Southern Coconut Cake Recipe

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Southern coconut cake made with toasted coconut and coconut cream cheese frosting! 

This southern coconut cake is full of delicious coconut flavor thanks to toasted coconut, buttermilk and a dash of extract. It pairs perfectly with coconut cream cheese frosting! 

southern coconut cake made with toasted coconut and coconut cream cheese frosting

I recently went on a trip to Memphis, TN with some of my favorite bloggers with the pure intention to eat our way through the city. Every single day was planned around where we were going to eat. 

Now, of course, I had my share of some amazing Memphis style BBQ from Central BBQ. Some epic fried pickles from BB Kings, and the most amazing fried chicken I have ever had from Gus’s Famous Fried Chicken. 

But there was one place that REALLY stood out for me and that was the Commissary BBQ in Germantown. This was a good 20-minute drive from our air BnB on Main street but boy was it worth it!

commissary_ memphis_cake_pie

This place is KNOWN for its cakes and pies so we did the logical thing and ordered one of each. 

To my great surprise, I fell in love with the coconut cake! Previously I always paired my coconut cake with regular buttercream but this cake was covered in a sweet cream cheese frosting and more coconut on the outside.

This cake was moist, not too sweet and just delicious! We were all fighting over the last bite!

I was inspired to adapt my old coconut cake recipe to this one so I can have this delicious southern coconut cake whenever I want!

Start by toasting your coconut flakes

To make my coconut cake, start by toasting your coconut first. It’s easy to burn so do this before you do anything else!

  1. Spread your coconut flakes evenly on a baking sheet. 
  2. Bake 3 minutes in the oven at 350ºF and then stir. The edges always brown faster!
  3. Another 1-2 minutes should do it. I don’t like to make mine TOO brown, just enough to crisp the coconut up. Toasting coconut brings out the flavor of the coconut and actually has a better mouthfeel and adds a deeper coconut flavor to the cake. 

how to toast coconut

How to make the coconut cake batter

Now you can make your cake batter. Make sure you’re cold ingredients (milk, butter, eggs) are all softened to room temp or even a little warm to prevent the batter from curdling. 

  1. Whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. 
  2. Whisk together your buttermilk, coconut and vanilla extract and set aside
  3. Cream the softened butter until smooth, then sprinkle in your sugar and then the oil. Whip on high until light and fluffy. It should look white. 
  4. Add in your egg yolks one at a time, letting each combine fully before adding the next.
  5. Add in 1/3 of your dry ingredients mixture, then 1/2 of the liquids, then dry, then liquid, ending with the last bit of dry. Mix only until combined. Do not over-mix. 

How to fold the meringue into the cake batter

After your batter is made, you can whip up your egg whites to firm but moist peaks. This meringue is going to add some extra lift and fluffiness to our coconut cake. Make sure you don’t over-whip the egg whites. If they look dry and crumbly, you’ve gone too far.

egg whites whipped to firm moist peaks

  1. Add about 1/3 of the whites to the batter and fold it in gently by moving your spatula around the outside edge of the bowl, between the batter and the egg whites.
  2. Lift the cake batter from the bottom and fold it over onto itself. This is how you fold
  3. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn after each fold.
  4. Add in the rest of your meringue and continue folding until just combined. Do not over-mix. 
  5. Fold in your toasted coconut and divide into three 8″ cake pans prepared with cake goop or another preferred pan release.

Now bake your cakes at 350ºF for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting

How to make a coconut layer cake

If you need more info on how to make a layer cake, I highly suggest my video on how to make your first cake

  1. Torte (cut in half length-wise) if desired. 
  2. Spread about 1/4″ frosting on top of your cake layer
  3. Repeat with remaining layers. 
  4. Frost entire cake with a thin layer of frosting and freeze or chill 15 minutes. 
  5. Finish cake with a final coat of frosting. I used a bench scraper to make the sides straight and spoon to add a nice swirl to the top of the cake. 
  6. Coat the sides of the coconut cake with fresh coconut flakes (I preferred not to toast them for the outside of the cake).

best southern coconut cake recipe

A good recipe for coconut cupcakes?

