With soft coconut cake layers and creamy, tart lemon filling, this incredible lemon coconut cake is a dessert you’ll want to eat all spring and summer!
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Are you even ready for the BEST coconut cake ever?
The most buttery, coconut-y, filled with lemon-y cake on earth? Because it’s right here. This lemon coconut cake is sheer perfection from the soft coconut cake layers to the creamy lemon curd filling.
If you need a tropical vacation but can’t bring yourself to leave your dog (story of my life) then you NEED this cake. (I only use all caps when I really, really mean it.)
Why you’ll love this lemon coconut cake:
- It’s completely homemade but it’s still a straight-forward recipe that anyone can make
- If you want, you can use store-bought lemon curd to simplify the filling
- It freezes beautifully!
How to make coconut cake layers
- Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside
- Beat butter, sugar, and cream of coconut together until fluffy
- Beat in eggs, vanilla, and coconut extract until smooth
- Then beat in whole milk
- Mix in the dry ingredients until just incorporated
- Divide the batter between 8-inch round cake pans and bake
- The cake layers call for cream of coconut. This is NOT the same as coconut cream; see below for more info on the difference. The brand I like to use is Coco Lopez, but you can use whatever brand you’re able to find.
- After you beat in the milk, the batter might look a little curdled (as in pic 4 above). Don’t worry about it! That’s fine and the batter will come back together when you mix in the dry ingredients.
- As with all cakes, you don’t want to over-mix this one. Once you’ve added the dry ingredients to your cake batter, mix only until you no longer see big streaks of flour.
- Be sure to cool your cake layers completely before you fill and frost them or your frosting will melt.
How to make lemon whipped cream filling
- Beat heavy cream until it begins to thicken
- Add powdered sugar and beat until the whipped cream holds stiff peaks, meaning that the whipped cream holds its shape rather than folding in on itself when you pull the beaters out
- Fold in lemon zest (if you want) and chilled lemon curd
- In the recipe I say to chill your bowl and beaters before making the filling. This is an important step because it helps your whipped cream whip up more stiffly.
- You can use homemade or store-bought lemon curd in the filling; whichever you use, be sure it’s chilled before using.
- I added lemon zest to my filling for an extra pop of lemon flavor; use zest if you want a more pronounced flavor or leave it out if you prefer the lemon to be more subtle. It’s up to you!
How to make coconut buttercream
- Beat butter until smooth
- Mix in milk and a few more ingredients
- Mix in powdered sugar and beat until smooth
You can add a little lemon zest to your frosting if you want even more lemon flavor in your cake.
Assembling your cake
- Set 1 cake layer on a cake stand or cardboard cake circle, then use a large round tip to pipe a circle of frosting around the outside of the cake
- Spread half of the filling inside the circle
Repeat that process with a second cake layer and the remaining filling, then top with the final cake layer and frost your cake. Decorate as desired!
I think the cake is easier to slice if you chill it for a couple of hours to let the filling set up, but that’s not totally necessary.
How to store your cake
Coconut lemon cake and be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to two days or in the freezer, tightly wrapped, for up to 2 months.
To freeze cake, I always slice cakes into individual slices, then set them on a baking sheet and freeze for 30 to 60 minutes. Then I wrap each slice with plastic wrap and aluminum foil.
If you want to make your lemon coconut cake over a couple of days, you can make the cake layers a day ahead. Once they’re cool, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature overnight.
You can also make the frosting a day ahead and store it, covered, in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to frost your cake, beat the frosting with an electric mixer on medium speed until it’s spreadable.
What is cream of coconut?
The cake layers in this lemon coconut cake call for cream of coconut. This is NOT the same as coconut cream.
Cream of coconut has added sugar and is often used as a component in mixed drinks. The brand I typically use is Coco Lopez, but you can use whatever brand you’re able to find.
Some grocery stores carry cream of coconut with drink mixers; if you can’t find it at your grocery store check liquor stores. They almost always carry it. (Or just buy it on Amazon. Seriously, at some point we’re not going to have to leave the house at all, for anything. . .I can’t decide if I love that idea or hate it.)
