This amazing Coconut Layer Cake is a coconut hat trick - it's made with coconut milk, coconut oil, and coconut flour, and the frosting is a melt-in-your-mouth fluffy ermine frosting made with coconut milk. The whole cake is then covered with sweetened shredded coconut. This cake is a coconut lover's dream.
I make coconut cake every year for my mother's birthday because it's her favorite cake followed by my Lemon Bundt Cake, a family favorite from my aunt.
This coconut cake is from Serious Eats. Thank you Stella Parks for an amazing recipe. Every year when I make a coconut cake for my mother's birthday and for several years I tinkered with the recipe but this is the final recipe and the go-to for my mother's birthday cake. Another version is Coconut Cake with Lime Curd Filling. The combination of lime and coconut really work.
Why This Recipe Works
This coconut layer cake is the perfect coconut cake full of coconut flavor. The cake is made with coconut flour, coconut oil, and coconut milk; and the coconut ermine frosting is made with coconut milk. The combination of coconut oil and butter creates a dense moist cake that is absolutely delicious.
Coconut Cake Ingredients
Here are the ingredients for the coconut cake. If you can't get coconut flour you can substitute an equal amount of all-purpose flour.
- All-Purpose Flour. I use Bob's Red Mill Unbleached Flour and weigh the flour to make sure I'm adding the right amount.
- Coconut Flour. I used Bob's Red Mill Coconut Flour. The flour has a grainy texture but adds a lot of flavor to the cake.
- Coconut Milk. Use full-fat coconut milk for this recipe. Coconut milk fat often hardens at the top of the can. To ensure the entire can is liquid and any coconut fat is melted, fill a container with warm water and place the unopened can upside down in the warm water.
- Unsalted Butter and Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. The coconut oil and butter add flavor and makes the cake tender. Both should be at room temperature to ensure that they mix well into the batter. The coconut oil should be 70-72°F and the butter should be at 68-70°F.
- Whole Eggs. Use large eggs, which weigh about 50 grams each. If using medium or jumbo size eggs, weigh the eggs to get 150 grams. Using whole eggs gives the cake a golden color. If you want an all-white cake, use 6 egg whites.
- Granulated Sugar. When this amount of sugar is used you have a high ratio cake. Sugar is used for sweetness, moistness, and structure.
- Baking Powder. Baking powder gives the cake rise and lift.
- Kosher Salt. Salt enhances the flavor of all the other ingredients
How to Make This Cake
Before starting this recipe make sure the eggs, butter, coconut milk, and coconut oil are all at room temperature. The temperature guidelines are listed in the recipe. Use the butter temperature range for the eggs and milk.
Start by prepping and measuring out all your ingredients. This step is called mise en place, meaning everything is set up and in its place.
Cream the butter and sugar together. Don't rush this step as it is important to introduce air bubbles into the cake batter.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating to thoroughly incorporate the eggs into the batter. Adding the eggs one at a time ensures that they mix thoroughly with the creamed butter and sugar and thoroughly emulsify.
Add the flour and coconut milk, alternating the addition of these ingredients. Mix in the flour and milk on low speed to avoid the development of gluten, which will make the cake tough.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the cake pans and bake until a cake skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake or the cake temperature registers 202°F in the center.
What is Ermine Frosting
Ermine Frosting is a frosting made with flour and cornstarch. It is also called boiled flour frosting, flour frosting, or boiled milk frosting because you boil flour, milk, and sugar together until it thickens, let it cool, and then whip in butter, lots of butter. One article I read called it Miracle Frosting. I suppose it got that name because this combination of ingredients makes a truly luxurious frosting.
This frosting recipe has been around since the 1920's. It's an amazing easy-to-make frosting that's not too sweet. Its texture and taste are a cross between whipped cream and Swiss meringue buttercream and it's my favorite right after Swiss Meringue buttercream.
I've also used this frosting recipe to make a strawberry ermine frosting for my Fresh Strawberry cake recipe.
How to Make Ermine Frosting
The frosting contains the following ingredients.
- Granulated Sugar. Adds sweetness to the frosting
- Flour and Cornstarch. The flour and cornstarch thicken the slurry and helps give it a nice creamy texture.
- Coconut Milk. Coconut milk is the flavor bomb in this recipe. If you don't have coconut milk you can use regular whole milk.
- Kosher Salt. The salt balances the sweetness of the recipe.
- Unsalted Butter. The butter gives this frosting its rich, creamy texture.
Combine all the ingredients except the butter in a 3 quart saucepan. Cook these ingredients over medium heat whisking constantly until the mixture is thickened.
Once it is thickened, cool the slurry to room temperature, before adding it to the whipped butter. Once the butter and slurry are combined, whip it for about 8 minutes on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy.
The flour slurry can be made the night before and chilled. Once it is thoroughly cooked, put it in a heatproof bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill. Before combining it with the whipped butter bring it to room temperature, warm it slightly over a pan of simmering water and stir until it becomes more fluid and is about 68-72°F.
This frosting is so good and so easy to make, that if you've never made it before, I think it will become a new favorite.
Assembling the Coconut Cake
When assembling the cake reserve 1 cup of frosting for decorations, 1/4 cup for just eating straight with a spoon, and use 1-1/2 cups for the center of the cake. The frosting really is that good, that you might as well just set some aside for tasting.
You always want to crumb coat layer cakes to prevent cake crumbs from getting into the final frosting layer. After the second layer is added to the stack, spread a thin layer of frosting over the sides and the top of the cake. The frosting should be thin enough that you can still see the cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then use the remaining frosting to frost the sides and top of the cake.
Decorate the cake with the remaining frosting and then coat the sides of the cake with the sweetened shredded coconut.
Pro Tips for Making This Recipe
- Line cake pans with parchment paper to prevent the cake from sticking and to ensure the cakes come out clean.
