Lemon Coconut Cake

A reader favorite recipe, lemon coconut cake features deliciously moist coconut cake layers, homemade lemon curd, toasted coconut, and cream cheese frosting. It’s buttery, moist, and tender– 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

Today’s lemon coconut cake recipe combines everything we love about lemon cake and coconut cake in one. Sandwiched between three deliciously moist and buttery coconut cake layers is homemade lemon curd and tangy cream cheese frosting. It’s sweet, bright with citrus, indulgent, and a must make for any occasion.

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

Why You’ll Love This Lemon Coconut Cake

What I love about this lemon coconut cake, besides the flavor, is the dense and fluffy texture. It has an unbelievably light crumb, but there is A LOT of dense flavor in each buttery bite. And readers all around the world agree– giving this cake rave reviews.

Here’s why you’ll love it, too:

  • Not just for spring– this cake brightens up cold and gloomy winter days
  • Great for all occasions
  • Mega flavorful
  • Extra buttery
  • Moist and soft
  • Simple yet impressive
  • Completely from scratch
  • Filled with lemon curd
  • Topped with cream cheese frosting
  • Garnished with toasted coconut

How to make lemon coconut cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

How to Make Lemon Coconut Cake

  1. Make lemon curd. We use 1 full batch for this cake. Let it cool while you make the cake.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together.
  3. Combine the milks. Set aside.
  4. Cream the wet ingredients together.
  5. Add the milk and dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Alternate additions.
  6. Fold in the coconut. The batter will be lumpy– don’t be alarmed by this.
  7. Pour the batter evenly into 3 prepared cake pans.
  8. Bake. About 22-25 minutes.
  9. Make the frosting.
  10. Assemble and frost.
  11. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes. This ensures the cake will stay intact as you cut it.
  12. Slice, serve, enjoy!

Homemade lemon curd on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Lemon Curd Filling is the Best

You’ll find homemade lemon curd between each layer of this elegant spring dessert. It’s light, fresh, citrus-y, pairs wonderfully with coconut, and adds so much delicious flavor. Made with only 5 simple ingredients, homemade lemon curd is best and incredibly easy to make. No crazy ingredients either– you likely have them in your kitchen already. There is no flavor comparison between homemade and store-bought!

Lemon curd is too liquid-y to use by itself, so we pair it with a layer of cream cheese frosting. But not just any cream cheese frosting, coconut cream cheese frosting. Let’s add coconut milk and heavy cream to make it extra thick and creamy, and a drop of coconut extract (optional) to kick it up a notch. You’ll never want to use regular cream cheese frosting again!

How to make lemon coconut cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

4 Lemon Coconut Cake Success Tips

For the best results, follow my tips for success.

  1. Use cake flour. Cake flour is key to this cake’s soft and light crumb. Do not use all-purpose flour in this recipe unless you’re making this cake flour substitute.
  2. Use coconut milk and buttermilk. Why both? For the best possible texture and flavor. I use canned coconut milk– it’s super thick. 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. (More about baking soda vs. baking powder here.)
  3. Use brick-style cream cheese. To make cream cheese frosting, you must use full-fat brick-style cream cheese. The kind that is sold in a little box– not the kind sold in a tub that you spread on your bagels.
  4. Use room temperature ingredients. Your coconut milk, buttermilk, butter, eggs, and cream cheese should all be at room temperature before beginning. Room temperature ingredients truly make a difference– there is science and legitimate reason behind it!

In short, no ingredient substitutions. For 3 moist, soft, and flavorful coconut cake layers, make the recipe using the ingredients listed. I don’t recommend substituting any of these– the cake’s wonderful texture and flavor will change.

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

More Favorite Lemon Recipes

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

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Lemon Coconut Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: serves 12-14
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Lemon coconut cake features deliciously moist coconut cake layers, homemade lemon curd, toasted coconut and cream cheese frosting. It’s a family favorite recipe! 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 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) coconut milk, at room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*
  • 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) pure 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 pure vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • topping: toasted (or not!) sweetened shredded coconut and lemon slices for garnish

Instructions

  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!

