Coconut Cake Recipe

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An old-fashioned coconut cake recipe, made with a soft, 2-layer vanilla cake and iced with an old-fashioned frosting straight from my grandmother’s cookbook, and covered in sweet coconut shavings.

A classic, staple cake recipe, file this one away with other favorites like my tried & true Pound Cake, Tres Leches Cake, and German Chocolate Cake!

Slice of layered coconut cake on white plate on pink backdrop

The Softest Coconut Cake

Those of you who follow the blog regularly are familiar with a lot of my grandmother’s recipes. Maybe you’ve tried her hot milk cake, potato candy, or apple dumplings (to name just a few!). She also makes a killer Coconut Cake with a unique, silky white frosting. While she was just as happy to share that recipe with me as all of the others, I was a little surprised to learn that she actually doesn’t make her coconut cake from scratch.

What! I had to double-check with her, but nope, my grandmother’s beloved, amazing coconut cake recipe actually starts with a box of yellow cake mix. The icing is from-scratch, yes, but not the base.

While I still look forward to that cake when she has dinner, you know I couldn’t start a recipe with cake mix and feel good about myself. So, after years of testing cake recipes, I finally developed a super soft, super moist, sturdy and stable cake with a tender, melt-in-your-mouth crumb that works as the perfect base for this coconut cake recipe.

Coconut Cake Recipe

You’ll LOVE this super soft and moist coconut cake! Made with a simple vanilla cake and covered in an old-fashioned frosting recipe handed down from my grandmother!


  • ▢6 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened to room temperature
  • ▢⅔ cup canola oil or vegetable oil (160ml)
  • ▢2 cup granulated sugar (400g)
  • ▢1 cup sour cream (240g)
  • ▢2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ▢½ tsp coconut extract optional, if not using then use 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • ▢2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour (344g)
  • ▢1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ▢½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ▢1 teaspoon salt
  • ▢6 large egg whites room temperature (½ cup or 122g), make sure there is not so much as a teeny tiny bit of yolk in with the egg whites or they will not whip properly.


  • ▢¾ cup salted butter softened (170g)
  • ▢9 Tablespoons shortening I use Crisco
  • ▢1 ½ cups granulated sugar (300g)
  • ▢4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour because of recent risk of flour contamination, I recommend heat-treating your flour before using (make sure to let it cool completely before using
  • ▢1 cup coconut milk or you can use regular whole milk which is what my grandmother uses (235ml)
  • ▢¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ▢18 oz frozen fresh shredded coconut thawed I’ve not had a lot of luck finding frozen coconut recently. You can substitute dried sweetened coconut, found in the baking section, instead. I usually only need about 3-4 cups and sometimes I will briefly pulse the shreds in the food processor to make them a little less stringy, though this is not required.

Recommended Equipment

  • ▢Stand Mixer

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  • Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and grease and flour the sides of two 8” cake pans (or spray with baking spray) and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl (or in stand mixer), use an electric mixer to beat together butter, oil, and sugar. Beat until ingredients are creamy and well-combined.
  • Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and then stir in sour cream, vanilla extract, and coconut extract.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Using a spatula and stirring by hand (I don’t recommend using an electric mixer here as you can accidentally over-mix your ingredients, resulting in a dense, dry cake), stir the dry ingredients into the wet (butter/sugar mixture) until completely combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure that all of your ingredients are well-combined. Set aside.
  • In a separate clean, dry, and completely grease-free bowl, place your egg whites in a completely clean, dry, and grease-free bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on high-speed until stiff peaks form.
  • Using a spatula, gently fold your egg whites into your batter. While you do not want to over-mix this batter, it is important that the egg whites are completely combined. Use a gentle hand and stir until you can’t see any streaks of egg whites in the batter.
  • Divide batter evenly into prepared cake pans.
  • Bake on 350F (175C) for 27-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean or with a few moist crumbs (no wet batter).
  • Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.


  • Combine butter, shortening, and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-speed until creamy and well-combined.
  • Add flour, one Tablespoon at a time, beating on medium speed for 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl and beat again for 20 seconds.
  • Add coconut milk and vanilla extract and stir to combine
  • Turn mixer speed up to medium-high and beat for 6 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again at least another 6 minutes.
  • Test the frosting by tasting or rubbing between your fingers, it should not be gritty or grainy at all. If it still is, carefully scrape the sides and bottom of your mixing bowl again and stir again on high speed until no longer grainy.
  • Once your cakes are cool, ice them by placing one layer on your serving dish and applying an even layer of frosting to the top. Sprinkle liberally with shredded coconut.
  • Place your second layer on top of the first and apply an even layer of frosting around the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle coconut over the top of the cake, and then use your hands to press coconut all around the sides.


A Note on the Frosting:

For me, coconut cake just wouldn’t be coconut cake without this old-fashioned frosting. However, I know it’s not for everyone. This cake could also be covered with any of these frostings below, just make sure to cover with coconut shavings!

Chocolate Frosting (of course the cake won’t have that pristine white appearance outside, but I love the chocolate/coconut pairing!).

What To Do With Those Leftover Egg Yolks?

Here are some great recipes that use a lot of egg yolks!


Serving: 1slice | Calories: 889kcal | Carbohydrates: 89g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 58g | Saturated Fat: 31g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 46mg | Sodium: 431mg | Potassium: 231mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 63g | Vitamin A: 12IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 6mg

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