This vegan coconut cake is an easy dessert that uses simple pantry staples to create a deliciously soft and moist cake. And it only takes a few minutes to throw together, no mixer required! Just a bowl and a spoon!
Looking for an awesome spring-y dessert that uses nothing but pantry ingredients? Look no further than this vegan coconut cake!
That’s right—no milk, no eggs, no butter. But this cake is still moist, flavorful, and totally delicious. And it’s “accidentally” vegan; you don’t have to go out and buy special vegan ingredients. Every ingredient in this cake is something most people bake with regularly.
It’s just the thing for Easter if you’re struggling to find certain ingredients at the store right now or if you’re baking for someone with dietary restrictions. (And your non-restricted eaters will never miss the eggs, promise.)
It’s also just the thing if you want a yummy dessert really, really fast. Because this one takes just a few minutes to throw together. And I call that winning!
Why you’ll love this easy coconut cake:
- Even though the cake is vegan, all of the ingredients are pantry staples you most likely have in your kitchen right now—there are no strange or difficult-to-find ingredients here!
- The cake and the glaze are both made in just one bowl without a mixer. This is the perfect dessert if you don’t bake regularly because it’s so easy to make.
- This recipe is very forgiving with lots of possible substitutions (I’ve listed them below in this post and also in the recipe card). You could even make the cake plain vanilla by substituting out all of the coconut products!
How to make your cake
- Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in water, oil, vinegar, and extracts
- Stir with a spatula until combined
- Fold in shredded coconut
- Pour the batter into a cake pan
- Bake about half an hour, until golden
- You can bake your cake in either an 8-inch or a 9-inch square dish. The cake in the photos was baked in an 8-inch pan; a cake baked in a 9-inch pan won’t be as tall (of course).
- As always, you don’t want to over-mix your cake batter. Stir just until you no longer see big streaks or lumps of flour.
- See below for possible ingredient substitutions.
How to make the glaze
- Combine all the glaze ingredients
- Stir until smooth; the glaze should be the consistency of thick maple syrup
- Spread over the cooled cake
- Top with shredded coconut
- Depending on the type of milk you use in your glaze (coconut versus almond, etc.) you may need more or less milk than the recipe calls for.
- Be sure your cake is completely cool before you add the glaze or the glaze will melt and make a mess.
- You can pop the cake in the fridge for a few minutes to set the glaze if you want, but it will set up pretty quickly at room temperature.
- I toasted the coconut I topped my cake with but that’s not necessary. If you want to toast yours, see below for instructions.
Possible ingredient substitutions
- Use either refined or unrefined coconut oil
- Substitute vegetable oil for coconut oil
- Use fresh lemon juice instead of white vinegar
- If you don’t have coconut extract you can use more vanilla extract (your cake just won’t be as coconut-y)
- You can use unsweetened flaked coconut rather than sweetened
- Use any kind of milk in the glaze; regular milk is fine if you don’t care whether your cake is vegan and you’re just looking for an easy dessert! (You may need to use a little less milk and/or a little more sugar depending on what type of milk you use.)
How to store your cake
Uneaten cake can be stored at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for about 3 days.
You can either wrap the unglazed cake (fully cooled!) with plastic wrap and glaze it later, or refrigerate the cake until the glaze sets, then wrap it with plastic wrap.
You can also freeze slices of cake, tightly wrapped with plastic and foil, for about a month. You can defrost slices in the fridge overnight or unwrap them and warm them in the microwave.
How to toast coconut
I toasted the coconut I sprinkled on top of the cake. That’s totally optional but I like the texture and color the toasted coconut gives the cake.
Toasting coconut is super simple:
- Spread your coconut on a large baking sheet in a single layer
- Pop in a preheated 350-degree oven for 3 minutes, then remove from the oven and stir. Continue toasting in 2-minute intervals, stirring after each, until the coconut is golden (like the second pic above)
- Once the coconut is as toasted as you like, immediately transfer it to a small bowl to stop the cooking.
- If you’re toasting a large amount of coconut, you can toast it for 5 minutes initially, then begin stirring after that. For this cake, I only used a 1/2-cup of coconut on top, so I only let it go in the oven for 3 minutes to start with.
- Watch your coconut closely. It will go from nicely brown to burned very quickly!
Alternate topping ideas
Instead of the coconut glaze, here are a few other ideas for topping your cake:
- Coconut whipped cream
- Vegan chocolate frosting (substitute maple syrup for the honey)
- Chocolate glaze (if you don’t care about your cake being vegan)
- Or just dust your cake with powdered sugar— a sifter is helpful
- To make a vanilla cake, substitute vanilla for the coconut extract and omit the coconut in the cake and on top. (You can use vegetable oil or refined coconut oil.)
- If you want a lemon cake, add the finely grated zest of 1 or 2 lemons to the cake and a little zest or juice to the glaze. You can substitute out the coconut products or leave them in.
- If you want a chocolate cake, see this chocolate dump cake recipe. (It’s basically the same thing only with cocoa powder!)
This cake is delicious just on its own but you can always dress it up:
- Vanilla ice cream
- Coconut gelato
- Hot fudge sauce
- Whipped coconut cream
- Or some combination of the above (think a sundae on top of a slice of cake!)
Did you make this vegan coconut 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 vegan coconut cake uses pantry staples to create a deliciously soft and moist dessert. You'll never miss the eggs and butter!
- 1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 5 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract**
- 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 to 6 tablespoons full fat coconut milk
- 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- Preheat the oven to 350. Spray an 8-inch (or 9-inch) square baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Make a well (a deep indentation) in the middle of the dry mixture and pour the water, oil, vinegar, and extracts into the well.
- Stir with a rubber spatula until batter until just combined; you don’t want to over-mix your batter so stop stirring when you no longer see big streaks or lumps of flour. Fold in the coconut.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
- Bake 30 to 35 minutes (24 to 30 minutes for a 9-inch pan), until the cake is golden around the edges and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Cool completely on a wire rack before adding the glaze.
- Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl.
- Add the vanilla and coconut extracts, salt, and 3 tablespoons of coconut milk; stir to combine.
- Stir in more milk 1 teaspoon at a time, until the glaze is the consistency of thick maple syrup. (Depending on the type of milk you use, you may need to use more or less than the recipe calls for. If you add too much liquid just mix in a little more powdered sugar.)
- Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and sprinkle with coconut. Slice and serve.
- Uneaten cake can be stored at room temperature, covered, for 3 days. You can also freeze slices, tightly wrapped, for about a month.
- *Or fresh lemon juice.
- **You can substitute more vanilla extract if you don’t have coconut extract, your cake just won’t have as much coconut flavor.
- I used unrefined coconut oil but you can use refined if that’s what you have. I like the additional coconut flavor unrefined adds. You can substitute vegetable oil if you prefer; you’ll still use 5 tablespoons.
- You can substitute other non-dairy milks in the glaze (or even use regular milk if you don’t care whether the cake is vegan).
- If you don’t have flaked coconut you can leave it out. You can also substitute unsweetened flaked coconut.
- I toasted the coconut I sprinkled on top of my cake. See the body of this post for instructions on toasting.