Lemon Coconut Cake

Lemon, coconut, buttery, moist, tender… this is the cake of your dreams!

Lemon coconut cake, with deliciously moist coconut cake layers, homemade lemon curd, toasted coconut and cream cheese frosting, is a family favorite! sallysbakingaddiction.com

I never imagined loving a cake as much as I love this lemon blueberry layer cake.

But I do now.

Lemon coconut cake, as in 3 deliciously moist buttery coconut cake combined with homemade lemon curd, toasted coconut flakes, and cream cheese frosting. Finished with a “what just happened in my mouth because that was the best cake I’ve ever had” moment.

This lemon coconut cake, which you must make for every occasion this spring because of its massive crowd appeal and towering magnificence, is everything to my tastebuds. And your tastebuds will agree after that first slice.

Lemon coconut cake, with deliciously moist coconut cake layers, homemade lemon curd, toasted coconut and cream cheese frosting, is a family favorite! sallysbakingaddiction.com

Let me help you make the best possible lemon coconut cake. I strongly suggest you read through these details as well as the recipe notes below– some are repeats in case the following details are missed!

5 Lemon Coconut Cake Details

(1) 3 layers of coconut cake, which are completely from scratch using sweetened coconut flakes, coconut milk, cake flour for an unbelievably soft crumb, eggs for richness, and a mess of butter for flavor/moisture/buttery goodness

Diet food? This is not. Eat without regrets.

(2) You’ll need 5 whole eggs. Sounds like a lot, but keep in mind this cake is massive, serving at least 12 people. Eggs are a cake texture’s BFF.

(3) Speaking of texture– let’s get back to that cake flour. Do NOT use all-purpose flour. Your cake will be unbelievably solid and heavy, like a cake brick of sorts. And sift that cake flour to aerate it (aka fluff it up, rid all lumps). Can’t exaggerate the sifting enough!

(4) Use coconut milk and buttermilk for the best possible texture and flavor. The coconut milk I am referring to is the canned kind. Super thick. I actually used “light” coconut milk– this stuff to be exact. Find it in the thai/asian section of your grocery store. Buttermilk is used for moisture, as well as in conjunction with the baking soda. (Read more on that right here!)

(5) Always room temperature everything. And here’s why.

How to make lemon coconut cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Let’s ignore the super chunky batter for a sec. Covers eyes. I had to snap a picture of it to show you. Do not be alarmed by its completely unglamorous appearance. It’s that lumpy from the coconut.

Luckily the finished cake looks 900x better than the batter. What a relief, right?

Homemade lemon curd on sallysbakingaddiction.com

How to make lemon coconut cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Homemade lemon curd and a thin layer of cream cheese frosting find their way between each coconut cake layer. I always tear up when I see lemon curd bought from the store– but I, the crazy crying lady in the jam aisle, am absolutely guilty of buying it when I’m in a pinch. Homemade lemon curd requires only 5 simple ingredients that you probably have on hand, so I encourage you to give it a try. And there is no flavor comparison between homemade and store-bought! In fact, store-bought barely deserves to share the same name.

Lemon coconut cake, with deliciously moist coconut cake layers, homemade lemon curd, toasted coconut and cream cheese frosting, is a family favorite! sallysbakingaddiction.com

The frosting is of the cream cheese variety, aka one of my favorites. One thing to note, and I am asked about this all the time, is that you must use brick-style cream cheese. Not the kind sold in a tub that you spread on your bagels. The kind that is sold in a little box. Do not use low-fat or fat free unless you want your cream cheese frosting to melt off the cake and/or taste like socks. A drop of coconut extract takes the cream cheese frosting up a level, but that’s completely optional.

Back to the cake. What I love about this lemon coconut cake, besides the flavor, is the dense and fluffy texture. I know the two contradict each other, but I swear I haven’t completely lost my mind. Or have I? The truth is that this lemon coconut cake has an unbelievably light crumb, but there is A LOT of dense flavor in each buttery bite. It’s not as fluffy as cake mix cake– understandably so since it is homemade– but it’s not a cake brick. See #3 above for cake brick clarification.

