Coconut Cake

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Coconut Cake

star rating (33) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

This moist coconut cake is reminiscent of the venerable classic that was a staple of birthdays for years, and is now most often found in the freezer case at the grocery store. It uses one of our favorite ingredients: powdered coconut milk. While you can find it at The Baker’s Catalogue, naturally, I’ve also bought it at natural foods markets and Asian grocery stores, where it’s usually in the Thai section. What a wonderful thing; to take coconut milk and evaporate the water, so when you use it you can make it as thick or thin as you like! When added dry to cake batter it replaces a little of the fat, and makes an incredibly tender and moist crumb. If you’re a coconut fan, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without the stuff.—S.R.

3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) coconut milk powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (10 ounces) sugar
6 large egg whites (about 1 1/4 cups; packaged liquid egg whites work fine, too)
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) whole milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 drops coconut flavoring

Coconut Frosting
1 (14-ounce can) unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
5 1/2 cups (22 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla or 3 to 4 drops strong coconut flavoring

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Soak two cake strips, if you have them. Grease and flour (or line with parchment circles and spray with nonstick spray) two 8" square cake pans (or two 9" round cake pans) that are at least 2" deep. Note: if you want to torte the layers for a taller cake, use two 8" round cake pans that are at least 2" deep.

To make the cake: Whisk together the cake flour, coconut milk powder, salt, and baking powder; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is extremely light and fluffy; scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl after two minutes of beating, and beat for at least three minutes more. Add 1/4 of the dry ingredients, mix until combined, and scrape the mixing bowl.

Combine the egg whites, milk, and flavorings; add 1/3 of the mixture to the ingredients in the bowl and mix until combined. Continue adding dry and wet ingredients by turns, until all are incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl one last time, and mix for another minute.

Divide the batter between the two pans, and wrap the outsides with the soaked cake strips. If you don’t have cake strips, place the pans in larger pans and fill the water halfway up the sides of the layers. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched in the center and the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Remove from the oven and place on a rack; remove the cake strips. Let the layers cool for 20 minutes, then turn out of the pan and return to the rack to finish cooling completely before filling and frosting.

To make the frosting: Set a fine-mesh strainer or colander over a bowl and line it with a clean linen towel. Pour the coconut milk into the lined strainer and let the coconut water drain for up to 2 hours, until you have a thick lump of coconut cream.

After the coconut milk has drained, cream the butter with 2 cups confectioners’ sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the salt and vanilla (or coconut extract) until the mixture is smooth. Add the coconut cream and mix, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar until you have a smooth, spreadable frosting. Cover and hold at room temperature until ready to use.

To finish the cake: Split the cooled cake layers horizontally. Place half of one layer on a serving plate; spread with 1/4 of the frosting. Place the other half on top, spread with another 1/4 of the frosting. Repeat with the remaining layers until you’ve used them all.

To decorate the cake: Sprinkle some coconut at the base of the cake and over the top.
Yield: 1 layer cake, 16 servings.


