Going Coconut Crazy: Your Ultimate Guide to the Best Coconut Cake Recipes

October 5, 2023

My obsession with cake began at a very early age, but I was a lot older when I got hooked onto the rich and creamy taste of coconut. Despite this, I never really considered combining the two until I got my first taste of coconut cake. It was love at first bite!

I was so inspired by the flavors that I just had to try out the recipe on my own. It was only once I got started, though, that I realized just how many different ways I could bake coconut cake. Seriously, with a little bit of creativity, the opportunities are endless! 

Being the generous person that I am, I knew that I had to share all of my delicious discoveries with anyone who was interested. So, without further ado, here is your ultimate guide to the best coconut cake recipes ever! 

The Top Tips About Making Coconut Cake

Before you head to the baking portion of this guide, there are a few things that you need to know about baking with coconut.

Fresh, Frozen, and Dried Coconut

When I began testing out recipes, I realized that ‘coconut’ is a rather blanket term. Depending on where you live, this can refer to fresh, frozen, or dried coconut. So, which one do you choose?

Most recipes call for dried coconut and you should be able to find this easily enough. In fact, most stores only stock dried coconut. Since dried coconut does tend to be rather processed, however, you may want a more natural option. This is where fresh and frozen coconut comes in.

Fresh coconut and thawed out frozen coconut are essentially the same thing. As you can imagine, they also have a higher moisture content than dried coconut. Due to this, you can’t just automatically substitute these types with the dried ones that are called for in the recipes.

Getting rid of the moisture is easy enough. I just preheat the oven to 195°C, lay out the coconut on a baking tray and toast it for around 5 minutes. 

Flaked, Shredded, and Desiccated Coconut

If you plan on getting your coconut from a local store, then you will have to learn the difference between flaked, shredded, and desiccated coconut. In some cases, a recipe can call for all three.

Desiccated coconut is finely ground coconut and can actually look rather powdery. I mostly use this for decorative purposes. However, I sometimes rely on it when I want to only add a hint of coconut flavor rather than a strong one.

Shredded coconut is what you are probably most familiar with. Here, the coconut has been shredded into small, thin strips. This can go in the cake batter, filling, or frosting. If I’m feeling particularly festive, I’ll even use it as decoration.

Then, there is flaked coconut. As the name suggests, the flakes are much larger. Due to their size, I usually only top cakes with the flakes. For some added flavor, though, I will toast them first. 

Sweetened vs. Unsweetened Coconut

The difference between sweetened and unsweetened coconut is fairly obvious. I have noticed, though, that unsweetened is a lot more difficult to come by. So, always make sure to check the label before picking up a packet.

Now, I have a sweet tooth so my go-to is sweetened coconut. You will also find that since you are making a dessert, most coconut cake recipes mention the sweetened version. If you want to cut down on the sweetness level of your cake, though, you can choose to go with unsweetened cake. The decision is up to you. 

Coconut Cream

Coconut Milk, Coconut Cream, and Cream of Coconut

Some of the ingredients that you are going to come across are coconut milk, coconut cream, and cream of coconut. Now, some people use these terms interchangeably but they are not the same things! This means that you can’t really substitute one ingredient for another.

Coconut Milk: is a creamy liquid and, for the most part, looks like regular milk. For baking, always used canned coconut milk – this is the type that is meant for cooking. Boxed milk will not work for cake recipes. In a pinch, you can make coconut milk from coconut milk powder as well.

Coconut Cream: is a product of coconut milk. The milk is chilled, causing a thick, creamy layer to form on top. The resulting cream has a smooth, buttery feel to it and tastes strongly of coconut. This is available as a canned version.

Cream of Coconut: many people get cream of coconut and coconut cream mixed up. However, when baking, this is not a mistake that you want to make. This is mostly because cream of coconut is quite a bit sweeter than coconut cream.

Oh, and before I forget: It is best that you buy full-fat versions of all three of these products. While the low-fat items may have fewer calories, they lack the full-bodied flavor and velvety texture of the full-fat versions.  

