This easy coconut cake recipe is perfect for coconut lovers! To keep things simple, we’re making this coconut cake using cake mix, and then adding coconut milk and coconut extract. The super-soft frosting has coconut extract and coconut cream as well. It’s a lot of coconut, but I promise it’s not overpowering – just delicious! Plus, this cake makes just two layers. Easy-peasy.

If you love using boxed cake or brownie mix as a baking shortcut, I have more recipes for you! Try this delicious Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf or Devil’s Food Cake Mix Cookies. For brownies, my Oreo Truffle Brownies, Buckeye Brownies, and Peppermint Bark Brownies all use box brownie mix and turn it into something special. Now, read on for the best recipe for coconut cake!

A double layer Coconut Cake Recipe made from a cake box mix with toasted and sweetened shredded coconut sprinkled over the full cake.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Coconut cake made with cake mix. What makes this a simple coconut cake recipe is using a box mix as our base. Box mixes are easy to add flavor to and almost always turn out perfectly, which makes this the best coconut cake recipe – it’s practically foolproof.
  • Tender coconut cake. Adding coconut milk and sour cream to the cake mix makes for a super moist coconut cake. Delicious!

Ingredient Notes

  • White cake mix: This ingredient is the foundation of our box mix coconut cake. You’ll want to use a cake mix that weighs 15.25 ounces – I used the Duncan Hines brand. I haven’t tested this recipe with other brands or cake mixes that weigh less. If you do have one that weighs less, add enough cake flour to make it equal 15.25 ounces in weight. 
  • Eggs: Eggs are always a critical ingredient in baking to bind ingredients together. This cake uses one whole egg and three additional egg whites which are whipped into peaks and then folded into the batter to help the cake rise and give it a light and fluffy texture. Using more egg whites instead of whole eggs also keeps the color of this white coconut cake.
  • Coconut milk: You don’t often find coconut milk in cakes, but since this is a coconut cake, of course we have to use coconut milk! Besides adding coconut flavor, coconut milk adds fat and moisture for a tender coconut cake. Use the canned coconut milk you can find in the Asian food aisle at your grocery store.
  • Sour cream: Like coconut milk, sour cream adds flavor and richness and helps create a moist coconut cake.
  • Coconut extract: Coconut extract is key for the best coconut cake recipe. We use coconut extract in both the cake and the frosting, but don’t worry – it won’t be overpowering. 
  • Coconut cream: This refers to the coconut cream that separates in coconut milk, NOT cream of coconut, which is used for piña coladas and other mixed drinks. You can buy cans of just coconut cream – I used the Native Forest brand. You can also stick a can of coconut milk in the fridge and scoop the cream off the top, but I have not tested this and it might not work with every brand of coconut milk. 
  • Toasted coconut: For perfect coconut flavor and texture, I like to use both toasted and untoasted shredded sweetened coconut to decorate this cake. If you’ve never toasted coconut before, don’t worry, it’s easy! Just follow my How to Toast Coconut guide.
An easy coconut cake recipe on a brown cake plate topped with toasted coconut, against a light brown background.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Toast coconut. Toast ½ a cup of sweetened shredded coconut. If you’re not sure how, I have a guide to toasting coconut in the oven, microwave, and on the stovetop here.
  2. Prep your oven and pans. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two round 9-inch cake pans for the coconut layer cake. If you want to make a three-layered coconut cake instead, prep three 6-inch round cake pans. 
  3. Whip egg whites. Add three egg whites to a medium-sized bowl and beat them until soft peaks form. Set egg whites aside. 
  4. Mix wet ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 whole egg, ⅓ cup of vegetable oil, ¾ cup of coconut milk, ⅔ cup of sour cream, and 1½ teaspoons of coconut extract until smooth.
  5. Add cake mix to wet ingredients. Sift the box of white cake mix into the large bowl with the wet ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, stir together the cake mix and wet ingredients until partially combined. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter until no flour streaks remain, careful to not overmix. 
Four photos showing how to make the best Coconut Cake Recipe, top left is coconut cake batter in a white bowl, top right photo is cake batter in 2 round cake pans, bottom left image is baked coconut cakes in cake pans, and bottom right photo is coconut cream frosting in a glass bowl.
  1. Bake. Divide the batter evenly between your two (or three) cake pans and level out the tops. Bake for 20-23 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for five minutes, then turn the coconut cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely while you prepare the frosting. 
  2. Make frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 1 cup of slightly softened unsalted butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add 4 cups of powdered sugar, ¾ teaspoon of coconut extract, ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 3-4 tablespoons of coconut cream, then beat until the frosting is combined and smooth. 
  3. Assemble cake. Use some of the coconut frosting to frost your bottom layer before adding the second cake layer and covering the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Next, mix together ½ a cup of toasted shredded coconut with ½ a cup of untoasted shredded coconut and scatter it all over the top of the cake, as well as the sides. Use your hands to gently push it into the sides of the cake to stick.
Four photos showing the frosting process of a double layer doctored cake mix Coconut Cake Recipe, with the final coconut cake frosted with a coconut cream frosting and topped with toasted coconut.

