The Best Coconut Cake Recipe

The most delicious, from scratch, white cake recipe is used to create this perfect Coconut Cake! Soft, moist crumb with a cream cheese coconut frosting!

Love coconut desserts? You MUST try our samoa truffles. Similar to the girl scout cookie, these truffles are packed with coconut, caramel, and chocolate flavor! Or give our coconut biscotti recipe a try!

Moist slice of coconut cake on a silver plate with a fork.


Why this Recipe Works

No matter the time of year, this easy coconut cake recipe is bound to be your new favorite layer cake.

  • Moist: whether you like that word or not, it describes the perfect texture of a cake!
  • Coconut Flavor: we’ve added coconut to the cake and the frosting. Want more? Use cream of coconut in place of the buttermilk!
  • Soft Crumb: by using just egg whites, you’re going to love this soft and tender crumb that still holds up to mega piles of frosting!
  • Coconut Frosting: using our favorite cream cheese frosting recipe, we’ve added coconut! You can use toasted coconut if you prefer.
Forkful of coconut cake with a slice on a silver plate.

Ingredient Notes

  • Egg Whites- for today’s white cake you won’t be using the egg yolks. No worries though, save them and make a batch of homemade lemon curd. FYI- my Lemon Coconut Cake recipe is the perfect solution for using that creamy curd.
  • Buttermilk- I originally was making this recipe with whole milk, because I never have buttermilk on hand. But now that I can make my own buttermilk substitute, I always use buttermilk in my white cake recipe!
  • Want more coconut flavor? Swap out the buttermilk for cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez). This is NOT coconut milk. Coconut milk brands vary in fat content and were not giving consistent results. The Cream of Coconut works perfect. Worried? Use buttermilk!
  • Extracts- I use a combination of vanilla extract and almond extract. If you’re able to find coconut extract, use that in place of the almond!
  • Cake Flour- don’t even try to use all-purpose flour here. You’ll get an entirely different texture of cake. Use my tips on how to measure flour for best results!

How to Make Coconut Cake

Using my white cake as a guide for today’s recipe, this was the perfect starting point. Be sure to follow directions carefully!

  1. Wet Ingredients: combine the egg whites with some of the buttermilk in a bowl. In a mixing bowl, beat room temperature butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and almond extract.
  2. Dry Ingredients: in a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  3. Combine: Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture. Beat in the egg white mixture and finally, beat in the remaining buttermilk. Fold in coconut.
  4. Bake: I use two 9-inch cake pans for this recipe. Use a generous amount of baking spray (this is the kind with flour in it, made for baking), or use parchment paper. You could also use homemade cake release.
  5. Assemble: Place one cake layer on a cake stand. Add a large amount of frosting to top and smooth with an offset spatula. Top with second layer of cake. Apply frosting to entire cake.

To add the coconut flakes or shredded coconut to the top and sides of cake, place cake stand on a baking sheet (to help catch excess coconut). Fill hand with coconut and press gently into sides of cake. Repeat until desired amount of coconut applied. ENJOY!

Slice of coconut cake on a silver plate with one forkful taken away.

Tips and Tricks

  • Start with room temperature butter and egg whites. The eggs are easier to separate when they are cold, then let your egg whites come to room temperature with the butter.
  • Use sweetened shredded coconut for best results! Feel free to toast the coconut for the outside of the cake if you prefer. Sweetened coconut is more moist than unsweetened, which helps today’s cake texture.
  • Cream Cheese– for the frosting make sure you choose block cream cheese, not cream cheese spread.
  • Try our coconut cupcakes for a portable treat!

Coconut Sheet Cake

Slice of coconut cake baked in a 13x9 with a bite removed.

Sometimes you don’t want to make a layer cake, but you also crave homemade coconut cake. In that case, make it in a 13×9. Same great recipe, just easier!

A few tips:

  • Be sure to grease and flour your 13×9 baking dish, or use our homemade cake release.
  • Bake for 35-38 minutes, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake as it tends to dry the cake out.
  • Use cream of coconut (not cocout milk) for more coconut flavor, to replace the buttermilk.

