Coconut Cake (Triple Coconut!)

This Coconut Cake is a coconut lover’s dream!  It isn’t just a white cake with coconut frosting but is infused with 3 types of coconut for ultimate coconut bliss!

This homemade Coconut Cake will be the hit of Easter and every other occasion!  Its unbelievably light and tender thanks to a unique Baker’s Illustrated mixing method and is infused with coconut through and through.  It’s smothered in a thick cream cheese Coconut Frosting then cocooned in toasted coconut.  And the best part is you can make the entire cake beforehand and freeze it, then just pull it out a few hours before your Easter festivities for stunningly delicious, stress free easy Coconut Cake!

homemade Coconut Cake with a slice cut out looking at ceneter of cake with cream

Can you believe Easter is just around the corner?!  It falls on April 1st this year so it’s sneaking up on us which means it’s time to break out all those spring desserts!  When I think Spring desserts, I think Coconut Cake – yesssss!  As well as Coconut Banana Cream Pie, Lemon Blueberry CakeCarrot Cake with Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting, Strawberry Shortcakes, Blueberry Cheesecake Pie, Chocolate Covered Strawberries and on and on.  Bring on spring!

Top view of Coconut Cream Cake on a white cake stand with one piece cut out

Looking for More Easter Cake Recipes?

Now, are you ready for the Best Coconut Cake recipe you’ll ever try?  I can say that without being completely arrogant  – just confident –  because this recipe is slightly adapted form Baker’s Illustrated but with my own frosting.  And we all know Baker’s Illustrated knows their stuff.  They tested and tested using coconut milk, coconut cream and  cream of coconut and finally landed on this buttery, coconut flavored, easy moist Coconut Cake recipe that is the softest cake you will ever make!

I sent this Coconut Cake to work with my husband after photographing (which I, of course, regretted because I wanted to face plant into more Coconut Cake) and he said they devoured it in minutes with rave reviews.  And you will get nothing but rave reviews and people begging you for this Coconut Cake recipe.  So let’s get to it!

Piece of best Coconut Cake on plate stand being pulled away from from scratch Coconut Cake

How do you make homemade coconut cake?

Coconut Cake is wildly delicious and pretty straightforward but I’ve included some tips and tricks to make your life easier and to ensure you end up with the Best Coconut Cake humanly possible!

Prevent Sticking:  To prevent any sticking issues, be sure to generously grease and flour your pans as this is a very moist cake and will want to stick.  By using parchment paper in the bottom of our pans we eliminate much of that issue.  I personally am a big fan of cooking spray WITH flour and use this instead of buttering and flouring my pans and I’ve never had a problem with cakes sticking.

Don’t substitute cream of coconut.  We beat our egg, egg whites together in a medium bowl with cream of coconut, water, and coconut extract and vanilla extract.  If you aren’t familiar with cream of coconut, I have detailed it below.  DON’T be tempted to substitute it unless substituting with your own homemade cream of coconut.

Use a bowl/cup with a spout.  I prefer to beat these liquid ingredients in a medium measuring cup with a spout because we are going to be pouring this mixture into our dry mixture which naturally makes it way easier to pour.  It’s about 2 cups in volume so you can plan accordingly.

How to make easy moist Coconut Cake by whisking egg whites and cream of coconut in a measuring cup

Why Cake Flour?  We combine our cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer and mix on low to combine.  Cake flour helps us to achieve a light and tender crumb because it has less protein which becomes gluten, which means less structure which means a lighter cake.

How to make easy Coconut Cake by sifting cake flour into sugar in a large bowl

Make your own Cake Flour.  Cake flour can be found in the baking section of your grocery store with all the other flours.   If you want to make your own cake flour for this recipe then combine 2 cups all-purpose flour with ¼ cup + ½ tablespoon cornstarch and sift together.

Don’t microwave your butter.   We mix our butter into the flour mixture one piece at a time until it resembles coarse meal. It is important that the butter be softened at room temperature and not microwaved because we want the coolest butter possible while still being soft.

This mixing method differs wildly from the traditional method of creaming butter and sugar and is the same method I used in my pillowy soft White Cake With Cranberry Frosting.  This method comes from Baking Illustrated who conducted dozens of experiments to find the best mixing method.  They found that instead of creaming the butter and sugar as usual, if you work the butter into the flour and then whisk in the liquid ingredients, you don’t get an overglutenized cake that can be dry and riddled with small holes, but instead achieve a wonderfully velvety, soft, moist, tender cake.  And they were right.  Thank you Baking Illustrated.