Lemon coconut cake, with deliciously moist coconut cake layers, homemade lemon curd, toasted coconut and cream cheese frosting, is a family favorite! sallysbakingaddiction.com

Add it to your Easter/spring baking extravaganza.

Happy weekend!

Lemon Coconut Cake

To make the best possible lemon coconut cake, make sure to read my notes in the post and below before beginning.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (300g) sifted cake flour (spoon & leveled)1
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) coconut milk, at room temperature2
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk, at room temperature2
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (345g; 3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) vanilla extract
  • optional: 1 teaspoon coconut extract (I prefer the cake without it, but it's still tasty!)
  • 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut (about 2 loosely packed cups)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups homemade lemon curd (full recipe)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 ounces (225g) full-fat brick style cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (360g) confectioners' sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) coconut milk or heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • topping: toasted (or not!) sweetened shredded coconut and lemon slices for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray or lightly butter three 9-inch cake pans. Set aside.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. Combine the coconut milk and buttermilk together in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
  3. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed in a large bowl until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the granulated and brown sugars and beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes until creamed. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract and the coconut extract (if using). Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed.
  4. With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk mixture and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. Use a whisk to rid any large lumps, if needed. The batter will be slightly thick. Finally, fold in the coconut. The batter will be lumpy. See photo above for a visual.
  5. Spoon/pour batter evenly into each cake pan. Bake for around 22-25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. Remember to rotate the pans halfway through baking to ensure even baking. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  6. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, 1 Tablespoon coconut milk/cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1 more Tablespoon of milk/cream to thin out, if desired.
  7. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with a thin layer of frosting, then half of the lemon curd. Top with 2nd layer and evenly cover the top with a thin layer of frosting, then the remaining lemon curd. Finish with the third cake layer and spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Garnish the top with coconut and/or lemon slices. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before cutting or else the cake may fall apart as you cut.
  8. Slice, serve, enjoy!
  9. Make ahead tip: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the cake the next day when you are ready to serve. Frosted cake can be frozen up to 2 months if you have room in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving. Honestly, it tastes much better fresh.

Recipe Notes:

The batter makes a perfect sheet cake! Simply spread into a 12x17 inch half sheet/jelly roll pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until cooked through.

To increase the lemon flavor, feel free to add the zest of 1 lemon to the coconut cake batter. Keep in mind that this will take away from the cake's coconut flavor. Also optional for more lemon flavor: beat zest from 1 lemon into the cream cheese frosting.

To increase the coconut flavor, feel free to use the optional coconut extract listed. And/or you can add 1/2 teaspoon of coconut extract to the frosting.

  1. Sift the cake flour before measuring it. Do NOT use all-purpose flour in this coconut cake. Your cake will be too-dense, solid, and heavy. Make sure you are sifting the cake flour to aerate it and rid lumps. I strongly encourage you to just buy cake flour, but as an alternative you can make a DIY cake flour. For every 1 cup of flour in this recipe, remove 2 Tablespoons of it and add 2 Tablespoons cornstarch in its place. Sift at least 3-4 times, then use in the recipe.
  2. This recipe has been tested with equal parts coconut milk and buttermilk. I use this light coconut milk. If you can't get ahold of coconut milk, you can use 1 cup of buttermilk instead. Keep in mind that you will lose some coconut flavor in the cake. Buttermilk is required for this recipe. For a DIY version of buttermilk, add 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to a large liquid measuring cup. Then add enough regular room temperature milk (whole, skim, 1%, 2%) to make 1/2 cup total. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. This soured milk can be used in the recipe.

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

You’re obviously going to love my glazed lemon poppy seed bundt cake, too!

Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt Cake

Deliciously moist, sweet, and light coconut cakes layered with homemade lemon curd and cream cheese frosting! Cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com
Deliciously moist, sweet, and light coconut cakes layered with homemade lemon curd and cream cheese frosting! Cake recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

139 comments

  1. Hi Sally,
    I made this for my wedding anniversary last sunday, my hubby and baby absolutely loved it. My daughter has infact told me she needs this only for her bday as well…

  2.  I don’t get sweetened shredded coconut where I’m from. I get dry dessicated coconut instead. And i can find fresh coconut that’s dessicated. How do you suggest I go about it? Also, we make our own coconut milk. Will that work? 
    I just got over my ‘all day pregnancy nausea’ stage and am craving this!!! 

