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    Published April 7, 2023. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

    This homemade triple-layer coconut cake recipe with cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut is the ultimate go-to cake dessert. You won’t believe how moist and flavorful this cake is.

    Is there anything better than a tasty cake for a treat? In addition to this one, I often make my simple pound cake and funnel cake for quick, tasty sweets for the family.

    slice of coconut cake


     

    Coconut Cake

    Coconut cake is a classic Southern cake consisting of layers of coconut-flavored white sponge cake coated in cream cheese frosting and then covered in coconut flakes or shreds. The recipe for coconut cake was first recorded in the Mineral Point Tribune in 1869 as “cocoanut cake.” The early version of the recipe also used meringue as the icing but has since moved onto the more common cream cheese buttercream.

    This cake is incredibly moist and has just the right coconut flavor. Coconut cake is great to serve up during the summer months as the coconut flavor evokes a tropical feel. I personally prefer to serve this cake at room temperature so that the frosting is soft, which will immensely complement the flavors of the cake layers.

    Ingredients and Substitutions

    ingredients to make coconut cake
    • Flour – I used all-purpose flour for this coconut cake.
    • Cornstarch – This is used to help make the flour fluffier to emulate cake flour.
    • Leavening Agents – I used baking soda and baking powder to help leaven the cakes.
    • Butter – I always use unsalted butter in my cooking and baking so that I can control the salt content.
    • Oil – Any neutral-flavored oil will work. For the record, I used vegetable oil.
    • Coconut Extract – A little bit of this will help add some great coconut flavors to the cake and icing.
    • Coconut Shreds – Use sweetened coconut shreds for this recipe that will go in the cake batter and be used after being toasted on top of the icing.
    • Egg Whites – Use large cold or room temperature egg whites.
    • Coconut Milk – The full-fat canned version is what you will need.
    • Sugar – You will need both granulated sugar and confectioner’s sugar for the batter and frosting.
    • Cream Cheese – This is used for the frosting.
    • Salt – I almost exclusively use coarse sea salt in all my cooking and baking.

    How to Make Coconut Cake from Scratch

    Whisk the flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and coconut shreds until thoroughly combined and set it to the side.

    whisking flour and shredded coconut

    Next, cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, which takes about 5 to 7 minutes.

    creaming butter and sugar

    Add the coconut extract to the mixer, and then add 1 egg white at a time until it is thoroughly mixed in.

    adding egg whites to a mixer

    Pour in the oil. Stop and scrape the bowl.

    adding oil to a mixer

    Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the 1 cup of liquid only from the canned coconut milk beginning with dry and ending with dry, until mixed in on low speed. You should add the dry in 3 batches and the wet in 2 batches.

    pouring coconut milk into a mixer

    Distribute the batter evenly between three 9” cake pans with parchment paper that have also been greased with butter. Bake at 350° for 27 to 29 minutes or until lightly browned, firm in the center, and when sticking a toothpick in the center, it comes out clean.

    dividing coconut cake batter into pans

    Cool completely on a rack, which takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

    baked coconut cake

    With about 15 to 30 minutes left in the cake-cooling process, make the buttercream recipe.

    adding butter to a stand mixer

    Whip the softened butter, cream cheese, and coconut cream leftover from the can to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and whip on high speed for 5 to 7 minutes or until creamy and smooth.

    whipping butter cream cheese frosting

    Pour in the coconut extract, then add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time on low to medium speed until mixed in and completely smooth.

    adding powdered sugar to a coconut cake

    Ice the cake in layers until it is completely coated.

    icing a coconut cake

    Cover the cake entirely on all sides with toasted coconut.

    adding toasted coconut to a coconut cake

    Slice and serve.

    slice of toasted coconut cake

    Make-Ahead and Storage

    Make-Ahead: You can make this cake up to 1 day ahead of time.

    How to Store: Cover and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days. Place it in the refrigerator and cover it for up to 5 days. You can freeze this covered for up to 3 months and thaw it in the refrigerator for 1 day before serving.

    How to Serve: Pull the cake out of the refrigerator and let it sit for 1 hour at room temperature before serving.

    Chef Billy Parisi

    Chef Notes + Tips

    • If you have cake flour on hand, replace the all-purpose flour and cornstarch in this recipe with 3 ¾ cups and 3 tablespoons of cake flour.
    • Do not use coconut milk from the carton in the milk section of the grocery store. That will not work.
    • I highly recommend sprinkling additional toasted coconut to each slice when serving.
    • Try using the leftover egg yolks in my pasta carbonara.

    More Cake Recipes

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    Let's Cook - Chef Billy Parisi

    Video

    Coconut Cake Recipe

    5 from 13 votes
    This homemade triple-layer coconut cake recipe with cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut is the ultimate go-to cake dessert.
    Servings: 12
    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: 28 minutes
    Cooling Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

    Ingredients 

    For the Cake:

    • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 7 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
    • 1 packed cup sweetened coconut shreds
    • 1 ½ cups softened unsalted butter
    • 2 cups granulated sugar
    • 2 teaspoons coconut extract
    • 7 egg whites
    • ½ cup neutral-flavored oil
    • Liquid from 1 15-ounce can full fat coconut milk

    Instructions

    • Whisk together the flour, corn starch, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and coconut shreds until completely combined and set it to the side.
    • Next, cream together the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, which takes about 5 to 7 minutes.
    • Add in the coconut extract to the mixer and then add in 1 egg white at a time until it is completely mixed in.
    • Pour in the oil. Stop and scrape the bowl.
    • Alternate adding in the dry ingredients with the 1 cup of liquid only from the canned coconut milk beginning with dry and ending with dry until mixed in on low speed. You should be adding the dry in 3 batches and the wet in 2 batches.
    • Distribute the batter evenly between three 9” cake pans with parchment paper that have also been greased with butter. Bake at 350° for 27 to 29 minutes or until lightly browned, firm in the center, and when sticking a toothpick in the center it comes out clean.
    • Cool completely on a rack, which takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours.
    • With about 15 to 30 minutes left in the cake cooling process, make the buttercream recipe.
    • Whip together the softened butter, cream cheese, and coconut cream leftover from the can to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and whip on high speed for 5 to 7 minutes or until creamy and smooth.
    • Pour in the coconut extract then add in 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time on low to medium speed until mixed in and completely smooth.
    • Ice the cake in layers until it is completely coated.
    • Cover the cake entirely on all sides with toasted coconut.
    • Slice and serve.

    Notes

    Make-Ahead: You can make this cake up to 1 day ahead of time.
    How to Store: Cover and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days. Place it in the refrigerator and cover it for up to 5 days. You can freeze this covered for up to 3 months and thaw it in the refrigerator for 1 day before serving.
    How to Serve: Pull the cake out of the refrigerator and let it sit for 1 hour at room temperature before serving.
    If you have cake flour on hand, replace the all-purpose flour and cornstarch in this recipe with 3 ¾ cups and 3 tablespoons of cake flour.
    Do not use coconut milk from the carton in the milk section of the grocery store. That will not work.
    I highly recommend sprinkling additional toasted coconut to each slice when serving.
    Try using the leftover egg yolks in my pasta carbonara.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 572kcalCarbohydrates: 65gProtein: 6gFat: 33gSaturated Fat: 15gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 61mgSodium: 545mgPotassium: 126mgFiber: 1gSugar: 34gVitamin A: 709IUVitamin C: 0.001mgCalcium: 36mgIron: 2mg
    Course: Dessert
    Cuisine: American, southern