How to make from scratch Coconut Cake by mixing butter with flour in mixer

Get rid of air bubbles.  Next, we divide our batter between 2 9-inch cake pans and drop on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles.

Don’t open oven door.  You will know your cakes are done when they have pulled away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Don’t be tempted to open the door while baking before 25 minutes as this can cause your cakes to fall in the center.

How to make easy Coconut Cake by making coconut frosting in the mixer with cream cheese, butter, cream of coconut and powdered sugar

Don’t microwave butter or cream cheese for frosting!  The frosting is pretty straight forward but one word of caution – use room temperature – NEVER MICROWAVED butter and cream cheese!  I used to wonder why my frostings were runny and then I read that you should never microwave butter or cream cheese for frosting –  and it has made all the difference!

 
How to make best Coconut Cake by frosting the top of the cake with Coconut Frosting
How to make easy Coconut Cake by frosting top and all sides with Coconut frosting
How to make simple Coconut Cake by frosting the top of the Cake with Coconut FRosting

How to thicken frosting.  If your frosting is runny for whatever reason, then you can stick it in the refrigerator to thicken up.  You can also mix in additional powdered sugar (and a dash of salt to balance it) but I would be very cautious about doing this as this can make the frosting overly sweet.

How to Make Coconut Cake by patting toasted coconut into coconut cake

How to Toast Coconut

Once our homemade Coconut Cakes emerge glorious from the oven and are cooling, we are ready to toast our coconut because every Best Coconut Cake needs toasted coconut!  The oven toasting enhances the coconut flavor and brings out the “nuttiness” which is a beautiful juxtaposition against the sweetness.

Toasting coconut in the oven is super easy and will fill your home with the sweet tropical smell of coconut! I prefer the oven method because baking sheets can hold much more coconut than skillets so you can spread the coconut out more evenly.  You also don’t have to babysit your oven toasting coconut as much – you just need to stir it a couple times.

  1. First, increase oven temperature from 325 to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place shredded coconut evenly on a large baking sheet (a jelly roll pan). If you don’t have a jelly roll pan, a regular size baking sheet will still work just be prepared that your coconut will take longer to toast.
  3. Toast coconut for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Take care to watch the coconut closely towards the end because once it starts to toast, it toasts quickly and can go from golden to burnt easily.
How to Toast Coconut for Coconut Cake

WHAT IS CREAM OF COCONUT VS. COCONUT CREAM?

This easy Coconut Cake is infused with cream of coconut.   I was first introduced to Cream of Coconut by my sister on my 30th birthday years ago.  She gifted me a basket overflowing with 30 of her favorite things and Cream of Coconut was one of them.

Cream of Coconut is not to be confused with coconut cream.  When you open a can of coconut milk (specifically full fat), you will notice the solidified cream that has risen to the top – that is Coconut Cream.  I use Coconut Cream in a few recipes such as my Coconut Honey Lime Shrimp and Red Velvet Angel Food Cake with Coconut Cream Frosting.

Cream of Coconut, on the other hand, is a sweetened version of coconut cream boasting an intense sweet coconut flavor.  In other words, you are going to want to drink this stuff.  It’s lusciously smooth and thick much like sweetened condensed milk.  Please do not be tempted to substitute it with coconut milk or coconut cream – the are not the same.

Cream of Coconut is most often used in mixed drinks and can be found near other drink mixers at your grocery store but does NOT contain alcohol.  If you have trouble locating it, just ask someone at the store as it is a very common ingredient.  There are both liquid and powered forms so just take care you get the liquid form.  I use Coco Real Cream of

Coconut in the convenient squeezable form.  And if you are looking for more uses of it, try a little stirred into your rice – AH-MAZING!

Best Coconut Cake on a white cake stand with toasted coconut

WHAT GOES BEST WITH COCONUT?

I kept this a straightforward easy Coconut Cake but if you are thinking of jazzing it up, then go for it!  You can add flavor to the filling in between the layers such as lemon curd, mango curd, raspberry filling, strawberry filling, pineapple, bananas etc.  You can even reserve about 1 cup of the frosting and mix it with the aforementioned flavorings or mix it with strawberry or orange preserves – the possibilities are endless!

Best Coconut Cake on silver plate with a fork

CAN YOU FREEZE COCONUT CAKE?

Yes!  Don’t you love a dessert you can make beforehand and freeze and simply pull it out a few hours before it’s time to dig in?  This method makes dessert time stress free for everyone – especially during the holidays.