- The butter, eggs, and coconut oil should be at room temperature so that these ingredients emulsify.
- Sometimes coconut milk forms a solid layer of coconut fat at the top of the can. To ensure the coconut milk blends in easily with the other ingredients. Place the unopened can in a pan or bowl of warm water top-side down for about 10 minutes before you're ready to use it. This step will melt that top layer of coconut fat.
- Use full-fat coconut milk for this recipe. The success of this recipe is based on the percentage of fat in the milk. The results may be different if low-fat coconut milk is used.
- When the cake is done it will start to pull away from the sides of the cake. You can also use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature in the center of the cake. The temperature should be about 202°F.
Recipe - Frequently Ask Questions
Yes, you can use an equal amount of regular all-purpose flour in place of the coconut flour.
The package of coconut flour should have a "best by" or "best if used by" date. But coconut flour doesn't immediately go bad, so it will still be safe to use after that date. As the flour deteriorates it will taste stale or rancid and perhaps a little bitter. If the taste is off in any way do not use it.
Yes, 3 8-inch pans will work for the recipe. Whenever you use a smaller pan in a recipe that calls for a specific pan size do not fill the other pans more than half full.
The cake can be stored for 1 day at room temperature and up to one week in the refrigerator.
More Celebratory Cake Ideas
Our family usually has coconut cake for birthday parties and other family get togethers. If you're looking for cake ideas, check out these delicious cakes:
This cake is so amazing. If you love coconut you must make this cake, it's a coconut lover's dream. If you make this cake, please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below. And if you post a picture to Instagram tag me @bakesbybrownsugar and use the hashtag #bakesbybrownsugar.
Coconut Layer Cake
- 2 9-inch round cake pans
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter melted
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 2/3 cups (340 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (57 grams) coconut flour
- 2 1/4 cups (450 grams) plain or toasted sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons (114 grams) unsalted butter room temperature, 60-65°F
- 2/3 cup (113 grams) virgin coconut oil creamy and soft room temperature, about 72°F
- 3 (150 grams) large eggs room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups (510 grams) full-fat coconut milk room temperature
Coconut Ermine Frosting
- 1 1/2 (300 grams) cups sugar
- 1/4 cup (35 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) full-fat coconut milk room temperature
- 24 tablespoons (342 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut toasted
Prepare the Cake Pans
- Melt the butter in a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon of flour and stir together until it is smooth paste. With a pastry brush thoroughly coat the bottoms and sides of two 9-inch aluminum cake pans and line them with parchment paper.
- The coconut coating can be toasted or untoasted. If toasting the sweetened coconut, preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the coconut on a quarter sheet pan into a single layer and toast it until it is golden brown, 7-10 m minutes. Stir the coconut about half way though the baking time for even browning.
For the Coconut Cake
- Preheat to 350°F (180°C).
- Place the all-purpose flour and the coconut flour in a medium bowl and whisk to combine and remove any lumps. If you don’t have coconut flour, replace it with an equal amount of all-purpose flour.
- Crack the three eggs into a bowl large enough to hold all three eggs.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla extract, butter, and virgin coconut oil. Mix on low speed to roughly incorporate, then increase to medium and beat until fluffy and light, about 5 minutes. Halfway through, pause to scrape the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula.
- With the mixer still running, add eggs one at a time, letting each fully incorporate before adding the next. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated, then add 1/3 of coconut milk and mix until just incorporated. Repeat with remaining flour and coconut milk, working in thirds as before.
- Scrape bowl and beater with a flexible spatula and resume mixing on medium speed for about 5 seconds to ensure everything is well combined. The batter should look creamy and thick, registering between 65 and 68°F on a digital thermometer. (Significant deviation indicates ingredients were too warm or too cold, which can lead to textural problems with the cake.)
- Using a flexible spatula, fold batter once or twice from the bottom up, then divide evenly between prepared cake pans (about 840 grams each, if you have a scale).
- Bake until the cakes are firm, pale gold, and begin to pull away from the sides of the pans, about 35 minutes.
- Cool cakes in their pans for 15 minutes, then run a butter knife around the edges to loosen. Invert onto a wire rack, peel off parchment, and return cakes right side up. Allow the cakes to completely cool, about 1 hour. (Covered in plastic, the cakes can be left at room temperature for a few hours.) Prepare the frosting.
For the Coconut Ermine Frosting
- This recipe makes 5 cups, enough for a 9-inch two-layer cake or an 8-inch three-layer cake.
- In a 3 or 4-quart nonreactive pan whisk together the sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Slowly whisk the in the coconut milk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly and scraping the corners of the saucepan, until the mixture boils and is very thick, about 6-10 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a wide bowl or glass pie plate and let cool completely, about 2 hours.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter (which should be between 65-68 degrees F) on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5-minutes. Turn off the mixer, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the cooled coconut milk-flour mixture. Mix on medium speed until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.
Assemble the Cake
- Reserve 1 cup of the coconut frosting in a smaller bowl for decorations. Place one cake layer on a cake board or plate. Use 1-1/2 cups of frosting for the center and evenly spread across the layer. Place the second cake layer on top. Crumb coat the cake by spreading a thin layer of frosting over the entire layer of the cake to lock in the crumbs. This technique will prevent cake crumbs from getting mixed into the final frosting. Frost the cake with the remaining frosting.
- To coat the cake with the shredded coconut, place coconut in your hand. Hold the edge of your hand close to the bottom of the cake, tilt your hand up and lightly press the coconut into the frosting. Repeat to coat the sides of the cake .
Increase sugar to 1 3/4 cups, increase the flour to 5 tablespoons, increase the cornstarch to 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons, increase the coconut milk to 1- 3/4cups, and increase the butter to 30 tablespoons.