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This coconut cake recipe is light and fluffy with a light coconut flavor. It’s a delightful cake to make for a birthday dinner, or for no reason at all. If you love coconut, you will love this cake.

Coconut cake on a cake stand.

This is not a cake for those who are luke warm about coconut, and it’s definitely not a cake for those who tolerate coconut. This coconut cake is so loaded with coconut flavor that it is made for the true coconut lover. You, as I like to say, are my peeps.

The light and fluffy cake is flavored with canned coconut cream, coconut extract, and sweetened shredded coconut for a luscious, you guessed it, coconut flavor. Then, just to be extra, I topped it with a silky coconut frosting and more shredded coconut. It’s a coconut lover’s dream! And I’m pretty sure it’s the best coconut cake you’ll ever taste.

In addition to tasting great, it also looks beautiful. I mean, look at the pictures? It looks like a fluffy and delicious piece of art. And it is!

The cake batter itself is filled with coconut flavor from three different sources, so you know it is a coconut bomb! It calls for cake flour, cream of tartar and buttermilk, which create the most perfect texture and slightly tangy flavor that goes so well with the coconut.

And yet even with all this coconut, it’s not so overpowering that you can’t handle it. It’s definitely coconutty but I would say it has a light coconut flavor – we don’t go over the top with the extract. And the cream of coconut adds just the right amount of flavor without tasting like a Mounds Bar.

The frosting is just a regular buttercream – but instead of milk to even it out, we use cream of coconut and a little coconut extract. It’s similar to what I used on my pineapple coconut cake. It’s smooth, creamy and luscious and tastes so good.

Rather than mix the shredded coconut into the frosting, we’re going to basically pat it onto the cake after it has been frosted. This is a little bit of an extra step, but it makes all the difference in how the frosting looks – like a cloud of coconut! If you have little hands around the house, enlist their help.

You’ve probably noticed I am not one to shy away from coconut. My classic coconut macaroons are a favorite around here, and it’s not summer if I don’t make my coconut cream pie at least once. I love every single bite of this cake exactly as it is, but if you want to use this frosting with my chocolate cake instead of this coconut cake, I wouldn’t stop you.

Recipe Snapshot

TASTE: Coconutty and delicious – like vacation.
TEXTURE: Light and fluffy cake with a creamy frosting.
EASE: This is a cake for intermediate bakers.
TIME: It takes about an hour to make this cake.

What You’ll Need


The list of ingredients for this cake is not short, but it is well worth your trip to the market to get everything. You’ll love this cake.

  • Eggs – Separated, at room temperature.
  • Cake Flour – This gives the cake a lighter and fluffier texture.
  • Cream of Tartar – Look for this with the spices, it gives a tangy flavor.
  • Canola Oil – Or another neutral oil of your choice, for moisture.
  • Flavoring – Coconut extract and vanilla extract are called for here.
  • Butter – Sweet cream butter, always unsalted so you can control the amount of salt.
  • Sugar – The cake uses granulated sugar, the frosting calls for powdered sugar.
  • Leavening – This recipe uses both baking soda and baking powder.
  • Buttermilk – For tang. At room temperature.
  • Coconut Cream – This is canned, and you will find it in the canned goods aisle, and also with the Thai foods. It is coconut cream, NOT coconut milk. Read labels carefully!
  • Shredded Coconut – I used sweetened shredded coconut because I like the flavor better in both the cake and the frosting.
Overhead view of coconut cake with slices cut out.

How to Make Coconut Cake

This cake does require a little bit extra effort, but it is worth it. To begin with, you need to preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans, and place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and set them aside.

Make the Cake

  1. In a large bowl, add the egg whites and cream of tartar. Use clean beaters and beat on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
  2. In another large bowl, beat the sugar, butter, and oil together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then beat in the coconut cream followed by the buttermilk, coconut extract, and vanilla extract.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk and add it to the butter mixture. Beat just until no visible streaks of dry flour remain.
  4. Use a silicone spatula and fold in the shredded coconut. Fold ⅓ of the egg whites into the batter until well incorporated. Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the batter until no streaks remain.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Make the frosting

  1. Using a handheld mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add half the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the salt, coconut extract, and the coconut cream, one tablespoon at a time, beating on medium speed until fully incorporated and creamy. You may need more or less coconut cream depending on how soft the butter is.
  4. Turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.
Coconut buttercream frosting in glass mixing bowl.