To freeze your finished Coconut Cake:

  1. If you are planning on freezing, then prep/frost your cake on a freezer safe plate/platter.
  2. Place frosted Coconut Cake with coconut in the freezer until it is firm to the touch.
  3. Once firm, wrap tightly in plastic wrap then repeat with a second layer of plastic wrap. Next wrap tightly in 1-2 layers of foil until completely sealed.
  4. If you are freezing individual slices, then place these plastic/foil wrapped slices in a freezer bag. If you are freezing your entire Coconut Cake for an extended period of time, then secure the aluminum foil with freezer tape to prevent freezer burn.
  5. You can store your Coconut Cake for up to 4 months. You can also wrap and freeze unfrosted layers of Coconut Cake using the same method and frost when you need them.
  6. To thaw your finished Coconut Cake, remove cake from the freezer and carefully remove the plastic and foil. Allow to thaw for about four hours before serving.

up close shot of easy moist Coconut Cake with a fork of cake on a silver plate

Coconut Cake.  Dreams do come true.

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

homemade Coconut Cake with a slice cut out looking at ceneter of cake with cream

Coconut Cake (Triple Coconut!)

This Coconut Cake is a coconut lover’s dream!  It isn’t just a white cake with coconut frosting but is infused with 3 types of coconut for ultimate coconut bliss! This homemade Coconut Cake will be the hit of Easter and every other occasion!  Its unbelievably light and tender thanks to a unique Baker’s Illustrated mixing method and is infused with coconut through and through.  It’s smothered in a thick cream cheese Coconut Frosting then cocooned in toasted coconut.  And the best part is you can make the entire cake beforehand and freeze it, then just pull it out a few hours before serving for stunningly delicious, stress free easy Coconut Cake!
Servings: 16 servings
Total Time: 55 mins
Prep Time: 25 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins

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Ingredients

CAKE

  • 1 egg
  • 5 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup cream of coconut
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups plain cake flour sifted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons ( 1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter room temperature, cut into 24 pieces**

COCONUT FROSTING

  • 12 oz. Cream Cheese room temperature*
  • 8 tablespoons butter room temperature*
  • 4 tablespoons cream of coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 /2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups Powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Instructions

CAKE

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom of two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Spray with nonstick cooking spray WITH flour or butter and flour pans.
  • Beat the egg and egg whites in a medium bowl (or large measuring cup – preferably something with a pouring spout) with a fork to combine. Add the cream of coconut, water, and coconut extract and vanilla extract and beat with a fork until thoroughly combined
  • Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer at the lowest speed to combine, about 30 seconds. With the mixer still running at the lowest speed, add 1 piece of butter at a time and continue to beat until all the butter is added. Increase speed to medium to medium-high and continue to beat until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas (this can take several minutes).
  • With the mixer running on low, add approximately half of the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. With the mixer still running, add remaining egg mixture. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl then continue to beat at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds (batter will be thick).
  • Divide the batter between the cake pans and drop a few times on the counter to get rid of air bubbles. Bake at 325 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until the cakes have pulled away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean (don’t open oven while baking or cakes could fall in center.)
  • Cool the cakes in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes then loosen cakes from the sides of the pan with a butter knife then invert onto a plate or baking pan then invert back onto the cooking rack so the tops sides face up; cool to room temperature before frosting.

COCONUT

  • While the cakes are cooling toast coconut. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  • Add coconut to a large baking sheet/jelly roll pan and spread into an even layer. Bake at 350 F degrees for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally and watching closely towards the end as coconut can burn quickly.

Coconut Frosting

  • Using a handheld mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, cream of coconut, coconut extract, vanilla extract and salt at medium speed until very creamy, 1-2 minutes. Gradually add powdered sugar then beat until smooth. If frosting is too thick then you can beat in 1 teaspoon milk at a time until you’ve reached desired consistency. If frosting is too runny, then refrigerate until more set.

ASSEMBLE

  • Place one cake layer on cake stand or serving platter. Top this cake layer with a generous layer of frosting (approximately 1 cup) then place the second cake on top of it. Frost the top and sides of the cake. Press toasted coconut onto the top and sides of the cake.

STORE

  • If not serving immediately, frosted cake should be covered with an inverted bowl or cake cover and refrigerated. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.

