The BEST Coconut Cake

This is the very best Coconut Cake Recipe EVER! It’s moist, fluffy, and soft, with the perfect amount of coconut flavor all topped with creamy coconut buttercream frosting!

Love a classic cake recipe? Make sure to check out my Hummingbird Cake and my Banana Cake Recipe!

Coconut cake sliced on a plate

My Favorite Coconut Cake Recipe!

Today’s recipe is a MEGA CLASSIC! It’s a cake recipe that I LOVE making, but have to get out of the house instantly, or I will eat the entire thing. AND it’s not exactly health food.

This Coconut Cake is what cake dreams are made of. It’s rustic and casual looking, but it’s special enough to serve on holidays, birthdays, or to guests. This, along with my Hummingbird Cake are my go-to cake recipes I make when I want to impress.

Slicing a Coconut Cake

The cake itself is soft, fluffy, and moist and the frosting is creamy coconut buttercream! A lot of coconut cakes have cream cheese frosting, but I prefer mine with coconut buttercream. It’s fluffy and sweet, and partners with the cake texture in a gorgeous way. Cake dreams are happening today, lads. Get your mixer ready!

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How To Make Homemade Coconut Cake

Let’s talk about the details. I always sigh when I need to make a layer cake. I much prefer a sheet cake, baked in a 9×13 pan. It’s less fussy, easy to frost, and you generally can serve it right out of the pan! And ps – you CAN make this in a 9×13! I’ll get to that in a minute.

BUT there is just something about a layer cake…wouldn’t you agree? It just makes more of an impact, and let’s be honest…it’s just prettier. Plus it’s really not THAT much more work!

The cake batter is pretty straight forward, but there are a few steps I want to talk about…

Why Do You Whisk the Egg Whites?

So when you read the recipe for this coconut cake, you will notice that you separate the eggs. In a lot of cake recipes you toss the yolks, but I hate that waste, so in my recipe I use both…just at different times. Let me talk about why:

  • Eggs in baking contribute structure building proteins. The proteins along with the starch from the flour forms the crumb of the cake as it bakes.
  • The yolks in eggs have protein, but also fat, flavor and emulsifying lecithin. The emulsifiers hold water and fat together, which in turns creates a moister cake. So over the years I’ve realized I don’t like to leave the yolks out! I’ve made cakes before that just use whipped whites, and I always find them to be slightly dry with less flavor.
  • But you can’t leave the whites out! The egg whites, when separated and whipped act as a leavener. They will lighten up the texture of the batter, and in turn the cake as it’s baked!

Do You HAVE To Whip the Egg Whites?

The short answer is no. You can make this cake and omit that step completely. BUT you will be left with a denser, tighter crumb.

The magic of this cake is the tender, fluffiness, so I absolutely recommend whisking the whites separately. Just give it a try!

Coconut Cake On a Cake Stand

What If You Don’t Have Buttermilk?

No problem! I show you guys How To Make Buttermilk in that post! It’s easy with milk and vinegar or lemon juice. If you don’t have any of those things, you can just use milk.

What Kind of Frosting Do You Use on Coconut Cake?

Honestly you could put just about any frosting on this cake and it would work! The coconut flavor is mild enough that it could be paired with lots of other flavors!

Traditionally, I have seen coconut cake made with cream cheese frosting, and yes, that’s delicious, but I actually prefer Coconut Buttercream on mine!!

Here are a few other frosting options:

  • Creamy Chocolate Frosting. Think about an Almond Joy! Garnish it with sliced almonds and you’ve created an entirely new cake!
  • Cream Cheese Frosting. If you still love the idea of cream cheese frosting on this cake, grab the recipe from my Hummingbird Cake and use it here!
  • Roasted Strawberry Buttercream. Pairing strawberry and coconut isn’t the norm, but I bet it would be DELICIOUS!

How Can You Make This In a 9×13 pan?

This cake easily can be made in a sheet style pan instead of as a layer cake! Just coat a 9×13 pan with baking spray, and spread all of your batter in evenly. Increase the baking temperature to 350°F, and bake for 35-40 minutes!

Alternately you can cake make cupcakes as well by baking at 350°F for 18-20 minutes.

Coconut Cake With a Bite Taken Out

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Coconut Cake

  • Author: Shelly
  • Prep Time Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield Yield: serves 12 1x
  • Category Category: Cake
  • Method Method: Oven
  • Cuisine Cuisine: Dessert

Description:

This Coconut Cake is the best you will ever have! It’s fluffy and soft with creamy coconut buttercream frosting!