Assemble the cake

  1. Place one of the cake layers on a serving plate, bottom side up. Spread ⅓ of the frosting evenly over the top.
  2. Top with the cake layer, top side down.
  3. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Gently press the shredded coconut into the frosting on top and sides of the cake.

Handy tip:

Set the cake stand over a baking sheet before you press the coconut into the frosting. That way, if any of it spills (and it will) it will spill into the baking sheet, so clean up will be so much easier.

Side view of coconut cake with slices missing.

Tips For Success

  • If you can’t find coconut cream, you can refrigerate full-fat coconut milk and scoop the layer of coconut cream off the top.
  • Make sure the butter is nice and soft – I like to leave it out for almost an hour before using it in the frosting.
  • The batter will be better if all the ingredients are at room temperature and not cold when you mix them.


Storage & Freezing

This is an easy cake to prepare in increments and store in the freezer until ready to assemble.

  1. Once the cake has been assembled, cover and store it at room temperature for up to 3 days. Or store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Bring it to room temperature just before serving.
  2. The frosted cake can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature just before serving.
  3. The frosting can be made 1 day in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Allow the frosting to come to room temperature for a couple of hours, then beat it with an electric mixer before using it.
  4. Wrap baked and cooled cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator. Assemble and frost the cake within 2 days.
  5. The layers freeze well. Wrap them tightly in two layers of plastic wrap followed by two layers of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Set on the counter to thaw for a couple of hours before using.

More Cake Recipes

Cakes are not just for birthdays or special occasions! I have so many delicious cake recipes – try one just because…

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Overhead view of coconut cake with slices cut out.

Coconut Cake

Yield: 12 serivngs
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

This is the best coconut cake you’ll ever taste! The light and fluffy cake is flavored with canned coconut cream, coconut extract, and sweetened shredded coconut, and then topped with a silky coconut frosting and more shredded coconut. It's a coconut lover's dream!

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 5 large eggs, separated, room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (114 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cups (270 g) cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) canned coconut cream
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 cup (90 g) shredded sweetened coconut

For the frosting

  • 1 ½ cups (340 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 cups (600 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 3-6 tablespoons canned coconut cream
  • 14-ounce (396 g) bag shredded sweetened coconut

Instructions

Make the cake

  1. In a large bowl, add the egg whites and cream of tartar. Use clean beaters and beat on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and set them aside. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, butter, and oil together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Beat in the coconut cream followed by the buttermilk, coconut extract, and vanilla extract.
  5. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk and add it to the butter mixture. Beat just until no visible streaks of dry flour remain.
  6. Use a silicone spatula and fold in the shredded coconut. Fold ⅓ of the egg whites into the batter until well incorporated. Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the batter until no streaks remain.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the frosting

  1. Using a handheld mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add half the confectioners' sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add the remaining confectioners' sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the salt, coconut extract, and the coconut cream, one tablespoon at a time, beating on medium speed until fully incorporated. You may need more or less coconut cream depending on how soft the butter is.
  5. Turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.

Assemble the cake

  1. Place one of the cake layers on a serving plate, bottom side up. Spread ⅓ of the frosting evenly over the top.
  2. Top with the cake layer, top side down.
  3. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Gently press the shredded coconut into the frosting on top and sides of the cake.

Notes

Make ahead tips:

  1. Once the cake has been assembled, cover and store it at room temperature for up to 3 days. Or store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Bring it to room temperature just before serving.
  2. The frosted cake can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature just before serving.
  3. The frosting can be made 1 day in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Allow the frosting to come to room temperature for a couple of hours, then beat it with an electric mixer before using it.
  4. Wrap baked and cooled cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator. Assemble and frost the cake within 2 days.
  5. The layers freeze well. Wrap them tightly in two layers of plastic wrap followed by two layers of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Set on the counter to thaw for couple hours before using.

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