Notes

  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. 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.
  2. Flour: Do not replace the cake flour with all-purpose flour. Your cake will be dense, solid, and heavy. In a pinch, you can use this homemade cake flour substitute which is a careful ratio of all-purpose flour and cornstarch.
  3. Milk: 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. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed. Add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1 cup. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  4. More Lemon Flavor: 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.
  5. More Coconut Flavor: 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.
  6. Sheet Cake: The batter makes a perfect sheet cake! Simply spread into a 12×17 inch half sheet/jelly roll pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until cooked through. It also fits nicely into a 9×13 inch cake pan. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until cooked through.

Keywords: lemon coconut cake, 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

307 Comments

  1. Been dying to make this – so decided to make it Sunday in honor of my birthday!! It was so good!! Cake was awesome but I had alot of trouble with the layers “sliding” with the lemon curd. Am thinking I didn’t cook it long enough – don’t think it was think enough. Next time might try it with your lemon buttercream icing or even the coconut frosting from the coconut cake. Didn’t like this one as much – very sweet and I think maybe should have had less vanilla? Regardless – it was awesome and will be keeping the recipe! Love everything!

    1. Be sure your cake layers are nice and level before stacking them to avoid them slipping and sliding! This cake will certainly work with another frosting! I hope you had a great birthday!

      1. that could have been it…I don’t think I cut enough off!! It was a HUGE hit at work….I had my last piece today. SO GOOD!! And thank you! Next on my list is the coconut cream pie recipe you just posted!! 🙂

  2. If I make this as a sheet cake, how would you recommend using the lemon curd and frosting? Frost the cake then swirl on the lemon curd? Put lemon curd on cake then frost? I’m not sure what would be best. Thanks!

    1. Hi Courtney! When I made this cake as a sheet cake, I frosted with cream cheese frosting then swirled some lemon curd into the frosting. It was delicious– and easier than a layer cake!

      1. Great! Thank you!

  3. Connie Reynolds says:

    Does the leftover cake need to be refrigerated for storage?
    Can’t wait to taste it…making the lemon curd as I write!

    1. It’s best to refrigerate the leftover cake, yes. But 1 day covered at room temperature would be completely fine!

  4. Hello,
    Could this cake be made without the coconut? I would use coconut to on top of the frosting, but wonder if I can leave it out of the cake. This is going to be an adventure for me (my first cake from scratch and I am 51, lol). Thanks for all of the tips and clear directions!

    1. Hi Margaret! You can leave the coconut out of the cake.

  5. Hi Sally,
    Would it alter the cake anyway if I cut the sugar content by 1/3 or half? I don’t like my cakes too sweet.
    TIA! I’m looking forward to making this for Mother’s day.

    1. Hi Thao! You can reduce the sugar a bit. Let me know what you think!

    2. What size cake tins did you use for this? Thanks!

  6. Hi Sally,
    I was just wondering, why you suggest using whole eggs rather than only the egg whites in this recipe? Will the texture still come out fluffy like your other cake recipes?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Estefania! I’m not looking for a pristine white or exceptionally fluffy cake with this recipe. Super soft and moist, yes, but not light-as-air like my white cake recipe where I only use egg whites.

  7. Wanda Graham says:

    Made this cake. Looks exactly like your photo. But, as you said, very dense. I am thinking I can turn the rest into a trifle so cake part is more moist. Beautiful looking cake!

  8. Hello Sally
    I just want to say a big thank you for the recipe, I made 1 1/2 of the batter to get three glorious, huge, light and fluffy layers of coconut heaven! I’ve put them in the freezer and still going to make your Lemon curd and then decorate with Italian meringue buttercream etc., for my daughter’s baby shower on Saturday. I’m certain it will be a winner because I had to ‘level’ the cakes slightly and could not resist trying the ‘offcuts’ – this recipe will definitely become a favourite. I will try and post a photo of the completed cake next week but thank you again!