  3. hi sally, i’m follow ur IG these days just to get updates on ur cooking blog. coconut lemon cake hhhmmmm….. beyond my imagination. should try tis one. tq

  4. I made this cake for my wife’s birthday.  The texture was very light and delicate,  the taste was right on.  I did have some issues with the cake sticking to the pan after cooking.  I’ll definitely use some parchment next time,  but the recipe and taste are great.  Thanks

  5. I decided to make this for my dad’s 60th birthday since his two favorite flavors are coconut and lemon. I’ve never made a cake from scratch before so I didn’t know what to expect but I really wanted to try since it sounds perfect for the occasion. I don’t have a food scale or frosting paddle/knife/spatula thing but I made due with what I have. I used a cheese knife to spread the frosting and it actually worked really well–way better than a butter knife or a mixing spatula. My lemon curd was very runny, which I’m guessing is because I mistakenly added twice as much lemon juice as was needed. It never really thickened but it’s very lemony and tastes great. I made little frosting walls around the cakes to keep the curd from pouring out from between the layers and it worked pretty well. I decided to go with lemon zest as a garnish, though I was afraid it would be too bitter, but the sweetness of the frosting balanced it out wonderfully. I’ll be serving it tonight at the birthday dinner. We’ll see how it goes. I’m certain he’s going to love it. The subtle coconut flavor and the brightness of the lemon are a great combination. A good cake for a warm and sunny April birthday. Thanks for the recipe! I’ll definitely be trying out more in the coming months. I’m really excited to take a stab at the mini key lime pies next! 🙂

    • I would like to add that, like some other folks, I could not find sweetened shredded coconut anywhere so I just used unsweetened. The cake is subtle, not overwhelmingly sweet. I found that the lemon curd, too, is sharp and tangy but not sickeningly sweet. It’s balanced. I noticed some other folks mentioning the cake and curd are too sweet, and I’d just like to add that, for me, they’re not too sweet at all. They’re just right for a dessert. (They don’t irritate dental cavities at all, if that tells you anything). Hope this helps others looking to try the recipe!

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Jenn! Hope the cake was a hit. And double the juice would make the curd thinner for sure. But glad it’s so tasty!

  6. Oh my gosh!!! I absolutely fell in love with this cake after one bit!! You’re hands down one of the best baker I’ve known…keep up the good work!! I always follow your recipes because I always get results, never disappointed. Love love lovee this cake, can’t stop talking about it. 

  7. This cake was delicious! I used Meyer lemons for the curd,OMG.Im lucky enough to have fresh eggs on hand,I was super stoked this cake required so many! The cake itself was just a crazy balance of sweetness and tang.It was definitely a hit along with your peanut butter cups and chocolate dipped prezetls,from your Candy Addiction book.I can’t say how many compliments I receive from using all of your recipes! I’m always asked to bring a dessert,and Its made my boyfriend very happy ! Thank you Sally for being so gracious,you’ve made me LOVE baking.
    Have a good one! 

  8. Ahh I’ve bought self raising flour, will that work? Or should I buy cake flour? Thanks! 

  9. I have researched many sites to find the perfect coconut lemon cake….and have chosen this one, One question before I begin…OK…2….do I use 8″ pans. and can I put a metal bowl over a pot of water to make lemon curd? I don’t have a double boiler.  Thank you. I am making this tomorrow and will update you with results!

    • Use 9 inch pans if you can. You can use 8 inch pans, but the cook time will be a few minutes longer. And you can use your metal bowl for the curd. Let me know how it goes!

  10. Hi…just made my first lemon curd!  I am making the cake tomorrow. I had asked previously about size of cake pans, and whether a double boiler was necessary. Upon reading your directions more closely, I found the answers! I am hoping it will be OK to use 8″ pans, as that is what I have…will give you results.

