Coconut Cake

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This delicious Coconut Cake has a light coconut flavor topped off with a vanilla buttercream frosting and toasted coconut on the sides for added flavor.

Coconut Cake with Toasted coconut on the sides and cherries on top.

I first made this coconut cake for my dad when he retired ten years ago.   I can remember the time coming and wanting to make him something but I didn’t know what to make.

After months of saying he was going the retire he actually did.  He called me up when he had nine days left and said he was very worried.  He told me he was in the single digits and he didn’t know how to feel.  I can’t imagine working for 30+ years at the same job and then suddenly one day not having to go to work anymore.


He told us all that he didn’t want a party.  All he wanted was to go to dinner with our immediate family.  So we told him we would all go out to dinner the weekend after he retired.

However, we also planned a surprise party with his extended family and a few friends and I was tasked with making the cake.   Since I knew he liked coconut so much I decided to try a coconut cake.


  • butter (I prefer salted but you can use unsalted)
  • granulated sugar
  • eggs
  • all purpose flour
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • unsweetened coconut milk (you could also use coconut cream)
  • vanilla extract
  • sweetened shredded coconut (do not use unsweetened!)
  • powdered sugar

Making the cake was fairly easy.  There aren’t a ton of ingredients and the only thing I had to buy was the coconut milk.

Two layers of coconut cake.

what is coconut milk?

Coconut milk is the creamy, white liquid taken from the flesh of coconuts. It is a popular ingredient in Southeast Asian, Indian, and Caribbean cooking.   It’s also popular in baking.

Coconut milk has a rich, slightly sweet flavor and a smooth texture.  It is made when the flesh of the coconut is grated and then soaked in warm water.   The mixture is pressed to extract the coconut liquid or milk.

One thing to note about coconut milk.  The first time I opened a can I didn’t really know what to do with it because it usually has the thin milk then a solid white layer.  Before using make sure to shake the can so it mixes together into the creamy coconut milk you are wanting to use.

I used sweet shredded coconut in the actual cake but you don’t have to use it if you don’t want that texture in your cake.   You can also use unsweetened shredded coconut if you are worried that the cake will be too sweet.

Coconut Cakes stacked with frosting on top.

can I make this cake ahead of time and freeze?

You can make this cake in advance.   If freezing I like to bake the cake, cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap, then put in a freezer bag for storage.   Do not frost and freeze, only freeze the unfrosted cake layers.  Store the cake for up to 3 months.   When ready to use defrost on the counter for 2 hours.

After mixing up the batter I poured the batter into two prepared cake pans.   I don’t ever measure the batter, I just try to eyeball it but if you want your layers even make sure to measure you batter before pouring it in.

how do you prepare a cake pan?

There are several ways to prepare a cake pan before pouring in the batter.  An easy way to do this is to use a baking spray that has flour in it.  This method is what I use in a pinch but it’s not my favorite method.

Another method is to grease your pan with butter or shortening and then dust it with flour.  Again this method works but it’s not my preferred method.

My preferred method is to use a circle of parchment paper and place it on the bottom of the cake pan.  Then I butter and flour the sides of my pan and the parchment paper.  This guarantees that my cakes never stick to the bottom of the pan and they always come out easily.

Coconut Cake with a crumb coating of frosting on it.

After baking the cake I allowed them to cool completely before working on the frosting.  The first time I made this cake I put a coconut buttercream frosting on top because I was decorating the cake for my dad’s retirement party.

Since then I’ve made this cake several times and I just use a regular buttercream frosting because I tend to decorate these cakes with toasted coconut flakes.  Not only do they taste great but it makes it so easy to decorate!

how do i toast shredded coconut?

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spread the coconut on a baking sheet.  Bake for 5-10 minutes stirring every 2-3 minutes until the coconut is golden and fragrant.  You can also put the coconut in a single layer of a skillet over medium low heat.   Stir every minute until the coconut is golden and toasted.

The coconut cake had a light coconut flavor and was totally delicious.  The vanilla buttercream was light and fluffy.  The toasted coconut was fragrant, had a lot of texture, and had a bit of a nutty flavor.

more coconut recipes:

You can decorate the cake however you want but if you use the toasted coconut then you only need a thin layer of frosting on the cake before covering it in the coconut.  A few swirls of frosting on the top edge and a handful of coconut in the middle and you are finished!

Pin Image:   Text title, A top view of a coconut cake with toasted coconut and cherries on top.

My dad ended up loving the cake and it was a hit at the retirement party.  I’ve made it several times since and people are always surprised by the amount of coconut flavor that this cake packs.

If you’ve tried my Coconut Cake or any other recipe on Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks please take a minute to rate the recipe and leave a comment letting me know how you liked it. I love hearing from you! You can FOLLOW ME on:

Coconut Cake with Toasted coconut on the sides and cherries on top.

The Best Coconut Cake

This delicious Coconut Cake has a light coconut flavor topped off with a
vanilla buttercream frosting and toasted coconut on the sides for added
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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 28 minutes
Total Time: 58 minutes
Author: Hezzi-D


For the Cake:

  • 2/3 c. butter softened
  • 1 1/3 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 c. unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. sweetened shredded coconut

For the Frosting:

  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 12 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 c. sweetened shredded coconut toasted


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar. 
  • Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla.
  • In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well.  Add in the milk and stir until combined.  Pour in the remaining flour mixture and mix well.
  • Divide the batter between the two pans.  Bake for 25-30 minutes. 
  • Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.  Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan and invert the cakes onto a wire rack.  Cool completely.
  • In a bowl mix the butter, milk, and vanilla with a hand mixer.  Beat for 2 minutes or until smooth. 
  • Add in the powdered sugar a cup at a time and mix until the frosting is desired consistency.
  • Place one cake layer on a cake round.  Spread the top with 1 cup of frosting.  Sprinkle with the coconut and top with the second cake layer.  Frost the cake with the remaining frosting.
  • Cover the sides with the toasted coconut.
  • Slice and enjoy.


Cake recipe adapted from Paula Dean
Coconut Cake with toasted coconut on the sides.

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