    1. I’m so glad you gave this recipe a try and that you enjoy it so much! Can’t wait to see the whole cake assembled (just upload the picture to my Facebook group, tag me on social media, or email it) and I hope it’s a hit at the shower!

  9. Can you if possible give me the ratio for cake flour . I have all purpose flour. Thank you Judy Calderon

  10. Leslie Byron says:

    The lemon curd was exceptional, the icing was great, but the cake layers seemed a bit dry and crumbly. I thought they should be lighter.

  11. Hi, can you add lemon zest and/ or juice to the cake batter?

    1. Yes! See recipe note #4 🙂

  12. Hi! How can I adjust this recipe to utilize 6 inch pans?

    1. Hi Christina, See my full post on Cake Pan Sizes and Conversions to help when changing the size pans of any cake.

  13. Absolutely loved this cake! The lemon curd was to die for. Next time I will make a double batch of icing as I found it was only enough for a very thin layer and I like a lot of icing. Thank you for an amazing recipe!

  14. Sometimes when making a cake recipe into cupcakes they become dense. Does this recipe do that, or do you have any changes you recommend to make soft, moist and fluffy cupcakes (lemon & coconut)

    1. This batter should not be dense if you stick to the recipe and use sifted cake flour. You can bake the cupcakes, fill with lemon curd, and top with the frosting. Enjoy!

  15. Want to make this cake…but probably in a 9×13… wondering if you could turn it into kind of a poke cake… pour the lemon curd that hasn’t completely thickened yet over the cake with poked holes… Then frost when cool . What do you think?

    1. Hi Sarah, I have not tried making a poke cake with this recipe but let me know if you try!

      1. I did it! Just poured warm un-set lemon curd over the cake poked with holes, let it cool, then frosted! A very very delicious cake!! And when I’m feeling less lazy, I will definitely make again as a layer cake .

  16. I only have unsweetened coconut at home. Will that work in this recipe?

    1. Yes. The cake will still be plenty sweet.

  17. Christina K says:

    Hi Sally,
    I haven’t got three trays, I only have one. Do you know which is the best way to bake the cake? Can I bake it as one big cake and then cut it? Or bake one layer at a time and keep the butter in the fridge?
    Thanks,
    Christina

    1. You can bake one cake at a time. Leave the unused cake batter at room temperature, lightly covered.

  18. Hi Sally !
    Happy (early) Mother’s Day!
    All I have On hand is cake flour that comes with the salt and baking powder already sifted in.
    Have you ever used that?
    If so ( or even if not ) would you suggest I even attempt this recipe, or wait until I am
    able to get plain cake and pastry ( that’s what it’s called here in Canada) flour?

    1. Hi Deneen, thank you! I don’t recommend using that in this cake recipe unless you test it with varying amounts of added leaveners– the cake would likely need some in addition to the baking powder in the cake flour you have. For best results, stick to the recipe.

  19. Hi Sally! Just baked this cake but it sank. I did not over mixed and used an oven termomether at 350 F and didn’t open the oven until it was done… any clue what might have happened? 🙁

  20. I am wondering if some fresh blueberries could be added to the cake batter before baking

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Annette, blueberries would be delicious! I’d use 1 and 1/2 cups.

  21. OMG OMG OMG! this cake is heavenly! i love lemon desserts and this cake was too good. I did this cake 3 times this year since i discovered it. The lemon curd came out perfectly and i didn’t even had a double boiler. I’ve put half the sugar in the frosting since my mom doesn’t like sweets but it still came out perfectly and we ate it in the same day.Once i measured the butter wrong with 100g less and once I also put less coconut , but both times it still came out really good. I never leave reviews but this one definitely deserves one. Thank you Sally for all your wonderful recipes!

  22. Hi Sally!
    You mentioned that no substitution with the ingredients but I couldn’t get buttermilk here in the philippines,especially, im living in an island far from the main city. I usually make homemade buttermilk (milk+vinegar/lemon). Would that be ok?

    * I love your recipes! I learn a lot from your site. . Especially the tips!
    Bim

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, you can! See recipe notes for details.

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