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 cakes 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. 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 before measuring 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. If you can't get ahold of coconut milk, you can use 1 cup of buttermilk instead. 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.

Did you make a recipe?

Tag @sallysbakeblog on Instagram and hashtag it #sallysbakingaddiction.

© 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

233 Comments

Comments

  1. Haylie on May 9, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Hi Sally!
    This looks amazing!
    I’m wondering if you could do a passion fruit filling instead of coconut? And if you could bake it in 8” rounds versus 9”?

    Thanks!

    • Sally on May 9, 2018 at 9:35 pm

      Hi Haylie! Yes to both. The bake time will be longer in 8-inch cake pans. Make sure you only fill them halfway with batter.

  2. debbie hickey on May 10, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Regarding measuring flour….when you say spoon and leveled, but also give the grams, doesn’t using a scale make spooning/leveling unnecessary?

    • Sally on May 11, 2018 at 9:41 am

      Hi Debbie! I include the spoon & level suggestion for readers who measure with cups. If weighing ingredients, spooning and leveling is unnecessary.

  3. Toni on May 26, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    Hi Sally,
    This cake looks great. if I double the recipe and made it in two 12-inch pans for a large event for 30 people (splitting each layer to make 4 layers), do you think the cake would be light enough to fully bake, in the middle?

    • Sally on May 31, 2018 at 6:49 am

      Hi Toni! I wish I could help, but I’m unsure and don’t want to give you advice unless I’m confident with my answer. I *thick* the cake would be fine baked in 12-inch pan, but again– I’m not 100% sure.

  4. Jennica on May 27, 2018 at 2:40 am

    Hey- do you happen to know how to adjust this recipe for high altitude? Add 1/4 cup flour, perhaps?

  5. Sadaf on May 30, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Hi Sally! I was wondering your thoughts on brown buttering the butter for the frosting?? Do you think that would work? If yes, any suggestion on how to brown butter? Would I need to cool it completely before making the frosting? I’ve seen you use it for several recipes- not sure if it would work for this. Thanks so much!

  6. RKP on June 10, 2018 at 9:57 am

    SAlly can you please do a video on this cake?
    Also I actually tried making this cake by using shredded coconut that’s locally available here in INDIA. The shredded dried coconut that’s locally available here in INDIA literally has no coconut taste (geez) so I am wondering if you could suggest me how to intensify the coconut taste …

    • Sally on June 11, 2018 at 6:01 am

      For best results–without altering the texture of the cake– I suggest coconut extract. Even up to 2 teaspoons total will help!

  7. Paula on June 18, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    This cake sounds very intriguing! I am not a fan of coconut, however. Do you think I could have a great tasting cake minus coconut flakes? I have made a cake before using coconut milk and the cake didn’t taste like coconut. I do make my own lemon curd. Maybe I just need an alternate recipe of yours instead of making changes?? Thanks Sally!

    • Sally on June 18, 2018 at 2:17 pm

      You can absolutely leave off the coconut flakes and also do not use the optional coconut extract. Definitely make your own lemon curd!! The recipe is linked above!!

  8. Asnia on June 19, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Sally!! This cake looks DIVINE and I have been waiting for an opportunity to make it! I was just wondering for the sheet pan option, how would you suggest decorating it? A layer of lemon curd and then the frosting on top? Thanks in advance!

    • Sally on June 21, 2018 at 6:34 am

      Hi Asnia! Here’s my suggestion. Are you familiar with poke cakes? (Look it up for reference) Use the bottom of you rubber spatula and poke random holes in the top of the cake. Spread lemon curd on top. The lemon curd will seep down into the cake. Then top with frosting. 🙂

  9. Elise on July 1, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Hi Sally!

    I only have two cake pans. Would it hurt to cook two of the layers and then make the third after one of the pans has cooled? Or would that change the consistency of the cake?

    Thank you!

    ~ Elise

    • Sally on July 2, 2018 at 1:26 pm

      It should be fine, Elise! Enjoy!

  10. Lucy on July 15, 2018 at 12:31 am

    Hi Sally This looks amazing! Could I substitute coconut sugar for the granulated sugar?

    • Sally on July 16, 2018 at 10:20 am

      Hi Lucy! You can certainly try it!

  11. Rebecca on July 18, 2018 at 10:28 am

    I want to make the cake, I have coconut cream, not milk but it seams lighter than other creams I’ve used, would that be ok?

    • Sally on July 18, 2018 at 12:52 pm

      Is it the super thick kind in a can? That’s what you need. I linked to what I use up in #4 under the lemon cake details section!

  12. Victoria on July 25, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Sally!

    Cake looks lovely, and I am planning on making it for a friends birthday on Friday. I am wondering about using a buttercream frosting instead of a cream cheese one? Do you think the butter taste would be too heavy with the lemon?

    Thanks!

  13. Susan R on July 28, 2018 at 7:56 am

    Hi, Sally! This is my 2nd post today as I am studying recipes harder than I studied most things in school. My husband loves coconut but not lemon (silly man!) so would it be ok if I made this without the lemon curd? I wasn’t sure if the curd was necessary to hold the layers together or if just frosting was enough. Also, if I wanted to use a different frosting (chocolate), do you recommend one that would make enough to fill and frost this cake? Thanks, as always!

  14. Gabrielle on August 9, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    Hi Sally! How would you suggest going about halving (or just down sizing) the recipe? And what pan sizes would you then suggest?

    Thanks for the help!

    • Sally on August 13, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Hi Gabrielle! I would halve the recipe for an 11×7-inch baking pan. For the eggs, use 2 eggs. Keep your eye on it around 25-30 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

Reviews

  1. Holly on April 30, 2018 at 7:59 am

    My mom made this for my birthday party over the weekend. It was one of the best cakes I have ever had!! Perfect for a spring birthday celebration. The coconut and lemon paired so well together. Everyone enjoyed it… including my 3 year old! I’m currently on bed rest and unable to cook, but I’m definitely saving this recipe to bake in the future.

