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Southern Coconut Cake Recipe

By Elisha Baba


Updated on

Coconut cake is the best way to combine luscious, moist white cake with plenty of crispy, crunchy coconut flakes. This southern treat just might be the best coconut cake recipe you’ve ever tried, much less made in your very own kitchen.

Coconut Cake Recipe


  • (1) 13 x 9 sheet pan or (2) 8-inch round pans
  • Sifter


Sifting Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt

Cream ingredients

  • ¾ cup unsalted room temperature butter (1.5 sticks)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

Mix-ins for the Cream Ingredients

  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp coconut extract (optional)
  • 1 cup coconut milk

Folding Ingredients

  • 5 egg whites + ⅛ tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

coconut cake ingredients


1. Start by preheating the oven to a nice 350 degrees F.

2. Then take your cake pans, or muffin tins if you’re doing muffins, and give them a decent coat of non-stick cooking spray. This will make sure the batter does stick during baking.

3. Next, take your all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and sift them all together in a bowl. Set that bowl aside for later in the recipe. Sifting dry ingredients ensures even distribution.

dry ingredients in sifter

dry ingredients in sifter

sifted dry ingredients in glass bowl

4. In a second bowl, combine the cream ingredients. This includes the butter, sugar, and oil. With a spoon or spatula, work them all together until you get one, nice, creamy substance.

5. Then add the sour cream, vanilla extract, and coconut and blend those in as well.  

cream ingredients

cream ingredients blended

6. Take your first bowl of dry sifted ingredients and slowly add the contents to the cream bowl, stirring softly as you go, and alternating with the coconut milk.

7. Once everything is added, make sure to mix it all really well to prevent lumps and set aside.

coconut cake batter in glass bowl

8. In a third bowl, preferably glass, whip up the egg white using a power mixer. You can do this step by hand, but we don’t recommend it.

mixer whipping egg whites in glass bowl

9. As soon as the egg white becomes sort of foamy, you can then add cream of tartar. But don’t stop. Keep whipping everything on a high speed until you get lovely soft peaks forming.

mixer whipping egg whites into a foam in glass bowl

whipped egg whites

10. Once done, carefully fold the whipped mixture into your cake batter.

Tip: stick the glass bowl in the freezer for a few minutes. The frostiness helps form your peaks faster.

11. Take your bowl of combined ingredients and pour it into a baking sheet or round cake pans or muffin tins.

12. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes. The bake time would be less for muffins, just check frequently. To test if the cake is baked thoroughly, just stick a toothpick or a clean knife into the middle. If the item comes out clean of batter, then is baked well. If there are signs of batter, leave to bake for another 5-10 minutes. Checking every couple of minutes.

13. Once the coconut cake is baked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool to about room temperature.

baked coconut cake

14. While the cake is cooling, toss your cream cheese in a bowl with a cup of sugar and add the milk.

cream cheese frosting ingredients

15. Whip all three together with a whisk or a power mixer, whichever you prefer.

whipping cream cheese frosting

whipped cream cheese frosting

16. Cover the cooled cake with the cream cheese frosting and then top with toasted coconut.

coconut cake and cream cheese frosting in bowl

coconut cake

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