This Coconut Cake Recipe is a beautiful dessert for your Easter table or anytime you want to celebrate Spring!
Spring is the season of renewal, when nature begins to write on the blank slate that winter wiped clean. After months of dull grayness, it’s such a joy to see tender shoots of grass pushing their way toward the blue sky. Spring also brings cherry blossoms, and there’s nothing quite as lovely as watching their pink petals swirling on the breeze.
I like to bring those colors to our Easter table with this Coconut Cake Recipe. On its own, the brilliant white frosting with its layer of coconut flakes is a beautiful sight. This year, I got the idea of adding some of the pastel Meringue Cookies I’ve been keeping on hand and, wow, it came out even more lovely!
Don’t be frightened by appearances: this Coconut Cake Recipe is much easier than it looks. If you’ve had bum luck baking cakes from scratch before, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: in baking, unless stated otherwise in the recipe, you must let your ingredients reach room temperature before using them.
Why? Room temperature ingredients emulsify better and trap air in the process. Once in the oven, those air bubbles expand to create lighter, more tender cakes and cookies that also stay moister.
As far as shape, you don’t have to make a round cake. I chose to because I love my cake pans — they have a built-in cutter bar that trims and releases the cake at the same time. But you could just as easily bake this in a rectangular pan then cut it in half and stack the layers. It’s up to you!
One thing you shouldn’t mess with is the cooling time. It’s quite important that you allow the cake layers to cool completely before proceeding to trim and frost them. Rushing this step means you’re likely to tear the cake as you trim it and, of course, the frosting will just slide off of the warm cake.
Speaking of frosting…this is one of my favorite frostings ever. It’s easy and creamy, and that coconut flavor is to die for. The only problem is that I have a horrible habit of eating a spoonful here, a fingerful there. When I first started making this cake, I used to sneak so much of the frosting from the bowl that I’d have to skimp spreading it between the layers. So, I fixed that problem by increasing the amount, and now there’s plenty for all. You’re welcome.
Adding coconut flakes to the frosting is optional. If you’re using this frosting for cupcakes, you might want to leave them out then sprinkle on some coconut at the end. Me? I looooove coconut, so more is always better in my book.
Once the cake is frosted, press more coconut flakes into the frosting to give it that lovely, almost furry look. Those additional coconut flakes also help this cake retain its moisture, so any leftover cake tastes just as good the next day. It’s never made it to Day Three in our house (like I said, I looooove coconut) but since this is a cream cheese-based and cream frosting, I don’t think I’d try keeping it much longer than that, anyway.
And, of course, you don’t have to add the Meringue Cookies but I just couldn’t resist. Their colors are a perfect way to celebrate Spring!
- For the cake
3 sticks unsalted butter (3/4 lb.)
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1½ teaspoons coconut extract
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 cup milk, room temperature
- 4 ounces shredded coconut
For the frosting:
1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened (1/4 lb.)
- 4 cups confectioner's sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoon coconut extract
- 2 cups shredded coconut, divided
- For the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two round 9-inch cake pans with cooking spray and set aside.
- Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time then the coconut and vanilla extracts. Pause and scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is well-mixed.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Turn the mixer on low and alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk, in three parts, mixing only until just combined. Turn the mixer off and gently fold the coconut flakes in with a spatula.
- Divide the batter evenly into greased cake pans and bake them at 350°F for 50 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick in the center of the cake and it comes out clean. Remove pans from the oven and set them on a rack to cool for 30 minutes then remove the cakes from the pans and allow them to finish cooling on the rack around another 30 minutes.
- Do NOT trim or frost cakes until they are completely cool.
For the frosting:
Tream each cake horizontally so it is level and there is not a dark layer on top. Use a pastry brush to sweep away crumbs from the tops and sides of each layer. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until fluffy.
- On low speed, alternate adding the confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time, with the heavy cream. Add the salt and coconut extracts.
- Turn the mixer back to medium-high and beat the frosting until it is smooth. Add additional confectioner's sugar or cream as needed to reach the desired consistency. Turn the mixer off and stir in ½ cup of coconut.
- Spread frosting on one cake layer all the way to the edges. Top with the second cake layer then proceed to frost the cake from top to bottom. Once fully frosted, use your hand to gently press more coconut into the sides and top of the cake. Decorate with Meringue Cookies if using.
- Serve at room temperature.