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

Southern Coconut Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

Moist layers of fresh coconut cake filled with cream cheese frosting. This coconut cake has real coconut flavor built right into the cake with toasted coconut flakes, coconut milk and a touch of coconut extract.
4.96 from 100 votes
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
Serves: 10 cups
Calories: 545kcal


Coconut Cake Ingredients

  • 11 oz (312 g) AP flour (all purpose)
  • 1 tsp (1 teaspoon) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp (1/2 tsp) baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 4 oz (114 g) unsalted butter room temperature
  • 14 oz (397 g) granulated sugar
  • 4 oz (113 g) vegetable oil
  • 5 large (5 large) egg yolks room temperature
  • 5 large (5 large) egg whites room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp (1/4 teaspoon) cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp (1 tsp) vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp (2 teaspoon) coconut extract
  • 8 oz (227 g) buttermilk room temperature
  • 6 oz (170 g) sweetened flaked coconut toasted until lightly browned
  • 1 oz (28 g) sweetened flaked coconut toasted (for garnish)

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces (454 g) cream cheese cut into cubes and softened
  • 8 ounces (227 g) unsalted butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) coconut extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 36 ounces (1020 g) powdered sugar sifted


  • Stand mixer with whisk and paddle attachment


Coconut Cake Instructions

  • 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. 
  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350ºF/176ºC. Prepare three 8"x2" round cake pans with cake goop or another preferred pan release.
  • Spread your coconut flakes evenly onto a cookie sheet pan and bake for 2-3 minutes or until they JUST start to turn brown around the edges. Stir the coconut and bake for 1-2 minutes more until lightly golden. Watch closely or it could burn. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. 
  • Add the oil, coconut extract and vanilla extracts to your buttermilk
  • 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
  • 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, beat until mixture is fluffy and almost white, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add egg yolks, one at a time to the mixture, beating well after each until combined.
  • 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 your whipped egg whites and toasted coconut gently.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Cream cheese frosting

  • Place softened butter in the bowl of your stand mixer with whisk attachment and cream on low until smooth. Or you can use a hand mixer!
  • Place softened cream cheese in the bowl with butter in small chunks and blend on low until smooth and combined
  • Add in sifted powdered sugar one cup at a time until combined
  • Add your coconut extract and salt, blend on low until smooth
  • Scrape the mixture into a bowl and whisk in coconut and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.


IMPORTANT: Make sure all your ingredients are at room temp and you're using a scale to measure. Substituting ingredients may cause this recipe to fail. (see notes at the bottom of the recipe)
Important Things To Note Before You Start
1. Bring all your ingredients to room temperature or even a little warm (eggs, buttermilk, butter, etc) to ensure your batter does not break or curdle. 
2. Use a scale to weigh your ingredients (including liquids) unless otherwise instructed (Tablespoons, teaspoons, pinch etc). Metric measurements are available in the recipe card. Scaled ingredients are much more accurate than using cups and help ensure the success of your recipe. 
3. Practice Mise en Place (everything in it's place). Measure out your ingredients ahead of time and have them ready before you start mixing to reduce the chances of accidentally leaving something out.
4. Chill your cakes before frosting and filling. You can cover a frosted and chilled cake in fondant if you wish. This cake is also great for stacking. I always keep my cakes chilled in the refrigerator before delivery for easy transporting. Learn more about decorating your first cake. 
5. If the recipe calls for specific ingredients like cake flour, replacing it with all purpose flour and cornstarch is not recommended unless specified in the recipe that it’s ok. Substituting ingredients may cause this recipe to fail. 
Cake flour is a soft, low protein flour of 9% or less. 
Cake flour sources: UK - Shipton Mills Cake & Pastry Flour


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 545kcal (27%) | Carbohydrates: 56g (19%) | Protein: 5g (10%) | Fat: 34g (52%) | Saturated Fat: 24g (120%) | Cholesterol: 135mg (45%) | Sodium: 138mg (6%) | Potassium: 151mg (4%) | Fiber: 2g (8%) | Sugar: 43g (48%) | Vitamin A: 822IU (16%) | Vitamin C: 1mg (1%) | Calcium: 44mg (4%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)