Coconut Cake with Toasted Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

Did you know two-year-olds are capable of cracking eggs? The first couple tries required fishing out dozens of shell shards before adding it the batter, but on the third try . . .

No shells. Yolk in tact (with just a little leak in the side). It was an exciting moment for us, and definitely worth the eggy mess it made all over her hands, apron and the counter.

Grandpa Perry’s birthday was last week so Sophie helped me make his birthday cake — a coconut cake at his request. She’s a pretty good helper if you can keep her tasting fingers out of everything.

This recipe is originally a cupcake recipe featured on Down Home with the Neelys (Food Network). A friend of mine made them for a Christmas party, and I tucked the recipe away waiting for an excuse to make it.

Instead of cupcakes, I made a cake. Instead of two round pans, I put it all into a high-sided commercial baking pan thinking I would separate it into three layers. I tell you, it’s a good thing I put it in that pan instead of one of the dark nonstick ones because it would have burned during the HOUR AND A HALF it baked. I’m not joking. This thing ended up being close to a pound cake in density. I don’t remember the cupcakes being that dense . . . but the cake was delicious anyway. Speaking of tasting fingers . . . someone wasn’t happy that the cake was slightly out of her little reach.

Grandpa got his coconut cake, I had an excuse to use my rarely-used, but very-much-adored cake stand, and Sophie got to help me in the kitchen. Everybody was happy.

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Coconut Cake with Toasted Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting


For the cake:
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
⅔ cup buttermilk
1 ½ cups sweetened coconut flakes

For the frosting:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners' sugar
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes, for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Into a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. 
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time until just combined. Add vanilla and coconut extract. Add buttermilk and dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix. Mix in the shredded coconut. 

Pour the cake into a 9x13 or two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans. Bake for 25-35 minutes (see note) or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on wire racks before frosting. (Leave the oven on if you plan to toast the coconut.) 

To make the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together until light and smooth. Add vanilla extract and slowly add the confectioners' sugar 1 cup at a time until thoroughly incorporated. 

Pour coconut flakes evenly onto a baking sheet. Place in oven for 2 to 3 minutes allowing flakes to cook and turn a golden brown color. Watch them so they don't burn. 
Assemble and frost the cake with the coconut frosting. Garnish with toasted coconut flakes.

Nat's Notes:
1. This recipe makes about 24 cupcakes. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 the way full and bake for 15-18 minutes.
2. The baking time above is a very rough estimate. I put all the batter in a high-sided round cake pan, so mine took a LONG time to cook (about 90 minutes) because it was so deep. Start checking for doneness around 25 minutes and keep an eye on it.

adapted from The Neelys (Food Network)

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15 Responses to “Coconut Cake with Toasted Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting”

  1. #
    The Smiths — March 15, 2010 @ 4:11 am

    The cake looks yummy and I adore the pictures of your little girl cracking eggs they are beautiful.


  2. #
    Natalie — March 15, 2010 @ 4:57 am

    Thank you! Letting her crack eggs was quite a lot more nerve-wracking in my head than it turned out to be. :)


  3. #
    Sarah — March 15, 2010 @ 11:53 am

    I was going to say exactly the same thing about your beautiful pictures. What a lovely way to capture the moment. You do a great job.


  4. #
    noonionplease — March 15, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

    Oh, it looks so delicious!


  5. #
    Dawn — March 15, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

    Funny to come across this as Cooking Light just did a gorgeous coconut cake I was thinking of making. This one looks amazing and your daughter is so cute! My little 19 month old girl loves to cook with me as well.


  6. #
    sweet_tooth — March 16, 2010 @ 2:31 am

    what an adorable cake stand!


  7. #
    Lorraine — March 16, 2010 @ 3:46 am

    Jack is obsessed with cracking eggs. Today he helped me make apricot bars and insisted that we do the egg first, and by we, I mean he. I got to hand him a paper towel at the end. "Mommy, I DID it!" in a little boy voice is so cute.

    Ellen, on the other hand, lightly taps the egg on the counter and then says, "Mommy, you do it." She doesn't like to get her hands dirty. That's Mommy's girl :)

    I never thought to take pictures, though! Yours are so cute.


  8. #
    Katie — July 12, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

    Wondering, does this cake need to be kept in the firdge, or can it be kept covered on the counter?


  9. #
    Tina Lundy — September 8, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

    Thank you for a great recipe! I made for my sons birthday party today and it was a HUGE hit :))) Definitely must toast the coconut for this one it adds alot to the taste and appearance of the cake.


    • Natalie replied: — September 11th, 2012 @ 9:27 am

      Isn’t this cake fantastic?? I’m glad you loved it as well (and that you toasted the coconut… makes such a huge difference!) And thank you for reporting what pans you used as well as the baking time!

  10. #
    Tina Lundy — September 8, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

    I used 2 8 inch round pans for baking and it took aprox 33 minutes to bake fully.


  11. Pingback: Perry's Plate: Dishing up real-food recipes and really good desserts » S’more Layer Cake + Smitten Kitchen Cookbook Giveaway!

  12. #
    Brenda — January 4, 2015 @ 6:17 am

    Buttermilk and dry ingredients are not alternate?


  13. #
    lillian — May 29, 2015 @ 8:50 am

    If there ism left over frosting does it freexe


    • Natalie Perry replied: — June 1st, 2015 @ 3:59 pm

      I have frozen buttercream frosting with much luck. You can probably freeze this as well. Just whip it good once it thaws out.

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