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The Best Coconut Cake Recipe. Moist coconut cake with sweet cream cheese frosting. The perfect Southern Coconut Cake Recipe.

The Best Coconut Cake Recipe

The Perfect Coconut Cake Recipe with Creamy Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting

I love baking. Now, this won’t be a surprise to anyone who has followed Modern Honey for any time at all but it is something I am just so passionate about.

I wanted to start this website for two reasons — to have an outlet for creativity in the kitchen and to share my favorite family recipes. I am a true perfectionist about my food and want to create and share only the BEST recipes.

The Best Coconut Cake Recipe. Moist coconut cake with sweet cream cheese frosting. The perfect Southern Coconut Cake Recipe.

Let’s talk about coconut cake. I have made dozens of coconut cakes in my days. Actually, ever since I was a little girl, I have been obsessed with coconut. I would finish special chores in our home so that my Mom would take me to Smitty’s to pick out the biggest coconut I could find. I would spend hours in the backyard with a hammer trying to get it open.  I would literally eat the entire coconut by myself.

Since my love for coconut is strong, I have made a ridiculous amount of coconut cakes in my days. They have been good but I have been searching for out-of-this-world-amazing. I want to create recipes that I can pass down to my kids and know that they are truly the best (according to my taste buds).

The Best Coconut Cake Recipe. Moist coconut cake with sweet cream cheese frosting. The perfect Southern Coconut Cake Recipe.

My cake recipes are some of the most popular recipes on Modern Honey and get 5-star reviews over and over again.  You can find my Love at First Sight Chocolate CakeYellow Cake with Milk Chocolate Frosting,   Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting,   Italian Lemon Olive Oil Cake,   Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting,   and Southern Caramel Cake.

The Best Coconut Cake Recipe. Moist coconut cake with sweet cream cheese frosting. The perfect Southern Coconut Cake Recipe.


I wanted to create another winning Coconut Cake Recipe. This took many tries at creating the perfect coconut cake.  The key is to get enough coconut flavor in the cake and frosting.

I wanted a moist cake filled with coconut flavor so I tried everything from sweetened cream of coconut to canned coconut milk. I tried both sour cream and buttermilk. I tried with pudding mix and without pudding mix. I tried with all egg whites, all eggs, and somewhere in the middle.

Basically, I have made A LOT of cakes in this process.

We have been taste-testing coconut cake in our home for weeks! I really wanted to fall head over heels in love with the all egg whites cake but I felt as if tasted too much like an angel food cake and needed more moisture. I added one egg and more buttermilk to make the cake extra moist. We have a winner!

The Best Coconut Cake Recipe. Moist coconut cake with sweet cream cheese frosting. The perfect Southern Coconut Cake Recipe.

Tips and Tricks for making the BEST COCONUT CAKE:

  •  Start with Cake Flour. Cake flour contains 7-8% gluten while All-Purpose Flour contains 10-12%.  When you use cake flour in cakes, it creates a more tender texture.  We all want moist and tender cakes so cake flour is essential.
  • Use Baking Powder. Since there is only sugar in this cake, I use baking powder and a lot of it. This helps the cake to rise and give it loft.
  • Add the Butter, in cubes, to the Flour. This recipe doesn’t call for the typical cream butter and sugar together. The butter is added to the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt mixture and beat just until coarse crumbs are formed.
  • Use Egg Whites + One Egg. I tried using only egg whites and the texture was very similar to angel food cake. Adding one egg yolk added the right amount of fat and helped to make the cake extra moist.


  • Use Canned Coconut Milk. I used full-fat unsweetened coconut milk in this coconut cake recipe. It adds the authentic, real coconut flavor we are seeking.
  • Use Buttermilk. We are looking for a moist cake and there is nothing better than buttermilk to help create a tender cake.
  • The Secret Ingredient is Dry Pudding Mix. Just trust me on this one! You can use coconut cream pie, vanilla, or white chocolate dry pudding mix.


  • Bake just until the cake tester comes clean.  Use two 9-inch pans or three 8-inch pans. The cooking time will depend on the depth of the cake batter. The best way to figure out if the cake is baked through enough is to place a cake tester in the center of the cake.
  • To make a Toasted Coconut Cake — place coconut flakes on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 2-4 minutes. Watch carefully. Sprinkle on top of the cake.
  • If you want to keep a cake extra moist, brush with a simple syrup. What is simple syrup? It is sugar and water boiled down to make a syrup and brushed on the top of the baked cake layers. This is completely optional but it can help keep your cake extra moist.

The Best Coconut Cake Recipe. Moist coconut cake with sweet cream cheese frosting. The perfect Southern Coconut Cake Recipe.

Here are my favorite baking pans — USA Bakeware Round Cake Pan 8 inch and USA Bakeware Round Cake Pan 9 inch

A Wilton Angled Icing Spatula is the perfect tool to use to frost this cake.

The Best Coconut Cake Recipe. Moist coconut cake with sweet cream cheese frosting. The perfect Southern Coconut Cake Recipe.

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The Best Coconut Cake Recipe. Moist coconut cake with sweet cream cheese frosting. The perfect Southern Coconut Cake Recipe.

