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. Hi Sally! I was wondering your thoughts on brown buttering the butter for the frosting?? Do you think that would work? If yes, any suggestion on how to brown butter? Would I need to cool it completely before making the frosting? I’ve seen you use it for several recipes- not sure if it would work for this. Thanks so much!

    1. So tasty! Here is my recipe for brown butter cream cheese frosting. 🙂 https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2017/08/21/banana-cake-with-brown-butter-cream-cheese-frosting/

      This amount will be enough for the lemon coconut cake.

  2. SAlly can you please do a video on this cake?
    Also I actually tried making this cake by using shredded coconut that’s locally available here in INDIA. The shredded dried coconut that’s locally available here in INDIA literally has no coconut taste (geez) so I am wondering if you could suggest me how to intensify the coconut taste …

    1. For best results–without altering the texture of the cake– I suggest coconut extract. Even up to 2 teaspoons total will help!

  3. This cake sounds very intriguing! I am not a fan of coconut, however. Do you think I could have a great tasting cake minus coconut flakes? I have made a cake before using coconut milk and the cake didn’t taste like coconut. I do make my own lemon curd. Maybe I just need an alternate recipe of yours instead of making changes?? Thanks Sally!

    1. You can absolutely leave off the coconut flakes and also do not use the optional coconut extract. Definitely make your own lemon curd!! The recipe is linked above!!

  4. Hi Sally!! This cake looks DIVINE and I have been waiting for an opportunity to make it! I was just wondering for the sheet pan option, how would you suggest decorating it? A layer of lemon curd and then the frosting on top? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Asnia! Here’s my suggestion. Are you familiar with poke cakes? (Look it up for reference) Use the bottom of you rubber spatula and poke random holes in the top of the cake. Spread lemon curd on top. The lemon curd will seep down into the cake. Then top with frosting. 🙂

  5. Hi Sally!

    I only have two cake pans. Would it hurt to cook two of the layers and then make the third after one of the pans has cooled? Or would that change the consistency of the cake?

    Thank you!

    ~ Elise

    1. It should be fine, Elise! Enjoy!

  6. Hi Sally This looks amazing! Could I substitute coconut sugar for the granulated sugar?

    1. Hi Lucy! You can certainly try it!

  7. I want to make the cake, I have coconut cream, not milk but it seams lighter than other creams I’ve used, would that be ok?

    1. Is it the super thick kind in a can? That’s what you need. I linked to what I use up in #4 under the lemon cake details section!

  8. Hi Sally!

    Cake looks lovely, and I am planning on making it for a friends birthday on Friday. I am wondering about using a buttercream frosting instead of a cream cheese one? Do you think the butter taste would be too heavy with the lemon?

    Thanks!

    1. You can use a buttercream with this cake! Here is my favorite lemon (or vanilla would be good too!): https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2017/08/07/lemon-buttercream-frosting/

  9. Hi, Sally! This is my 2nd post today as I am studying recipes harder than I studied most things in school. My husband loves coconut but not lemon (silly man!) so would it be ok if I made this without the lemon curd? I wasn’t sure if the curd was necessary to hold the layers together or if just frosting was enough. Also, if I wanted to use a different frosting (chocolate), do you recommend one that would make enough to fill and frost this cake? Thanks, as always!

    1. Hi Susan! You can leave out the lemon curd. The frosting is enough to hold the layers together. 🙂
      Here is enough chocolate frosting to fill and frosting a 3 layer cake: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2018/01/11/zebra-cake/
      Or here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/03/28/raspberry-chocolate-chip-layer-cake/

  10. Hi Sally! How would you suggest going about halving (or just down sizing) the recipe? And what pan sizes would you then suggest?

    Thanks for the help!

    1. Hi Gabrielle! I would halve the recipe for an 11×7-inch baking pan. For the eggs, use 2 eggs. Keep your eye on it around 25-30 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  11. Hi Sally, can’t wait to make this for a special occasion in 1 month, my mouth is already watering.

    One question – In the picture of the cake that shows the filling and frosting between the layers: The first layer I can tell has frosting first then lemon curd, next layer looks like lemon curd then frosting… is that how it should be done or should the frosting always be applied to the cake layer and then topped with the lemon curd?

    1. You won’t be disappointed. One of my favorite cakes! For the frosting/lemon curd… it doesn’t matter which order they’re spread onto the layers 🙂

  12. Malinda Lesniak says:

    Sally, You have outdone yourself again! I am amazed about where you come up with these recipes! You are right, this is a dream cake. Everything I have made from your blog has been over the top delicious! I am so glad I found you! Thanks for the inspiration! -Malinda

    1. Thank you for such a kind comment, Malinda! I’m so happy you enjoy this cake as much as I do!

  13. Hi Sally,
    I just made this cake last night. The flavor is wonderful however, the cake itself is a but dense. I am new at baking so I followed your receipt exactly using 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Do you mean to use 1 tablespoon of baking powder instead like in your blueberry lemon cake receipe?
    I would love to try making it again to improve on its fluffiness!

