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This perfect coconut cake sets the bar for homemade cakes everywhere. It’s supremely moist with a soft fluffy crumb and intense coconut flavor. For success, follow this recipe carefully including using cake flour, egg whites, sour cream, and canned coconut milk.

Slice of coconut cake with buttercream flower on white plate

At the request of many readers, let me introduce you to the best coconut cake I’ve ever had. Homemade with love for coconut lovers everywhere, this cake exceeds my expectations. Complete with silky coconut cream cheese buttercream, she’s absolutely perfect and juxtaposes bold flavor with a light crumb.

I endlessly tested this cake recipe. In fact, I’m pretty sure my head turned into an actual coconut during the process. Is there shredded coconut caked into the crevices of my kitchen floor and backsplash? Yes.

Coconut cake on cake stand

5 Reasons to Love This Coconut Cake Recipe

  1. Not Dry: This coconut cake is mega moist. There’s no point wasting your time (or calories!) on dry cakes.
  2. Intensely Flavorful: Using coconut milk, shredded coconut, and coconut extract, you are guaranteed an intensely flavorful coconut cake.
  3. Soft & Fluffy: Following the recipe carefully, as well as using the power ingredients described below, you are guaranteed a soft-as-silk coconut cake crumb.
  4. Any Shape: Use this cake batter for coconut Bundt cake, coconut cupcakes, a 2 layer cake, 3 layer cake, or a coconut sheet cake.
  5. Gets Along With Everyone: Use the frosting recipe below or try strawberry frosting, lemon frosting, brown butter cream cheese frosting, champagne frosting, chocolate buttercream. And don’t forget to drizzle salted caramel on top!

Coconut Cake Video Tutorial

This recipe sets the bar for homemade cakes everywhere. It’s simply exquisite and is sure to be one of your favorite spring dessert recipes.

Coconut layer cake on wood and marble cake stand

How to Make Coconut Cake

I adapted this recipe from my favorite white cake. Its pristine crumb, fluffy texture, and stick-to-your-fork moisture guarantee cake success. In fact, I have the recipe memorized and even used it as the base of pistachio cake, cookies & cream cake, espresso cake, burnt sugar caramel cake, and strawberry cake. The recipe is cake gold and I knew it would be the perfect starting point for a fluffy and moist coconut cake.

Your coconut cake journey begins with 2 mixing bowls. Dry ingredients in one and wet ingredients in another (see full recipe instructions below). Combine the two in your mixer, along with coconut milk and shredded sweetened coconut. That’s it! Your coconut cake batter is ready to bake.

Creamed butter and sugar provide a solid base for this cake recipe. Use room temperature butter and remember that room temperature is cooler than you think.

Another tip: Use all room temperature ingredients, including the eggs and sour cream. Why? Ingredients bond together very easily when they’re warmer, which creates an evenly textured baked good. Cold ingredients do not emulsify together. Period. 

2 images of coconut in food processor and coconut milk for coconut cake
Coconut cake batter in glass bowl

Use These 6 Power Ingredients

Cake is literally nothing without its ingredients and these power players are the difference between dense dry cake and light moist cake.

  1. Cake Flour: Cake flour produces the softest cake. If you don’t usually buy cake flour, make the exception here. It’s sold in the baking aisle with the other flours. You can use leftovers in any of these cake flour recipes or you can use this cake flour substitute.
  2. Egg Whites: Egg yolks are wonderful for moisture, but they’re heavy and weigh down cakes. To keep the coconut cake light and fluffy, use only egg whites. We’ll add the moisture back with sour cream.
  3. Sour Cream: The moist maker! This cake melts in your mouth.
  4. Coconut Extract: I tested this recipe with and without coconut extract. We loved it both ways, but coconut extract is necessary for best coconut flavor. It’s in the baking aisle near the vanilla extract.
  5. Canned Coconut Milk: Canned coconut milk is a cooking ingredient, not a beverage. It’s creamier and thicker than regular milk and usually found near the Thai food products. Do not use refrigerated carton coconut milk because the two are very different.
  6. Sweetened Shredded Coconut: I recommend using sweetened shredded coconut. It’s moister than unsweetened coconut and that makes a big difference in the cake’s texture. I reduced the added sugar in the cake batter to make up for the sweetness. Sweetened coconut is sometimes sold as long skinny shreds, a size some find off-putting in cake. Therefore, I recommend pulsing them in a food processor so they’re smaller.
Cream cheese buttercream frosting on whisk

