This post was created as in partnership with Imperial Sugar. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Cranberry Coconut Cake is a showstopping dessert, perfect for any holiday party or festive occasion! Layers of moist coconut cake are filled with a sweet-tart homemade cranberry filling, frosted with rich cream cheese frosting, and coated in a layer of sweetened coconut.

And if you love cranberry season, be sure to make my fresh cranberry shortbread bars, easy homemade cranberry sauce or this cranberry jello salad with cream cheese topping! And don't miss any of my holiday dessert recipes!

An image of a coconut cake filled with cranberry filling.

This post was created as in partnership with Imperial Sugar. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

I have been dying to share this cake on here ever since I made it! It's so unbelievably delicious and one of the prettiest cakes I have ever made, in my opinion. Plus, it makes a great holiday dessert option for anyone who doesn't like pie. 

I'm really finicky about the cake recipes I post on here and work hard to only share the very best of the best. And boy is boy is this coconut cake the best.

An image of a cranberry coconut cake garnished with sugared cranberries and rosemary.

I've been meaning to share a coconut cake for a while now since we really love coconut at our house. From toasted coconut pancakes to homemade coconut cream pie, we love it all!

The coconut cake is incredible all on it's own, but I have to say that pairing it with a cranberry filling made with fresh (or frozen) cranberries really takes the cake. See what I did there? I'm hilarious, I know.

An image of a slice of moist coconut cake layers filled with a homemade cranberry sauce filling.

The shredded coconut covering all sides of this cake provides a snowy backdrop that is made even more festive looking by garnishing with sugared cranberries and sprigs of rosemary.

I'll admit I'm not much of a cake decorator and struggle with fancy frosting and piping techniques, but ANYBODY can press coconut into frosting and just arrange cranberries around the edge of the cake stand to make a stunning dessert centerpiece.

An image of a slice of cake being lifted from the cake stand.
An image of a slice of festive Christmas cranberry coconut cake.

The cake itself is made with coconut milk, coconut extract, and sweetened shredded coconut. It's honestly so good that I have a hard time not just eating the cake plain. Leveling off the tops of the cake layers is my favorite because then I get to enjoy the scraps!

The cranberry filling isn't all that different from when we make homemade cranberry sauce, although it has a little extra sugar to offset the tartness and help balance the filling with the cake a bit more. I also opted to flavor it with a little lime zest and juice for that citrus element that is subtle but adds depth to the cranberries.

An image of a coconut cake filled with cranberry filling.

How to Make the Coconut Cake Layers

1. Start by creaming butter, oil, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. It's important to start with room temperature ingredients like softened butter and room temperature eggs to that they blend together well.

2. Mix in egg whites, whole eggs, vanilla and coconut extracts. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl so that everything gets mixed together evenly.

3. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt alternately with the coconut milk in a couple of additions, mixing until combined. Then stir in the coconut and divide the batter between three 8-inch cake pans lined with parchment paper circles. I always use parchment paper in the bottom of my cake pans just to make sure my cakes never stick to the pan.

A collage of images showing step-by-step how to make coconut cake batter.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until done. I always test doneness by gently pressing the top of each cake layer. If it bounces right back the cake is done. The other way to check for doneness is to insert a toothpick or skewer into the center of each cake layer. If it comes out wet, let the cake cook a couple minutes longer. If it comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it, the cake is done. Be sure to let the cake layers cool completely on a wire rack before assembling the cake. 

When I get comments from people that their cake turned out too dry, I know almost immediately that the likely cause is that they baked the cake layers too long. None of the cake recipes I share turn out dry if baked for the right amount of time at the right temperature. 

An image of two layers of coconut cake cooling on a wire rack.

How to Make the Cranberry Filling

1. Combine the cranberries (fresh or frozen, both work really well for this recipe) in a large pan with sugar, water, and salt over medium heat. 

An image of fresh whole cranberries in a pan on the stove.

2. Cook the cranberries, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries burst. It usually starts around 5 minutes and they are pretty broken down by 10 minutes. I like to leave them just a little bit chunky. If I was making cranberry sauce, this is where I would stop. But since we are filling a cake and need a more stable middle layer in order to get mega cranberry flavor, you will want to thicken this a bit.

3. Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl and whisk together with a fork to create a slurry. Stir the slurry into the cranberry mixture, continuing to cook until it thickens and turns clear instead of cloudy. It should be very jam-like in consistency at this point.

An image of cranberry filling in a pan on the stovetop.

4. Remove the cranberry filling from the heat and stir in lime juice, lime zest, and vanilla, then let it cool completely before assembling the cake. 

Assembling the cake: This is where it gets really fun!

1. Level the cakes, if needed. I like to use my long bread knife and cut a shallow groove all around the top of the cake, then follow the grooves as my guide to get my cakes nice and level. The scraps make a perfect snack!

