Favorite Coconut Cake

5 from 7 votes

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Moist, fluffy, and soft, this four layer Coconut Cake recipe has the perfect amount of sweetness that is filled and topped with coconut cream cheese frosting and even more coconut. Yum!

This Coconut Cake just became our new favorite cake at my house! I’m not sure why coconut cake was never really a cake on our radar, but not until recently did I become obsessed with perfecting it. Call it the dedication to perfecting all things Easter or the stay at home order (turned *must bake all the things* order), but I made lots and lots of coconut cake this past month and am happy to report I’ve got a fabulous recipe to share with you today. Based loosely around my vanilla cake recipe, you will not be disappointed.

coconut cake recipe

Coconut Cake Recipe

My basic coconut cake is made with lots of basic ingredients found in just about any kitchen: butter for flavor, canola oil for moisture, granulated sugar for sweetness, eggs and egg whites to get things nice and fluffy, vanilla, salt, leavenings, buttermilk and all purpose flour. Fold in fresh sweetened shredded coconut to the batter, divide between two pans and bake.

Once the cake is baked, whip up some (dreamy, addicting) coconut cream cheese frosting. This frosting is probably the best part of the whole cake. Never before have I been this infatuated with a frosting flavor before. MAN IS IT GOOD. The recipe makes a lot because I really load this up onto the cake and in between each of the four layers. Worth every calorie.

Once you have your cake frosted, cover with more coconut and serve. So so incredible.

Love coconut? Try these other recipes: Classic Coconut Macaroons, Coconut Almond Muffins, Triple Chocolate Coconut Filled Cupcakes, Mini Coconut Cakes, and Coconut Cream Pie.

coconut cake batter

How to Make Coconut Cake

Making a layered cake can be hard, but it really doesn’t have to be. Grease and line your pans well, follow the relatively simple directions, cool your cakes completely and you too will have delicious success!

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking pan with parchment paper and/or spray well with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together to combine. Set aside.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, stir buttermilk and vanilla together. Set aside.
  4. In a separate large bowl, mix butter, oil, and sugar together until combined. Mix in eggs and egg whites, one at a time, until the mixture becomes very light and fluffy. This process should take at least 3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix again briefly.
  5. Alternate adding in flour mixture with buttermilk mixture, being sure to start and end with flour. Scrape the sides and mix again to ensure a smooth batter. Fold in coconut by hand. Divide evenly between baking pans and smooth the top.
  6. Bake 30-40 minutes in the lower 2/3rds of the oven. The coconut cake will be done when a toothpick comes out clean or mostly clean with a few moist crumbs.
  7. Cool 15-20 minutes in cake pans before trying to invert on cooling racks. Cool completely before frosting and decorating.

baked layers

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

Save, bookmark, pin and highlight this recipe!! One bite and you won’t want any other frosting ever.

  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and cream cheese together with the paddle attachment until smooth. Scrape sides and mix again.
  2. Add in powdered sugar with the extracts and mix very slowly until it starts to come together. Once the powdered sugar has worked in, increase the mixer speed and whip until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure a completely smooth frosting. Stir again if needed.

Lets talk Cake Layers

So, in this coconut cake recipe listed below, I suggest using two cake pans and slicing each cake in half after they have cooled completely. This would give you four total layers, as the pictures show.

If this makes you nervous, simply divide the cake batter into three cake pans instead of two and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (or with a few moist crumbs) when inserted. This way you don’t have to mess with slicing the cakes.

coconut cream cheese frosting

To Assemble

  1. Using a bread knife, slice each completely cooled cake in half lengthwise to get four even layers.
  2. Place one layer down on a cake stand and top with 3/4-1 cup of frosting. Spread evenly, pushing the frosting out towards the edges. Continue stacking the layers of cake with frosting together until all four layers are stacked up together with frosting in between.
  3. With remaining frosting, complete frosting the cake. I like to add large dollops of frosting to the top and spread across to cover and then push excess down the sides. It’s easier to pull frosting off with an offset spatula…less crumbs that way!
  4. Once the cake is frosted, coat entirely with coconut, about 2 cups. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tips and Tricks

After lots of trial and error, here are my tips and tricks for making the best Coconut Cake.

Baking Pans. Regardless of how you bake this cake recipe, be sure to use lighter-colored baking pans (or glass). These are the ones I have and love. Using a darker Teflon will give you darker, crispier edges that don’t really have a place in a coconut cake, in my humble opinion.

Use room temperature ingredients. Believe it or not, using butter, eggs, egg whites, and buttermilk all at room temperature yields you a smoother, better-incorporated cake batter and thus a better cake.

Do not over bake. A moist cake comes with the right ingredients and just the right amount of time in the lower two-thirds of the oven.

Line baking pans with parchment paper. Parchment paper is my favorite kitchen tool. Your cakes will come out with ease! I like spraying my pans with nonstick cooking spray, lining the bottoms with parchment and then adding another spritz of cooking spray on top. Works perfectly.

Cool completely before frosting. Frosting is primarily made up of butter and the butter will melt if your cakes are not cooled completely.

coconut cake top

Coconut Cake Variations

  • 9×13 – This coconut cake with yield one 9×13 cake, bake for 30-45 minutes.
  • 8-9 inch Round Cake – This method will yield two cakes in this size. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
  • Cupcakes – This recipe will make and frost 24 cupcakes with extra frosting to spare. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Make-Ahead

To save you time and from worrying, I’ve outlined how you can make a perfect Coconut Cake ahead of time!

