The Trials and Tribulations of a Baker-Turned-Cook

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Coconut Layer Cake with Coconut Buttercream Frosting

I have been wanting to try this Martha Stewart recipe for awhile. The cake was delicious, but soooo dense. I made it into a three-layer round cake instead of a two-layer sheet cake. I used my tried-and-true buttercream recipe (adapted from AllRecipes). How could something with that much butter and eggs be anything less than divine?

Coconut Cake

Source: Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook (2005)

  • 3 sticks (1 1/2 C) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 3 1/2 C all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C packed sweetened, shredded coconut (for cake batter)
  • 2 C packed, sweetened, shredded coconut (for cake topping)
  • 2 2/3 C sugar
  • 4 large whole eggs, plus 4 large egg whites
  • 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C unsweetened coconut milk
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter two 9x9x2 inch cake pans (I used three 9-inch round pans); line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pulse shredded coconut in a food processor until finely chopped. Stir chopped coconut into the flour mixture until combined; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the whole eggs, egg whites, and vanilla; beat until fully incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the coconut milk, and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.
  3. Divide batter between prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 30 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.
  4. While cake is cooling, toast 2 C shredded coconut in a 350 oven for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Using a serrated knife, trim the tops of the cake layers to make level. Place one layer on a cake plate, and spread top with 1 1/2 C of frosting. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Repeat with second layer. Place third layer on top, and frost cake with remaining frosting. Sprinkle remaining toasted coconut on top.
  6. Cake can be kept in the refrigerator, covered with a cake dome, for up to 3 days.

Coconut Buttercream Frosting

Adapted from

  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1/2 C shortening
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. coconut extract
  • 5 C powdered sugar
  • 1/4 C milk
  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and shortening until light and fluffy. Add salt, coconut extract, powdered sugar, and milk. Beat well.


Jaime said...

what a beautiful layer cake!

Anonymous said...

I think your proportions are off because 5 cups of powdered sugar is way to much for this recipe

Jill said...

The proportions are correct. The link for the original recipe is in the post. Given that there is 1/4 cup of milk in the frosting, it will take in a great deal of powdered sugar. I sometimes use even more (as much as 6 C) if I need a thicker frosting.

Did you try the recipe exactly as written? I've made this no fewer than 20 times, and it always comes out perfectly. I'm sorry you had trouble with it!

Christina said...

Thanks for the great recipe from Martha's book. I've been trying many different coconut cakes recently and I think your version (with your frosting) turned out the best.

I love your blog. I'm a much better baker but learning to expand my skills. Thanks again, Christina

PS. Beautiful cake!

Chesca said...

hi i really really want to make something with coconut extract but i have never found it anywhere. i'm from the philippines and funny, you'd think we'd have everything coconut lying around here but people here don't have the hots for coconut flavored pastries. can i substitute something else? coconut cream perhaps? coconut oil? coconut rum? i only want to add it to chocolate cupcakes to enhance its flavor, not make a whole coconut cake. help!

Anonymous said...

This cake was awesome! Loved it! I will use this recipe again and again. Loved the iceing.

Amanda said...

is this a buttercream frosting that will "crust"? im guessing is the term. if not "crust" i mean will it set, get firm so it is no longer sticky to touch? I'm making my husband a "boob" cake and i need a buttercream that will be easy to smooth with the paper towel method.

Michelle said...

Jill, qq. I want to make a coconut cake but don't have time to make it from scratch. Could I use the icing recipe, but use a box cake mix? Or do you think it wouldn't come out right?

Anonymous said...

Ran out of icing...what did I do wrong?

Jill said...

Hi Michelle,

I definitely think you could use a box cake mix. I would use a white cake (not yellow), and you could even try adding a little bit of coconut extract to give it a slight coconut flavor. :)

Jill said...

Not sure why you ran out of frosting -- sorry about that! Did you do a crumb coat? That eats up a lot of frosting. Or maybe you put a thicker layer of frosting between the layers than I did?

Jae said...


Discovered your blog while searching for a coconut buttercream recipe. I want the same question answered that another reader had.. do you think it would be possible, if you couldn't find coconut essence, to use coconut cream to replace the milk? I'm really hoping to make a cocont buttercream for my bf's birthday.

Jill said...

Hi Jae,

I definitely think you could use coconut cream. I would add a little bit of vanilla in place of the coconut extract, and you might need to play around with the amount of coconut cream (and maybe thin it out with a little milk) to get the right consistency. I think it would taste delicious! Good luck and let me know how it turns out!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this--I'm looking forward to trying this out! However, I live at high altitude--5000' Can you tell me what changes I should make to the recipe for it to be successful?

Thanks, Robyn

Anonymous said...

I just tried this to top a lemon cake. The icing is absolutely delicious. The proportions were correct and it took no time to make. I'll turn to this recipe in the future. Thank you so much for sharing it with me!

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