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5 from 16 votes

Coconut Cake

By: Melissa Stadler, Modern Honey
The perfect coconut cake with sweet cream cheese frosting.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 22 minutes
Total Time: 37 minutes
Servings: 16


  • 2 1/2 cups Cake Flour
  • 1 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 cup Dry Pudding Mix coconut or vanilla
  • 1 cup Butter cut into cubes, softened
  • 1 cup Canned Unsweetened Coconut Milk full-fat
  • 1/3 cup Buttermilk
  • 4 Egg Whites
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons Coconut Extract

Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 cup Butter softened
  • (1) 8-ounce pkg. Cream Cheese softened
  • 5 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Cream or Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Coconut Extract

Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Sugar


  • 1 1/2 cups Coconut Sweetened or Flaked


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a standing mixer, stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and pudding mix.
  • Beat the butter into the flour mixture, one cube at a time. Continue to beat until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together coconut milk, buttermilk, egg whites, egg, and coconut extract. Add the 1/2 of the egg-milk mixture and beat the batter is light and fluffy. Add remaining egg-milk mixture and mix just until combined. Take a spatula and scrape the sides of the bowl.
  • Spread into greased pans and smooth tops with a spatula. Use two 9-inch pans or three 8-inch cake pans.
  • Bake for 18-22 minutes, depending on the depth of pans. If the cake layers are thin, they will cook for less time than the thicker layers. This time is for three thin 8-inch layers. Check for doneness by placing a cake tester or toothpick in center of the cake.
  • Let cakes cool. Run a knife around edge of cake pan and flip over.
  • To make simple syrup: heat water and sugar in a small pan over medium heat. Let it come to a simmer. Once the sugar is completely dissolved and is clear, remove from heat. Let cool. Brush simple syrup over cake layers.
  • Sweet Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • In mixing bowl, cream together butter and cream cheese for 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Stir in powdered sugar and heavy cream, milk, or cream of coconut. Add coconut extract, if so desired. Once the cake has cooled and has been removed from pans, frost each layer with frosting.
  • Top each layer with sweetened coconut or place all flaked coconut on top of the cake or all over sides and top of the cake.

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dessert
Servings: 16
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Happy Baking, my friends! xo

Hi, I'm Melissa Stadler!

I am an Award-Winning Recipe Creator. Cover of Food Network Magazine. Two-Time Pillsbury Bake-Off Finalist. I am passionate about sharing the best recipes so you have success in the kitchen!

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Does the simple syrup need to be room temperature or hot when you brush top of cake layers?

    Thank you for the recipe.

    1. Hi Maggie! Great question! It doesn’t matter if it is warm or room temperature. The important part is that it soaks into the cake and makes it extra moist. Hope that helps! Have a great day!

      1. 5 stars
        I followed the recipe exactly and this is by far the best coconut cake and frosting I have ever had. I have attempted too many coconut cake recipes and been so disappointed. I am so grateful that I found your blog and recipes. I am hooked and my next recipe is your yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Thank you so so much for time in answering my question and helping me make the best cake for my daughters 18th birthday cake.


  2. 5 stars
    Amazing cake! My daughter and I made this cake for my husband’s birthday. It was the first time she had made a homemade cake (mostly) by herself (and the first time I had made a homemade cake in decades). It turned out beautifully and absolutely delicious. We are sure to make it again!

  3. 5 stars
    I love cake but am often disappointed at all the flavorless cakes out there. This recipe is so moist and flavorful that I could eat this without the frosting. Although the frosting is amazing. I tried this recipe because I don’t like the texture of coconut, but I like the flavor. I made it without coconut flakes, and I have to say this is now my favorite cake to make.

  4. 5 stars
    Just made the cake. Easter is Sunday. I will be buying 3- 8″ baking pans soon. The 9″layers baked about 30″. I watched the baking progress closely…. the final cakes still sank a little, but I think the cake is done. l brushed the tops with the simple syrup before frosting , did add a little more coconut extract, and put a layer of toasted coconut between layers and a lot on top. The cake looks beautiful and I am sure it will taste good as well. I can’t wait to try the cake. Impressive!

  5. Trying this for Easter, cannot wait!! I’ll let you know how it goes. Your Love at first sight cake is my FAVORITE chocolate cake so I have high expectations here! lol

  6. Question: When using canned coconut milk, not the whole can, how to measure correctly? When I open a can of full fat coconut milk, there is a thick layer at the top and the liquid has separated. So this recipe calls for 1 cup… How do you incorporate the thick and thin together before measuring out?

    1. This is such a great question! Thank you for asking it. I always shake my can of coconut milk before opening. Then I scrape the lid of the can to get the cream off of the top. Then I give it a good stir. Since most of the fat is located in the cream, you need to give it a good stir to incorporate it. I hope that helps!

    1. Hi Janice! I use the dry instant pudding mix. I actually used the Godiva White Chocolate Pudding Mix from Fry’s and it was awesome. It cost the same as Jello but of such high quality. If you can find it, it is amazing but any instant pudding mix will do. You just add the powder. Great question!

  7. 5 stars
    The BEST Coconut Cake that I have ever had is from The Peninsula Grill in Charleston, South Carolina.
    I look forward to baking your creation of this classic Easter Sunday Cake.
    Thank you for this recipe.

    1. Oh I was just in Charleston and wish I knew about this amazing sounding cake! I just visited for the first time a few weeks ago and fell in love with the city. I will try it next time I visit!

    1. Oh you are SO sweet! Thank you! I would love to come out with a cookbook someday. I just need to clone 10 of me. Haha! So much to do, so little time but it is a huge goal of mine. Thank you for your support!