Triple Coconut Cake

Triple Coconut Cake
Be careful not to reduce the coconut milk beyond 1 ½ cups or the solids will start to separate from the fat. The reduced coconut milk can be refrigerated for several days.
Serves: 12 servings
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) regular (not light!) coconut milk
For the cake
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup reduced coconut milk (see above)
For the frosting
  • 3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups (about 1 pound) confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ cup reduced coconut milk (see above)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  1. Bring coconut milk to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking often, until reduced to 1 ½ cups. Cool to room temperature.
For the cake:
  1. adjust oven rack middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Mix flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. With an electric mixer, beat butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add sugar; beat until well mixed. Beat in eggs, one at a time and then vanilla, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in half the flour mixture, then the reduced coconut milk and finally the remaining flour mixture, scraping down the bowl again, until just smooth.
  2. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into cake center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and return to wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting:
  1. reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Spread coconut on a 13- by 9-inch baking sheet; toast, stirring occasionally, until flakes are dry and some are light golden, about 20 minutes.
  2. With an electric mixture beat butter in a large bowl until smooth. Slowly beat in sugar until well combined. Beat in coconut milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
  3. Assemble the cake: Place a cake layer (top-side down) on a cake stand lined with strips of parchment paper (to keep it clean while icing). Using a knife or offset spatula, spread about ⅓ of the frosting over cake top; sprinkle generously with coconut. Place the next layer (top-side up) over the first. Spread remaining frosting evenly on cake top and sides. Sprinkle top generously with coconut. Using an opened hand, gently press remaining coconut around cake perimeter. Remove parchment strips; refrigerate cake until frosting sets, about 30 minutes. Slice and serve.



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  1. Sharon says

    Allyn! I FEEL YOUR PAIN! My fiance doesn’t like coconut either. I make it anyway, eat a piece..then give the rest away :)

  2. says

    Coconut cake is by far my favourite. My sister made me an amazing coconut cake for my birthday last year and I was in heaven. I’m going to request it again this year.

    I can’t understand the brains of people who hate coconut. I feel for you ladies.

  3. Smartcat says

    I and most of my family are allergic to coconut, but this looks sooooo good. Do you think subbing almonds and almond milk would work?

  4. Towania says

    I made this cake this past father’s day and I can say it was one of the best cakes I’ve made. Everyone at home loved it, even my 8 year old who swore she hated coconut. I have been baking for over 20 years and this is a recipe that will go in ‘the file’. I’m planning to make it again next week for a potluck. Thanks ladies.

  5. Sharon says

    Smartcat, I have NO idea about almond milk. I’ve never even tasted it. The key to the coconut milk in this recipe is that it has a good amount of fat. So, it replaces some of the butter in the cake, makes it tender, and helps to add more subtle coconut flavor.

    You could try almond milk…but you’re going to need more fat in the cake to compensate. I’d also be careful because I would guess that 1 cup of reduced coconut milk will have a lot less water in it than the same amount of almond milk (reduced or not).

    The amount of liquid in the frosting is also a delicate balance–too much and it runs off the cake, not enough and it’s too stiff. So I’d add almond milk sparingly until you reach the right consistency. I might even add a little almond extract since you won’t be able to add enough almond milk to impart the flavor you’re looking for. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

    Surely, you could use almonds on the outside of the cake…I’d use slivered because they’re lighter and will stick to the frosting better.

  6. Sharon says

    Hey Charlotte,

    You can certainly use this for cupcakes. (I have no idea how many it would make! And you’ll probably have leftover frosting.) When I make cupcakes, I tend to like the batter a little stiffer…it makes for a rounder, prettier little thing. So, you might want to experiment with holding back a little coconut milk, or adding a little more flour to see if you can make the perfect cupcake.

    You might also want to hold back on the liquid in the frosting as well, just to be sure that it stays nice and perky on top of your cupcake.

    Another thing that would be awesome to try–since you miss out on the middle layer of frosting in a cupcake–would be to put a teaspoon of lemon curd or raspberry jam inside the cupcake :) yum!

    Good luck, and let me know if you try it!

  7. Amy says

    I made this cake today for my dad’s birthday. It looks just like the picture; I hope it is delicious too.

    The icing was the most delicious icing I have ever tasted. Sharon, can you tell me what I can replace the coconut milk with to make a more vanilla version? And is there a chocolate version? I’ve only ever made the Wilton buttercream and this one kicks that one’s butt!

