photo of coconut cake squares on gold cooling rack

About This Easy Coconut Cake Recipe

This easy coconut cake comes together in just 5 minutes, using two bowls and a whisk. That’s right! You don’t need a stand mixer to make the cake batter (although you will need one for the frosting). The cake is made in an 8-inch square pan and contains shredded coconut AND coconut milk to make it extra flavorful. The cake is then topped filled with lemon curd and topped with a silky, creamy American coconut buttercream frosting.

Why You Should Make The Recipe

Here are all the reasons to make this easy coconut cake recipe:

The recipe comes together quickly.

The cake batter comes together in just 10 minutes, with just two bowls and a whisk and/or rubber spatula. No stand mixer required! Simply whisk together the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients. Then, combine everything together. That’s it!

The cake stores well.

Because of both coconut milk AND coconut oil in the batter, the cake contains a lot of moisture. That means it stays fresh and moist for days! In fact, I think that the cake even tastes better the day after it’s made. Why? The coconut flavors become more pronounced and obvious!

photo of hand holding a coconut cake slice showing off airy crumb

Ingredients and Substitutions

Now that I’ve convinced you to make this coconut cake, here’s everything you need to make the recipe:

Shopping List For Easy Coconut Cake

  • all-purpose flour
  • unsweetened shredded coconut
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • kosher salt
  • large eggs
  • granulated sugar
  • canned coconut milk
  • coconut oil
  • lemon curd
  • confectioners’ sugar
  • unsalted butter

And let’s talk about some key ingredients and potential substitutions:

Common Ingredient Substitutions

Here are common substitutions for the ingredients in the recipe:

  • All-Purpose Flour. Substitute the all-purpose flour with your favorite 1-1 Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (I like the ones by Bob’s Red Mill and King Arthur Baking Company) to make the cake gluten-free!

  • Kosher Salt. Replace the ½ teaspoon kosher salt in the recipe with ¼ teaspoon of table salt.

  • Coconut Oil. Either virgin or refined coconut oil will work in the cake recipe—however, virgin coconut oil will make it taste more coconutty!

  • Lemon Curd. Substitute the lemon curd with any jam of your choice. Other flavors that would work well in this cake: strawberry, raspberry, and apricot.

Canned Coconut Milk

You need ¾ cup canned coconut milk to make the cake batter, plus another 1 to 2 Tablespoons to make the cake’s frosting.

What is coconut milk?

Coconut milk is made by pureeing shredded coconut flesh with water. The puree is then strained multiple times to create the rich and thick coconut milk.

That being said, there are many types of coconut milk available in grocery stores. You can buy shelf-stable coconut milk in cans, or perishable coconut milk in cartons in the refrigerated aisle. For baking and cooking, it’s best to stick with canned coconut milk—that’s usually what recipes mean when they call for “coconut milk”.

Where to buy canned coconut milk

Canned coconut milk is now available in most major grocery stores in the United States. Canned coconut milk is typically found in the “Asian” aisle. However, “fancier” grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods even offer their own generic versions of coconut milk! Look for them in either the baking or canned goods aisle.

What’s the best canned coconut milk?

While you can probably get away with using any brand of canned coconut milk you have on hand, it’s true. Not all canned coconut milks are created equal. Why? Some manufacturers add sweeteners and stabilizers to thicken the coconut milk and skimp on the real stuff. A quality can of coconut milk should o have only two ingredients (coconut and water), with have a layer of solid white stuff when unshaken. This layer is the “coconut cream” and naturally occurs as the fat and protein in the coconut milk separate from the water.

So what’s the best canned coconut milk? My personal favorite is Arroy-D coconut milk. But I highly encourage you to try different brands and figure out which you like best. 

Can I use fresh coconut milk instead?

Sure, go for it! Especially if you live in a place like the Philippines where fresh coconut milk is cheap, abundant, and easy to get.

Is coconut cream the same as coconut milk? Can I use coconut cream instead of coconut milk instead?

No, coconut cream is NOT the same as coconut milk. Remember when I mentioned earlier that coconut milk separates into two layers of coconut cream and coconut water? A can of coconut cream is literally just a can full of that layer of white stuff!

Because coconut cream is a lot thicker and contains less water than coconut milk, you cannot easily substitute it for the coconut milk in this recipe. Doing so may result in a cake that might sink in the middle! Let’s avoid that, please.

What’s the difference between coconut water and coconut milk? Can I use coconut water instead?

Coconut water is coconut milk that’s been separated from the coconut cream. All that’s left is the water, which tastes slightly fatty and coconutty. While it’s delicious to drink on its own (in fact, it’s my post-workout drink of choice—I’m looking at you, Harmless Harvest!), do not use coconut water in this recipe.

Because coconut water lacks the fat and protein of coconut cream, it’s likely that using it in this recipe will result in a cake that has a hard time setting and holding its shape. Again, you may end up with a cake that sinks in the middle.

photo of coconut cake on plate showing lemon curd interior

How To Make Easy Coconut Cake

Here are the basic steps to make coconut cake from scratch:

  1. Prep the ingredients. (Prep Time: 10 minutes)

  2. Make the coconut cake batter. (Work Time: 5 minutes)
    The cake comes together very quickly with just a bowl, whisk, and a spatula. No stand mixer required!

  3. Bake the coconut cake. (Bake Time: 30 minutes)

  4. Fill the coconut cake with lemon curd. (Work Time: 5 minutes)
    You can use as much or as little lemon curd as you like. If you were sparing with your holes, I recommend using more curd. If you were generous with them, I recommend doing tiny dollops of curd.

