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!


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


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.


  • 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


  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!


  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


  1. 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.

  2. Hi, Sally! I’ve been juggling options for my high school graduation cake, since I really wanted to make it myself (unless I’m so burnt out I just give up and buy doughnuts, of course) – and I think this one is our winner! I’m a chocolate girl through and through, but lemon filling is my one true love. 

    However, in order to feed the family coming through, I was hoping to make one big cake out of a 16-inch baking pan, and I’m having trouble with proportions. Should I double the recipe and make a 3-layer cake this way? Multiply it by 1.5x and make a 2-layer cake? Or will attempting to do such a large batch result in a brick for a cake?

    Thank you!! <3
    (Also, sorry if this sent a trillion times? I have terrible internet connection.)

    1. What are the measurements of your 16 inch pan? Is it a round cake pan and are you looking to make a layer cake? If so, I would make two batches of the batter (do not double as this could lead to over or under-mixing).

  3. Hello Sally. Thank you for another wonderful recipe! I would like to make this cake for Easter for my family. I was wondering…If I make this cake the night before, should I store it in the refrigerator until I am ready to serve it? What do you think is best? Thank you!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. Hi Sally.. I simply love ur recipes… Have done ur cupcakes and had lovely compliments.. I want to bake this cake but without coconut.. Is it possible…
    Thank u

  7. I made this cake for my sons 19th bday last wk. I loved the lemon curd and frosting however I felt cake was too dry. Im not sure why it was a lot of steps and I followed it exactly. The flavor was great just not as moist as I like my cakes too be.

  8. I’ve never used cake flour before and I can’t find it in supermarkets in London. I just wanted to ask what the cake texture will be like with the substitute?

  9. 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!

    1. Oh my gosh – I LOVE how this tradition came about! And I’m not sure I’m going to be able to bake while actually going into labor…I’ll report back in September 😉

      1. haha! Cake baking is not something I will be doing in future labors because it is tiring in itself! It did help distract me from the pain but next time I’m going to the movies 😛 Congrats!!

  10. could I possibly substitute lemon curd with mango puree? my mom ion laws birthday and she loves mangoes. thank you so much! I love all your recipes but the upside down pineapple is my family’s favorite.

  11. Hi Sally
    How do you think this cake would go with lime curd? I have a jar of home made lime curd I need to use up. Mind you, it will have to wait for a week or so. I just realised I packed most of my cake tins for a house move this Friday! I’ve only left out a couple of cookie trays, a slice tin, a large baking pan (for brownies) and muffin pans but no round cake tins. PS: Loving your live videos! 🙂

    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

  12. Sally help me, your cakes are always a go to for me because lets be real,.. your recipes and pictures are bomb!!! My husbands fav cake it’s Lemon cake, and I made him one last week, with the 5 eggs and stick and a half of butter and it always turns out more pound cake like instead of a fluffy, bouncy light lemon cake,…why are all the lemon cake recipes 5 eggs and all that butter,..how can I get the light, buttery birthday cake texture??? Thanks girl…please help

    1. Hey Erin! Well if a light and fluffy lemon cake is what you’re after, how about this soft + fluffy white cake recipe— then add a bunch of lemon zest and replace 2 Tablespoons of the milk with fresh lemon juice 🙂

      1. Hi Sally, 

        Would you still add 1 tbsp vanilla when making lemon version? Also, can i try this lemon version white cake recipe as cupcakes? 

        many thanks for you’re answer and good luck in few weeks!
        all the best from Amsterdam,

      2. Thanks for your response Sally, one more question please, in this recipe you are using egg yolks but in fluffy white cake version not, why is that? Am curious what the difference is as I will (try to) make 3 layer cake for my parents -in-law 50th anneversary next week and would love to use your recipe but am wondering if the fluffy recipe is firm enough to hold frosting, fondant, decorations and all that…

        thank you again,

  13. I made the sheet cake version & I cannot wait to try it! Waiting for the cooling it the worse part of baking! I have another coconut cake recipe that uses cream of coconut so I’m anxious to taste this one & hope it has a good coconut flavor. 

  14. 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!

  15. Hi sally luv your site I am in the uk. Want to make your lemon coconut cake with cream cheese
    But I am in the uk and we don’t sell block cream cheese I have tried it’s in a tub and whipped. Any suggestions thanks

    1. Your comment was awhile back but I just baked this cake and had the same problem since I live in Germany. My solution was to use a cheese cloth to press the excess water out of the creamcheese. The texture wasn’t quite perfect but sooooo much better than what I’ve managed to make in Europe before – the icing actually stayed thick instead of becoming runny. Not really surprising though since I managed to press A LOT of water out of the creamcheese. Hope my tip helps 🙂

  16. 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.

  17. Love this cake! This is my second time baking it. The first time I was in a rush and put it together while the cakes were warm and the whole thing slid.

    For my second try, I cooled everything well but the third layer still slides off the lemon curd layer. Any suggestions for how to avoid that?


    1. You can try refrigerating the 1st and 2nd layers before adding the 3rd– I’m unsure why it would always slide off if the 2nd layer stays put. But refrigerating between assembling layers helps!

  18. 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.

  19. 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 . 

  20. Hi Sally, I’ve made this cake twice now, both times for celebrations. They were  spectacular successes. The first one I made as a 3 layer, the 2nd was a large sheet cake. I doubled the recipe for that one. It fed 40 people, many went back for seconds. The feedback was amazing, thank you. 

  21. 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?

  22. I was looking for just a coconut layer cake. Can this be made without the lemon and do I need to
    change anything else within the recipe?

  23. I want to make this cake for a friend who is lactose intolerant. The buttermilk in the cake itself he can take, I’m sure. But the cream cheese frosting I don’t think would agree with his bowels.

    Also what’s the best way to store this overnight before serving. In the fridge, or at room temperature?

  24. 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.

  25. Is there a secret to getting nice, even layers without cutting the cake top? I think I’m using the right amount of batter in each pan.

    1. No matter what I try, my cakes always require a little leveling off after baking. Let me know if you try anything!

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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