DIYing Cream of Coconut

I’m not going to lie, finding cream of coconut can be a little tricky at times. Since it is typically used for cocktails and beverages, it isn’t always readily available in your local supermarket. When I can’t find it, I opt for a DIY method instead. This is my go-to recipe for cream of coconut: 


  • 1 can coconut cream (13.5 ounces)
  • 1¾ cup sugar (224 g)
  • 1 cup water (128 g)


Step 1: Mix the water and the sugar in a pan and bring to a boil over a medium flame. Make sure to keep stirring the mix as it will become syrupy in a few minutes.

Step 2: Once the liquid has reached a syrup-like texture, add in the coconut cream and stir well. Bring the mix to a slow boil and then lower the flame. Allow the cream to cook for up to 3 minutes and take it off the heat. 

Step 3: Once cooled, the cream can be used in recipes. Store in a mason jar until needed. Now that the nitty-gritty details are out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff. Here are the coconut cake recipes that you simply must try:

Related Reading
A Taste of Paradise: 50 Coconut Recipes You Should Try

Easy Coconut Cake Recipe

Ok, so let’s start things off with something simple. The following formula is a no-fuss recipe that is great if you don’t want to go overboard with the coconut. The resulting cake is soft and light, with just a hint of coconut.

Easy Coconut Cake


  • 1 cup self-raising flour (128 g)
  • 1 cup caster sugar (128 g)
  • 1 cup milk (128 g)
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut (128 g)


Step 1: Preheat the oven to 356°F(180°C).

Step 2: Grease a baking tin and line it with baking paper.

Step 3: Add all of the ingredients to a bowl and mix until combined thoroughly.

Step 4: Pour into a tin and bake for 40 minutes.

Step 5: When cool enough, transfer the cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 6 (Optional): Dust cake with icing sugar and place berries for decoration. 

Coconut Sheet Cake

If you are looking to step things up a notch but aren’t ready to go crazy just yet, then a coconut sheet cake is the way to go. This cake contains a more noticeable coconut taste and can be eaten as is or with a delicious coconut frosting.

Coconut Sheet Cake


For the Coconut Cake 

  • 1 white cake mix package
  • 3 large eggs
  • 8 ounces (227 g) sour cream 
  • 8.5 ounces (250 g) cream of coconut
  • 1/3 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Coconut Cake Frosting

  • 8 ounces (227 g) cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 16 ounces (454 g) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 7 ounces (198 g) sweetened flaked coconut


The Cake

Step 1: Crack all the eggs into a bowl and beat on high speed for around 2 minutes.

Step 2: Add the water, cream of coconut, and vanilla extract. After each addition, combine the ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed.

Step 3: Add the cake mix and combine the ingredients at a low speed until it has just been mixed.

Step 4: Set the oven to 329°F (165°C) and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Alternatively, take the cake out of the oven when an inserted toothpick comes away clean.

Step 5: Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, wrap up in plastic covering and place in the freezer for half an hour.

The Frosting

Step 1: Beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until it achieves a creamy texture.

Step 2: Add milk and sugar and continue to mix.

Step 3: Slowly add in the sugar and beat until it is well mixed.

Step 4: Stir in the coconut flakes.

Coconut Pound Cake

Sometimes, there is nothing better than an old, trusty pound cake. Well, that’s except for a coconut pound cake, of course! What I personally love about this cake is just how wonderfully moist it is.

Coconut Pound Cake


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces (227 g) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups flaked coconut


Step 1: Preheat the oven to 329°F (165°C).

Step 2: Cream the butter and cream cheese together. Add the sugar and blend until it is mixed well.

Step 3: Mix in the eggs one at a time. Add the coconut extract and blend well.

Step 4: Add the flour and baking powder. Once it has been well combined, fold in the coconut.

Step 5: Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes away clean.

Step 6: Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for a while before transferring to a wire rack. 

