This Horchata Cake has all the vibes of the famous horchata drink — deliciously cinnamon with a touch of coconut to create a depth of flavor. Each cake layer has swirls of cinnamon crumble, filled with a coconut vanilla pudding filling and topped with cinnamon buttercream.
This coconut cinnamon cake takes the ranks with other delicious cake recipes on my website that use cinnamon! Like my Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake, my Cinnamon Roll Sheet Cake, and my Spice Cake.
Why This Recipe Works
- Horchata in cake form. The flavors of this cake always remind me of horchata! That delicious cinnamon and milk flavors pair beautifully with the coconut.
- Moist cake layers. This cake is a doctored cake mix with sour cream, buttermilk, and egg whites. The result is a light and fluffy cake that has the perfect moist texture.
- Cinnamon swirled cake layers. Each cake layer has homemade cinnamon crumbles swirled into the batter to really enhance that cinnamon horchata flavor.
- Ground Cinnamon: The cinnamon is what will give us that delicious horchata cake flavor!
- White Cake Mix: Any brand of white cake mix will be great. It will be 1 box of 15.25 oz.
- Vegetable Oil: Using vegetable oil for cakes is the better way to get a moist cake texture because oil is a liquid at room temperature.
- Sour Cream: Adding sour cream to a cake mix is a great way to doctor the cake and make it extra flavorful and moist!
- Egg Whites: Using egg whites provides a light and airy texture to the cake. Be sure to use large eggs. Discard the egg yolks or use them to make scrambled eggs! We won’t need them for this cake.
- Coconut Emulsion: This is the coconut extract we will use to enhance the coconut flavor in the cinnamon cinnamon cake.
- Cook n’ Serve Vanilla Pudding: This is different than instant pudding. Make sure to get the cook n serve kind.
- Coconut Milk: Adding coconut milk to the pudding will enhance the coconut flavor in this cinnamon coconut cake. Use whole milk if opting to omit the coconut flavorings or rice milk to lean into the creamy horchata flavor.
- Unsalted Butter: Use unsalted butter that way we can control the amount of salt in the cake.
- Powdered Sugar: Measure out your 8 cups of powdered sugar, then sift it for best results.
- Prepare the cake pans. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Spray each 6-inch round cake pan — bottom and sides of the pan too — with cooking spray. Place a circular piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pans and the spray again. Set aside.
- Make the cinnamon crumbles. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup + 2 T light brown sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, and 1 cup flour to a medium bowl. Mix to combine. Stir in 1/2 cup of butter that’s been melted. Stir until combined. With clean hands, separate the mixture into crumbles about 1/4-1/2 inch. Set aside.
- Make the horchata cake layers. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add 1/3 cup oil, 2/3 cup sour cream, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 4 egg whites, 1 T coconut emulsion and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix until well combined. Sift in one 15.25 oz box white cake mix. Mix until just combined.
- Bake the cinnamon horchata cakes. Evenly divide batter among the 3 prepped pans. Take the cinnamon crumbles and share them evenly among the cakes. Use a butter knife to swirl them into the batter. Bake for 30-34 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the cakes coms out with a few moist crumbs. Remove from the oven and let cool in the cake pans for 10 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make the coconut pudding filling. Make a 3 oz package of Cook n’ Serve vanilla pudding according to the package instructions, using 1 can coconut milk + any additional milk needed to reach the amount the box calls for. Add in 3/4 tsp coconut emulsion and 1 T vanilla extract. Mix until combined. Store in the fridge to cool.
- Make the cinnamon buttercream. Add 2 1/2 cups unsalted butter, a pinch of salt and 1 T + 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until light and fluffy. Add 8 cups of powdered sugar a few cups at a time and mix between each addition. Add 1 T vanilla extract and 1 T at a time of heavy cream as needed for texture. Once all the powdered sugar and heavy cream is added, beat on medium-high speed for a minute or two until light and fluffy.
- Assemble the horchata cake layers. Place a cake layer on a cake stand or cake board. Spread a thin layer of the cinnamon buttercream on top in an even layer. Pipe a rim of buttercream around the circumference of the cake to create a dam. Add 1/3-1/2 cup of the coconut pudding filling and spread into an even layer. Repeat with the second cake layer.
- Frost the cake. Place the final cake layer on top and frost a crumb coat around the entire cake. Chill in the fridge or freezer until the buttercream is cold. Remove and completely frost the cake. Decorate with Toasted Coconut Flakes and cinnamon sticks. Slice and serve. Enjoy!
This best horchata cake recipe is a take on the horchata drink — but with the touches of coconut it’s like coconut horchata! Have you ever had that? So yummy! The coconut and cinnamon pair so well together.