Ingredients:

Cake

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temperature*, separated
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat 3, 9- inch round cake pans with baking spray. Cut 3 parchment rounds to fit in the bottoms of the pans. Place the parchment in the pan and coat again with baking spray. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the oil, butter, and sugar together on medium speed until well blended. Add egg yolks, one at a time until combined and smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add in coconut extract, vanilla extract, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix for 30 more seconds or until combined.
  3. Turn the mixer to low and add in the flour and buttermilk in alternating additions, beginning and ending with flour. Mix until combined and smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir in the coconut. Set batter aside.
  4. In a clean mixing bowl combine the egg whites and the cream of tartar. Using the whisk attachment on your mixer beat the egg whites for 6-7 minutes on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
  5. Fold the egg whites into the cake batter until evenly combined. Divide the batter between the 3 cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. To make the frosting, combine the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low for 30 seconds. Add in the milk, coconut extract, and vanilla extract. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat for 1-2 minutes until creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add in more milk 1-tablespoon at a time if a creamier consistency is desired.
  8. To assemble place one cake on a cake plate. Top with about 1 1/2 cups of frosting and spread evenly using an off-set spatula. Top with another cake layer and repeat the process. Finally frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
  9. Press the coconut into the frosting to garnish.

Notes:

*Make sure your eggs are room temperature to ensure maximum volume when beating the egg whites. Store airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days Nutrition Facts include frosting and coconut garnish.

Keywords:: cookies and cups, coconut cake, coconut recipe, cake recipe, coconut, buttercream

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Hi! I’m Shelly and I’m an addict. Of the buttercream sort. I started this site a few years ago as a way to justify my sugary, buttery obsession with desserts. It has worked out well for me so far, because as it turns out you guys all love sugary, buttery desserts too! It feels good to know you're not alone, doesn’t it?

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Angela
October 18, 2021 9:40 pm

Could I make this cake without the 1 cup of coconut in the batter?

Ann
October 13, 2021 8:59 am

This cake was so delicious!!! Everyone loved it!!! Thanks so much!!!

Sarina
August 29, 2021 5:14 pm

Wow. This cake came out unbelievable. By far the best cake recipe I’ve ever used, and that’s not an exaggeration.

Kitty McDaniel
June 16, 2021 11:34 am

How many cups of batter does this yield?

Kim snodgrass
June 6, 2021 5:30 pm

The cake is excellent however the frosting with 8 cups of powdered sugar is horrendous. Do not use this frosting!

Pippa
May 23, 2021 4:05 am

Thanks for the recipe, looks soooo good and can’t wait to try!

Just wanted to clarify, does the flaked coconut go into the cake batter at all?

It’s listed in the ingredients.. but I can’t see it in the method. Am I missing something?

Pippa
May 28, 2021 2:04 am
Reply to  Shelly

Thank you! Just made it and it’s everything you’ve described – perfectly fluffy and tender. I love the technique of whipped egg whites – makes the batter so light and cloud like!

Klara
May 27, 2021 5:55 pm
Reply to  Pippa

Yes it Says it step 3

Anas
May 20, 2021 10:45 am

What else can u use in place of cream of tartar

Bev
April 29, 2021 9:30 pm

Amazing! That’s it, just amazing!

Kaitlin
April 23, 2021 4:51 pm

I am making this cake for a birthday on Monday but I could not find coconut extract AT ALL :’( I bought canned coconut milk and the sweetened flaked coconut. What should I do to incorporate the coconut milk into the cake without ruining it and without causing it to not bake right? I really want to use the coconut milk to enhance the coconut flavor that I would get with the extract that I unfortunately could not find. Thank you!

Angie Chavez
April 26, 2021 12:27 am
Reply to  Kaitlin

I am a baker and as far as my experience goes as long its a milk doesn’t matter. And yes cocnut milk will inhance the flavor.

Helen Black
April 4, 2021 1:45 pm

Delicious!

Loretta Basile
April 1, 2021 5:08 pm

Hi Shelly, I made this cake twice and fell both times. I am familiar with folding egg whites I make chiffon cakes often. What could I be doing wrong.?

Donna
March 22, 2021 2:26 pm

Hello,
You mentioned mixing the butter, sugar and oil until well blended. Do you mean light & fluffy or just until combined?

Brenda
March 13, 2021 4:59 am

Hi Shelly, so when asked what he would like for me to make him for his birthday, my husband requested a banana coconut cake. I’d love to try your recipe, but do you think that I can implement some mashed bananas or would that throw the whole thing off? If it is doable, then is there anything that I should change to the recipe?
Thank you!!

Arlene
February 6, 2021 8:06 pm

Oh my GOODNESS!!! Where do I start? No one in my family likes coconut cake. The bakeries where I live only sell it on holidays….its considered a SPECIAL order. You can’t even find a coconut cupcake around here for sale. When you do, its with cool whip frosting…..REALLY? So when my Pastor and his wife shared that they like coconut cake, I went on a hunt to find the PERFECT recipe for their anniversary. I googled almost 50 recipes and after looking at the ingredients, reading all of the reviews, decided on this one. I’m an original southern girl and… Read more »

Patricia Wildgen
January 26, 2021 12:42 pm

Salted or unsalted butter? i plan to make thIs for my family in a couple of days and need to know

Shelly Hi! I’m Shelly and I’m an addict. Of the buttercream sort. I started this site a few years ago as a way to justify my sugary, buttery obsession with desserts. It has worked out well for me so far, because as it turns out you guys all love sugary, buttery desserts too! It feels good to know you're not alone, doesn’t it?

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