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!

overhead image of lemon coconut cake garnished with coconut and a lemon slice on a teal plate

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.

slices of lemon coconut cake on a white plates with a fork

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

2 images of coconut cake batter and butter and eggs

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!

lemon curd in a glass jar with a spoon

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!

cream cheese frosting and lemon curd in between layers of coconut cake on a teal plate

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. 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.

slices of lemon coconut cake on a white plates with a fork

More Favorite Lemon Recipes

slice of lemon coconut cake on a white plate

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
overhead image of lemon coconut cake on a teal plate

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 (315g) sifted cake flour (spoon & leveled)*
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canned 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. I recommend using full fat canned coconut milk, the kind you use for cooking. If you can’t get your hands on canned 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

111 Comments

  1. Amelie Moore says:

    Wow, really, I can’t get over that delicious taste! So simple and yet – sooo great. Thank you for this recipe

  2. My kids and I just made this deliciously moist cake. It was super easy. Thanks!

  3. I will be making this for the third time tomorrow since I have seen this post.  It’s awesome.  I may make two.  I would recommend taking it out of the fridge for a few hours before serving.  I thought the flavor was better when it wasn’t cold and that is a lot of cake.  it is very pretty and very tasty!  I am excited to share it with some family who haven’t yet had the pleasure.

  4. Well, I made this today to serve at our Easter dinner tomorrow.  The cake seems to have fallen and there is nothing to cut off the top. And it seems very dense, not at all fluffy and nothing like your photo.  I followed your directions to the T and no substitutions.  I’m hoping it still tastes good!! I’m very new to baking and thought this looked simple enough. Maybe I was aiming too high! The lemon curd is delicious and I’m going to make the frosting in the morning. Hoping for the best!!

  5. Lauren Annette says:

    Oh my goodness.  This cake is DECADENT to say the least.  I made this for easter!  I put green food coloring in the cream cheese icing and in some additional coconut to make a little green nest on top and put some little egg candies inside!  It was a hit!  Thanks!

  6. I made this cake and lemon curd for Easter and shared it with family.  It is so so good!  I do suggest allowing the cakes to cool completely {5 hours or so?} I had a nice mess of lemon curd and frosting and a “mad hatter” sort of looking cake because I don’t think I let the cakes cool completely.  I just covered the cake completely with coconut and refrigerated it for half a day.  My family and friends didn’t seem to mind, they still ate every single bite!  Thank you Sally! 

  7. I made this cake for my wife’s birthday.  The texture was very light and delicate,  the taste was right on.  I did have some issues with the cake sticking to the pan after cooking.  I’ll definitely use some parchment next time,  but the recipe and taste are great.  Thanks

  8. I decided to make this for my dad’s 60th birthday since his two favorite flavors are coconut and lemon. I’ve never made a cake from scratch before so I didn’t know what to expect but I really wanted to try since it sounds perfect for the occasion. I don’t have a food scale or frosting paddle/knife/spatula thing but I made due with what I have. I used a cheese knife to spread the frosting and it actually worked really well–way better than a butter knife or a mixing spatula. My lemon curd was very runny, which I’m guessing is because I mistakenly added twice as much lemon juice as was needed. It never really thickened but it’s very lemony and tastes great. I made little frosting walls around the cakes to keep the curd from pouring out from between the layers and it worked pretty well. I decided to go with lemon zest as a garnish, though I was afraid it would be too bitter, but the sweetness of the frosting balanced it out wonderfully. I’ll be serving it tonight at the birthday dinner. We’ll see how it goes. I’m certain he’s going to love it. The subtle coconut flavor and the brightness of the lemon are a great combination. A good cake for a warm and sunny April birthday. Thanks for the recipe! I’ll definitely be trying out more in the coming months. I’m really excited to take a stab at the mini key lime pies next! 🙂

  9. Oh my gosh!!! I absolutely fell in love with this cake after one bit!! You’re hands down one of the best baker I’ve known…keep up the good work!! I always follow your recipes because I always get results, never disappointed. Love love lovee this cake, can’t stop talking about it. 

  10. Jennifer jordan says:

    This cake was delicious! I used Meyer lemons for the curd,OMG.Im lucky enough to have fresh eggs on hand,I was super stoked this cake required so many! The cake itself was just a crazy balance of sweetness and tang.It was definitely a hit along with your peanut butter cups and chocolate dipped prezetls,from your Candy Addiction book.I can’t say how many compliments I receive from using all of your recipes! I’m always asked to bring a dessert,and Its made my boyfriend very happy ! Thank you Sally for being so gracious,you’ve made me LOVE baking.
    Have a good one! 

  11. This was coming together nicely…the curd looked delicious, the cakes  came out fine…but it all fell apart…literally, when I assembled layers. The cake was definitely cool enough. The trouble was with the frosting…much too loose. After researching cream cheese frosting, I discovered it should not be overly mixed, because of cream cheese fat content being less than buttercream..or something like that.
    So, after throwing away the cake (curd and frosting oozing out of sides, and once it was completely frosted, fell apart in the fridge), I found a sturdier cream cheese frosting. I used the  cake and curd recipe and made cupcakes, injecting the curd into cupcakes. I added toasted coconut after frosting, and garnished with homemade candied lemon peels. Since I eliminated sugar from my diet, I will have to wait for the cupcakes’ recipient for feedback.

