Easy Classic Coconut Cake

There is nothing better than a coconut cake with a soft, fluffy, moist cake frosted with a coconut buttercream frosting!

Slice of coconut cake on a light plate with the whole cake in the background.

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Why You’ll Love This

For us, a coconut cake should be moist and fluffy, full of coconut flavor, and a coconut buttercream instead of cream cheese frosting.

This homemade cake recipe delivers everything we crave and expect from classic coconut cake!

This classic coconut cake is easy and simple to make! People will think you spent hours in the kitchen. They might even think you bought a bakery coconut cake.

Some of our other favorite cakes are Italian Love Cake, Strawberry Shortcake recipe, Baker’s German Chocolate Cake, and Dark Chocolate Espresso Cake.

Coconut cake recipe ingredients on a dark surface.

Key Ingredients

See the recipe card below for a full ingredient list and instructions.

  • Large Eggs – In this recipe, we will be separating the egg yolks from the whites. Beating the egg whites to stiff peaks and folding them in helps create a light fluffy crumb in the cake.
  • Cake flour and Baking powder – Cake flour is made from soft wheat, which has a lower protein content and less gluten than all-purpose flour. It yields a lighter, more delicate cake.
  • Coconut milk (canned) – This coconut cake recipe uses coconut milk in place of buttermilk or regular milk for an added coconut flavor and richness.
  • Vanilla extract and Coconut extract – The addition of both extracts produces the best coconut cake flavor!

How to Make Coconut Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, butter, and dust with flour, or use baking spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until just frothy. Add 1/2 cup of sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the cake flour, remaining 1 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the vegetable oil, coconut milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and coconut extract to the flour mixture. Using the paddle attachment (or an electric mixer), beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Fold in the egg whites and divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
Egg whites whipped to stiff peaks for coconut cake in a glass mixing bowl on a dark surface.
Whipped egg whites being gently folded into the coconut cake batter in a glass mixing bowl on a dark surface.
  • Bake for 26-30 minutes or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely to room temperature.

Ingredients for Coconut Buttercream Frosting

  • Buttercream Base – Softened unsalted butter, powdered sugar, and canned coconut milk.
  • Flavorings – Vanilla extract, coconut extract, and salt.
  • Shredded Coconut Flakes– Sweetened.

How to Make Coconut Buttercream Frosting

  • In a large bowl, beat the softened butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, coconut extract, and salt. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with the coconut milk, beating until combined and reaching your desired consistency.
  • Trim the tops of the cake layers if needed. To assemble, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or plate. Add about 3/4 cup of frosting to the top and smooth with an offset spatula. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of coconut flakes over the frosting. Top with the second layer of cake. Apply frosting to the entire cake.
  • To add the coconut to the top and sides of the cake, place the cake on a baking sheet (to help catch excess coconut). Fill your hand with coconut and press gently into the sides of the cake. Repeat until the desired amount of coconut flakes is applied.
A hand full of shredded coconut placing it on the sides of the coconut cake.
Frosted coconut cake with the shredded coconut pressed into the icing on a light plate on a baking sheet.

Tips

  • Do not try to use all-purpose flour in place of the cake flour. It will produce an entirely different cake texture.
  • Be sure to measure the cake flour correctly. Aerate, spoon, and swoop level.
  • Use room temperature eggs. They will incorporate easier and better into the batter.
  • Use sweetened shredded coconut.
  • I love using cake strips! They help bake cakes moist, level, without a crown, and with no crusty edges.
  • Use lighter-colored cake pans. The darker-colored pans create crispy dark edges. No Bueno for a coconut cake!
  • Be sure not to overbake the cake. The key to a moist cake is the right ingredients and the right baking time. Keep an eye on the cake!

Variations

  • You can use buttermilk or regular milk in place of coconut milk. But do note that it will reduce the coconut flavor in the cake.
  • For a toasted coconut cake, feel free to toast coconut.
  • If you prefer a cream cheese frosting, try our whipped cream cheese frosting recipe.

FAQs

Can I bake this in a 9×13 sheet pan?

Absolutely, you can make a coconut sheet cake! Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Can I make this ahead?

Yes, you can make the cake layers, let them cool completely, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and then with aluminum foil, and freeze them for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and frost as instructed.

Storing

Store leftover cake in an airtight container or cake saver at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Freezing

Freeze the coconut cake in a freezer safe airtight container for up to 2 months for the best quality. Bring to room temperature before serving.

More Coconut Dessert Recipes

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slice of coconut cake on a gray plate

Coconut Cake Recipe

A soft, fluffy, moist coconut cake frosted with a coconut buttercream frosting! This cake delivers everything we crave and expect from classic coconut cake!
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 12
Calories: 737kcal
Author: Leigh Harris

Ingredients
 

For the Cake

  • 3 large eggs, room temperature yolk and whites separated
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk, canned
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp coconut extract

For the Coconut Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 1/2 cups powdered sugar up to 6 cups
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk, canned up to 1/2 cup
  • 2 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut flakes

Instructions

Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans with parchment, butter, and dust with flour or use baking spray.
  • In a large bowl beat the egg whites until just frothy. Add 1/2 cup of sugar one tablespoon at a time until the egg whites are glossy and form stiff peaks.
    3 large eggs, room temperature, 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • In a separate large bowl whisk together the cake flour, remaining 1 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the vegetable oil, coconut milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and coconut extract. Using an electric mixer beat for 2 minutes at medium speed.
    2 1/4 cup cake flour, 3 tsp baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup coconut milk, canned, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, 1 tsp coconut extract
  • Fold in the egg whites and divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
  • Bake for 26-30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pans then turn them out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Coconut Buttercream

  • In a large bowl beat the softened butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, coconut extract, and salt.
    1 cup unsalted butter, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp coconut extract, 1/4 tsp salt
  • Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with the coconut milk, beating until combined and reaches desired consistency.
    5 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/3 cup coconut milk, canned
  • To assemble, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or plate. Add about 3/4 cup of frosting to the top and smooth with an offset spatula. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of coconut flakes over the frosting. Top with the second layer of cake. Apply frosting to the entire cake.
    2 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut flakes
  • To add the coconut to the top and sides of the cake, place the cake on a baking sheet (to help catch excess coconut). Fill your hand with coconut and press gently into the sides of the cake. Repeat until the desired amount of coconut flakes is applied.

Notes

Do not try to use all-purpose flour in place of the cake flour. It will produce an entirely different cake texture.
Be sure to measure the cake flour properly. Aerate, spoon, and swoop level.
Use room temperature eggs they will incorporate easier and better into the batter.
To Make in a 9×13 Baking Pan – Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Storing – Store leftover cake in an airtight container or cake saver at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Freezing – Freeze the coconut cake in a freezer safe airtight container for up to 2 months for the best quality. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 737kcal | Carbohydrates: 108g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 25g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 319mg | Potassium: 269mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 86g | Vitamin A: 541IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 66mg | Iron: 2mg

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