    Thanks so much!
    Lily

    1. Hi Lily! This recipe should read 1 Tablespoon of baking powder. It read that when the recipe was published, so maybe when updating the recipe instructions to my new recipe format, it was accidentally deleted and replaced with teaspoon? My sincerest apologies for this error of ours! Please let me know if you take the time to make the cake again. I know the results will be much more satisfactory with the appropriate amount of baking powder.

      1. Thanks Sally. Enough though it is a bit dense, my family has enjoyed the cake very much. I’ll definitely make this cake again with 1 tablespoon baking powder and I’m sure it is going to be even more amazing! Thanks again! 🙂

  14. When separating the mixture into two cake tins, the cake was only a few inches thick and had a large dome in the middle. Do you think i could just put all the mixture in one tin and just cook it for longer?

    1. Hi Nellie! This cake batter fits wonderfully in a 9×13-inch cake pan or a jelly roll pan. See my recipe note.

  15. Hi Sally! Would love to bake this for a wedding cake. Would it be ok to bake and freeze the cakes in advance and then ice and decorate a day or so before the wedding? Also would this hold up ok under fondant if i used buttercream instead of the cream cheese frosting?
    Thanks
    Taranum

    1. Hi Taranum! Yes, baking and freezing the lemon coconut cakes in advance is no problem at all. Thaw and decorate 1 day in advance and refrigerate until the day of, if possible. Fondant may be used on top of a buttercream. Have fun baking the special cake!

  16. I made this for my middle school daughter’s birthday. I only used the coconut milk since I was concerned that the flavor would be too strong with the oil or shredded coconut. I was mistaken. The coconut flavor is mild to nonexistent. Maybe it will develop overnight. I will add more flavor via the icing. The texture is lovely; cake flour is a must based on previously baking a coconut cake using all purpose flour. Thank you for the recipe.

  17. BarelycanbakeBob says:

    I’ve had this cake before with the memory of the best cake I ever ate. I will make this and subscribed because of this recipe. And this coming from a true chocoholic.

    1. What a compliment. Thank you so much for sharing!

  18. What is cake flour? I’ve never heard of it. Can you identify are more correct and technical term for it. What its called in the supermarket. We don’t have anything called cake flour. We have plain flour and self-raising flour. We have wholemeal flour and we have bread flour. We have 00 flour. But no cake flour.

    1. Hi Andrea! Cake flour is a light flour that is lower in protein content; it’s ideal for cakes. If unavailable, you can make your own cake flour. See my note. You can use plain flour instead of all-purpose in that substitution.

  19. Hi Leah! You can replace some of either with extra lemon juice, but not all– the texture of the cake would be ruined and it would taste sour.

  20. I am searching for just a coconut cake recipe and have come across several on other sites but you are usually my go to for all things baked so I wanted to check if you thought it would still be good to exclude the lemon curd? My grandma has been requesting one but not sure how she’d feel about the lemon.

    1. Yes, you can definitely leave out the lemon curd filling.

  21. I’ve been using your recipes for far too long to go without commenting anymore! I made this lemon coconut cake for my mother’s birthday recently and it turned out fantastic. I used lemon zest in the sponge and decided to forego extra coconut extract. The combination of the lemon curd and the coconut is a perfect balance! If you want to have a greater amount of cream cheese icing I suggest maybe doubling the recipe because I had the right amount of icing to thinly cover the cake enough to put toasted coconut on, but without the coconut it would have looked a little bit thin in my opinion. Overall, a wonderful recipe and a real crowd pleaser!! Thanks for another great one, Sally.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Lauren! I’m thrilled this cake was a hit and I hope your mother had a great birthday!

  22. Hi!

    I made this cake for my moms bday and it came out so good! Thanks for sharing! Lemon coconut is her favorite cake and I felt ambitious and wanted to make it from scratch. It came out great!

    1. I’m thrilled it turned out well! I hope she had a great birthday 🙂

  23. Hi, Sally! I have a question regarding “sifting” the cake flour. I just realized that I measured then sifted, will there be a difference in my cake?

    Thank you so much for the recipes, been using them since I signed up for your newsletters. I think your recipes make the best cakes and pastries.

    1. Hi Juliet! There will be a difference, yes. I recommend measuring from what you have sifted. 🙂

  24. Hi Sally, can I use Presto, Swan Down or Soft As Silk Cake flour.

    1. Any work! I usually use Swans Down.

  25. Hi Sally! Already made the cake and it turned out AMAZING! It’s really buttery and even my dad ate it, he’s not a big fan of fruits, but he liked it! Loved it and I will do it more times, always changing something to make it even more amazing! Thank you for this recipe!

  26. This looks so good! Two of my favorite flavors in one place. Could I make these in cupcakes instead? Would that work out okay?

    1. Absolutely! I recommend about 20-22 minutes bake time.

  27. 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?

    1. I haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour but let me know if you do!

  28. 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.

    1. Can I use unsweetened dessicated coconut instead of the sweetened? That’s all i have at hand. Or will it affect the cake too drastically?

  29. Could this be made in a 10” springfoam pan?

    1. Hi Jenna! This is too much cake batter for a 10-inch springform pan. I recommend sticking with 3 9-inch cake pans.

  30. 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.

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