This homemade Lemon Coconut Cake has three layers of coconut cake, homemade lemon curd and lemon cream cheese frosting. My favorite Easter dessert!
The classic coconut cake recipe is given a lemon twist, making this Lemon Coconut Cake my ultimate spring obsession.
In this game called life, I’ve found it doesn’t take all that much to make me happy:
A cup of coffee.
Mint chocolate (umm, this Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Pie IS everything).
Christmas (and everything related to it).
Friends (the real kind of the TV show kind).
Cake. (I mean, I’m certainly partial to this Lemon Coconut Cake, buuut, I love it all. This Berry Naked Cake? This Carrot Spice Cake? Give me a slice of any and all.)
I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you. The gist of it is that’s it’s all about the little things in life.
Speaking of the little things, I was reading in a magazine (yes, magazines make me extremely happy) that the cake/cupcake fad was on its way out, soon to be replaced with designer donuts.
Don’t get me wrong, I l-o-v-e a good donut (cue these coconut lemon donuts). However, I just don’t see the cake and cupcake trend leaving us anytime soon. While I foresee donuts doing well in this foodie age, I think it’s a little presumptuous to think the food-loving-people of this world can’t love both cupcakes and donuts.
I’m definitely more of a cupcake and cake girl than a donut girl, and if forced to choose I’d for sure leave the donut and take the cupcake (#wordstoliveby). But let’s just hope being forced to pick a side isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
Truthfully, whether it’s a donut, a cupcake or a slice of cake, if there’s lemon, coconut or some kind of combination of the two involved, I’ll eat it no matter what.
Jokes aside, this truly is one of (if not the) best Lemon Coconut Cake recipes around. It’s three layers of coconut cake filled with homemade lemon curd and topped with a tangy lemon cream cheese frosting.
It’s like sunshine in cake form. Like Tahiti in a slice. Like summer in a bite. Like…I’ll stop.
Between the rich coconut cake and the tangy lemon curd, this cake is the epitome of Easter and spring. If you’re looking for a new Easter dessert, definitely try this out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Lemon Coconut Cake Tips & Tricks:
- Despite the 3 layers in this coconut lemon cake, this truly is an easy lemon cake recipe. I know it might seem daunting, especially with the list of ingredients, but the steps are all extremely straightforward.
- Make sure to read the recipe entirely before beginning. While the recipe is straightforward, it is very helpful to read through it at least once just to give you an idea of what to expect once you start baking.
- I used homemade lemon curd in this recipe (I had just made a batch and wanted to use it up). However, feel free to use store-bought lemon curd! I love Trader Joe’s lemon curd, but any lemon curd would be fine.
Coconut Lemon Cake Decorating Tips:
- So, the big question: How do you toast coconut? You can toast coconut on the stove or toast coconut in the oven (I’ve even heard you can toast coconut in the microwave). I prefer the oven method, because I feel like it toasts the coconut a little more evenly, plus, I’ve burnt stovetop coconut more than I care to admit. 😬
- The most important thing to remember when toasting coconut in the oven (besides not forgetting to take it out) is to use a spatula to mix the coconut around. It helps keep the coconut browning evenly.
- Frost the cake with an offset spatula, then press the toasted coconut onto the sides of the cake. (Take a handful of toasted coconut, then press your hand directly onto the cream cheese frosting. It’s messy, but it’s efficient.)
A few final notes on making a lemon coconut cake from scratch:
- Yes, sift the dry ingredients (it makes the cake texture much lighter and airier).
- Why do you separate the eggs? Because you want to whip the egg whites before adding them to the batter. It makes the cake much lighter. And the cream of tartar is necessary too, because it helps the whites whip properly.
- Oil and butter are used to give the cake both flavor and moisture (we want a moist lemon coconut cake, right??).
- Corn starch + all purpose flour = cake flour.
- Due to the coconut in the cake, it is a bit denser in texture (which is it’s so important to whip the egg whites and sift the dry ingredients) than a traditional white cake. BUT. It’s so rich and flavorful!
My whole heart in this one cake.
This homemade Lemon Coconut Cake has three layers of coconut cake, homemade lemon curd and lemon cream cheese frosting. My favorite Easter dessert!
- 5 eggs, separated
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp corn starch
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 cup coconut, sweetened flaked
- 12 oz cream cheese, softened
- 12 Tbsp butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 2-3 Tbsp heavy cream
- 5-6 cups powdered sugar
- salt to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened
- 3/4 cup lemon curd
- 2 cups toasted coconut
- lemon slices, optional
- Separate the egg whites from egg yolks, and allow the egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes (it's easier to separate the eggs when cold, but it is better to whip the egg whites when they are at room temperature)*.
- Preheat the oven to 325. Grease three 9" round cake pans and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter and oil until well blended. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in vanilla and almond extract. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, sift together flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix whole milk, coconut milk, and Greek yogurt (or sour cream) together.
- Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture to the creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. Once combined, add in coconut.
