Old Fashioned Coconut Cake Recipe

Old Fashioned Coconut Cake

Includes both regular and high-altitude versions.

I’ve finally found the best homemade coconut cake recipe.  It doesn’t use white cake mix (with it’s sickly-sweet taste and gummy texture).  It does use all-natural ingredients, with no artificial flavors or colors, so you can feel good about serving it to your family.  And I found it to be an easy coconut cake recipe, once I worked out the right proportions.

If you’re a regular visitor, you know I live in Colorado – at around 5,300 feet. Because of this, lots of cake recipes have to be adjusted to work. And even with adjustments, sometimes the results are just not great. My first attempt at this cake was a spectacular failure. Huge sinkhole in the middle!  (See my post on Why Does My Cake Sink in the Middle? by clicking here.)

But I put that apron back on and sat down with pen and paper and worked it out. You can do this yourself by following my instructions here. Now the cake turns out perfectly – moist and full of coconut flavor all on its own.



I’ve provided both the high-altitude and regular altitude recipes for this Old Fashioned Coconut Cake so that you can pick which one works for you.

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Old-Fashioned Coconut Cake

I’ve finally found the best homemade coconut cake recipe. It doesn’t use white cake mix (with it’s sickly-sweet taste and gummy texture). It does use all-natural ingredients, with no artificial flavors or colors, so you can feel good about serving it to your family. And I found it to be an easy coconut cake recipe, once I worked out the right proportions.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: All-Natural Coconut Cake, Old-Fashioned Coconut Cake
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 cups Flour – 1/2 all-purpose, 1/2 cake flour
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 5 lg Egg Whites
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 tbsp Natural Coconut Flavor See below if your store doesn’t carry this.
  • 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk, 15% fat content Use the canned, not boxed version. It must be at least 15% fat.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting and Whipped Filling

  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp Natural Coconut Flavor
  • 10 oz Shredded Coconut sweetened or unsweetened

Filling between Layers

  • 1 cup Frosting from above
  • 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch cake pans. (Lining with parchment can make removing the cakes easier, but I never have a problem in this dry climate. See how to create a cake pan liner here.)
  • Whisk the egg whites, milk and coconut flavoring until frothy. (We will use these bubbles for the leavening to expand as the cake bakes). Set aside.
  • In a mixer bowl, add the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix with a whisk. Add the butter and coconut milk and mix on low with a paddle attachment just until moistened, then beat on medium for two minutes.
  • Add the egg white mixture in a few additions, mixing just until incorporated.
  • Pour the thick batter into the prepared pans. I use a small postal scale to weigh them out so that I divide it evenly. Bake for 36 to 40 minutes, then test with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean. Add two minutes more if it comes out wet.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on a rack.
  • While the cakes are cooling, use the warm oven to toast your coconut (optional). Simply sprinkle the coconut on a cookie sheet in a thin layer and set it in the oven at 350 F for about two minutes. Stir the flakes and watch them for another minute or so. When they’ve toasted to golden, remove and cool.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting and Whipped Filling

  • Cream together the cream cheese and butter. Add the coconut flavor. Then add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. I cover my mixer with a very light tea towel to avoid sugar powder spreading all over the kitchen! Once it’s smooth, add a tablespoon of the coconut milk or regular milk to achieve a spreadable consistency (I didn’t have to add any).
  • For the filling, simply whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream until medium peaks form, then gently blend in 1 cup of the cream cheese icing.

Assembly

  • I divided my cake layers into four pieces, using a cake leveler. I used the whipped cream between each layer, then iced the outside of the cake with the cream cheese frosting. Lastly, I sprinkled the toasted coconut, using my palm to “bounce” the flakes onto the sides of the cake.
    Old Fashioned Coconut Cake

Notes

I divided my cake layers into four pieces, using a cake leveler.  I used the whipped cream between each layer, then iced the outside of the cake with the cream cheese frosting.  Lastly, I sprinkled the toasted coconut, using my palm to “bounce” the flakes onto the sides of the cake.

