Coconut layer cakes are often towering white pastries, generously coated with shredded coconut so that they resemble an earth-bound cloud. The filling between the cake layers is usually lemon, and the frosting is a fluffy vanilla-tinged affair. Classic coconut cakes are delicious, but limiting. Coconut is an ingredient that pairs well with so many flavors that there is no reason not to divert from this traditional flavor construction once in a while.
This coconut layer cake has two fluffy layers of cake that are made with coconut milk, which infuses a subtle coconut flavor into them and adds a nice richness, as coconut milk is relatively high in fat (low fat/light coconut milk is fine for this recipe). I separated the eggs and beat the whites to soft peaks before folding them into the rest of the cake batter, giving the cake a slightly more airy texture than it might otherwise have had. It’s soft and fluffy, not dense. In between the two cake layers, I put a layer of coconut filling that I borrowed from one of Paula Deen’s recipes. Made with sour cream, it is creamy and delicious (I wanted to eat it on its own!), with a fantastic coconut flavor to it. It isn’t too thick and, as the cake sits, it infuses some additional moisture into the cake. This helps keep the cake tasting fresh a little longer.
Chocolate is a great match for coconut and so I topped this coconut layer cake with a coconut-infused chocolate frosting. I used coconut milk in the frosting, which again provides a subtle coconut flavor, and opted to use shredded coconut as a garnish. If you really want to go coconut crazy, you can try finely chopping some and mixing it into the frosting, but be warned that the added texture may make it difficult to spread onto the cake.
Coconut Layer Cake with Chocolate Frosting
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
10 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup coconut milk
4 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans and like with parchment paper, lightly greasing the top of the parchment, as well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. Mix in egg yolks and vanilla until mixture is smooth. Alternating wet and dry ingredients, add in the coconut milk and flour mixture in 3-4 additions, ending with a final addition of the flour mixture.
In another medium bowl, beat egg whites to soft peaks with an electric mixer (make sure the beaters are very clean before beginning, especially if you used the mixer to make the rest of the batter). Using the mixer at low speed, stir about 1/3 of the egg whites into the rest of the cake batter. This lightens up the relatively stiff batter and makes it easier to work in the rest of the egg whites. Fold in the remaining whites, working in two or three additions, with a spatula. Make sure no streaks of egg white remain visible. Divide cake batter evenly into prepared round cake pans.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Turn cakes out onto a wire rack and remove parchment paper, allowing them cool completely before frosting.
Cakes may be made a day in advance and stored, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature.
Once the cakes have cooled, place one of the layers on a serving plate or cake stand. Top with coconut filling (recipe below) and place second cake layer top-side-down (so that the flattest part of the cake is on the top) on the layer of filling. Press down gently. Use an offset spatula to frost sides and top of cake with chocolate coconut frosting. Sprinkle top of cake with a handful of shredded coconut to finish.
6 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp coconut milk
1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened)
In a small bowl, beat together all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Coconut Chocolate Frosting
1/2 cup butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2-3 cups confectionersâ€™ sugar, divided
5 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
sweetened shredded coconut (for garnish)
In a small, microwave safe bowl, melt together butter and unsweetened chocolate. Heat in 30-45 second intervals, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth. Cool for 10-15 minutes, or until mixture is at room temperature.
Transfer butter mixture to a larger bowl. Beat in cocoa powder, 2 cups confectioners sugar, coconut milk, vanilla and salt, beating until frosting is smooth and slightly fluffy. Add additional confectionersâ€™ sugar to thicken, if needed (depending on the weather, you may need more one day and less another). Frosting should be at room temperature before using.
MarcieMarch 25, 2009
How funny, I actually made a traditional coconut cake for a work party today! Will definitely have to try with chocolate frosting next time!
Mermaid SweetsMarch 25, 2009
Chocolate frosting is such a great idea! Thanks for the coconut filling recipe too. I have been meaning to ask this question for a while – where do all your baked goods go? Love the blog!
RosaMarch 25, 2009
What a wonderful cake! I love that combination of flavors!
SarahMarch 25, 2009
Yum! I haven’t thought of this combo in a cake before!
Mama JJMarch 25, 2009
Just a couple weeks ago I made a dairy-free chocolate cake, with coconut milk in place of the regular milk, for my daughter’s birthday. (She was being tested for a milk allergy—since then we have learned that she is not allergic, thankfully.) It was a fabulous combination and I have said that I’m never making a chocolate cake without coconut milk again.
And just this evening I’m making chocolate coconut brownies, but I think by the time they’re done, they will resemble Almond Joys more than a brownie.
BeccaMarch 25, 2009
That looks soo good. Everything you make looks good! I love your site so much, itâ€™s really great!
DaniMarch 25, 2009
looks like a dream 🙂
JodyeMarch 25, 2009
Your take on the coconut cake looks absolutely delicious!
LindaMarch 25, 2009
Can’t wait to try this one–chocolate and coconut are such a good match! I have an Almond Joy Cheesecake recipe that is always a hit. Though I have found a few coconut haters (what is WRONG with these people??). I just got a request for a chocolate cake with the caramel-espresso frosting you blogged about maybe a year ago? The woman STILL remembers it fondly and begged for it on a chocolate cake (the original is banana-pecan, I think). Your recipes are always memorable for folks and they ask for them again and again!
unconfidentialcook.comMarch 25, 2009
I am totally getting into these “flavored” cakes with chocolate frosting. Just made strawberry cake with white chocolate frosting and couldn’t believe how much I liked it. (I’m generally a chocolate-on-chocolate person). You cake looks great!
Sally McEntireMarch 25, 2009
Must make this!
ElyseMarch 25, 2009
Oh, I love how you mixed up the traditional coconut cake. Man, that coconut-infused frosting sounds delicious. I’m getting the urge to stick my finger in the frosting, as I type this. The cake sounds just wonderful!
AbuttonMarch 26, 2009
That cake looks AMAZING!
RobMarch 26, 2009
This recipe looks absolutely delicious. I wonder how hard it would be to convert it to a low calorie version?
HillaryMarch 26, 2009
Coconut flavored anything is my weakness! This cake looks beyond delicious.
JamieMarch 27, 2009
Yum! I have been craving a chocolaty coconut something lately. This looks great!
caribbean cruisesAugust 15, 2009
Woooo, yummy, coconut + chocolate is the best combination!
K8August 19, 2009
Frosting was AMAZING, can’t wait to find another recipes to use it in! I did make the cake into three layer rather than 2, also I mixed up 50% more of the filling and the frosting. I added a layer of frosting before the filling inbetween each layer and it really help to give the cake flavor. The only thing I was disappointed in was the actual cake. It was very dense and tasted a lot like pound cake, where I was expecting something light and fluffy.
Raleigh SeoOctober 7, 2009
OMG, coconut cake with chocolate icing? I never in a million years would have considered that combination. There goes my diet…well, for one day at least. I bet it’s delicious, and tomorrow, I will find out.
BonnieApril 6, 2012
Fantastic! Made this for my son’s birthday. Best cake ever!
baneen sheriffNovember 5, 2012
this cake looks delicious and I cant wait to try it this weekend!! can I use the same recipe for two round 8 inch pans? and will it give good results if I fold in some coconut flakes in the cake batter? Please reply soon!