Recipe Tips

If you can’t find canned coconut cream, you can try putting a can of coconut milk in the fridge until the cream separates and floats to the top. Just know that I have not tested this method of extracting coconut cream from a can and using it in the recipe. 

You can use another vanilla cake mix for this box mix coconut cake – I prefer to make coconut cake with white cake mix because white coconut cake is more traditional. Just make sure it’s the right weight!

When developing this recipe, I came across a lot of searches for coconut raspberry cake and coconut lemon cake, both of which sound delicious! So, here are some ideas on how to make these variations: for coconut raspberry cake, add my homemade raspberry sauce or some raspberry jam to the coconut cake filling and decorate the top with fresh raspberries. For coconut lemon cake, use my homemade lemon curd in the filling.

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

Make Ahead: This cake is best eaten the same day it’s prepared. You can bake the cake layers in the morning or evening before you plan to serve this cake, then store them wrapped in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, then make the frosting and assemble before serving.

Storing: Because of the coconut cream in the filling, you’ll need to store this cake in the refrigerator. Store it in an airtight container for 3-4 days. 

Freezing: You can freeze the cake layers wrapped tightly for 2-3 months, and you can also freeze the assembled cake for 2-3 months. Check out my How to Store and Freeze Cakes guide for more details!

A black spatula balancing a slice of coconut cake with coconut frosting and toasted coconut.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use unsweetened coconut for this recipe?

You can definitely use unsweetened coconut for topping and decorating this cake, it will just be less sweet.

Will desiccated coconut or coconut flakes work for decorating?

You can use other types of coconut for decorating your cake, but be aware the texture will be different. I imagine it would be challening to decorate this cake using desiccated coconut, which has a much finer texture than shredded coconut.

Can coconut cake be frozen?

Yes! You can freeze your assembled coconut cake. The first step is to freeze the whole cake without any wrappings in your freezer. Once the frosting is firm, you can wrap the cake and store it for 2-3 months. I go into more detail in my How to Store and Freeze Cakes guide.

A slice of creamy Coconut Cake on a brown plate on a white background.

More Coconut Recipes

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A black spatula balancing a slice of coconut cake with coconut frosting and toasted coconut.
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Coconut Cake Recipe

This coconut cake is made using a cake mix, but doctored to make it extra flavorful and moist! It's frosted with a silky smooth coconut cream frosting and topped with toasted shredded coconut. It's coconut paradise in dessert form!
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 10 servings

Ingredients
 

Coconut Cake

  • 15.25 oz white cake mix - I used Duncan Hines brand
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup sour cream - I used full fat sour cream, but light sour cream should be fine as well
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Coconut Frosting

Topping

  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut - toasted, you can read about how to toast coconut here.
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour 2 – 9 inch round cake pans. Set aside. 
  • Add the 3 egg whites to a medium sized bowl. Whip until soft peaks form. Set aside. 
  • In a large bowl whisk the vegetable oil, 1 full egg, coconut milk, sour cream and coconut extract. Whisk until everything is evenly combined and smooth. 
  • Sift the white cake mix into the large bowl. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the cake mix until partially combined. Now add the whipped egg whites. Continue using the rubber spatula to gently fold the cake mix and egg whites until no flour streaks remain. Don’t overmix. 
  • Divide the batter evenly amongst the 2 cake pans. Level out the tops. bake for 20-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.  
  • Remove cake pans from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. 
  • Turn out cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Coconut Frosting

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar, coconut and vanilla extracts, and coconut cream. Beat again until fully combined and smooth. 

Assembly

  • Frost cooled cake. 
  • Combine the toasted shredded coconut and untoasted sweetened shredded coconut in a medium bowl. Scatter the mixture over the top and along the sides of the cake. You'll have to use your hands to slightly push the coconut into the frosting on the sides of the cake.

Notes

To bake into a 3 layer cake, grease and flour 3 – 6 inch cake pans. Then bake at 325°F for 27-30 minutes.
Store this cake in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 714kcal (36%)Carbohydrates: 89g (30%)Protein: 5g (10%)Fat: 39g (60%)Saturated Fat: 23g (115%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 76mg (25%)Sodium: 357mg (15%)Potassium: 160mg (5%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 70g (78%)Vitamin A: 690IU (14%)Vitamin C: 0.5mg (1%)Calcium: 125mg (13%)Iron: 2mg (11%)
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Did you make this recipe?Please leave a star rating and review on the blog post letting me know how you liked this recipe! Take a picture and tag @saltandbaker on Tik Tok, Instagram, and Facebook so I can see what you’re making!