More Classic Cake Recipes

Coconut Cake Recipe

4.64 from 532 votes
By: Aimee
The most delicious, from scratch, white cake recipe is used to create this perfect Coconut Cake! Soft, moist crumb with a cream cheese coconut frosting!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 26 minutes
Additional Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 16 minutes
Servings: 16 servings

Ingredients 

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 5 egg whites room temperature
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

FOR THE FROSTING:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 package cream cheese, softened to room temperature 8 ounce
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut

Instructions 

FOR THE CAKE:

  • Whisk together the egg whites and 1/4 cup of the buttermilk in a small bowl until slightly combined. Set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts for 2 minutes on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Beat in egg white mixture until fully blended. Add in remaining milk and beat for 3-4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Fold in coconut.
  • Spray two 9-inch cake pans with baking spray. Pour batter into pans and bake in a 350 degree oven for 26-28 minutes. Remove and cool completely on wire rack.

FOR THE FROSTING:

  • Beat butter and cream cheese for 3 minutes using whisk attachment on an electric mixer. Add in powdered sugar and heavy cream. Beat an additional 4-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  • To assemble, place one layer of cake on a cake stand. Add a large amount of frosting to top and smooth with an offset spatula. Top with second layer of cake. Apply frosting to entire cake. To add the coconut to the top and sides of cake, place cake stand on a baking sheet (to help catch excess coconut). Fill hand with coconut and press gently into sides of cake. Repeat until desired amount of coconut applied. ENJOY!

Notes

  • Buttermilk- I originally was making this recipe with whole milk, because I never have buttermilk on hand. But now that I can make my own buttermilk substitute, I always use buttermilk in my white cake recipe! Want more coconut flavor? Swap out the buttermilk for cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez). This is NOT coconut milk. Coconut milk brands vary in fat content and were not giving consistent results. The Cream of Coconut works perfect. Worried? Use buttermilk!
  • Extracts- I use a combination of vanilla extract and almond extract. If you're able to find coconut extract, use that in place of the almond!
  • Cake Flour- don't even try to use all-purpose flour here. You'll get an entirely different texture of cake. Use my tips on how to measure flour for best results!
  • Start with room temperature butter and egg whites. The eggs are easier to separate when they are cold, then let your egg whites come to room temperature with the butter.
  • Use sweetened shredded coconut for best results! Feel free to toast the coconut for the outside of the cake if you prefer. Sweetened coconut is more moist than unsweetened, which helps today's cake texture.
  • Store frosted cake at room temperature in a cake saver. Or freeze leftover cake in airtight container for up to 3 months.
  • 13×9- bake cake in greased and floured 13×9 dish for 35-38 minutes. Frost as directed.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 527kcal, Carbohydrates: 82g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 45mg, Sodium: 231mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 62g
Course: Cake
Cuisine: American
Did you make this recipe?Mention @shugarysweets or tag #shugarysweets!


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About Aimee

Aimee is a dessert lover (specifically rice krispie treats), workout enthusiast, self-taught foodie, and recipe creator.

Learn more about Aimee.

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Posted on May 11, 2022

Comments & Reviews

  1. I’m not sure what went wrong but make the cake following complete instructions and the cake mix was sooo thick could not spread into a pan so had to thin it out. Anyway, had someone try it without frosting and it was hard and dense. Too bad looks great in photo but doesn’t taste good at all.

    1. I have had the same results. Batter was very thick and had to be spread with a spoon. I followed the recipe and checked it twice but the finished cake was so dense that it was difficult to cut. The only thing good about this recipe is the frosting. Scrape it off, throw the cake away and find another cake recipe that is light and moist!!

  2. 5 stars
    If your family doesn’t like overly sweet things, I suggest subbing at least half of the sweetened coconut flakes for unsweetened flakes. I also reduced the sugar from 5 to 3 cups. I got creative and added diced canned peaches in between the layer and oh my goodness it tasted like the most delicious tropical dessert! Give this recipe a try!