Coconut Layer Cake

If you’d prefer to have things vertical, then this is the cake for you. It is moist and incredibly fluffy. Not to mention, there are so many different notes of coconut with each bite! With these measurements, you should be able to make 3, 9-inch layers.

Coconut layer cake


For the Coconut Cake 

  • 5 eggs, room temperature and separated
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. almond extract
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar

For the Frosting 

  • 11 ounces (312 g) cream cheese, softened
  • ⅔ cup butter, softened
  • 4⅓ cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1¼ tsp. coconut extract
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted


For The Coconut Cake

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 329°F (165°C).

Step 2: Place the sugar, butter, and oil into a bowl and beat until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mix well in between additions.

Step 3: In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Step 4: Add some of the dry ingredients to the creamed mix. Then add a similar amount of buttermilk. Mix well. Repeat this process until all of the dry ingredients and buttermilk have been added.

Step 5: Stir in the coconut and extracts to this mix. Blend well.

Step 6: Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat on medium speed until stiff peaks form.

Step 7: Drop ¼ of the egg whites into the mix and gently fold. Once mixed, slowly fold in the rest of the egg whites.

Step 8: Transfer to greased baking pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven when the inserted toothpick comes away clean.

Step 9: Allow the cakes to cool for a few minutes before transferring onto wire racks and allowing to cool further.

The Frosting

Step 1: Beat cream cheese and butter together until the mixture is fluffy. 

Step 2: Add the confectioner’s sugar and extract. Beat until smooth. 

Step 3: Fold in the coconut  

Coconut Cream Cake

I love coconut cream pie so making the cake version of it was a natural choice. Now, this isn’t a cake that will be ready at a moment’s notice. Since the filling needs to be chilled for several hours, it is best to make it a day before it needs to be served.

Coconut cream cake


For the Filling

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. coconut extract

For the Cake

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. coconut extract

For the Frosting

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. coconut extract
  • ⅓ cup sugar

Related Reading
Here’s How to Make the Best Coconut Whipped Cream (Dairy-Free & Vegan)


The Filling

Step 1: Stir the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy pan.

Step 2: In a glass bowl, whisk the egg whites, half-and-half, and coconut milk. Slowly whisk this mixture into the pan.

Step 3: Cook the mix over medium heat, making sure to whisk at a steady pace. Continue this for around 6 minutes or until it begins to bubble. Leave the mix on the heat for another minute and then remove it.

Step 4: whisk the coconut flakes, butter, and vanilla extract into the sugar mix. Transfer the mix to a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on top of the mix to prevent a film from forming.

Step 5: Allow the mix to cool for around half an hour. Then refrigerate it for between 4 to 24 hours.

The Cake

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 347°F (175°C).

Step 2: Beat the butter until it is creamy and then slowly add all of the sugar. Beat the mix until it is light and fluffy.

Step 3: Add the eggs in one at a time. After each egg, mix until it has just blended in.

Step 4: In a separate bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

Step 5: In a measuring cup, mix coconut milk and milk.

Step 6: First add a little flour mix to the butter mix and then add some of milk. Mix well. Continue this process until all of the mixes have been combined together. Stir in the extracts.

Step 7: separate the batter into two greased pans and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes away clean.

Step 8: Allow the cakes to cool in the pan before moving them to wire racks.

The Frosting

Step 1: Beat the cream and the extracts until the mix reaches a foamy texture.

Step 2: Slowly add in the sugar, while beating, until soft peaks form. Stop beating when this happens. 

Coconut Roll Cake

While the idea of a coconut roll cake can seem daunting, this recipe is incredibly easy to follow. So, pluck up your courage and you will be able to enjoy a moist, sweet, and coconut-y treat that will be perfect for the afternoon. Just remember that you will need a jelly pan to bake this cake.

Coconut Roll Cake


For The Cake

  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • 3 tbsp. cold water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt

For The Filling

  • 16 ounces (454 g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅛ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • 1½ cup heavy cream
  • 2½ cups shredded coconut


The Cake

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 374°F (190°C). Line the pan with baking paper and spray the paper with non-stick spray.