2. Make the cream cheese frosting by beating softened butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes, until light and smooth. Add in 2 cups of powdered sugar, mixing on low speed until combined, then another 2 cups of powdered sugar, mixing again to combine. Mix in vanilla and coconut extracts, then fill a piping bag with a round tip or a large ziplock bag with the one corner cut off with about ¼ of the frosting.

3. Place the bottom cake layer on a cake stand and pipe a nice thick ring around the top to hold in the cranberry filling. Spoon half of the filling onto the cake and spread to form an even layer. I was worried I had too much filling, but everything held together really well after the cake was assembled. If you think it's too much, you could always save ½ to 1 cup of the filling and use it in crepes (I haven't done it yet but I'm going to because it sounds soooooo divine), on top of pancakes, or stirred into oatmeal!

An image of a coconut cake being assembled with cranberry filling and cream cheese frosting.

4. Repeat with the second cake layer, another ring of frosting, and the remaining cranberry filling.

5. Top with the final cake layer and use the rest of the frosting to completely frost the top and sides of the cake. Don't worry about making it look pretty since you are going to be pressing coconut all over the cake anyway and it will help cover up any imperfections in your frosting technique!

6. Scoop a handful of shredded coconut into your hand and gently press it against the sides of the cake. A lot will fall back off, but that's okay. Just work your way around the cake and sprinkling a generous amount of shredded coconut on top. You can pick up and reuse the coconut that doesn't stick to the sides to fill in gaps.

7. And that's it! The cake looks snowy and wintry and beautiful as is, but it's even more special with sugared cranberries piled on top and arranged around the sides with some rosemary sprigs representing evergreen needles.

An image of a coconut cake on a cake stand.

The FULL RECIPE is on my partner Imperial Sugar's site, so be sure to head over so you can make this dessert this season! Each month we collaborate to bring a great recipe to you using their wonderful products, and I'll give you a heads up that I've got another really special and unique cake planned for December!

An image of slices of a Christmas Cranberry Coconut Cake on plates next to a bowl of sugared cranberries.

Tips for Cranberry Coconut Cake

  • Store the cake in the fridge. Because the frosting on this cake is a cream cheese frosting, it shouldn't be left out at room temperature for longer than a few hours. The sugar will help to preserve it, but it's really best to keep it cold. 
  • Feel free to change up the frosting. Marshmallow frosting, seven minute frosting, ermine frosting, swiss buttercream, american buttercream, or even this eggnog frosting would all work on this cake. I really like going with the cream cheese frosting though because the tanginess of the cream cheese cuts some of the sweetness from the cake. 
  • Use cake flour, if possible.  I definitely prefer cake flour for this coconut cake recipe, but if you don’t have any on hand, you can sub all-purpose flour and with a little cornstarch to help improve the texture. Instead of 3 cups of cake flour, use 2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour and ⅓ cup cornstarch instead. But cake flour really does result in a softer cake. I went years without buying cake flour, but it really does make a difference, especially in this recipe.
  • Use a combination of oil and butter.  I find that the using mostly butter with a little oil rather than all of one or the other gives me the best of both worlds with added moistness from oil and the wonderful flavor of the butter.
An image of a slice of cranberry coconut on a plate.
An image of a slice of cranberry coconut cake on a plate.

More Holiday Dessert Recipes You'll Love

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.

Stay in the know

Be sure to click over to Imperial Sugar's site to get the FULL RECIPE!

An image of a cranberry coconut layer cake.

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

    1. I have used Bob's Red Mill's 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour with excellent results in other recipes. I haven't tried it in a cake yet, but I honestly couldn't even tell a difference in blondies or cookies, so I'm thinking it would give good results here too.

  1. I made this as part of my Christmas Dessert Menu. This cake was really good. And so pretty! I forgot to add the coconut to the cake batter which was a good thing. Since some people don't like the texture of coconut those picky eaters could still taste the cake part. I was afraid to overload the cranberry sauce. Don't be afraid...load it on! I made the cranberry sauce a couple days ahead of time, the cake the day before and put it all together the day I was serving it. This cake was perfect for the Christmas table. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This cake was great for Christmas! The only thing I’ll do differently, is next time I’ll also frost between the layers. I feel like I only got icing when eating the outside of my piece of cake. Would have been nice to have a little more icing in the middle to complement the tangy cranberry jam. But it was delicious and beautiful! 

  3. Hi! I’m skeptical  of using frozen cranberries instead of fresh so I’m thinking about changing it to Nutella. How do you think it’ll turn out?? Or should I stick with a different kind of berry? 

  4. Hi, what do you think about replacing the cranberries with Nutella since cranberries are not in season?? Or should I stick with a fruity compote?

    1. Hi Farah! I think Nutella would be delicious! Or really you could replace the cranberries with other fruits like strawberries or raspberries. Or even a lovely lemon curd!

    1. I haven't used amaretto in baking but my guess is you add it with the other wet ingredients. Not sure how much you would need and if it is significant that it might require additional adjusting for the added liquid.