Coconut Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

What do you love about vanilla buttercream? It’s buttery, sweet, and smooth.

And what about cream cheese frosting? It’s creamy, silky, and tangy.

Let’s combine the two, then add coconut milk and coconut extract. Be prepared for the creamiest, silkiest frosting that glides onto the cake seamlessly. (Which is a happy bonus because decorating a layer cake can be quite the task. See more below.)

2 images of frosting coconut cake on cake stand from overhead and side angles
Coconut cake slice on white plate

How to Frost a Layer Cake

Alright, let’s do this.

  1. Cool cakes completely. Sounds obvious, but even the tiniest bit of warmth will melt the frosting. As a result, the layer cake will slip, slide, or even cave in!
  2. If your cakes have a dome on top, level them off with a cake leveler or serrated knife. Flat-topped cakes ensure a straight and sturdy layer cake.
  3. Choose a serving plate or cake stand. Here is the cake stand I use in these pictures!
  4. Place the bottom layer on the cake stand. Using an icing spatula, spread 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting in an even layer on top. Bring the frosting just over the edge of the cake; this will be helpful when it’s time to frost the sides.
  5. Place the 2nd layer top-side-down on top. Make sure it aligns with the bottom cake layer.
  6. Spread 1 and 1/2 cups frosting evenly on top, just as you did with the bottom layer.
  7. Place 3rd layer top-side-up on top. Again, make sure it’s perfectly aligned.
  8. Divide the remaining frosting in half. (I usually just eyeball it.) Dollop half of the frosting on top of the cake and use an icing spatula to smooth it to the edges. Apply *some* of the remaining frosting all around the sides of the cake, then use a bench scraper to smooth it in a thin layer. Apply the rest of the frosting on the sides of the cake, then bench scrape to smooth it all out.
  9. Wipe any excess frosting off of the cake stand.

You can watch me decorate this coconut cake in the video tutorial above. Don’t stress, if you take your time and make sure the cake layers are totally straight, you’re all set.

But I Don’t Want To

Skip the drama and make a coconut sheet cake instead! Sheet cakes are easier to frost because they’re only one layer. See my recipe note about different size coconut cakes.

Overhead shot of coconut cake with buttercream roses

What About The Buttercream Roses?

Let’s give my assistant, Stephanie, a round of applause. This was her first time making the “3D” buttercream roses and look how beautifully they turned out! She made the buttercream roses at my house and I froze them until it was time to decorate the coconut cake. She followed this video tutorial. Keep in mind that the cream cheese buttercream WILL NOT work for the intricate buttercream roses. Instead, use my vanilla buttercream and add 1 extra cup of confectioners’ sugar. You need very stiff buttercream for these roses. You also need small squares of parchment paper and:

Loosely cover the roses, then freeze or refrigerate them until ready to decorate, up to 1 week. No need to thaw prior to decorating the cake. Peel off parchment square and place the buttercream rose on the cake. If you’re traveling with the cake, I recommend securing the roses with a tiny dollop of cream cheese buttercream underneath.

Looking for something easier? Use Wilton 1M piping tip for these easy buttercream roses.

slice of coconut cake on plate

More Classic Cake Recipes

Flavor is the name, moist is the game. These are some my favorite classic cake recipes!

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Coconut cake on a wood and marble cake stand

Coconut Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 12 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


This perfect coconut cake sets the bar for homemade cakes everywhere. It’s supremely moist with a soft fluffy crumb and intense coconut flavor. For success, follow this recipe carefully including using cake flour, egg whites, sour cream, and canned coconut milk.