  5. Make the coconut frosting. (Work Time: 5 minutes)
    Wait for the cake to cool completely, then make the frosting and frost it. If you frost the cake when it’s still warm, the frosting will melt!

  6. Frost the cake. (Work Time: 5 minutes)

Best Recipe Tips

Equipment Tip

Ingredient Tip

  • Make sure to shake the canned coconut milk thoroughly before opening and measuring it out for the recipe!

Foolproof Techniques

  • When prepping ingredients for the cake batter, I like to melt the coconut oil first. Doing so gives it time to cool slightly before using in the recipe.

  • When making the frosting, I give you a range of coconut milk to use. Why? Because the texture of your frosting is affected by weather, how long you’ve had the confectioners’ sugar, and more. So start by adding 1 Tablespoon of coconut milk. If the frosting still seems too dry/stiff/hard, add another teaspoon. Just don’t add more than 2 Tablespoons of coconut milk total because the frosting might start to split!

Customizing The Recipe

Here are the different ways you can customize this coconut cake with different flavors and techniques:

  • Use toasted coconut and different flavored curds, jams, and jellies. Customize its flavors by using toasted coconut instead of regular coconut, and different flavored fruit curds and jams and jellies for the lemon curd. And of course, you can always use homemade versions of curd and jam!

  • Make it extra zesty. If you want to make the cake extra citrusy, you can zest one lemon or lime over the sugar. Use your hands to rub the zest into the sugar—this will help release oils from the zest, making the sugar extra flavorful! Use the zested sugar in the recipe as instructed.

  • Use different pan sizes:
    • You can bake the cake as is in a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan instead. Bake Time will increase to 45 to 50 minutes. You probably won’t need as much frosting if you go the loaf cake route. I would halve the frosting recipe, or even make a coconut glaze instead by whisking together 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1 to 2 Tablespoons of coconut milk!

    • You can double the recipe and bake the batter in two 8- OR 9-inch round cake pan to make a simple layer cake. Bake Time shouldn’t change that much, but I would test for doneness a few minutes earlier at 28 minutes instead of 30. A instead of poking holes in the cake and filling them with the curd, you can use it as a filling between the two layers! You’ll need more lemon curd though. Depending on how zesty you like your cake, I’d estimate needing ¼ cup to ⅓ cup of lemon curd.

More Simple Cake Recipes on Hummingbird High

Get the Recipe: Easy Coconut Cake Recipe

This easy coconut cake recipe has coconut in the batter and frosting. It comes together in just 5 minutes with just a bowl and a whisk.
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For The Cake Batter

  • 1 ¼ cups (5.65 ounces or 160 grams) all-purpose flour
  • cup (1.15 ounces or 33 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (5.25 ounces or 149 grams) granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (6 ounces or 170 grams) canned coconut milk
  • ½ cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon curd

For The Coconut Frosting

  • 1 ½ cups (6 ounces or 170 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted if necessary
  • 4 Tablespoons (2 ounces or 57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons canned coconut milk
  • unsweetened shredded coconut, for garnish


  • a piping bag with a tip


  • First, make the chocolate cake by prepping your oven and cake pan. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
    Generously spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Spray the parchment, too.
  • Mix the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, coconut, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Whisk the eggs, then add the sugar, coconut milk, and coconut oil. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until combined. Whisk in the sugar until thick and homogenous, then whisk in the coconut milk and coconut oil until combined.
  • Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients all at once, and mix with a rubber spatula until combined.
  • Assemble the cake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to smooth its top if necessary.
  • Bake the cake. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. When done, the top of the cake should bounce back when gently pressed and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake should come out with a few crumbs attached. Cool completely in the pans on a wire rack before frosting.
  • Fill the cake. Once the cake is cool, Run a butter knife or offset spatula along the edges of the pan and use the overhanging parchment as handles to lift the cake out of the pan and onto a cutting board or wire rack.
    Use a wooden skewer or a fork to poke holes all over the top of the cake.
    Fill the pastry bag with the lemon curd. Pipe lemon curd into the holes of the cake, using an offset spatula to smooth out any extra curd over the top of the cake.
  • Make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, and salt for the frosting. Beat on medium-low until soft and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
    With the mixer on low, add 1 Tablespoon of the coconut milk for the frosting. Beat until combined. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl once more, then beat on medium-high until the frosting is creamy and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Frost and decorate the coconut cake. Use an offset spatula to cover the top of the cake with the frosting completely. Garnish with extra unsweetened shredded coconut.
  • Serve and store. Serve at room temperature. The cake will keep in an airtight container for 1 day. After that, transfer to the refrigerator and refrigerate for up to 2 more days.


  • To fill my cake with lemon curd, I used this fancy pastry tip that’s specifically used for filling donuts. If you have one on hand, I recommend it! Otherwise, no worries—a regular round tip will do.
  • Make sure to shake the canned coconut milk thoroughly before opening and measuring it out for the recipe!
  • When prepping ingredients for the cake batter, I like to melt the coconut oil first. Doing so gives it time to cool slightly before using in the recipe.
  • When making the frosting, I give you a range of coconut milk to use. Why? Because the texture of your frosting is affected by weather, how long you’ve had the confectioners’ sugar, and more. So start by adding 1 Tablespoon of coconut milk. If the frosting still seems too dry/stiff/hard, add another teaspoon. Just don’t add more than 2 Tablespoons of coconut milk total because the frosting might start to split!
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Weeknight Baking:
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Over the past several years of running Hummingbird High, I kept a crucial aspect of my life hidden from my readers: I had a full-time, extremely demanding job in the tech world. In my debut cookbook, Weeknight Baking, I finally reveal the secrets to baking delicious desserts on a tight schedule.