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  • star rating 06/22/2014
  • Janice from Cincinnati
  • Every year I make my son a coconut cake for his birthday. I have tried many recipes and this one is hands down the best. It is very moist with the most wonderful coconut flavor. My only problem was with the frosting. I used Kroger organic coconut milk and it came in a very thick liquid consistency. Using the whole can made the frosting very runny. My solution was to refrigerate the frosting overnight and, in the morning, mix about 2/3 of the frosting with lots of powdered sugar. I had to throw away a lot of leftover frosting but it did bring it to a spreadable consistency. Overall a great coconut cake recipe.
    Hi Janice, I'm so glad you enjoyed this cake recipe, but sorry you had some difficulty with the frosting. Remember, we love to talk you through any recipe dilemmas at the Baker's Hotline: 855-371-2253. Barb@KAF
  • star rating 05/05/2014
  • Diane from Northern New York State
  • Excellent Coconut cake recipe. I will be adding this to my recipe files. It was very light and delicate. Delicious coconut flavor. I made the cake exactly as directed. Ordered flour, Coconut powder and flavoring through KAF. DID NOT LIKE THE FROSTING. I found it to be very sweet and an unpleasant consistency. Fortunately I frosted the cake with a different recipe. Not sure what I'll do with this one now that I've made it but I guess I'll try doctoring it up. I ended up using the recipe for the frosting for the Lemonade Cake recipe from KAF but kept out all things lemon and added between 6-8 drops of the coconut flavoring. It worked out absolutely perfect. And it saves the hassle that so many people seem to having with the coconut milk. Enjoy!
  • star rating 02/10/2014
  • Lisa from Cleveland, Ohio
  • Made the cake this weekend for a birthday party and everybody loved it! I couldn't find coconut milk powder anywhere (will check out the local Asian/Indian markets next time. Thank you to whoever mentioned that idea) so I substituted a little coconut butter for regular butter. Worked very well. I had problems straining the coconut milk though! I tried using a clean, linen-type kitchen towel and it just sat there. About 2 tablespoons of it strained through, but it wasn't separated. I ended up just using it the way it was and adding more powdered sugar to thicken it. It turned out well, if not a bit too sweet. I saw a mention from someone that couldn't find coconut flavoring anywhere. I found it at the local Whole Foods.
  • star rating 12/26/2013
  • joycelyn from KAF Community
  • Made this cake for my friend's Husband for Christmas, because he Loves my Coconut cake and he like my old recipe, so I tryed this new recipe on him to see if he this one. Well, good to say that he Love it. This recipe is better than my old one, for one, I only use egg whites not the whole eggs which makes my cake come out white not yellow. And it's moist,moist,moist. Now, that's what I'm talking about!!!!! :) Now, I will make this cake for my home.
  • star rating 11/05/2013
  • MMagster from KAF Community
  • This cake is perfect. The taste phenomenal! I made it for my daughter's office Fall Fest today. My email box went crazy with compliments. Even people that didn't like coconut tried it. The recipe was easy to follow. Used KAF products (as always). I used some of the sweetened coconut suggested and mixed it with KAF large coconut flakes and KAF unsweetened coconut (just a light coating of each sprinkled on top and a little on the sides) the cake was beautiful...lots of texture. I also fan cut a strawberry and put in the middle for a centerpiece of color.
  • star rating 04/24/2013
  • Linda from Leland, NC
  • OMG! This is the absolute most deliciously moist and flavorful cake on the planet. I've made it several times for special occasions and its always a huge hit. I highly recommend frosting it with a coconut flavored Swiss Buttercream. It is less sweet and elevates the cake to a heavnly dimension.
  • star rating 04/19/2013
  • joshbingham from KAF Community
  • Question: I am following the advice found in the comments to use a can of coconut cream, versus straining coconut milk. My question is, do I use the entire can of cream (14 oz) for the frosting?
    You may find using the coconut cream (1 1/2 cups) will yield a thicker frosting. You can add the confectioners sugar to the creamed ingredients as another reviewer did, or thin the frosting if using the coconut milk gives you a very thick frosting. Either way - happy baking - Irene@KAF
  • star rating 03/17/2013
  • mitzimuffins from KAF Community
  • This is a very rich cake. It tastes great and has a real coconut flavor. I used the KAF powdered coconut milk as well as the coconut flavoring. It is not a difficult cake to make but it has a bit of a different preparation than most cakes. Pay attention to the instructions of both the icing and the cake batter. I used the cream of coconut as an earlier review had suggested. I am not much of an icing person but I feel it is important to make the coconut icing as opposed to a plain white icing as it helps to enhance the "coconutty"flavor. The cake itself is a nice white cake with a hint of coconut. I baked it in two 9 inch rounds and they were done around the thirty minute mark. I would definitely make this again for a large crowd as a small piece is very filling.
  • star rating 04/01/2012
  • guajillo from KAF Community
  • I've made this cake a few times, always to great acclaim. Sometimes I use lemon curd for the between-layers filling; the tang cuts some of the sweetness. Instead of the frosting recipe here, I use a miracle (aka magical, aka heavenly) frosting -- a cooked-flour frosting once very common in the South. (Google miracle frosting and you'll find a good recipe from Cooks Country). Instead of regular milk to cook with the flour I use coconut milk for a coconut cake. A tip for those of you having problems with the coconut milk-straining part of the frosting recipe. Look instead for canned coconut cream rather than coconut milk. It's often available in Asian stores right next to the coconut milk. It's simply the thickest part of the coconut milk, without the thin part, and gives you exactly what you'd get with the straining -- but without any mess or effort. If you can't find it in your local market, it?s available online, check the Thai import sites. I strongly recommend the Aroy-D brand for both coconut cream and coconut milk. It's available in aseptic cartons and contains no stabilizers or chemicals, just pure coconut.
  • star rating 03/01/2012
  • June from Turlock, CA
  • Instead of buying a can of coconut milk (too many chemicals for me), I whipped up 1 1/2 pints of heavy whipping cream, added some of the coconut milk powder (to taste-about 1-2 teaspoons), and 2-3 tablespoons of powdered sugar (or to taste). After frosting the cake with the coconut flavored whipped cream, I covered the cake with organic shredded unsweetened coconut. This way it's not too terribly sweet.
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