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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!

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 sliced on a plate

Coconut Cake

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

Description

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


Ingredients

Scale

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.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 929
  • Sugar: 101.2 g
  • Sodium: 250.8 mg
  • Fat: 46.6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 125.2 g
  • Protein: 6.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 161.2 mg

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

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117 comments on “The BEST Coconut Cake”

  1. This recipe is awesome! I made this for my mom for Mother’s Day and she raved about how moist it was. I did decrease the sugar by 1 cup in the icing but that’s just personal preference.

    Do you think this cake can be used as a yellow cake or as a different flavored cake, omitting the coconut extract and coconut flakes? It’s so good I want to use it for everything. Lol

  2. Hi Shelly! I’ve made this cake numerous times and my mom and I absolutely love it. I’m planning to make it again for Mother’s Day and I was wanting to make it in cupcakes rather than a cake.

    Would this recipe still work in cupcake form? Would I need to modify anything? Also, how many cupcakes do you think this recipe would make? Thank you for such delicious recipes 🙂

  3. Roseanne Smith

    I made this cake for Easter but tweaked it a bit. I took 3 cups of the frosting aside & mixed it with black raspberry preserves. I used the raspberry for the filling and frosted the outside of the cake with vanilla. Then I made a green coconut nest and placed a few jelly beans in it on top of the cake. The cake was absolutely delicious! I wish that I could submit photos.

  4. Let me just start by saying I never ever leave reviews but after I just made this cake today and had a slice… I want everyone and their mother to make this cake!!!! Holy wow!!!! The cake itself is so moist and flavorful, it ALMOST doesn’t need icing. BUT the buttercream is equally delish and just makes it that much better. I’ll be requesting this for every occasion from now on! 🙂 can’t wait to try some other cakes you have!

  5. I made your coconut cake recipe for Easter and it turned out so good! Thank you for the detailed instructions. Something I did that was different is that I added 1/2 more of the ingredients and added a bunny rabbit on top.

    1. You can yes! And you can store it either way. If it’s just for the night I would probably store it in at a cool room temperature. If your house is warm I might store it in the refrigerator, but allow it to come up to room temp before serving…unless you like cold cake (which I don’t!)

      1. Thank you so much and we are having a small get together tomorrow for my sisters 60th birthday and it’s in oven now. You replied in the perfect time. I will take photos and post tomorrow

  6. I made another coconut cake using the recipe. Each time I’ve used your coconut cake recipe, my cake comes out perfectly. Thank you so very much for the recipe. I layered my cake with a pineapple recipe and it was a very delicious cake. If bakers would read the recipe and follow it accordingly, your cake will come out the way expected.

  7. How would I go about making a 3 layer 10” cake with this recipe? I absolutely love this recipe!

  8. Felicia Wassum

    This is the most moist cake I have ever made. It is fantastic! I’ve had southern coconut cakes, but they aren’t moist, they are wet (huge difference!). I have too say, the buttercream icing was too sweet for me, and I even cooked up some milk and cornstarch to lighten it up. So, what I would love is to somehow make it into a bundt cake without icing or just a light glaze, but i would have no idea how to adapt the recipe for that. If you could help me with that, I would be eternally grateful. Cause I LOVE this cake!!!
    Thanks so much for this recipe!

  9. Becky McBride

    I have always made my mothers coconut cake, but decided to make yours, I promise the cake & the Frosting is absolutely delicious, I will be using yours for now on, someone had commented about 8cups of powdered sugar was too much, it is “NOT”, do not alter this recipe in any way, it is Perfect! This will be my Cake for “EASTER”, too!

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