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

304 Comments

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  1. I have half a mind to make this for my birthday on Monday!! Mm, looks so good

  2. Cheese and Chinese says:

    Hmmm I love anything with toasted coconut! 

  3. Andrea @ Cooking with a Wallflower says:

    I think I have to go buy cake flour now. I’ve only used all purpose flour for baking, but I have noticed that sometimes the baked goods, like loaf cake, can feel heavy and dense. Maybe that’s why. This lemon coconut cake looks so pretty. It’s so perfect for spring!

    1. You *can* make your own cake flour sub with cornstarch (in the notes) but even that doesn’t quite match up to the lightness of actual cake flour in my opinion! Grab some cake flour, makes ALL the difference!

  4. Vivian | stayaliveandcooking says:

    I learned so much from this post – cake flour?! Homemade lemon curd?! Thanks for sharing this beautiful recipe, it looks darn tasty. 

  5. Total yumness! What a perfectly lovely Springtime sweet! Definitely want to make this.

  6. This looks absolutely delicious! I love coconut in every shape! Thanks for the recipe!

  7. Hello!
    Thank you for another delicious cake recipe. Would you please suggest what can we use instead on Philadelphia full-fat brick because here in Greece is impossible to find. Can we alter the dosage of the ingredients? In the past, I tried your recipe with Philadelphia cheese in the tube and it came up very runny but awesome in taste…

    1. You could experiment with marscapone, I have seen recipes that offer those as swaps.

  8. You are not kidding, the cake of my dreams indeed! Although I’m lemon-crazy, and I’d probably do a coconut-lemon frosting. Because lemon 😀 😀 😀 So pretty, Sally!

  9. This is what dreams are made of–seriously! So much love for this cake: lemon, *toasted* coconut, AND cream cheese frosting!

  10. Marina @ A Dancer's Live-It says:

    I have no words. Sally, you are the QUEEN. That is all. 

  11. Hi Sally!  Do you use 3/4 cup of butter? Or Three Sticks?  The recipe says both!

    Thanks!

    1. It should be 1 and 1/2 cups 🙂 Sorry!

  12. Lol @ taste like socks!

  13. I was wondering if I could cut the recipe exactly in half for a smaller cake?

    Thanks Sally for all of your recipes!! You’re my go to gal for all of my baked goods and they always turn out amazing. 

    1. I’m sure you could– though it might be tricky with the eggs.

      1. Melissa @ Now You're Cookin' says:

        You could possibly whisk all 5 eggs in a bowl, measure their weight in grams, and halve it from there. A couple extra steps, and it wouldn’t be true to the recipe’s “add eggs one at a time” instructions, but hey it’s worth a try! 🙂

  14. Grace | Gracefully Baking says:

    YUM!!! You won me over with the first picture. I usually don’t like coconut, but this looks too amazing not to try. And I love love LOVE idea of filling it with lemon curd!!! Homemade is definitely 10000x better!

  15. Lisa @ garlicandzest.com says:

    Oh, Sally – this is like a siren call!  I’m a coconut devotee, but when you add in lemon curd, I’m just over-the-moon!

  16. I’ve looked at both the lemon coconut and the lemon blueberry cake recipes. So tempting. I wonder what it would be like to combine the two?

    1. Add blueberries and lemon zest to this batter! Would be so good!

  17. Hi Sally, this cake looks incredibly yummy!  Would this cake be suitable for fondant or buttercream decoration?  Is the texture similar to carrot cake?  Thanks a lot!

    1. It’s less dense than carrot cake for sure, but it would hold up under fondant.

      1. Thanks so much Sally!  Would it work if I substitute maybe half of the cake flour with all purposed flour in hoping to make it more dense in texture!

        Thanks again for this amazing recipe! 🙂

  18. Mmmm…I’ve been on the hunt for a cake I’m going to bake for my 30th birthday later this month. Can I say BINGO?!!!

  19. Sally, during recipe testing, did you happen to try the recipe with coconut cream instead of milk? I’m curious how the greater fat content would impact the cake.

    1. I haven’t, actually. I fear the cake may taste too heavy from it.

  20. It’s like you knew I wanted to make a lemon coconut cake and then the next day you give me the perfect recipe! Thanks for reading my mind and providing this amazing recipe! 😀

  21. Instead of coconut extract, can I use lemon extract or do you think it would be too much lemon flavor?

    1. It’s be delicious! Hope you try it.

  22. Oh my GAWDDDD!! This looks amazing!

  23. Oh my GAWDDDD!! This looks amazing!

  24. Katherine @ Kate's Sweets says:

    That lemon curd looks amazing! Plus I love coconut. Gotta give this a try 🙂

  25. Just what I need for a gathering tomorrow! Do you recall how much rise the cakes have? I’ve been wanting to use a new cupcake pan of various flower shapes and am thinking this recipe would make 18-24. I plan to pipe the curd in through the bottom of the cakes and do a melted cream cheese frosting that allows the flower-shaped tops to show. Hoping it works out!

    Any chance of a homemade strawberry cake recipe for the summer? I’ve been seeing boxed ones and am not ready to settle yet.

    1. I’ll have to get working on a strawberry cake– in the meantime, I do have a vanilla cake with strawberry whipped cream in my first cookbook and strawberry cupcakes on my blog.

  26. Hi Sally. What a way to start the day. I saw this post at 6.30am and thought “YUM! This cake is definitely on my ‘must do’ list today”. I LOVE lemon curd! Home made of course. I bought a jar of the commercial stuff once when I was in a rush & “never again!”. That stuff is aweful

    1. Again half my comment got cut off. I blame my phone! I also wondered if you could convert this recipe into muffins? Either way, this cake is happening soon!!  

      1. Definitely! I’d say about 20 minutes bake time.

    2. Did you try the cup cakes? And how did you use the lemon curd? Thanks !

  27. Hello Sally, 
     
    This my very first comment. I’m not new to your site. But new to commenting and I just had to tell you that you show such compassion for your love of food and have the love of creating such work of art that’s yummy enough to eat. It goes to show that we as people can do anything with the help of God. It’s always great to know that someone is that of an role model for others,and you’re just that. Thank you Sally. By the way congrats on your marriage the books/most recent book and your overall business! This kind of love for food,if only we as people and not a race full of hate can come together only with love,we would be such a beautiful country(usa) to live in. 

    1. Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment!

  28. Kailey Hoskins says:

    Oh my goodness I missed making this cake for my birthday by 1 day! Ahh I’m going to have to find a reason to make it soon because it looks absolutely amazing! I love how technical you are with your baking, I always know that the recipe will turn out just right! LEMON! Here comes Spring! 

  29. The cake looks gorgeous Sally! Pinning 🙂

  30. My hubby has asked for a lemon cake for his birthday. I’m contemplating using this recipe instead of his favorite one because I want it. The only bummer is he doesn’t like coconut

    1. I suggest my lemon blueberry cake then– you can leave out the blueberries!

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