Step 2: In a bowl, add the 3 eggs and beat. Slowly add in the sugar and coconut extract. Blend until it becomes thick. Add the water and mix well.

Step 3: In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold this mix into the previous batter.

Step 4: Spread the batter onto the pan so that it is even.

Step 5: Bake for 12 to 14 minutes on the middle rack.

Step 6: Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar on top of the cake and then place a kitchen towel on top of this. Place a baking tray or cutting board on top of the towel and slowly flip the cake over. The bottom part covered in paper should now be facing upwards.

Step 7: Peel off the paper and roll the cake in the towel and allow the cake to cool.

The Filling

Step 1: Combine the cream cheese, sugar, salt, and coconut extract. Whisk until smooth.

Step 2: Add in the heavy cream and whisk until the filling is thick and has reached firm peaks.

The Assembly

Step 1: Unroll the cake and spread filling onto the surface. Make sure to leave an inch from each of the edges free of the frosting. Sprinkle the shredded coconut on top of the icing.

Step 2: Roll the cake again. Frost the exposed part of the cake and drizzle with shredded coconut.

Step 3: Refrigerate for two to three hours. 

Vegan Coconut Cake

If you don’t eat eggs or dairy, there is no need for you to miss out on the fun. There is a lot to enjoy with this cake from its delicious, coconut-y texture and just a boozy hint from the rum.

Vegan Coconut Cake


For the Coconut Cake 

  • 2½ cups and 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups white sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups desiccated coconut
  • 1½ cups full-fat coconut milk
  • ½ cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Frosting 

  • 4½ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ cup vegan butter
  • ¼ cup coconut rum
  • 1 tbsp. coconut milk


The Cake

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 356°F (180°C).

Step 2: Add flour into a bowl and then add the sugar, baking soda, salt, and desiccated coconut. Combine together.

Step 3: Pour in coconut milk, coconut oil, vinegar, and vanilla and mix well. While all of the ingredients should be combined properly, avoid over-mixing them.

Step 4: Separate the batter into two pans and use a spatula to push the batter to the edge of each pan.

Step 5: Bake for 30 minutes or until the toothpick comes away clean. Step 6: Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and allow to cool.

The Frosting

Step 1: Add all of the frosting ingredients into a bowl.

Step 2: Start off by mixing them at a slow speed and then gradually increase the speed. Stop when the frosting is thick and smooth. 

Coconut Cupcakes

If you want little bites of goodness or if you need to bake for a crowd, these are the best coconut cupcakes you could ask for. They are also pretty easy to make!

Coconut Cupcakes


For the Cupcakes 

  • 1½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, room temperature
  • 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1½ tsp. almond extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 14 ounces (397 g) sweetened, shredded coconut

For the Frosting 

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. almond extract
  • 1½ pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted


The Cake

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 329°F (165°C).

Step 2: Cream the butter and sugar until the mix is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well with the mixer on low speed. Add the extracts and combine.

Step 3: In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add ⅓ of this mix to the above batter. Then, add some buttermilk and mix. Continue this process until all of the ingredients have been combined. Fold in half of the shredded coconut.

Step 4: Line the cupcake tin with liners and fill to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the inserted toothpick comes away clean.

Step 5: Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for a while before moving to a wire rack.

The Frosting

Step 1: Cream together the cream cheese, butter, and extracts. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar and combine until smooth.

Step 2: Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle the rest of the shredded coconuts.

So, there you have it – an ultimate guide to all the coconut cakes that you could possibly want. All that’s left to do is to try out these recipes for yourself. When you do, let me know how it went!

If you would like even more recipes, check out our Pinterest board. You can find lots of useful tips, guidelines, and so much more!

An Important Disclaimer
The information on this page should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a doctor if you wish to consume any kind of tea regularly for the purpose of treating any condition or illness.
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