Once your cake has been baked, cooled and cut into layers, cover them tightly with plastic wrap and store at room temperature overnight. Prepare the frosting then cover and store in the fridge overnight as well. When you are ready to assemble and decorate, set the frosting out at room temperature to soften for about 15 minutes. Give it a quick mix to loosen it up in your mixer for about a minute, then frost away!

If you want to make this cake even farther ahead of time, consider freezing it! Frosted or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 3 months. To thaw, transfer from the freezer to the fridge overnight and then bring to room temperature before decorating or serving.

sliced coconut cake

More Cakes to Make!

If you loved my Coconut Cake Recipe you’ll love my other cakes on the blog!

The printable recipe card is below, enjoy and happy baking! 🙂

5 from 7 votes

Coconut Cake

Moist, fluffy, and soft, this Coconut Cake recipe has the perfect amount of sweetness all topped with coconut cream cheese frosting.
servings 14 servings
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 50 mins

Ingredients

For the Coconut Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup salted butter softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 whole large eggs
  • 2 whole egg whites
  • 1 cup sweetened, shredded desiccated coconut plus more for decoration

For the Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup salted butter very soft but not melted
  • 16 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract

Instructions

For the Coconut Cake

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking pan with parchment paper and/or spray well with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. (See notes)
  • In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together to combine. Set aside.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, stir buttermilk and vanilla together. Set aside.
  • In a separate large bowl, mix butter, oil, and sugar together until combined. Mix in eggs and egg whites, one at a time, until the mixture becomes very light and fluffy. This process should take at least 3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix again briefly.
  • Alternate adding in flour mixture with buttermilk mixture, being sure to start and end with flour. Scrape the sides and mix again to ensure a smooth batter. Fold in coconut by hand. Divide evenly between baking pans and smooth the top. Bake 30-40 minutes in the lower 2/3rds of the oven. The cake will be done when a toothpick comes out clean or mostly clean with a few moist crumbs.
  • Cool 15-20 minutes in cake pans before trying to invert on cooling racks. Cool completely before frosting and decorating.

For the Frosting

  • In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and cream cheese together with the paddle attachment until smooth. Scrape sides and mix again.
  • Add in powdered sugar with the extracts and mix very slowly until it starts to come together. Once the powdered sugar has worked in, increase the mixer speed and whip until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure a completely smooth frosting. Stir again if needed.

For assembly

  • Using a bread knife, slice each completely cooled cake in half lengthwise to get four even layers.
  • Place one layer down on a cake stand and top with 3/4-1 cup of frosting. Spread evenly, pushing the frosting out towards the edges. Continue stacking the layers of cake with frosting together until all four layers are stacked up together with frosting in between.
  • With remaining frosting, complete frosting the cake. I like to add large dollops of frosting to the top and spread across to cover and then push excess down the sides. It's easier to pull frosting off with an offset spatula...less crumbs that way!
  • Once the cake is frosted, coat entirely with coconut, about 2 cups. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Notes

Recipe will make:
  • 1- 9x13 cake (bake for 30-45 minutes)
  • 2- 8 or 9-inch round cakes (30-40 minutes)
  • 24 cupcakes (bake for 18-20 minutes)
Regardless of how you bake this cake recipe, be sure to use lighter-colored baking pans (or glass). Using a darker Teflon will give you darker, crispier edges that don't really have a place in vanilla cake, in my humble opinion.

Nutrition

Calories: 857kcal | Carbohydrates: 115g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 44g | Saturated Fat: 29g | Cholesterol: 91mg | Sodium: 468mg | Potassium: 165mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 95g | Vitamin A: 1081IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Cake, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Coconut Cake, Coconut Cake Recipe
Polaroid photo of granola bars

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Recipe Rating




12 Responses
  1. Janice Brown

    5 stars
    I made this cake on Easter. I have to say it is the BEST Coconut Cake I have ever baked. The frosting is also the best. I give it a 5 Star rating. I should have taken a picture but we were anxious to give it a taste. You won’t be disappointed.

    1. Janice Brown

      5 stars
      I made this cake last month and It was ABSOLUTELY the best Coconut Cake I have ever tasted.! Will be making it again.

  2. Janice Brown

    5 stars
    Best Coconut Cake and Frosting Ever! Will be using this as my only Coconut Cake from now on. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  3. Maria McGowan

    5 stars
    We love the coconut cake from The Peninsula Grill in Charleston, this was a great version to make during quarantine. It was my husband’s birthday this past week and I made it with my daughters – it was delicious! Wondering if we could freeze part of it? It is huge and there are only 4 of us. Do you think we could freeze slices of it?

    Keep the awesome recipes coming.

  4. Olivia

    Hi, Lauren! Really excited to try this. As we are also in quarantine, we don’t have buttermilk (I have 2%, no lemons). Could you recommend a substitute? Assuming the buttermilk is for moisture, could I use instant pudding with a 1/4 cup of sour cream to balance out the extra dry ingredients? I also have Greek yogurt. Thanks in advance! I can’t wait to have a well-stocked pantry again!

  5. Dee

    If I want to make this in 9-x13 pan do I still need the same amount of frosting or could I cut the frosting ingredients in half?

  6. Anna

    5 stars
    Such an excellent cake, 5 stars! Made it for a party and everyone raved for it. Really great coconut flavor and super moist. I used coconut oil instead of veg oil. Made 2×9″ cakes and halved the frosting as I didnt cut each cake in half and didnt frost the sides either. Otherwise I think it would have been too sweet. Frosting could use less sugar so I would start less and add to taste. This is in my favorite recipes file!

  7. Tara

    5 stars
    I love this cake recipe… By far one of the best one i found hands down…. I use this cake recipe as a base for many. Great job💖 every time i make this cake it’s a hit.