did freeze the cake layers last night, and I already prepared the (absolutely delicious!) filling — exactly as instructed, and refrigerated overnight. But today the filling has a very liquid consistency. I have not added the coconut yet, but what should I do about the filling? Will the coconut help? Do I need to start from scratch, or is there something I can do to save it? Thanks!
Did you cook it until it was thickened? It may take longer than 3 minutes depending on your stovetop. The filling should be a little soft like pudding, but it shouldn’t be liquidy. I’m afraid you’ll have to start over.
Could I do two 9-inch cakes instead of 3 8-inch?
Yes, that should be fine. You’d need to adjust the bake time slightly.
Made this cake for my 70th birthday – loved it & so did everyone at the party! I had just found a vintage cake stand, so it was pretty elegant, not my usual style, lol! I used 85% cocoa Lindt bars because most cakes are way too sweet for me. Worked well – VERY bittersweet chocolate flavor with sweet counterpoints in filling & frosting, bittersweet glaze. I always use half cream cheese, half butter for buttercream frosting – I find pure butter too rich & a little boring! I did have to stabilize the layers with 2 bamboo skewers while I frosted it – filling was maybe a little soft (should have left in frig longer) & I like a firm frosting, so I added just one T of cream. Wonderful cake!
To be completely honest in my review I must admit that I did not eat this cake. I cannot stand coconut so this was a labor of love for my husband’s birthday and for family members that love coconut. Their opinion of this cake? It was awesome! My niece said she was going to hide it in her room so no one else could have any.
This cake recipe may look intimidating with all the steps but it’s really not. I made the cake, pastry cream, and frosting the day before and refrigerated until I was ready to assemble. I did need to whip the buttercream back up because it had gotten stiff so I added a little more coconut cream and put it back in my mixer. I made the chocolate topping first, put the cake together, and by the time I was done the chocolate was ready to spread on top. Great recipe!
Hey there, can this cake be made without the pastry filling? Just the chocolate cake and the buttercream for the filling instead?
Of course. You may need to double the buttercream to have enough to fill and frost the cake.
I made this recipe for a friends birthday and it got rave reviews! The cake itself was light but moist and the filling was delicious as well. The sweetness of the entire cake is in the icing. I added coconut extract to the icing because my friend is a coconut lover and it was perfect. Thank you for this recipe!! Will definitely circle back to this in the future.
Is the canned coconut milk sweetened or unsweetened?
Use unsweetened coconut milk.
Do you ever toast the coconut for this cake.
I made it once and loved the cake so making again for my mother in laws 99th birthday She loves coconut!
Hi, Judy. I’ve not toasted the coconut for this recipe. Toasted will enhance the flavor but I’m not sure if the texture will be suitable for cake.
Coconut milk or coconut cream?
The recipe call’s for canned coconut milk.
I made this for my mom’s birthday to rave reviews. Due to the limitations of my kitchen I baked it in two 8″ pans and sliced each into two layers. To my amazement the cake stayed perfectly tender despite the longer bake time (and my oven’s sudden pilot light shenanigans). There was still *almost* enough filling to do three in-between layers instead of two; next time if I have the same constraints I’ll scale that recipe up a little. I made a 2/3 recipe of the buttercream and that was more than enough, even without scraping down the sides of the cake as instructed. I used coconut rum because I didn’t have extract, so the coconut flavor was mild (but still there and delicious), and Country Crock plant butter worked perfectly in both the cake and frosting. I will definitely try coconut cream in the frosting next time for the extra flavor. I skipped the chocolate glaze due to time constraints but decorated the top with toasted almonds instead. So keeping about 80% to the recipe produced 100% satisfaction! Thank you for sharing this!