This Coconut Cake is fluffy and moist, completely made from scratch, and easier than you think! It's made with shredded sweetened coconut, coconut extract, and coconut milk to give you the best coconut flavor. It's also decorated with a coconut cream cheese frosting too, making it perfect for special occasions, birthdays, and holidays!
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Coconut hasn't always been one of my favorite cake flavors. Too many are dry or overly sweet or not coconutty enough. I was often left unimpressed and underwhelmed.
But this easy coconut cake recipe changed all that for me. It takes the proverbial cake, if you will.
That fresh, tropical, sweet coconut flavor is the undisputed star of this show and it's front and center without being artificial or sunscreen-y in any way. It comes from adding coconut to every part of the cake in a few different forms, including using canned coconut milk in place of regular dairy milk or buttermilk that you might see in other recipes.
This recipe has been well-tested many times over to make sure it turns out perfect for you from the very start. It's perfect for any kind of celebration, from a birthday party to a bridal shower to Easter dinner. Enjoy it just as it is written, or try filling it with my Raspberry Cake Filling, Easy Homemade Lemon Curd, or Homemade Cherry Pie Filling to create another entirely delightful dessert!
Why We Love This Recipe
- The sweet flavor of coconut is undeniably the star of the show.
- Making celebration cakes from scratch gives you the best flavors, hands down!
- You can use the cake recipe as a base and change the frosting or add fillings for a totally different flavor profile.
What You'll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Butter - Use salted butter for cake layers and the frosting to add essential fats and enhance the flavor throughout.
- Oil - Helps keep the cake super moist. I will often combine oil & butter in recipes when I want the best of both worlds in terms of flavor and moistness.
- Sugar - White granulated sugar will make the cake layers perfectly sweet.
- Eggs - A combination of whole eggs and egg whites gives a fluffy texture, richness, and lovely light color to the cake.
- Vanilla Extract - While it's not the prevailing flavor here, adding some vanilla extract balances out the other flavors. If you haven't tried making Homemade Vanilla Extract, it's fantastic for the cake layers and the frosting.
- Coconut Extract - To enhance the coconut flavors in the cake layers and the frosting. I kept the amount as small as possible to not overwhelm the natural coconut flavor.
- Flour - I've found that cake flour works best in this recipe, although you can certainly make it with all-purpose flour if you are in a pinch. It won't be quite as delicate and light, but it's almost just as good.
- Baking Powder - A perfect rising agent for this cake crumb to be perfectly fluffy and light.
- Salt - To enhance all the flavors of this cake. Add a bit more to the cake layers and the frosting if you're using unsalted butter.
- Coconut Milk - To make the cake batter and frosting the right consistency. You can use regular milk or heavy cream instead, but you will miss out on some of the additional coconut flavor.
- Shredded Sweetened Coconut - The star of the show is this shredded sweetened coconut, giving the chewy texture on the outside with a wonderful tropical flavor!
- Cream Cheese - For the base of the coconut cream cheese frosting. The tanginess of this ingredient pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the other cake elements.
- Powdered Sugar - To make the frosting sweet and add some substance to it.
How to Make Coconut Cake From Scratch
- Make cake batter. Beat butter, oil, and sugar in a large mixer on high speed for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs, egg whites, vanilla extract, and coconut extract. Beat well for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl partway through.
- Add flour mixture. Whisk cake flour, baking powder, and salt in another bowl to combine. Add half of the flour mixture and mix to combine.
- Add coconut milk. Add half of the coconut milk, mix to combine. Add the remaining flour mixture and coconut milk, mixing after each addition to combine.
- Add coconut. Lastly, stir in the shredded sweetened coconut.
- Bake layers. Evenly divide the batter between the three prepared pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes until done. Dry crumbs should cling to a toothpick when inserted into the center of each cake. Cool completely on a wire rack as you make the frosting (see the recipe card for instructions).
- Assemble the cake. Level the tops of the cake layers if needed so they are flat, but I have found that as long as I start with room temperature ingredients I almost never have to deal with domed cake layers for this recipe. Set the bottom layer on a cake stand. Spread a generous amount of frosting in an even layer on top of the first layer. Add the next two cake layers, repeating the process with the frosting. Lastly, frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
- Decorate with coconut. Press coconut into the whole outside of the cake using your hands until it's completely covered. It helps to do this over a baking sheet or clean surface so you can pick up the shredded coconut as it falls and reuse it since it won't all stick to the frosting the first time and you might have to go over it a bit to get even coverage.