- Add cream of tartar to egg whites, and with clean beaters, beat on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Fold a fourth of the egg whites into the cake batter, then gently fold in remaining whites.
- Once combined, divide the batter evenly into the 3 greased cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before carefully removing from the pans and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack.
- In a 300 degree oven, toast 2 cups of coconut on a baking sheet, spread out in an even layer, about 8-12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Allow to cool while working on the frosting.
- For the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.
- Add in 2 Tbsp of the lemon curd; mix.
- Add in powdered sugar, beginning with 5 cups.
- Add in vanilla and almond extracts. Beat together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Add in 2 Tbsp of heavy cream and beat. If frosting seems too thick, add in another Tbsp of cream. If it seems too thin, add in the last cup of powdered sugar (cream cheese frosting has a slightly thinner consistency than buttercream). Add in salt to taste (salt helps even out the sweetness).
- (Before frosting the cake, you may need to trim the tops of each layer until they are flat.)
On a serving plate or cake stand, place down one of the layers. Spread a layer of frosting over the cake (about 1/3 cup). Spread lemon curd over the top (about 1/4 cup). Sprinkle on 1/4 cup of coconut. Top with second cake layer, and repeat the process. Top with the last layer and spread the remaining frosting over the top of the cake and around the sides, covering thoroughly. On the top of the cake, drizzle the last 2 Tbsp of lemon curd. With a toothpick, swirl the curd with the frosting.
- Press toasted coconut on the sides of the cake and sprinkled lightly over the top.
- Refrigerate cake for at least 2 hours before serving, and store the leftovers in the fridge.
*When it comes to beating egg whites, make sure the bowl and beaters are completely clean and dry. Also, make sure no egg yolk is mixed with the egg whites. If either of these things occur, the egg whites will not whip into stiff peaks.
If you love cake as much as I do, check out my other recipes:
Berry Vanilla Naked Cake with Lemon Whipped Cream
Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Buttercream
Medha @ Whisk & Shout says
Wowwww I was anticipating this and it did NOT disappoint! 🙂 Lovely!
Thanks, Medha! 🙂
I was wondering what kind of coconut milk? Condensed in a can or refrigerated?
I use refrigerated, because it’s a little thinner than some of the canned coconut milk I’ve used. Canned should work though–if it feels too thick, you could thin it out with a little water. ☺️
June @ How to Philosophize with Cake says
True cupcake lovers will never give them up…or let them down…or desert them. (pun intended) I assure you!
This cake looks awesome!
Haha, yes!! Thanks, June!
Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice says
What a pretty cake, Michelle! I love the lemon and coconut combo. Just screams summer to me!
Thanks, Gayle! 🙂
You always make the most gorgeous cakes and this one is no exception! This sounds incredible! Such a great way to use your lemon curd too 🙂
Thanks so much, Danielle! 🙂
this cake looks so decadent and spongy and delicious! I love the combination of coconut and lemon!
Thanks, Alice! 🙂
Olivia @ livforcake says
Michelle this look absolutely amazing! Truly the BEST coconut cake I have EVER seen!
Thank you so much, Olivia! 🙂
Kelly - Life Made Sweeter says
This cake is gorgeous! Lemon desserts are my absolute favorite! Love the lemon and coconut combo! It’s the perfect summer cake!
Me too! Thanks, Kelly! 🙂
Mary Frances says
Ok I usually don’t like cake. But I think it’s because I haven’t had this one – my goodness, I am obsessed with the layers and textures in this cake! That frosting and the coconut, YES please!
Coley @ ColeyCooks.com says
Wow! My very distant ex boyfriend’s mom made cake like this that was INSANE. This totally brought me back. Ugh, Nostalgia!! I don’t miss him a smidge but boy, what I would do to go back to that cake! Thanks for the recipe, I’ll totally be giving it a try
Jess @ whatjessicabakednext says
This cake is beautiful, Michelle! Love the lemon and coconut – such a gorgeous flavour combo That cake is super fluffy too!
Jennifer Tammy says
Oh wow, this is so gorgeous – I love your presentation!
Hi I would love to make this beautiful cake it looks amazing! What kind of coconut? Sweetened flaked?
Hi, Andrea! Yes, sweetened flaked coconut 🙂 Hope you enjoy!
Hi Michelle. I’m from South Africa and would LOVE to make this cake. Just trying to make sure I use the right ingredients. Is flaked sweetened coconut different from desicated coconut?
Hi, Jeani! I haven’t worked with desiccated coconut specifically, but according to this link here, it looks like desiccated can be substituted for shredded. It looks like it might be a bit drier and smaller than shredded, so it might have a bit of a different texture than shredded coconut. Also, if possible, try to find sweetened desiccated coconut. The sweetness adds to the overall flavor of the cake. Hope this helps! 🙂
Eden Passanten says
Wow! I love lemon cakes and this one looks insane! I need to try this ASAP!
Allison - Celebrating Sweets says
This cake sounds so good! Just looking at the ingredient list I know it has to be delicious!