Questions

  1. Judy Pichon on May 6, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    Is there a secret to getting nice, even layers without cutting the cake top? I think I’m using the right amount of batter in each pan.

    • Sally on May 7, 2018 at 9:48 am

      No matter what I try, my cakes always require a little leveling off after baking. Let me know if you try anything!

  2. Haylie on May 9, 2018 at 11:52 am

    Hi Sally!
    This looks amazing!
    I’m wondering if you could do a passion fruit filling instead of coconut? And if you could bake it in 8” rounds versus 9”?

    Thanks!

    • Sally on May 9, 2018 at 9:35 pm

      Hi Haylie! Yes to both. The bake time will be longer in 8-inch cake pans. Make sure you only fill them halfway with batter.

  3. debbie hickey on May 10, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Regarding measuring flour….when you say spoon and leveled, but also give the grams, doesn’t using a scale make spooning/leveling unnecessary?

    • Sally on May 11, 2018 at 9:41 am

      Hi Debbie! I include the spoon & level suggestion for readers who measure with cups. If weighing ingredients, spooning and leveling is unnecessary.

  4. Toni on May 26, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    Hi Sally,
    This cake looks great. if I double the recipe and made it in two 12-inch pans for a large event for 30 people (splitting each layer to make 4 layers), do you think the cake would be light enough to fully bake, in the middle?

    • Sally on May 31, 2018 at 6:49 am

      Hi Toni! I wish I could help, but I’m unsure and don’t want to give you advice unless I’m confident with my answer. I *thick* the cake would be fine baked in 12-inch pan, but again– I’m not 100% sure.

  5. Sadaf on May 30, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Hi Sally! I was wondering your thoughts on brown buttering the butter for the frosting?? Do you think that would work? If yes, any suggestion on how to brown butter? Would I need to cool it completely before making the frosting? I’ve seen you use it for several recipes- not sure if it would work for this. Thanks so much!

  6. RKP on June 10, 2018 at 9:57 am

    SAlly can you please do a video on this cake?
    Also I actually tried making this cake by using shredded coconut that’s locally available here in INDIA. The shredded dried coconut that’s locally available here in INDIA literally has no coconut taste (geez) so I am wondering if you could suggest me how to intensify the coconut taste …

    • Sally on June 11, 2018 at 6:01 am

      For best results–without altering the texture of the cake– I suggest coconut extract. Even up to 2 teaspoons total will help!

  7. Paula on June 18, 2018 at 2:01 pm

    This cake sounds very intriguing! I am not a fan of coconut, however. Do you think I could have a great tasting cake minus coconut flakes? I have made a cake before using coconut milk and the cake didn’t taste like coconut. I do make my own lemon curd. Maybe I just need an alternate recipe of yours instead of making changes?? Thanks Sally!

    • Sally on June 18, 2018 at 2:17 pm

      You can absolutely leave off the coconut flakes and also do not use the optional coconut extract. Definitely make your own lemon curd!! The recipe is linked above!!

  8. Asnia on June 19, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Sally!! This cake looks DIVINE and I have been waiting for an opportunity to make it! I was just wondering for the sheet pan option, how would you suggest decorating it? A layer of lemon curd and then the frosting on top? Thanks in advance!

    • Sally on June 21, 2018 at 6:34 am

      Hi Asnia! Here’s my suggestion. Are you familiar with poke cakes? (Look it up for reference) Use the bottom of you rubber spatula and poke random holes in the top of the cake. Spread lemon curd on top. The lemon curd will seep down into the cake. Then top with frosting. 🙂

  9. Elise on July 1, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Hi Sally!

    I only have two cake pans. Would it hurt to cook two of the layers and then make the third after one of the pans has cooled? Or would that change the consistency of the cake?

    Thank you!

    ~ Elise

    • Sally on July 2, 2018 at 1:26 pm

      It should be fine, Elise! Enjoy!

  10. Lucy on July 15, 2018 at 12:31 am

    Hi Sally This looks amazing! Could I substitute coconut sugar for the granulated sugar?

    • Sally on July 16, 2018 at 10:20 am

      Hi Lucy! You can certainly try it!

  11. Rebecca on July 18, 2018 at 10:28 am

    I want to make the cake, I have coconut cream, not milk but it seams lighter than other creams I’ve used, would that be ok?

    • Sally on July 18, 2018 at 12:52 pm

      Is it the super thick kind in a can? That’s what you need. I linked to what I use up in #4 under the lemon cake details section!

  12. Victoria on July 25, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    Hi Sally!

    Cake looks lovely, and I am planning on making it for a friends birthday on Friday. I am wondering about using a buttercream frosting instead of a cream cheese one? Do you think the butter taste would be too heavy with the lemon?

    Thanks!

  13. Susan R on July 28, 2018 at 7:56 am

    Hi, Sally! This is my 2nd post today as I am studying recipes harder than I studied most things in school. My husband loves coconut but not lemon (silly man!) so would it be ok if I made this without the lemon curd? I wasn’t sure if the curd was necessary to hold the layers together or if just frosting was enough. Also, if I wanted to use a different frosting (chocolate), do you recommend one that would make enough to fill and frost this cake? Thanks, as always!

  14. Gabrielle on August 9, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    Hi Sally! How would you suggest going about halving (or just down sizing) the recipe? And what pan sizes would you then suggest?

    Thanks for the help!

    • Sally on August 13, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Hi Gabrielle! I would halve the recipe for an 11×7-inch baking pan. For the eggs, use 2 eggs. Keep your eye on it around 25-30 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

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