When I think of Easter desserts, I think of two cakes first and foremost: carrot cake and coconut cake. You’ll find my mega-delicious carrot cake recipe with cream cheese frosting in my book, Anyone Can Cake, and if I wouldn’t have waited so long to develop this coconut cake recipe it would be in my book as well. Instead, it’s right here and let me tell you: when I tasted this cake my first thought was “now I know what’s been missing from my life.” I know that sounds dramatic but IT’S SO GOOD! I truly could not resist this one.
These coconut cake layers are perfectly soft and moist, packed with just the right amount of coconut flavor, and have an amazing texture from the shredded coconut baked right in. The cake flour and egg whites in the recipe keep it light and fluffy, while the sour cream and canned coconut milk balance it all with the ideal amount of moisture. I was originally going to top it with regular ol’ coconut buttercream, but then I heard about coconut cream cheese buttercream and I couldn’t stop myself from trying it. Spoiler: it turned out insanely good. It felt like a mic drop moment.
While the coconut cream cheese buttercream is supremely tasty, it will be a little on the softer side to work with. I do have a couple stabilizers I recommend to make it much easier for cake decorating: cornstarch and full-fat block-style cream cheese. Cornstarch will add stability to the frosting just like adding more powdered sugar would, only it won’t flavor the buttercream or add any extra sweetness. And full-fat block-style cream cheese is a must. It turns out that cream cheese spread has a lot of added liquid, which will make your frosting super runny.
TIP: If you live in the UK and don’t have access to block-style cream cheese, I hear that Longley Farm cream cheese is the best to use because it doesn’t have additional liquid in it. For other parts of the world without access to full-fat block-style cream cheese, you may need to search your area for cream cheese brands that don’t add extra liquid or for alternative recipes from people in your area.
After filling and frosting this coconut cake with coconut cream cheese buttercream, I added a coating of sweetened shredded coconut over the whole thing (as is pretty much tradition with a coconut cake). You can either roll the cake through the coconut after the frosting is firm to the touch like what I did with this Rafaello cake recipe or you can press the coconut onto the cake by hand while the frosting is still slightly tacky. I pressed it on by hand this time, but only because I wanted to try an alternative to rolling the cake. Either way works like a charm!
To finish the look, I added a swirl border to the top of the cake with Wilton Tip 4B and sprinkled it with a little more sweetened shredded coconut. I wanted a little pop of color and realized I had these cute pastel rainbow candles on hand, so on they went. They’re perfect for dressing this cake up for Spring or Easter festivities!
However you choose to decorate, I think this recipe is what coconut cake dreams are made of and I hope you love it as much as I do!
Coconut Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
- 3 Cups (315g) sifted cake flour* DIY recipe in notes
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 Cups (300g) granulated sugar
- 5 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/3 Cup (76g) sour cream, room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp coconut extract
- 1 Cup (240ml) canned full-fat coconut milk, room temperature
- 1 Cup (78g) shredded sweetened coconut
Coconut Cream Cheese Buttercream
- 8 Cups (960g) powdered sugar
- 1/4 Cup (32g) cornstarch (optional)**
- 1 1/2 Cups (339g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 12 Oz (339g) full-fat cream cheese, block-style***, room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp coconut extract
- 2 tsp canned full-fat coconut milk, room temperature
- pinch of salt, or to taste
- 1 1/2 Cups sweetened shredded coconut
Make the Coconut Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/177ºC. Prepare three 6-inch (15cm) or two 8-inch (20cm) cake pans by spraying the sides with cooking spray and fitting a parchment paper circle to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the sifted cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high for two minutes until it’s light and creamy. Add the sugar and continue to mix on medium-high for another two minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the egg whites one at a time, mixing until well combined. Add the sour cream, vanilla extract, and coconut extract and mix for one minute on high. Scrape down the bowl and paddle once more. It will look curdled at this point but don’t worry – it will look like smooth cake batter by the end!
- Turn the mixer to low, add in the dry ingredients all at once. When they’re just beginning to combine, add the canned coconut milk in a slow, steady stream. Continue to mix on low until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and give it a few stirs by hand to make sure there are no large lumps, then gently fold in the shredded coconut.
- Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans and bake for 35-40 minutes. They’re done when they spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for five minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack for an additional few hours of cooling.
Make the Coconut Cream Cheese Buttercream
- Sift together the powdered sugar and cornstarch (if using) and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese on medium-high until light, fluffy, and uniform (no lumps), about 5 minutes.
- Turn the mixer to low speed and add the powdered sugar and cornstarch mixture a few cups at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed. Add the vanilla extract, coconut extract, coconut milk, and salt and mix on low for another minute, until fully combined and smooth.
- Once the coconut cakes are completely cooled, level them to your desired height. Add a swipe of coconut cream cheese buttercream onto a cardboard cake circle and place the first cake layer on top. Fill and stack the cake layers with coconut cream cheese buttercream, then crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of coconut cream cheese buttercream. Place the crumb coated cake in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let the frosting firm up.
- To create the look pictured, frost a smooth buttercream finish with coconut cream cheese buttercream. Place the cake back into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, until the frosting is slightly set but still tacky, then gently press the shredded coconut onto the sides and top of the cake.
- The coconut cake layers can be baked, cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap, and left out at room temperature up to two days ahead of decorating. Unfrosted cake layers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored in the freezer for up to two months before thawing and frosting.
- The coconut cream cheese buttercream can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for one day. Alternatively, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and re-whip with your stand mixer to bring it back to piping/frosting consistency.