  3. Hi Aimee,
    I understand we are not supposed to whisk the egg whites stiff, but just mix slightly with some sourmilk or coconut cream . Is this correct?? so not stiff egg whites…?

    Thanks!
    Gaby

  4. 4 stars
    My son wanted this cake for his 15th birthday and helped me make it. We followed the directions exactly and although we had to bake the cake just a few minutes longer to get the cake to bake all the way through using the round pans, it was perfect. Until we tried to get the cakes out of their pans. They absolutely stuck and just fell apart like nothing I’ve ever seen before. So, because the cake crumbles and frosting taste so good, we’re just eating it that way. I’ve been baking homemade cakes since I was a teenager (like, 30+ years) and I’ve never had cake stick to a pan like this. If I ever make this recipe again, I will be using Crisco and flour or butter and flour, not a baking spray like I typically do.

    1. Possibly your baking spray was old and not fresh? I wouldn’t think this is the cake’s fault. Parchment paper in the bottom of the pans will work too.

      1. 5 stars
        Made this cake for Thanksgiving. It was a hit! So good!
        Our Granddaughter asked could she take the third that was left home with her. Thank you for a great recipe!

    2. Just curious about your suggestion to not use all purpose flour? I live in a high altitude and cake flour never seems to work well for me. I have used all purpose flour for other cakes and they have turned out just fine. Suggestions?

      Thanks.

  5. 5 stars
    My husband’s all time favorite cake is Coconut Cake so I tried this cake for Fathers Day and it was a HUGE success, hubby loved it, thanks for sharing the recipe.

  6. 4 stars
    Made this cake and no offense at all, but the texture is super weird and the centers sank. It also stuck to the pan and I ended up throwing the cake right in the garbage. I did the directions TO A TEE and it didn’t turn out. I make cakes alll the time and will not be making this one again.

  7. Those of us who like coconut loved it ,but I have a lot of people in my family who don’t like coconut and I wondered if you ever tried it without the coconut? I loved the cake flavor so much wondered if it is as good without the coconut, is texture the same?

    1. I made the cake without the coconut and it is great. Just taste the batter. But I did everything exactly the same, left the coconut out and it turned out perfectly.

  8. I had a taste for coconut cake and my mom loves it, so I made this. The cake texture was perfect and the frosting is also great—not too sweet because of the cream cheese. I would strongly recommend the suggestion to use coconut milk and extract—otherwise this is basically a vanilla cake with coconut on it. While delicious, it’s not very coconut-y.

  9. 5 stars
    This is a great recipe! Everyone loved it..I added 1 tsp of coconut extract to the frosting which gave it more flavor.

  10. I made your coconut cake recipe for Easter 2023. I have three teenage grandchildren. Who are my taste testers? They give us cake an10 as to all the adults that alttended our Easter dinner. Personally, I have never tasted a better coconut cake Beyond delicious. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  11. I found this cake to be too sweet. Is there an adjustment for the sugar so it will still have the proper texture. I read the advice about unsweetened coconut.

    1. I just made this cake for my sons birthday using 3 cups of powdered sugar instead of 5 for the frosting and also substituted half of the sweetened coconut flakes for unsweetened both for the recipe and the frosting and it came out absolutely perfect. Not too sweet. I knew it would be too sweet for my family otherwise, everyone loved it with the adjustments I made.

  12. 5 stars
    This cake was great! The only thing I changed was to sift the dry ingredients before adding them to the mixer. The flavor of the cake was incredible and I didn’t find it to dense. It baked up light and fluffy. There was plenty of frosting to cover the cake. I will be making this again for sure.

  13. I just saw a memory from five yrs ago I made this cake for Easter.. Coconut is my husband’s favorite…we don’t have it very often but this turned out perfect. I even colored the coconut on top green for grass and put jellybeans on top and
    pink and yellow marshmallow bunny peeps ournd the side.. The Grandkids loved the presentation, the peeps and jellybeans… the coconut not so much. 😃 Oh well!!

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