Coconut Cake

Yield 8 servings

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Adapted from Rebecca Rather, Pastry Queen Christmas


  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, 2 sticks
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour spooned and leveled, plus more for pan
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream such as Coco Lopez
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 8 large egg whites room temperature
  • 1 lb cream cheese room temperature
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp coconut extract optional
  • 1 lb confectioners’ sugar approx 3 3/4 cups
  • 3-4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut for decorating


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter three 9-inch cake pans. Line each with a parchment round on the bottom. Butter the paper and dust the pans with flour, knocking out excess.
  2. Using an electric mixer preferably fitted with the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt to blend. In a separate small bowl, stir together the milk, coconut milk and coconut cream until smooth. Add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the creamed butter and sugar in increments, starting and ending with the flour mixture. After each addition, mix at low speed just to combine the ingredients. Stir in the vanilla and almond extract.
  4. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and a small mixer bowl beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter until evenly blended. Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Set two layers on the top rack and the third on the lower rack. Stagger the cake layers on the oven racks so that no layer is directly over another.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Monitor the layers carefully for doneness; each may be done at a different time. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then unmold onto wire racks to cool completely.
  6. For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until just smooth (don’t whip!).
  7. Stack one cake layer on a serving plate and spread the top about a third of the icing. Repeat with a second layer. Stack the final cake layer on top of the first two and cover the cake’s top and sides with the frosting. Sprinkle the coconut on the top and sides of the cake.
  8. Cover the cake loosely with plastic wrap or store in a cake stand for 1 day at room temperature or up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.


When decorating the cake with shredded coconut any variety can be used but the big flakes create the most sticking cakes. It’s a challenge to get the coconut on the cake without frosting sticking to your fingers. Throwing coconut at the cake makes it adhere quite well although this approach can be messy.