How to toast coconut
I pressed toasted coconut into the sides of my cake. You can use un-toasted coconut if you want, but I love the little bit of color the toasted coconut adds.
Toasting coconut is really simple.
- Spread 1 to 2 cups of coconut in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet or two. The coconut needs to be in a single layer to ensure it browns evenly.
- Place your coconut in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes take the coconut out and stir it with a spatula. Return the coconut to the oven, stirring every 2 minutes, until it reaches your desired level of brownness.
Don’t walk away from the oven! Coconut burns really quickly so you need to watch it constantly.
Transfer the toasted coconut to a bowl to stop it from cooking and let it cool completely before using it on your cake. I used two cups of coconut and that covered the cake about halfway up the sides. Use more or less depending on how much of the cake you want to cover.
If you don’t have a rimmed baking sheet you can toast your coconut in a 13- by 9-inch (or 11- by 7-inch dish). Just do it in batches so you always have a single layer of coconut in the bottom of the dish.
Helpful tools for making your cake
- I used this large round tip to pipe the frosting inside the cake layers and this open star tip to pipe frosting on top of the cake
- I like to use 16-inch pastry bags because they hold a lot of frosting
- A cake turntable and an offset spatula are really helpful any time you frost cakes
- This is the microplane I use to zest my lemons for the cake
Did you make this coconut lemon cake? That’s awesome! Let me know what you think with a comment and a rating below. Then post a pic on IG–tag @theitsybitsykitchen so I can see your delicious creations!
This lemon coconut cake features deliciously soft coconut cake layers filled with creamy lemon filling and topped with coconut buttercream. It's delicious for Easter, Mother's Day, or any day!
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup cream of coconut*
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1 cup whole milk at room temperature
- 1/3 cup very cold heavy cream
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup very cold lemon curd homemade or store-bought
- finely grated zest of one lemon see note
- 1 1/4 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
- 4 to 6 tablespoons milk or heavy cream as needed for consistency
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 1/2 to 5 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray 3 8-inch round baking pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray and set pans aside.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Place the butter, sugar, and cream of coconut in a very large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer set to medium speed until fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs, vanilla, and coconut extract to combine. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the milk, then beat until well combined.
- Turn mixer to low and beat in the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again and stir with the spatula a few times to ensure all of the flour is mixed in.
- Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 24 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
- Cool cake layers in pans for 20 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the cake and carefully invert onto wire racks to cool completely before filling and frosting.
- Chill a medium mixing bowl and the beaters for an electric mixer in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- Place the the heavy cream in the chilled bowl and beat until it holds soft peaks. Add the powdered sugar and beat until it holds stiff peaks Gently fold in the lemon curd and lemon zest (if using). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 4 hours).
- Beat butter on medium speed until very smooth. Add 4 tablespoons of milk, the coconut extract, the vanilla extract, and the salt and beat 1 minute more.
- With mixer on low, gradually add 4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar; continue beating until combined.
- Turn mixer to medium speed and beat until very smooth. If frosting is too thick, add additional coconut milk. If it’s too thin add additional powdered sugar.
- Transfer about 1 cup of frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe a circle of frosting around the edge of one cake layer. Spread half of the filling inside the circle and top with a second cake layer.
- Repeat this process with the remaining filling and cake layer.
- Frost the cake with the remaining frosting and decorate as desired. I recommend refrigerating the cake for an hour or two before slicing to let the filling set up a bit but that’s not totally necessary.
- Serve and enjoy.
- Uneaten cake can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 2 days or in the freezer, tightly wrapped, for up to 2 months.
- *NOT coconut cream; they’re very different. I use the brand Coco Lopez, which you can find at most liquor stores or with the drink mixers at the grocery store.
For a more pronounced lemon flavor, use the lemon zest.
- For a more subtle lemon flavor, leave it out. You can also add lemon zest to the frosting if you like; add it when you add the coconut and vanilla extracts.
- If the cake batter looks curdled after you mix in the milk, don’t worry—that’s totally fine! The batter will look normal after you mix in the dry ingredients.
- Because there are quite a few steps in this recipe, I recommend reading the whole thing through a couple of times before starting to bake. See the body of this post for step-by-step photos to help you out!