  • 2 and 1/2 cups (285g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks; 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 2/3 cups (330g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) canned coconut milk, at room temperature*
  • 1 cup (80g) sweetened shredded coconut

Coconut Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • one 8 ounce block (224g) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature*
  • 5 cups (600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) canned coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (160g) sweetened shredded coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the egg whites until combined, then add the sour cream, vanilla extract, and coconut extract. Beat until combined. Mixture will look curdled as a result of the varying textures and solid butter combining. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients and coconut milk. Beat on low speed until combined, then add the shredded coconut. Whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no butter lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Weigh them to ensure accuracy, if desired. Bake for around 21-23 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  5. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, coconut milk, vanilla extract, coconut extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, more coconut milk if frosting is too thick, or an extra pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  6. Assemble and decorate: 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, cake turntable, or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with about 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with about 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. I use and recommend an icing spatula to apply the frosting and bench scraper to smooth the sides. Sprinkle coconut on top of the cake and apply it to the sides. This can get a little messy and you can watch me do it in the video tutorial above. See blog post above about buttercream rose decoration.
  7. Refrigerate cake for at least 20 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting, though it’s still a pretty fluffy cake!
  8. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: 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. When ready to decorate, let the frosting sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 15 minutes, then give it one more mix with the mixer on medium speed for about 1 minute before frosting cake. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving.
  2. Cake Flour: For the best results, I strongly recommend cake flour. You can find cake flour in the baking aisle and I have many more recipes using it.
  3. Egg Whites: Egg whites (no yolks) are KEY to the cake’s fluffy texture. Here are recipes using leftover egg yolks.
  4. Canned Coconut Milk: Canned coconut milk is a cooking ingredient, not a beverage. It is usually unsweetened, so make sure you’re using unsweetened. It’s usually found near the Thai food products. Do not use refrigerated carton coconut milk. You need 1 cup for the cake, not the entire can. You use 2 more Tbsp in the frosting. There will be a little leftover in the can.
  5. Sweetened Shredded Coconut: I recommend using sweetened shredded coconut. It’s moister than unsweetened coconut and that makes a big difference in the cake’s texture. If desired, pulse the coconut shreds in a food processor to chop them up so they aren’t as long inside and outside of the cake. Chopping the coconut is optional.
  6. Cream Cheese: Use block cream cheese, not cream cheese spread. If desired, you can use this vanilla buttercream instead (no cream cheese). Use canned coconut milk instead of milk and add 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract.
  7. 9×13 Inch Cake: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9×13 inch pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. 2 Layer Cake: Prepare two 9-inch cake pans in step 1. Divide batter between pans and bake for 24-26 minutes or until cooked through.
  9. Bundt Cake: This cake batter will fit into a greased 10-cup or larger Bundt pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time (likely around an hour), but use a toothpick to test for doneness. Same oven temperature.
  10. Cupcakes: Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 19-21 minutes. Yields about 2-3 dozen. Or try my vanilla cupcakes recipe and substitute canned coconut milk for whole milk, 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract for the vanilla bean, and add 3/4 cup (60g) of sweetened shredded coconut.
  11. Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.

Keywords: cake, coconut cake, coconut

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Delicious! Very flavorful, very moist (if yours wasn’t, you must have overbaked!). This is our new favorite cake recipe. I used unsweetened coconut pulsed in a food processor, and “homemade” cake flour–both worked great, and didn’t seem to detract from the flavor or texture in any way. Thank you, Sally!

  2. Amazing!!! I’m not a baker but my boyfriend loves coconut cake and none of my local bakeries make a good coconut cake so I decided to try. I made this exactly as written. I cooked it as a sheet cake. I was shocked at how delicious this cake tastes. My boyfriend and everyone else who tasted it agreed it was delicious.

