Coconut Cake

Coconut Cake Recipe

Coconut cupcakes are cute. But a coconut cake commands attention in a way that cupcakes just can’t muster. Sort of like that scene in “Bull Durham” where Kevin Costner calls Susan Sarandon cute and her response is “Cute? Baby ducks are cute, I HATE cute! I want to be exotic and mysterious!” I think a lot of cupcakes feel that way.

We got nothing against cupcakes. But there’s a time and a place for everything. Steph, the blogger at Momofukufor2 responsible for this cake incarnation, seems to share this sentiment, having conjured this stunning coconut layer cake from what was a winsome coconut cupcake recipe. Though the cake elicits oohs and aahs from us each time we see it, she’s quick to offer up a kind word for the cuter cupcake creation. “This recipe bakes up great as cupcakes as well, but I find cake so much more festive.” So do we, Steph. So do we. Still, if cupcakes are your thing, no judgment here. We’ve got your cupcake variation below the recipe.–Renee Schettler Rossi

LC Hey, How'd You Get Those Chic Coconut Curls? Note

Notice those crazy coconut curls on the coconut cake in the photo above? (How could you not?!) The graceful ribbon-like lengths lend a little ooh la la to cakes and cupcakes alike. How’d we get ’em? Easy. We bought ’em. Just look for natural coconut flakes at your local health-food store. Or search for those key words online (or, even easier, click here).

Special Equipment: Two 9-inch springform or cake pans

Coconut Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • 2-layer 9-inch cake or 24 cupcakes


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup packed unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup canned coconut milk (not low-fat)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Seven-Minute Frosting
  • Flakes or shreds of unsweetened coconut


  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Line two 9-inch springform or cake pans with parchment circles cut to fit. (If not using springform pans, butter and flour the pans.)
  • 2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and shredded coconut. Set aside.
  • 3. Combine the coconut milk and vanilla. Set aside.
  • 4. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and egg whites and mix well. Add a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, switch to a spatula, and stir just until incorporated. Then add half the coconut milk mixture and stir just until incorporated. Repeat, adding half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining coconut milk mixture, and ending with the remaining flour mixture. Do not overmix.
  • 5. Divide the batter evenly among the 2 pans. Bake until the top of the cake springs back when pressed lightly with a fingertip and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean, 25 to 40 minutes. The cake will not color appreciably, so don’t rely on its hue as an indication of doneness. Cool the cakes completely in the pans on a wire rack.
  • 6. Working with one cake at a time, place the wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert the cake onto the rack. Then carefully invert it again so it’s right side up. Repeat with the remaining cake. Using a serrated knife, carefully slice off the mounded portion of one or both cakes to create a flat surface.
  • 7. Place a trimmed cake on a cake stand or platter. Spread a generous portion of Seven-Minute Frosting over the top. Place the second cake on the first and very thinly coat the top and sides of the cake to seal in the crumbs. This is called a crumb coat. Then go ahead and generously slather the cake with the rest of the frosting. Quickly sprinkle some of the flaked or shredded coconut over the top of the cake. Gently press the rest of the coconut onto the sides. Behold!

Coconut Cupcakes Variation

  • When it comes time to divvy the batter between the springform or cake peeans, instead spoon it into muffin tins fit with paper liners, filling each fully. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes completely in the tins on a wire rack. Once the cupcakes are cool, mound frosting on the tops and then quickly sprinkle with flaked or shredded coconut.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews
Testers Choice
Vicki Lionberger

Apr 18, 2011

This is a great coconut cake! I made it into cupcakes (I was able to make 18 cupcakes using a No. 16 scoop), and they were really good. The cupcakes were done at 30 minutes. The frosting is wonderful, and makes just enough for the 18 cupcakes. We loved them.

Testers Choice
Amy M.

Apr 18, 2011

These were light, moist, and mildly coconutty. I made the recipe as cupcakes, and the recipe yielded 20 cupcakes that baked for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. I also rotated the pans once during baking. There was a nice balance of texture with the airy, marshmallow-like frosting and crunchy coconut flakes. I used the shaved, unsweetened coconut for both the garnish and the recipe, but I didn’t want large coconut shavings in the cupcakes themselves so I ran the flour and coconut through the food processor. The cupcakes were delicious, eliciting excellent reviews from my coworkers.

Testers Choice
Carol Anne Grady

Apr 18, 2011

I made cupcakes with this recipe, yielding 30 small cupcakes at 2 inches in diameter. They baked for 20 minutes, and I rotated the pans halfway through. Overall, this recipe is easy to put together, including the Seven Minute Frosting—which more accurately should be named the Ten Minute Frosting, if we’re being picky. (The frosting recipe can frost about 45 cupcakes of this size.) The sponge was moist, sweet, and full of coconut flavour, and the icing was sticky, like marshmallow fluff. I’m not sure if this is how the frosting was supposed to turn out, but I thought it was delicious, if messy to work with and store. I topped the cakes with toasted coconut for a touch of colour.

Testers Choice
Cindi Kruth

Apr 18, 2011

This recipe attracted me because it contained both coconut and coconut milk—a double whammy of one of my favorite flavors. I made this recipe as cupcakes and wasn’t disappointed. Usually I expect 24 cupcakes (my cupcake pan is on the small side, holding about 1/3 batter per cupcake) from a two layer recipe, but I only got 18 this time. They didn’t gain much color even though they were perfectly baked, moist, light, and tender, so don’t look for browning as a guide. It was hard to wait for them to cool to frost and taste. In fact, my husband didn’t. The cupcake—I grabbed a bite—was delicious warm, but it was even better cooled and frosted. The frosting recipe was also just right. Once the sugar dissolved, it took only about 3-1/2 minutes for the frosting to billow into marshmallowy whirls, so maybe it wasn’t exactly “Seven Minute” icing. I especially liked this frosting because unlike some others I’ve tried, it wasn’t cloying. There was plenty to generously ice the cupcakes which I then dipped in a little more coconut. They didn’t really need that, but hey, why not?