This recipe works great for cupcakes and is very light! This recipe makes approximately 24 cupcakes. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes until set in the middle. It can be easy to burn these cupcakes because of the sugar content so watch them closely. If they are over-baked they can taste dry.

Best filling for coconut cake?

The best thing about coconut cake is that it pairs with SO many different flavors. The traditional filling for coconut cake is something light and creamy like this coconut cream cheese frosting.

If you’re feeling extra adventurous you can fill your coconut cake with some coconut custard which is basically like a pudding, lemon curd or even raspberry filling


southern coconut cake made with toasted coconut and coconut cream cheese frosting
4.84 from 6 votes

Southern Coconut Cake

A delicious southern-style toasted coconut cake with coconut cream cheese frosting. This recipe makes enough for two or three 8" cake layers.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cake, coconut, coconut cake
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 24 servings
Calories 407 kcal


Coconut Cake Ingredients

  • 11 oz AP flour (all purpose)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 oz unsalted butter room temperature
  • 14 oz granulated sugar
  • 4 oz canola oil
  • 5 large egg yolks room temperature
  • 5 large egg whites room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp coconut extract
  • 8 oz buttermilk room temperature
  • 6 oz sweetened flaked coconut toasted until lightly browned

Southern Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese full fat and softened
  • 4 oz unsalted butter softened
  • 3 Tbsp coconut milk or regular milk
  • 1 tsp coconut extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 16 oz powdered sugar sifted
  • 6 oz sweetened flaked coconut Toasted until lightly browned


Coconut Cake Instructions

  1. NOTE: It is SUPER IMPORTANT that all the room temperature ingredients listed above are room temperature and not cold so that the ingredients mix and incorporate correctly. 

  2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350ºF/176ºC.

  3. Grease three 8" cake pans with cake goop or pan preparation of choice

  4. Place egg whites in a mixing bowl with the whip attachment. Whip on med-high. Add in cream of tartar. Whip until firm but moist peaks form. Set aside

  5. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. 

  6. Add butter to stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat at medium-high speed until smooth and shiny, about 30 seconds. Gradually sprinkle in the sugar and add the oil, beat until mixture is fluffy and almost white, about 3-5 minutes.

  7. Add egg yolks, one at a time to the mixture, beating well after each until combined.

  8. Add the coconut and vanilla extracts to your milk

  9. With the mixer at the lowest speed, add about a third of the dry ingredients to the batter, followed immediately by about a third of the milk, mix until ingredients are almost incorporated into the batter. Repeat the process 2 more times. When the batter appears blended, stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Fold in the toasted coconut.

  10. Fold in your whipped egg whites gently.

  11. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake cakes until they feel firm in the center and a toothpick comes out clean or with just a few crumbs on it, about 25-30 minutes.

  12. Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack and pop cakes out of pans. Cool completely before frosting.

Southern coconut cream cheese frosting

  1. Beat cream cheese with hand mixer or whisk attachment on stand mixer until smooth. Add in butter and continue whisking until smooth and combined.

  2. Add in milk and extracts and whisk to combine

  3. Gradually add in powdered sugar one cup at a time until smooth and creamy.

  4. Frost cooled cake with frosting and coat the outside with toasted coconut.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

Watch this video on how to make the yummiest toasted coconut cake ever!

Nutrition Facts
Southern Coconut Cake
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 407 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Fat 22g34%
Saturated Fat 13g65%
Cholesterol 69mg23%
Sodium 162mg7%
Potassium 143mg4%
Carbohydrates 50g17%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 38g42%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 415IU8%
Vitamin C 0.1mg0%
Calcium 31mg3%
Iron 1.3mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

A southern coconut cake recipe made with light and fluffy toasted coconut cake layers and frosted with decadent coconut cream cheese frosting.

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