    1. Wow I was looking for a recipe of a coconut cake we made from a magazine 10 years ago. Found this one, made it and can’t be happier? The perfect coco cake

  3. Great taste , moist , however it was dense heavy not fluffy at all but I replaced sour cream with 2/3 cup buttermilk not sure if that was the problem.

  4. Hello sally, Thank you for all the online recipes and even videos on how to make something. I wanted to make a coconut Cake like my grandmother did in the distant past. I took your recipe and changed it some because I am lactose intolerant and wanted to try and reduce the sugar some. In using your recipe and substituting CRISCO for any oils/greases needed and using the GOYA “cream of coconut” that has a lot of sugar (I reduced the total sugar to compensate to 1 cup) I made a Coconut Cake that was amazing. I have not eaten Coconut Cake for 50 years from overindulging as a child and got “sick & tired” of it. This cake totally turned me around on eating Coconut Cakes again! I am now looking at your other recipes. Thank you.

    1. Hi Pat! You can substitute mascarpone for the cream cheese, yes.

      1. Sally I just was about to make this cake and realized I only had 1/3 cup of sour cream is there any else I can add? Buttermilk?

      2. Hi Shanelle, A plain, full-fat yogurt will work in place of the sour cream. Enjoy!

  5. Hi! I have made this before and love it! I am making it ahead of time for a baby shower I have 48 hours from now. My question is, how should I store the cake and frosting if I make it 2 days ahead? Thank you!

    1. Hi Leslie, You can cover the assembled cake and store it in the refrigerator for 2 days. For the best texture take it out a few hours before serving and let it come back to room temperature before slicing. Enjoy!

  6. Can I use fresh grated coconut instead? If so do I still add the same amount of coconut milk since the fresh coconut will be more moist?

    1. Hi Bridgett! We haven’t tested this coconut cake with fresh coconut. You may want to shred the coconut meat and dry it out in the oven (slightly) before using in the batter. Let us know how it goes!

  7. Trying this for the first time today! I’m in Colorado….any high altitude modifications I need to be aware of?

    1. Hi Kelly, I wish we could help, but have no experience baking at high altitude. Some readers have found this chart helpful:

    2. I am in Star Valley Wyoming, and have never had to alter her recipes. This one is my favorite!!

    1. Hi Maryam! You can leave the shredded coconut out of the cake batter. No other changes necessary.

  8. This is a wonderful recipe. Cake turned out very moist. The secret is in the baking of the cake also. Will make it again.

  9. I’m a fan of the white cake recipe but when I tried this coconut cake adaptation, the whole cake crumbles easily when sliced. Do you think it is the coconut milk or shredded coconut that made the difference? I’ll like to adapt it so it slices nicely like the white cake. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Melissa, We are happy to help! This is a very moist and fluffy cake. Did you refrigerate it for 20 minutes before cutting? That will help it hold its shape! Also if you didn’t already, pulse the coconut in a food processor a few times to break them down a bit more before adding to the batter.

      1. Hi! I did refrigerate and pulse the coconut before. Thought I’ll share what went wrong in case other readers encounter the same.

        Many brands of coconut milk have less than 20% fat. The brand that I use has no additives and 24% fat. The same brand has coconut cream at 28% fat so what I was using is closer to cream than milk. So I scooped out a few tablespoons of the top cream portion and use the remaining can for the cake. Turns out perfect. The cake has great flavour and so soft and moist. It was denser when I was previously using the thicker coconut milk.

  10. Delicious. A bit denser than promised. It’s very rich and you only need a small piece so this cake is probably perfect for a large crowd

    1. I used 2 tablespoons of Aquafaba for every egg white (10tblsp total) and it turned out FABULOUS.

    1. Hi Jane, You can use this coconut cupcakes batter for three 6 inch cake pans. (Skip the caramel filling and chocolate frosting.) Follow the baking instructions for 6 Inch Cakes and you can halve this frosting recipe instead. Happy baking!

