Cake topped with toasted coconut with one slice missing.
Cakes,  Desserts,  Recipes

Old Fashioned Coconut Cake Recipe

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It’s almost Easter, which means Coconut Cake. For some reason, coconut is associated with Easter. I don’t know if it’s because of the coconut used on bunny cakes or the green-dyed coconut to decorate cupcakes, but a lot of it is used in the early spring.

Slice of yellow cake on white plate in front of cake stand.

Why not make an Old-Fashioned Coconut Cake? This cake has a very subtle coconut flavor, but the coconut frosting really brings out a stronger flavor. It can be topped with shredded coconut as well so you don’t have to worry too much about your cake decorating skills. If you have been looking for a spring cake, this is the one you need to make.

Ingredients You Will Need

Ingredients on wooden board.

Butter: Provides richness, moisture, and flavor to the cake. It contributes to the overall tender and soft texture.

Sugar: Sweetens the cake, enhancing its flavor. Sugar also plays a role in tenderizing the cake and creating a moist crumb.

Eggs: Act as a binding agent, providing structure to the cake. Eggs also contribute to the cake’s moisture and help in leavening.

Cake Flour: Contains less protein than all-purpose flour, resulting in a lighter and more delicate texture.

Baking Powder: Acts as a leavening agent, helping the cake rise by producing carbon dioxide gas when combined with moisture and heat.

Salt: Enhances the overall flavor of the cake by balancing sweetness and other flavors. It also strengthens the cake’s structure.

Milk: Adds moisture and contributes to the tenderness of the cake. It also helps in creating a smooth batter.

Vanilla: Enhances the flavor of the cake, providing a pleasant aroma and taste.

Shredded Coconut: This is a key ingredient that not only imparts coconut flavor but also adds texture to the cake.

Why You’ll Love Making Coconut Cake

Flavor Combination: The combination of butter, sugar, and vanilla creates a rich and buttery flavor base. The addition of shredded coconut enhances this base with a sweet and nutty taste, providing a delightful tropical twist.

Aroma and Essence: Vanilla serves as a flavor enhancer, adding a fragrant and aromatic essence to the cake. The combination of vanilla and coconut creates an aroma that is both inviting and comforting.

Nostalgia and Tradition: Coconut Cake, made with these classic ingredients, often carries a sense of nostalgia and tradition. Many people grew up enjoying coconut cakes made by family members or experienced them at gatherings and celebrations, creating a sentimental attachment to the recipe.

Yellow mixture of butter and sugar in silver bowl.
Creamed butter and sugar.
Yellow mixture in silver bowl.
Mixture before adding vanilla and coconut.
Cake batter in silver bowl.
Batter before adding to cake pan.
Light brown cake.
Cake fresh out of the oven.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know when the cake is done baking? Use the toothpick test. Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake; if it comes out clean or with a few crumbs (not wet batter), the cake is done.

Why did my cake sink in the middle? Overmixing the batter or opening the oven door too early can cause the cake to sink. Follow mixing instructions and avoid opening the oven until the cake is almost done.

How can I prevent the cake from sticking to the pan? Grease and flour the cake pans or use parchment paper to ensure easy release. Allow the cake to cool slightly before attempting to remove it from the pan.

Can I make this cake ahead of time and freeze it? Yes, you can freeze Coconut Cake. Wrap it well in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. Thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

Why is my cake dense and heavy? Several things could contribute to a dense and heavy cake, including overmixing the batter, using expired baking powder, or not incorporating enough air into the batter. Make sure to gently fold the ingredients together and avoid overmixing. Also, check the expiration date of your baking powder to make sure it’s fresh.

How can I prevent my shredded coconut from sinking to the bottom of the cake? To prevent shredded coconut from sinking, toss it in a bit of flour before adding it to the batter. This helps the coconut adhere to the batter and distribute more evenly throughout the cake.

Substitutions and Variations

All-Purpose Flour Substitute for Cake Flour:

For every cup of cake flour needed, take one cup of all-purpose flour and follow these steps:

  1. Measure: Scoop out one level cup of all-purpose flour.
  2. Remove: Remove two tablespoons of the all-purpose flour from the cup.
  3. Replace: Add two tablespoons of cornstarch back into the cup with the remaining all-purpose flour.
  4. Sift: Sift the mixture together at least 5-6 times to ensure thorough blending.

Coconut Extract:

  • For a stronger coconut flavor, substitute coconut extract for vanilla extract.


  • Cream cheese frosting is a classic choice, but variations include coconut cream cheese frosting or coconut-flavored buttercream.
  • Some people prefer a lighter option with whipped cream or a coconut glaze.

Nuts and Fruits:

  • Chopped nuts like pecans or almonds can be added for crunch.
  • Dried fruits such as pineapple or mango can be incorporated for additional flavor and texture.
Side view of yellow cake with slice missing on glass cake stand.

What to Serve with Coconut Cake

Whipped Cream or Ice Cream: A dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of coconut or vanilla ice cream adds a creamy element to balance the cake’s sweetness.

Coffee or Tea: Pair the Coconut Cake with a cup of coffee or tea. A tropical-flavored tea, such as coconut or hibiscus, goes well with coconut.

Champagne or Prosecco: Celebrate with a glass of champagne or prosecco for a sparkling and festive pairing.

Other Recipes You May Enjoy

If you like Coconut Cake, you might also like my Coconut Cream Pie or my Coconut Mousse. These Coconut Cookies and this Italian Easter Cake are also delicious.

Final Thoughts

Coconut Cake is a classic spring and summer dessert that tastes fresh and light. This one is no exception. I frosted it with Coconut Buttercream topped with toasted coconut and it was a huge hit.

Cake topped with toasted coconut with one slice missing.

Coconut Cake

Heidi Bruaw
Indulge in the tropical delight of this Coconut Cake, where a luscious blend of butter, sugar, and shredded coconut creates a moist and flavorful crumb. Sifted cake flour, baking powder, and a touch of vanilla intertwine with the richness, making each bite a heavenly experience.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Dessert
Servings 12


  • ½ Cup Butter
  • Cups Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 Cups Cake Flour sifted
  • 4 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • ½ Cup Coconut shredded


  • Preheat oven to 375℉.
  • Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.
  • Cream butter and sugar together.
  • Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each one is added.
  • Sift cake flour, baking powder, and salt together.
  • Add flour mixture alternately with milk to butter mixture.
  • Mix in vanilla.
  • Stir in shredded coconut.
  • Pour into greased pans.
  • Bake at 375℉ for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pans for 5 to 10 minutes and then remove from the pans and cool on wire rack.
  • Once cooled completely, fill and frost with your frosting of choice.
Keyword Coconut Cake
Pinterest pin for coconut cake.
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