  12. Hi Sally! I love your recipes, they’re always a hit!! I have a huge craving for coconut cake. Though the lemon curd sounds like a delicious match made in heaven I REALLY only want the coconut. Would I be able omit the lemon curd all together? Would it change the texture of the cake? 

    1. It won’t change a thing. 🙂 You can leave it out. The coconut cake will be just as wonderful without it.

  13. Sally this cake is delicious! I’ve tried several of your recipes now and I love them all. Thanks so much for sharing!

  14. What brand of cake flour works best with the Lemon Coconut cake

    1. My preference is Swans Down cake flour.

  15. I made the coconut version only leaving out the lemon curd as a girlfriend requested coconut cake for her celebration.  The recepie was doubled as I made two sheet cakes to serve 90 persons, the cake was served with ice cream.   The cake received great reviews and was requested for seconds.  For coconut milk I used 4 tbsp of coconut powder to the 1/2 cup measure of water in addition to increase the coconut flavor I added 2 tbsp to batter when mixing.  Toasted coconut flakes added visual impact and enhanced the cream cheese frosting.

    Fantastic recipe and following all Sally’s instructions the cake was a success.  Thanks again Sally for your time and effort in sharing your tips.  The video with this recipe and others help novices like myself come off professionally.

  16. Hi Sally, I’m a huge fan of your blog and have tried quite a few of your recipes (@abbeysbakingcompany on instagram). I’m planning on making this cake for an out of town birthday celebration this weekend. I’m most likely going to have to bake it on Wednesday for a Saturday celebration. Is this cake going to still be fresh if I do that?

    1. Yes, absolutely. Cover it tightly and store in the refrigerator. Then I suggest bringing it to *almost* room temperature before serving.

  17. I’ve been using your recipes for a few years now, they always turn out wonderful (your chewy chocolate chunk cookie recipe is my go-to!) but I felt the need to comment after making this cake for my dads birthday. What an absolutely perfect recipe for lemon/coconut/cream cheese lovers! There are no words to describe how wonderful this cake was, keep up the great work (:

  18. OMG this looks divine. Baking for my daughter’s birthday! Do you think the batter would be ruined in I snuck in some blueberries? I saw your other blueberry lemon layer cake recipe but feel town between this one and that. Thank you!

    1. Not at all ruined! The cakes are similar and this one would be fantastic with some berries. I’d use 1 and 1/2 cups.

  19. The Other Kristen says:

    This recipe is wonderful. I even did the homemade lemon curd, and you are right, I will never buy it again. I took it to church for Easter coffee hour, and everyone who tasted it was delighted. I will absolutely make this again, and probably SOON. Thank you.

  20. Jayshree Rampukar says:

    Hi Sally. I have NEVER made a homemade cake before but this Saturday I tried your Lemon Blueberry cake. It was delicious! It has now given me the confidence to stray away from store bought mixes. Later this week I am going to try this coconut cake. Wish me luck!

  21. Hi Sally! I just wanted to say that this was my first cake I ever baked from scratch and it was a hit! It’s not too coconut-y and the lemon tart is just the right amount of zing paired with the sweet cake. A few weeks later I went into labor and I decided baking this was a good project to take my mind off the contractions haha. It helped! The second time it came out more dry…but I was a little distracted while making it :P. Now it’s my daughter’s first birthday and I am going to make it again! Looks like it might become an annual tradition. Thanks for the recipe!

  22. Hi Sally,

    I was wondering if you could help me with making these into cupcakes. Any recommendations?

    1. Sure thing! You can fill them with lemon curd after baking and top with this frosting. Bake time will be 18-22 minutes at 350F

  23. Hi Sally! I always make a coconut cake for my birthday and this year I want to try this one! Would it work to only use two 9-inch pans and just test them until they are done? Not sure if they will cook okay but I only have two pans. Thanks!

    1. The cakes will be quite tall and take quite awhile in the oven because they’ll be super thick. Keeping that in mind, you can give it a try!

  24. Hi Sally this my umpteenth time malking this lovely coconut cake. It gets a fantastic review all the time from friends and family. The recipe never fails no matter how often I make this cake. I am not a fan of lemon so I use cream cheese frosting with toasted coconut, the visual is awesome, the cake is eaten by sight before consuming. To a well done tried and tested recipe and thank you for taking the time to make sure the end product  is great.

  25. Could you please explain why the brick-style cream cheese is required? The only cream cheese I’ve found that has ingredients I can consume is the spreadable kind, so that would be my only option.

    1. Cream cheese spread is much thinner than the brick-style kind which is used for cooking/baking. The frosting will be liquid-y with cream cheese spread.

  26. This cake has been on my mind since you posted it. Finally, I baked it yesterday (I know it took a long time ). I must say – what a crumb !!!!! So moist, flavourful and delicious. I guess this one will become one of my favourites . 

  27. Hi!
    I only have two 9” pans so I will have to bake the third one separately. Should I store the batter in the fridge or leave it out while I let the cakes cool?

    1. Cover it and leave it out on the counter.

  28. Hi Sally! Is it ok to use fresh dessicated coconut instead of sweetened coconut flakes?

    1. Hi Emily! Yep, you can use desiccated coconut.

  29. 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.

  30. 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!

    1. 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.

1 2 3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×