  11. Oh yumm! I followed all the tips and watched the video. This is the best scratch cake that I’ve ever made. So proud. It was light and fluffy and the frosting was decadent. Thank you Sally for an impressive cake!

  12. I made this for Christmas is was so moist . This cake was so good my girl friend requested one for her birthday.

  13. This recipe was absolutely amazing, I made it into cupcakes like the notes said and halved it because I felt it was too much haha, ended up with about 1.5 dozen cupcakes. Stored in the fridge and ate them all before they could even think about going bad (about 3 days) and they were super fluffy and delicious as the recipe described. Makes a little too much frosting for my liking, so I didn’t end up using it all.

    1. Hi Kathryn! For a 6 inch cake, we recommend using our coconut cupcakes batter for three 6 inch cake pans. (Skip the caramel filling and chocolate frosting.) Follow the baking instructions for 6 Inch Cakes and you can halve this frosting recipe instead. Happy baking!

  14. Hi! Can I make this cake as a chcolate cake – how would I do this?! This cake is beyond delicious. I have made it at least a dozen times but a friend loves chocolate and coconut…

  15. This cake was perfection. I followed the directions to the letter and the result was incredible. I paired it with butter pecan ice cream for a birthday celebration. Let me tell you, I was the hero. Thank you so much for the recipe. I checked out your white cake recipe hoping to find a variation for an orange cake. That variation was not among those recommended, and I hesitate to experiment on my own. Do you have any tips on creating an orange cake? I’d love to pair it with this coconut frosting.

    1. Hi Cindy! We would use our Lemon Cake recipe – substituting orange for lemon. It would be fantastic with this coconut frosting 🙂

  16. Dear Sally,
    I made your coconut cake recipe yesterday. Something went wrong. I weighed all the ingredients., and everything was room temp. When I put the batter in the pans there was barely 1/2” in each pan. Baked as directed. Cakes are less than an inch tall. Help, I’ m not going to give up,

    1. Hi Helen! These are definitely thinner layers (as you can see in the photos above). How is the texture? If it is dense, we recommend you make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. We find they lose strength after just 3-4 months. Here’s a helpful post about preventing dense cake as well.

    1. Hi Shilpa, you can use unsweetened coconut here with no other changes to the recipe. The cake will still be plenty sweet!

  17. I just finished baking this cake. I haven’t got words to express how delicious is turned out to be.
    A very big fan of your baking. Thank you for uploading such wonderful detailed recipes.

    1. Hi Shilpa, You can simply leave the coconut extract out. Happy baking!

  18. Thank you for this recipe! I’ve made other coconut cakes and this is by far the best (and easier)! I made it for my dad’s 80th birthday.

  19. Could I use three 8″ pans with this recipe? I have two 9″, but we’d like a taller cake. 🙂

    1. Hi Megan, You can use your 8 inch pans with no changes to the recipe. The bake time will about the same for 8 inch pans, but use a toothpick to test for doneness. Happy baking!

  20. I would love to make this recipe as cupcakes. Could you please tell me if the frosting is thick enough to be piped and hold its shape? Thank you for the detailed recipe. X

    1. Hi Nargess, yes, this frosting holds pretty well for simple piping, but it would definitely be beneficial if you refrigerated the frosting for about 30 minutes prior to piping. Enjoy!

  21. I had a question on the Favorite White Cake Recipe! But it gave you no where to write a comment like here on this recipe!
    My question is on the white cake is that your recipe is for a 9 inch TWO layer. And I would like to do a 9 inch THREE layer cake. So how would I convert this? I looked on your conversion page but I’m terrible at math.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Robin! You can multiply that recipe by 1.5x for a three layer cake. Otherwise, we recommend our three layer vanilla cake instead!

  22. Wow. Fluffy and full of coconut flavor and so tender! Followed directions by weight (thank you for providing that) and the only change was to bake them in two 8” cake pans (my oven took 32 min), I was going to use three 8” pans but the batter actually fit perfectly in two. Paired so well with a lemon buttercream frosting. Such a great recipe!

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