Notes

*Cream of coconut is NOT coconut cream.  It is sweetened coconut cream that is often used in mixed drinks but does not contain alcohol.  You can find it with the mixers at your local grocery store.  It is a very common ingredient so if you can’t find it then be sure to ask for some help.
**These ingredients MUST be brought to room temperature and NOT microwaved in order for the frosting to be a success and not be runny.  If your frosting is runny then you can refrigerate to thicken up before frosting your cake.
****The Cake layers can prepared one day in advance. Let the layers cool completely then wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

How to Freeze Coconut Cake

  1. If you are planning on freezing, then prep/frost your cake on a freezer safe plate/platter.
  2. Place frosted Coconut Cake with coconut in the freezer until it is firm to the touch.
  3. Once firm, wrap tightly in plastic wrap then repeat with a second layer of plastic wrap. Next wrap tightly in 1-2 layers of foil until completely sealed.
  4. If you are freezing individual slices, then place these plastic/foil wrapped slices in a freezer bag. If you are freezing your entire Coconut Cake for an extended period of time, then secure the aluminum foil with freezer tape to prevent freezer burn.
  5. You can store your Coconut Cake for up to 4 months. You can also wrap and freeze unfrosted layers of Coconut Cake using the same method and frost when you need them.
  6. To thaw your finished Coconut Cake, remove cake from the freezer and carefully remove the plastic and foil. Allow to thaw for about four hours before serving.
 

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Adapted from Baker’s Illustrated Coconut Cake

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23 Comments

  1. Allison Paul says

    I just love your delicious recipes and looking forward to trying these scrumptious cakes. I love baking! Thanks for the detailed recipes, the vivid pictures and valuable info!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Allison for your kind comment! I am so happy you are enjoying my recipes and I am super excited for you to try this Coconut Cake! I hope you love it as much as us!

  2. Denise says

    I’m made your white cake with cranberries last Christmas and it was a huge hit so I was so excited to see this in my inbox! Can’t wait to make it for Easter!

    • Jen says

      Hi Denise, I am so happy you loved he White Cake with Cranberries, thank you! This uses a similar cake cake base (but with cream of coconut!), so I’m sure you’ll love it too!

  3. Camille says

    Hi Jen, I make it least two recipes of yours a week and I have never tried. recipe of yours I haven’t loved! I am not much of a baker so I really appreciate all your extra details in your post. I will dbe definitely be making this for Easter!

    • Jen says

      That is awesome you make so many of my recipes Camille! I’m so happy and flattered you are loving them so much – seriously made my day! I hope you absolutely love this Coconut Cake! Happy Easter!

  4. Natalie says

    The cream of coconut is genius! Can’t wait to make this!!

    • Jen says

      Cream of Coconut is my new fav – so magical and so many uses! I’m excited for you to make this Coconut Cake, I think you’ll love it!

    • Jen says

      I’m so happy you made it already! thanks!

  5. Rebekah says

    I just made this cake and it is delicious! I had to bake it at least 45 minutes though. Any idea why it would’ve taken that long? I measured everything super carefully!

    • Jen says

      I’m so glad you like it! Did you happen to use 8″ pans?

  6. A.J. says

    Can I add some sweetened coconut to the cake batter because I am truly a coconut fiend and have loved coconut for all my life as far back as I can remember so I wanted to know if coconut can be added to the cake batter and if so which would be the best way to incorporate the coconut in the batter ? Toasted or untoasted.

    • Jen says

      I think coconut in the batter would be delicious! I would use toasted 🙂

  7. Beth says

    This recipe sounded really good so I thought I would try it for my friend who loves coconut and asked me to make her a coconut cake. I saw in the directions where the batter would be thick. My batter wasn’t thick, It was about the consistency of regular cake batter, but slightly thinner. The cakes baked up kinds of flat (I did not open the oven during baking). the cakes also seemed kind of flat. Is that normal? Since I don’t work with coconut very often I have no idea if this was normal or not. Thank you. On another note, I delivered the cake last night, and my friend loved the way it looked. Hopefully she will love the taste as well, but no word on it yet.

    • Jen says

      Hi Beth, that was so nice of you to deliver the cake to a friend! I’m sorry but it’s hard for me to say if it was normal or not without seeing it.

  8. Beth says

    That’s okay. I understand. Under the frosting and coconut no one could actually see the cake. LOLI did hear back from my friend, and the cake as a hit! I’m definitely keeping this one.

  9. Patricia K. says

    Your recipe reads, I believe, incorrectly in step 4. It states–“With the mixer still running, add remaining butter mixture”. This should read add “remaining egg mixture” as all the butter is already in the flour mixture. Getting ready to try and had to read several times to understand.

  10. Shannon Zierden says

    Could this be made into cupcakes?

    • Jen says

      I haven’t personally tried it, but I don’t see why not – yum!

  11. Leslie says

    Jen,
    Does the finished cake need to be stored in the fridge?

    • Jen says

      Yes, I would store it in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving. Enjoy!

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