Of course! Toasted Coconut has a drier texture than shredded sweetend coconut, but if you prefer this, you can use it in the cake batter, the frosting, or both.
Store this cake in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. Even though we've used a cream cheese frosting, the sugar will help preserve it on the counter. For longer storage, keep this cake in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Yes! This is a great way to prep your cake ahead of time, especially if you're making it for a big and busy event. You can either freeze the undecorated cake layers and frosting separately, then assemble and decorate it before serving, or you can decorate the cake and store it in a freezer-safe cake box. If you're freezing the cake layers you need to wrap them seperately in plastic wrap, or store each layer in a Ziplog freezer bag. They will last for up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw your cake completely, and thaw and beat the frosting again if you stored it separately.
Tips for Success
- Use good-quality ingredients for the best results with celebration cakes. After all, it is a celebration!
- Leave all your ingredients at room temperature for about an hour before mixing them to encourage even mixing.
- Overmixing the batter can result in a tough, dense cake. Mix just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth.
How to Use Egg Yolks
By omitting the egg yolks from the cake, it is able to be lighter and fluffier, with a lighter color that isn't as yellow.
Your egg separation need not be in vain, though. Your left-over egg yolks can be used in a variety of other recipes that can be added to your party menu too!
4 egg yolks are enough to make:
Substitutions and Variations
- Use my Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, Fresh Strawberry Frosting, Guava Frosting, or Homemade Chocolate Frosting for a different but delicious flavor combination.
- You can use regular milk instead of coconut milk.
- Almond extract can be used instead of vanilla extract, but I would use half the amount so as not to let it overpower the coconut flavor.
More Easy Celebration Cake Recipes
- German Chocolate Cake
- Aunt Becky's Black Forest Cake
- Devil's Food Cake with Chocolate Frosting
- Homemade Funfetti Cake
- Best Carrot Cake Recipe
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
- 1 cup salted butter, softened (227g)
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1¾ cups granulated sugar (350g)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 3 cups cake flour (375g)
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
- 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup salted butter, softened
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 2 Tablespoons coconut milk or heavy cream, only as needed
- 3 cups shredded sweetened coconut, for decorating
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper circles, then spray with baking spray. Set aside.
- Beat butter, oil, and sugar in a large mixer on high speed for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs, egg whites, vanilla extract, and coconut extract. Beat well for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape the bottom and sides of bowl partway through.
- Whisk cake flour, baking powder, and salt in another bowl to combine.
- Add flour mixture in two additions alternately with coconut milk, mixing between each addition. Stir in the coconut.
- Evenly divide batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes until done. Dry crumbs should cling to a toothpick when inserted into center of each cake.
- Cool completely on a wire rack before filling and frosting.
- Beat butter and cream cheese in a large bowl of a stand mixer for 3 minutes until creamy and smooth.
- Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix on low speed until combined. Add remaining powdered sugar, mixing again just until combined. Add vanilla extract and coconut extract, then beat until light.
- Level the tops of the cake layers if needed so they are flat. Set bottom layer on a cake stand. Spread a generous amount of frosting in an even layer. Add next two cake layers, repeating the process. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
- Press coconut into the whole outside of the cake using your hands until covered.
- Yield: This recipe makes 6 cups of batter.
- Two-Layer Cake: If you prefer to do a 2-layer cake, I recommend using 9-inch cake pans for the layers.
- Storage: Store this cake in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. Even though we've used a cream cheese frosting, the sugar will help preserve it on the counter. For longer storage, keep this cake in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Freeze: You can either freeze the undecorated cake layers and frosting separately, then assemble and decorate it before serving, or you can decorate the cake and store it in a freezer-safe cake box. If you're freezing the cake layers you need to wrap them separately in plastic wrap or store each layer in a Ziploc freezer bag. They will last for up to 3 months in the freezer. Thaw your cake completely, and thaw and beat the frosting again if you stored it separately.