Southern Coconut Cake

This coconut cake does not skimp on coconut flavor. It is the absolute best coconut cake. It has coconut milk and coconut extract in the cake. A delicious Coconut pastry cream. Then it’s topped off with a Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting and Coconut is pressed into the sides and top of the cake. This is a showstopper cake, perfect for Easter or any celebration. My Grandmother would always make it at Christmas. This is just one of those cakes you will go back to time and again.

Coconut Cake

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 14 slices
Author Jennifer Grooms


  • 1/2 cup salted butter softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 6 large egg whites room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • cups cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Coconut Pastry Cream Ingredients:

  • 1 can 14 fluid ounces unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 1 cup salted butter softened
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 cups coconut flakes


  1. Grease three 9-inch pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to cream the butter, oil, and sugar together until smooth. Beat in coconut extract and egg whites 2 minutes until fluffy. Beat in coconut milk and sour cream until just combined.
  3. Mix in cake flour, baking powder, and salt until just combined.
  4. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit in pans for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before layering and frosting.

Make the coconut pastry cream:

  1. Heat the coconut milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean or extract in a medium saucepan over medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch. Once the cream is hot, remove the vanilla bean (if used), scraping out any remaining seeds and returning them to the cream. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cream slowly to the yolks, whisking as you add, to temper the eggs so they won’t cook into an omelet in the middle of your pastry cream. That would be a bummer. Then pour the yolk mixture into the pot of hot cream and whisk. Continue to whisk with heat on medium-high for 3 more minutes. The mixture will turn thick and bubble. You need to continue to whisk for the full 3 minutes or the pastry cream will separate once it is cool. After the 3 minutes, whisk in the butter. Add the coconut flakes. Pour into a shallow dish to cool.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap pressed right against the pastry cream. This will prevent a thick skin from forming on the surface. Refrigerate for at least an hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Once it is cold, stir the pastry cream to loosen. Whip the 1/2 cup cream to medium peaks. Stir in 1/3 to the pastry cream to lighten. Fold in the remaining cream until the pastry cream is nice and light.
  3. Make the frosting by beating cream cheese and butter together for 1 minute until light and fluffy. Add in coconut extract and mix until combined, about 10 seconds.
  4. Slowly add in powdered sugar, one half cup at a time until smooth, mixing between additions.

Assembling the cake

  1. Spread 1/3 of the coconut pastry cream filling onto the first cake layer. Spread it almost to the edge but pipe a thick bead of cream cheese around the very outside edge of each layer to ensure no spillage. Sprinkle with flaked coconut. Repeat with the other layers. Frost the cake with a very thin crumb coat and set it in the freezer to set for about 15 minutes. Bring it out and continue frosting the rest of the cake generously. 
  2. Carefully push handfuls of fluffy coconut all over the sides of the cake and on top. 
  3. Keep the cake in the refrigerator but let sit out for about 30 minutes before slicing and serving so the frosting will be soft.

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