I made this cake for my mom for Mother’s Day, it was amazing. I added fresh raspberries to the top for a little color and they tasted really good with the cake. I’m hoping to have another reason to make it again soon.
In your ingredient list for frosting, you listed 1/2 cup coconut. I couldn’t find that listed in the instructions for frosting. What kind of coconut is used? Thanks!
Hi Kelly! The coconut is actually used in between the layers of the cake to sprinkle over the frosting and lemon curd. I used sweetened, shredded coconut for that (I have since updated that in the recipe because I was not very clear 🙂 )! Hope that helps!
Kelly, I make lots of desserts for the church elders gatherings. Could I make this in a 9×13 pan it would be so much better to transport
JULIE jansen says
Just checking … 5 or 6 cups of powdered ,/ icing sugar?! That’s a whole big bag!
Yes, that is correct. Because of this size of the cake, the recipe requires a lot of frosting. If you prefer a cake with less frosting, you can cut the frosting recipe in half. 🙂
Made this cake last night. It is fantastic! It is incredibly fluffy and moist. I added simple syurp made from the coocnut milk because I didnt want to waste it. The frosting is a BIG recipe, I think it would be fine with 8oz of cream cheese and butter. Great recipe! Family loves it! We had it for breakfast!
Lina Martin says
Hi from Costa Rica, Central America.
I have done this cake twice and it was the biggest hit. Everybody was fighting for more.
Muchas gracias y Pura Vida!
This sounds like you have put a lot of thought into this recipe. I had coconut cup cakes at a wedding one and they would give out the recipe, so I can’t wait to try this one!
Aunt Rara says
Is it possible to take out the almond extract in this recipe or will it affect the taste? Also, if I can, what can I substitute it with- just more vanilla extract? I have a nephew that is highly allergic to nuts and almond extract will set off this allergy. I’d like to make this for my extended family (including nephew) , but can’t unless I omit the almond extract. Can anyone help me with this? I’d love to give this recipe a try! It looks perfect!
Yes, feel free to omit the almond extract! I happen to like a slight nutty flavor to the cake, because it pairs well with the coconut, but it is not necessary. So, you can either omit it entirely, or just sub it with more vanilla extract. 🙂
Aunt Rara says
Thank you so much Michelle! I very much appreciate your quick response! I agree with you the slight nutty flavor would be super delish with the coconut. I hate to altar this recipe because it looks and seems perfect in every way. 😀 Can’t wait to try it!
Made this last night for my family, very moist and delicious cake. My only complaint is that we couldn’t taste the coconut at all. I think the almond extract overpowered it in the cake. I decreased the amount in the frosting. For me it ended up tasting more like an almond lemon cake. Next time I may try using only coconut milk instead of also whole milk and omitting the almond extract. There was a lot of frosting may not need 1 1/2 sticks of cream cheese and butter. The toasted coconut on top added a nice crunch factor. I’ll definitely try making it again with a few tweaks for our taste. Thank you for the recipe 🙂
Thanks so much, Julie! ❤️
My favorite cake recipe of all time!! We made this for Easter and it was simply perfect! ❤️
Jolea Myles says
Do you think I could bake in 2 deep 8” round pans and then cut slice each in half one baked for 4 layers?
Hi Jolea, I think that would work fine! The bake time might differ slightly (I’m going to guess it will take a little longer since each cake tin will have more batter), but I’m not sure how much the bake time will differ. I’d suggest just keeping an eye on them! 😊
Can this recipe be used for a sheet cake instead? How would you adjust the baking time?
I have not made this as a sheet cake, so I am not 100% certain how it would work. I do think it should work? I would probably adjust the baking time to 16-20 minutes, and I would keep a close eye on it just in case it cooks even faster. Hopefully that helps a bit. Thanks so much! ❤️
Used whole milk vanilla yogurt.
I don’t frequently comment on food blogs, but this recipe is so wonderful that I felt compelled. I made only a few adjustments to the recipe (buttermilk instead of regular milk, dialed down the sugar in the sponge, and reduced the frosting by 30%) and it turned out wonderfully. I agree that the almond extract gives it an additional depth of flavor. SO. GOOD.
I have only one cake pan will it work if I bake them one by one? Should I keep the batter in the fridge when first two layers are being baked/ cooling down?
Hi Paula! You can definitely bake them one by one. If your house is not too hot, you should be fine keeping your batter at room temperature while the other cake is baking/cooling. Or, if your house is fine but the kitchen is really hot, I’d suggest moving the batter into another room until you’re ready to use it again. 😊
amazing, thank you so much for the replay! <3
I am trying to bake it today, fingers crossed!
This looks delicious! Thank you for sharing!
Phyllis Dickerson says
I love your recipes!
When I say this has been the cake everyone asks me to make for every birthday 3 years running, I am not exaggerating! So delicious.
I just made this but left out the almond extract. It just didn’t seem to go with the lemon in this cake. It turned out very nice and everyone enjoyed it.