  11. This was coming together nicely…the curd looked delicious, the cakes  came out fine…but it all fell apart…literally, when I assembled layers. The cake was definitely cool enough. The trouble was with the frosting…much too loose. After researching cream cheese frosting, I discovered it should not be overly mixed, because of cream cheese fat content being less than buttercream..or something like that.
    So, after throwing away the cake (curd and frosting oozing out of sides, and once it was completely frosted, fell apart in the fridge), I found a sturdier cream cheese frosting. I used the  cake and curd recipe and made cupcakes, injecting the curd into cupcakes. I added toasted coconut after frosting, and garnished with homemade candied lemon peels. Since I eliminated sugar from my diet, I will have to wait for the cupcakes’ recipient for feedback.

  12. I just made your lemon curd. It’s heavenly. I’ve been licking bowls and kitchen tools for the past 15 minutes. Tomorrow I’ll bake the coconut cake. Can’t wait!!!!!!

    • Oh, forgot to ask. I have both shredded coconut and coconut flour at home. What happens if I substitute half (or the entire amount of shredded coconut with the coconut flour? Woul it mess up the consistency? Thank you.

      • Yes, it would. Do not add coconut flour here– you want shredded coconut. Happy you love the curd!

  13. Hi! I am going to bake this cake for my mother, and I was wondering what inch pan should I use? 8″ or 9″? And, is this cake good for a beginner?

    • Sorry, forgot. Can I also use three store-brought cake mixes and continue like normal, or will that lose most of the flavor?

      • I always like to encourage from-scratch cake baking. And I would use three 9-inch cake pans. Read through the recipe a couple times before you begin and you’ll be just fine!

  14. I did a lot of research (read too much) to find the perfect lemon cake my daughter requested for her 9th birthday. I was wondering if it would be worth the effort to make the lemon curd and all. We it totally was! “Best birthday cake I ever had, mom!”. And my mother in law (who is not a cake person) ate two pieces! Thanks for the recipe. Any suggestion for my second daughter who wants a strawberry cake?

  15. Hi Sally! I love your recipes, they’re always a hit!! I have a huge craving for coconut cake. Though the lemon curd sounds like a delicious match made in heaven I REALLY only want the coconut. Would I be able omit the lemon curd all together? Would it change the texture of the cake? 

  16. silly question but how do you make the lemon twist on top of the cake? Thanks! 🙂 

  17. Sally this cake is delicious! I’ve tried several of your recipes now and I love them all. Thanks so much for sharing!

  18. What brand of cake flour works best with the Lemon Coconut cake

  19. Such a great idea. This sounds so zesty and delicious! I cannot wait to try it out!

  20. Sally, I’m making your Lemon Coconut cake for the first time.  It sounds and look scrumptious! 
    Question: 
    Why do you prefer NOT to use coconut extract in the cake or frosting?
    Does it make the cake sweeter?

  21. This is one of the best recipe for me.
    Great job.
    I will come weekly to visit your site.
    Thanks.

  22. I made the coconut version only leaving out the lemon curd as a girlfriend requested coconut cake for her celebration.  The recepie was doubled as I made two sheet cakes to serve 90 persons, the cake was served with ice cream.   The cake received great reviews and was requested for seconds.  For coconut milk I used 4 tbsp of coconut powder to the 1/2 cup measure of water in addition to increase the coconut flavor I added 2 tbsp to batter when mixing.  Toasted coconut flakes added visual impact and enhanced the cream cheese frosting.

    Fantastic recipe and following all Sally’s instructions the cake was a success.  Thanks again Sally for your time and effort in sharing your tips.  The video with this recipe and others help novices like myself come off professionally.

  23. I can’t wait to make this cake! I have a question regarding the frosting. Looking at the recipe just one brick of cream cheese seems like it couldn’t possibly be enough to frost the entire cake, walls and all. I feel like I should double the recipe. What do you think? 

    • I find 8 ounces is plenty paired with 1/2 cup of butter. Feel free to make more frosting if you think it needs it. Enjoy!

  24. Hi Sally, I’m a huge fan of your blog and have tried quite a few of your recipes (@abbeysbakingcompany on instagram). I’m planning on making this cake for an out of town birthday celebration this weekend. I’m most likely going to have to bake it on Wednesday for a Saturday celebration. Is this cake going to still be fresh if I do that?

    • Yes, absolutely. Cover it tightly and store in the refrigerator. Then I suggest bringing it to *almost* room temperature before serving.

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