However, if you aren’t a fan of coconut, you can easily replace the coconut milk in the filling with tres leches, regular milk or rice milk to lean into the horchata flavoring. You can also omit the coconut emulsion from the recipe altogether. It won’t make much of a difference since the coconut flavor is fairly subtle.
Be sure to not over mix the cake batter. Once you add dry ingredients to wet, you want to mix until just barely combined or else the cake batter will get tough and the cakes won’t rise as well. Scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure there aren’t any pockets of dry ingredients.
Spread the cinnamon crumbles evenly on top of the cake batter in each cake pan to make swirling them into the cake easier. This will also help the cinnamon flavor be spread out throughout the cakes.
The more you beat the butter at first for the frosting, the lighter and fluffier it will be in the completed product. You want the buttercream to be light in color and in texture.
Use room temperature wet ingredients in order to get the best results. Room temperature eggs, milk, sour cream, etc will help those ingredients incorporate into the batter more easily, creating a more even bake.
Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing
Make the cake layers ahead of time and let cool completely, wrap twice in plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight or in the freezer for up to 1 week. If freezing for longer, add a layer of aluminum foil.
Store any leftover cake in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days or in the freezer wrapped twice in plastic wrap and once in aluminum foil for up to 2 months. Remove and let thaw in the fridge overnight.
For more information on storing and freezing cakes, including how to freeze cake layers, buttercream and decorated cakes, check out my How to Store and Freeze Cakes guide!
Homemade horchata is made with water, rice, cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar.
It can be interpreted differently for each person, but this horchata cake is a coconut cinnamon cake. I call it horchata cake because it tastes SO much like horchata (even with the bit of coconut in it) and especially tastes like coconut horchata. It has the elements of cinnamon, sugar and vanilla that are the staple ingredients in horchata.
Yes! That’s one of the building block flavors of horchata. This cake also contains vanilla in multiple elements to enhance that horchata flavor.
No you don’t. This cake will still taste amazing without the coconut emulsion. For the pudding, omit the coconut milk and use regular milk or rice milk instead.
More Cake Recipes
Coconut Cinnamon Cake
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter - melted
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar - packed
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
Cinnamon Coconut Cake Layers
- 1 15.25 oz box white cake mix
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup sour cream - room temperature
- 3/4 cup buttermilk - room temperature
- 4 large egg whites - room temperature
- 1 tablespoons coconut emulsion
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Coconut Pudding Filling
- 3 oz package Cook n' Serve vanilla pudding
- 1 can (13.6 oz) coconut milk - full-fat
- dairy milk - preferably 2% or whole milk, we just need a little additional milk to equal 2 cups when combined with the coconut milk
- 3/4 teaspoon coconut emulsion
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the sugars, cinnamon, and flour. Stir in the melted butter until it’s all combined.
- Using clean hands, separate the mixture into ¼”-1/2” crumbles. Set aside until the cake batter is prepared.
Cinnamon Coconut Cake Layers
- Spray three 6-inch round cake pans with cooking spray (I use Baker's Joy). Line the bottoms of the cake pans with a circular piece of parchment paper. Spray the pans again. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 325ºF.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment beat the oil, sour cream, buttermilk, egg whites, coconut emulsion and vanilla extract until well-combined. Sift in the white cake mix and mix until just combined.
- Divide the cake batter amongst the 3 cake pans. Divide the cinnamon crumbles evenly between the three pans and use a butter knife to swirl them into the batter.
- Bake for 30-34 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs on it. Let cakes cool in cake pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let them cool completely.
Coconut Pudding Filling
- Prepare pudding according to package instructions, using the coconut milk plus enough additional milk of choice is needed to make 2 cups (or how much the box calls for).
- Mix in coconut emulsion and vanilla extract and cool, then refrigerate until completely cool.
- Beat butter, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt until it’s smooth and light in texture and color.
- Add the powdered sugar in, a couple cups at a time and then mixing well before adding more. Add vanilla. Add a tablespoon of heavy cream as needed to keep the frosting smooth and not too stiff. Repeat until all powdered sugar and cream are added.
- Place a cake layer on a cake board or stand. Spread a thin layer of buttercream evenly over the cake.
- Pipe a rim of buttercream around the top to create a dam, and add 1/3-1/2 cup of coconut pudding filling.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the second layer of cake, placing the second cake layer on top of the first layer.
- Place the third cake layer on top and crumb coat the entire cake in a thin layer of buttercream. Refrigerate or freeze for a few minutes, until the buttercream is cold and no longer soft.
- Add the final layer of frosting around the entire cake. Add additional decoration as desired.