Here’s the high-altitude version.  I showed a picture of the toasted coconut version here – sometimes it depends on my mood, what type I prefer.

Finished Old Fashioned Coconut Cake
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Old Fashioned Coconut Cake – High Altitude Recipe

This is the high-altitude version of my Old Fashioned Coconut Cake recipe.  It adjusts the flour (increase), sugar (decrease), liquid (increase), baking powder (BIG decrease!), bake temperature (increase) and bake time (decrease).  It is adjusted to 5,280 feet, but if you are significantly higher, you’ll need to change the proportions just a little more to achieve perfect results.  See my article on high-altitude adjustments here.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: All-Natural Coconut Cake
Servings: 12 Servings
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 cups PLUS 2 tbsp Flour (387 g) 1/2 all-purpose, 1/2 cake flour
  • 2 cups LESS 2 tbsp Sugar (405 g)
  • 1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 5 lg Egg Whites
  • 1/2 cup PLUS 2 tbsp Milk (118 ml)
  • 1 tbsp Natural Coconut Flavor See below if your store doesn’t carry this.
  • 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter (57 g) Softened, but not melted
  • 3/4 cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk (177 ml) It should be about 15% fat content. It replaces some of the butter, so don’t use the type in a box you pour on cereal.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting and Whipped Filling

  • 8 oz Cream Cheese room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Butter room temperature
  • 4 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp Natural Coconut Flavor
  • 10 oz Shredded Coconut sweetened or unsweetened

Filling Between Layers

  • 1 cup Frosting from above
  • 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 370 F (190 C).
  • Grease and flour two 8 or 9-inch cake pans. (Lining with parchment can make removing the cakes easier, but I never have a problem in this dry climate. See how to create a cake pan liner below.)
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites, milk and coconut extract just until frothy.
  • In a mixer bowl, add the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix with a whisk. Add the butter and coconut milk and mix on low with a paddle attachment just until moistened.
  • Add the egg white mixture in a few additions, mixing just until incorporated, then beat for two minutes.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans. I use a small postal scale to weigh them out so that I divide it evenly. Bake for 31 to 34 minutes, then test with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean. Add two minutes more if it comes out wet.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on a rack.
  • While the cakes are cooling, use the warm oven to toast your coconut. Simply sprinkle the coconut on a cookie sheet in a thin layer and set it in the oven at 350 F for about two minutes. Stir the flakes and watch them for another two minutes or so. When they’ve toasted to golden, remove and cool.
    Toasting coconut

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting and Whipped Filling

  • Cream together the cream cheese and butter. Add the coconut flavor. Then add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. I cover my mixer with a very light tea towel to avoid sugar powder spreading all over the kitchen! Once it’s smooth, add a tablespoon of the coconut milk or regular milk to achieve a spreadable consistency (I didn’t have to add any).
  • If the icing is too thick for spreading, add a teaspoon or two of coconut milk and blend to the desired consistency.
  • For the filling, simply whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream until medium peaks form, then gently blend in 1 cup of the cream cheese icing.

Assembly

  • I divided my cake layers into four pieces, using a cake leveler. I used the whipped cream between each layer, then iced the outside of the cake with the cream cheese frosting. Lastly, I sprinkled the toasted coconut, using my palm to “bounce” the flakes onto the sides of the cake.
    Old Fashioned Coconut Cake

Video

Notes

Using Coconut Milk: There are many varieties on the market. Goya is a good brand, but whatever you use, make sure it’s about 15% fat. You’ll need to open the can and give it all a good stir before you measure it, as much of the fat will have solidified in the can over time. You want to stir it smooth before measuring.

Did you know you can make your own natural coconut extract at home?  Food Network has a good recipe with techniques to make it a bit easier.  Frankly though, I’ve found it to be pretty tedious – especially separating the coconut meat from the husk.

You can easily find artificial coconut flavor in any store, but I refuse to use it. It just doesn’t have the depth of flavor you need in baking.  And since you’ve used all-natural ingredients throughout, why mess it up with artificial flavoring?

