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 in this recipe unless you’re making this cake flour substitute. Cake flour is key.

(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!

Print

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 ouncesweetened 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. 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.
  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

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

287 Comments

  1. This looks amazing but I need to make a gluten free cake for a friend’s birthday. Can I substitute gluten free flour for cake flour?

  2. Please, please, please change the recipe portion to have a note about using canned coconut milk. I made this a few years ago and this time, just skimmed the ingredients before going to the store. I bought the wrong kind and had to go again. 🙁

    But thank you for a delicious recipe.

  3. Sally, this cake looks gorgeous! I adore lemon, and I adore coconut, so obviously this cake is a definite YES 😉 I’m curious as to why you prefer the cake without coconut extract; is it just a personal preference, or does the extract alter the flavor to leave an aftertaste or something? I have a bottle of imitation coconut extract that I’d like to use up, but I know that it’s pretty potent, and I wouldn’t want to ruin such a beautiful cake…although, I find that coconut extract is fabulous in coconut scones! Also, I’ll probably be making this as cupcakes, since I want to bring them along to our weekly connect group and cupcakes are easier to serve. What would the baking time be for the cupcakes? Thanks, Sally! 🙂

    1. I left out the coconut extract because it’s not as readily available to some, though you can certainly add it! I’d say up to 1 teaspoon should be plenty. If doing so, you can reduce the vanilla extract down to 2 teaspoons. Cupcakes would be great! I’m unsure of the exact amount this recipe would produce– likely 3-4 dozen.

  4. 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!! 🙂

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

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