Testers Choice
Fran Brennan

Apr 18, 2011

These cupcakes got an enthusiastic two-thumbs-up review in our house, and that says a lot. As a lifetime coconut cake devotee, I’ve also turned my husband and kids into aficionados, and I definitely seem to have surrounded myself with friends who share our enthusiasm. Needless to say, I’ve tried many, many recipes for coconut cake in my hunt for the perfect one. Martha Stewart’s recipe will forever be my go-to coconut cupcake recipe. These cupcakes were perfect: sweet, but not cloying, dense and coconutty, yet not heavy or overwhelming, and perfectly frosted. I loved them, my kids loved them, and all of my coconut cake-addicted friends loved them. I went out and promptly bought the Martha Stewart Cupcakes book. I’m so excited to have found the holy grail of coconut cupcake recipes at last.

  1. maile says:

    on first sighting of this coconut cake I hesitated clicking, because thought there’s no way this can be as good as the coconutty heaven that is martha stewart’s coconut cake recipe. but it is. because it is.

  2. Cindy says:

    Could someone tell me how much a stick of butter is? thanks…

  3. Debra M says:

    I’m excited to make this cake for a late Mother’s Day/Birthday celebration. My question is…the photo of the cake looks really tall. Was that made with only 2 layers? It looks more like 3, but I love the shape.

    • David Leite says:

      Debra, yes, it believe it was a three layer cake. We made it a two, as many people don’t have three cake pans.

  4. Barb Hickey says:

    love your site. One suggestion, i like to print out the recipes and put them in a binder. Is it possible to have the option of printing the finished picture of the item. That way, I can remember how delicious it looks and what it is supposed to look like. Thanks so much.

  5. Josh Erickson says:

    I just made this cake last night for my wife and I and it was fantastic… Since I think of myself as a know-all in the kitchen I came to the part in the recipe where it had me divide the batter into the two 9″ cake pans and I figured that there wasnt going to be enough batter to make two seperate 9″ cakes so I just put all the batter into one pan. So at the end of the 45 minutes the middle of the cake was still very moist so I had to turn the heat down and bake for another 30 or 45 minutes. In the end the cake was fantastic, next time I will most likely actually follow the directions and end up with a more decadent looking cake with the layers. Also I did not have unsweetened coconut so I used the half cup of the sweetened and took out a third of the sugar and it worked well. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Glad to hear that despite a few substitutions you were still wowed, Josh!

  6. Caroline Davis says:

    I love coconut cake and want to try this recipe for Easter. It looks like most people made this as cupcakes. I am interested in making it as a cake, but with the recipe calling for only 1 3/4 cup flour I am concerned that the batter volume won’t adequately fill two 9-inch layers and that I will end up with super-thin layers and a short, fat cake. I’d love to hear a report from someone who made it in two 9-inch pans. Maybe two 8-inch pans would work? I want a cake that will be impressive – like the three-layer stunner pictured (are those 6-inch pans?). Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Caroline,

      You could certainly use smaller pans to get a grand towering cake- just be sure to watch your timing. Please let us know how it turns out.


  7. Diane says:

    What a wonderful cake! I was a little surprised at how thick the cake batter turned out (I had to spread it around the pans with my spatula). I used two 9″ pans, and set the timer for 30 minutes so my DH could get them out of the oven for me. My bad. The cake was done before the 30 minute mark and they turned out a little drier than I would have cared for. However, the flavor was wonderful! I used sweetened coconut and I didn’t reduce the sugar. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. I was worried that it would be too sweet, but the flavor was perfect to me. The icing turned out like a dream. It was beautiful with toasted coconut on top. Will I make it again? Definitely. Thanks for sharing!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Our pleasure, Diane. Terrific to hear that you liked it so!

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Diane, I simply adore that frosting. So luscious for such an easy recipe. Enjoy!


  8. Lucia Soares says:

    I made cake and cupcakes with this recipe. Simply DIVINE!! For the cupcakes, I infused them with a small amount of apricot jam and it was delicious. Thanks for sharing this recipe! Lucia

    • Julie Dreyfoos, LC Production Manager says:

      So glad you like it Lucia! Sounds wonderful with the addition of the apricot jam.

  9. cucinera says:

    Hi ! May I just ask if the unsweetened shredded coconut is the same as fresh coconut ? Also, I’d like to be guided as to the recommended cooking time if I were to bake it in a single pan (maybe 9 inch round). Much as I would like to indulge in layers of frosting, our sugar level concerns leave us no choice but to lessen if not do away the frosting. Thanks !

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi cucinera, unsweetened coconut refers to dried packaged coconut without added sweeteners. The recipe calls for 2 9″ cake pans and I would not recommend trying to use just one pan, or halving the recipe. It would be much easier to just omit the frosting between the layers- more cake, yay!

  10. Gertie M says:

    I made this as a cake and found that the batter was thick and didn’t rise much, even though I followed the recipe exactly. I wound up with two 9 inch rounds that were only about 3/4 of an inch thick. The cake itself is nice, but I’d definitely make this in smaller pans next time. Also, if you aren’t using springform pans, it might be easier to get the cake out before it’s cooled completely.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Gertie, smaller pans would give you a lovely tall cake. Thanks for your tip about the removing the layers!

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