I’ve searched around, and the very best source for flavorings is Savory Spice.  They have shops in the Denver area, but you can order online too.  Here’s a direct link to their all-natural coconut extract:

Coconut Extract Natural – 8 floz Bottle | …

Our natural coconut extract has the taste and aroma of super fresh coconuts. Try using … [More]

Price: $16.75

That’s all there is to it.  This is NOT a difficult cake to make!  And the results will get you “oohs” and “aahs” from friends and guests.

If you try it, send me a note here, I’d love to hear any variations you’ve made.

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19 Comments

  1. Avatar

    5 stars


    So delicious! We live in Boulder, made this tonight, everyone loved it!
    1. Avatar

      I’m so glad! Thanks for the great comment. I appreciate it.

  2. Avatar

    Wow this cake looks amazing. I love coconut cake…Well I love all cakes, but that’s just me. We live in an RV and don’t have much room for a bunch of baking supplies and our attempts with using the convection oven has been hit or miss. Being just the two of us we’d probably need to figure out a smaller recipe also.  

    I like how you put both the regular and high altitude recipes on your page. Once we get back into our Sticks and Bricks home this will be on our list of cakes to make. 

    1. Avatar

      I should look at trying to cut this recipe in half. With baking it’s not as simple as just cutting each ingredient in half, so I’d have to experiment. But it’s a challenge and I like that.

  3. Avatar

    This sounds fantastic – and I’ve always been a big fan of coconut flavor as well, but I’ve never tried it as a cake, so that would be a new go around for me. Thanks for providing both high altitude and low altitude ingredients. I live in an odd gray area, where the altitude is roughly 2,00 feet above sea-level but within minutes you can be in a valley, then up another 2,000-plus-foot structure. 

    I don’t know if I missed it but what’s the minimum altitude that one should use the high-altitude ingredients?

    1. Avatar

      Normally around 3,000 ft is when you need to start looking at the critical things like baking powder. But at 5,000 ft is when you really must make an adjustment.

  4. Avatar

    Hi
    I have been looking for some cake recipes and i came across your post:) i love coconut and this recipe looks ideal, even better as it is old fashioned and they deffo taste the best.
    Do you know roughly how many people this would serve? as we have a family party coming up and i really would like to impress them with this cake.
    Thanks.

    1. Avatar

      This cake will serve 12, unless someone is just totally starving!  Haha.  It also keeps really well under a simple glass or plastic dome.  Enjoy!

  5. Avatar

    Do you use coconut milk from a can or the refrigerated type that people use on cereal?

    1. Avatar

      I use coconut milk from a can. It has to have a high enough fat content. The kind I use is about 17% fat. It replaces some of the butter, so you can’t just use the cereal type.

  6. Avatar

    Thank you thank you for the high altitude recipe! After several failures of other recipes, finally a beautiful, delicious cake!

    1. Avatar

      I am SO HAPPY to hear it! Living here in Denver, I GET IT. Enjoy!

  7. Avatar

    I love eating coconuts but haven’t tried a coconut cake myself. Valentines day is coming soon and I am planning to at least bake something delicious as my boyfriend loves to eat cakes but he is not a fan of generic cake flavours like chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. I also use coconut milk in most of my savoury dishes and coconut milk made it taste so much better.

    1. Avatar

      My friends have made this one numerous times and have specifically come to me to tell me how well it turned out.  I think you’ll really like it.

  8. Avatar

    I love coconut cake! I really like this recipe and I’m so glad it doesn’t include the boxed white cake mix which is really sweet. Your cake looks beautiful! I am bookmarking this page. Baking this cake is now on our to-do list. We bake often so I’m looking forward to trying this out. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Avatar

      I really think you will like it. Please come back and let us know how it turned out

  9. Avatar

    Very tasty sounding coconut cake recipe, I will try this recipe myself very soon since it sounds much healthier than what you can buy in any stores.

    I like it is low on sugar, coconut is very healthier for you and this would be a healthy cake to serve for desert and special celebrations.

    1. Avatar

      You will not be disappointed, Jeffrey. It turns out perfect every time, moist and full of coconut flavor. My friends DEMAND that I make it when they come to dinner!

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