  8. says

    I have been an avid baker for over 45 years. Needless to say, I am experienced in most avenues of cake baking. This cake immediately caught my attetion when it came out in USA WEEKEND Magazine. I made it twice! The first time I was disappointed as to the results of the layers. They did not rise as I had expected. In fact they were almost flat and were very heavy! Oh, how disappointed my family was. Again just today, I tried it again. The same outcome!!! There is some element of this recipe that is not exactly correct. My ingredients are always fresh and precisely measured. Please give me some insight as how to correct this cake disaster. I anxiously await your reply and look forward to having success with this beautiful cake. Respectfully, Judy Jones

    • Pam says

      I don’t know what’s going on Judy. All I know is that lots of people have e-mailed telling us how much they liked the cake. I also know a tester at USA Weekend tested the cake and sent us a beautiful picture and loved it. Usually when people tell me they have trouble with cakes it’s the leavener, which can sometimes be old, or it’s altitude. Let’s stay in dialogue about it. The coconut milk is the odd ingredient in the recipe. Maybe we should start there.
      Take care, Pam

  9. Nancy says

    I saw this in USA Weekend and had to make it for my husband for Father’s Day. Actually the conversation something like this, “Hey hon – there’s a recipe here for Triple Coconut Cake – would you like me to make that for you tonight?” “Is it ready yet?” Anyway, it was wonderful! My stove top must be slow, because it took a long time to reduce the coconut milk – I was also afraid of burning it. And, my cake didn’t rise either – BUT it did not detract from the cake. Oh, I added a wee bit of coconut rum in the icing for a little kick! This recipe is in my “MAKE AGAIN” stack!!!

  10. MJ says

    I made this cake. It was wonderful and my guests went back for seconds. Compliments to the creators of this recipe. It was a hit!

  11. Nikki says

    Hi. So I’m going to make this cake this wekend and I have 2 questions:
    Can I use reduced fat coconut milk or do I need the regular kind?
    For the frosting is the butter salted or unsalted?

  12. Donna says

    I made this cake and found it to be very dry. Not sure if there was a mistake in the recipe. 3 tbs of cornstarch and 3 1/4 t. baking powder seemed like a lot for the 2 cups of flower.
    We are absolutely coconut lovers and were quite disappointed considering the amount of time I put into making this cake!
    I got the recipe from the USA weekend magazine in the sunday newspaper. The frosting did not call for unsalted butter so I used salted. Not very good either. Also the cake recipe called for 2 cans coconut milk but only required 1 cup for cake and 1/4c for frosting!
    Would like to try it one more time, any special advice and was the recipe correct?

    • Pam says


      Just wondering if you might have used light coconut milk. That could have made a difference. We also want to make sure you reduced those 2 cans of coconut milk to 1 1/4 cups. If you didn’t reduce them, that would have made a huge difference.

  13. Sharon says

    Hi Donna,

    Sorry to hear that you had trouble with the cake. First, use unsalted butter for everything! I apologize if that was unclear. Also, use FULL fat coconut milk and reduce it by heating it in a saucepan until you have 1 1/2 cups. The recipe only uses 1 1/4 cups of the reduced coconut milk, so there is 1/4 cup leftover. But as I say in the headnote if you reduce the coconut milk any further than 1.5 cups it will separate (I know because I tried…twice!).

    In short, there is leftover reduced coconut milk, but I think it’s well worth it! Also, you can stir a little bit of sugar into that remaining 1/4 cup and refrigerate it–then you can spread it on toast or add a little to smoothies…it’s like coconut peanut butter! So good!

    If you have any more questions, let me know. I hope it works out for you! I’ve made it many times now, so I know it works.

  14. Donna says

    Thank-you Pam and Sharon.

    I did use lowfat coconut milk. Got confused with (reduced) term. Usually when I read reduced it usually means reduced fat!

    I will try the cake one more time since we love coconut.

    Let you know how I make out.

  15. Ronda says

    Made the cake for a family cookout. Brought home an empty cake plate. It was awesome!!! Thought reducing the coconut milk was a pain at first, but worth every minute of it. Makes the icing so much more fluffy and rich. Will definately be making this again.

  16. Patty G says

    Going to make make the coconut cake, but I really love white cake. Do you think it will work if I just use the egg whites, or are the yolks performing some other necessary task?

  17. Juanelle Kopp says

    Just made this cake and it was the most tasteful cake I’ve tasted in a while, but I’m, going to have to look for an icing with less butter as that was all I could think about while I was enjoying the lucious flavor of the cake. Maybe a 7 minute fluffy texture with all that toasted coconut flavor.

    • Pam says

      Hi Sharon,

      It’s not the brand of coconut milk as much as it is the kind. Make sure to purchase regular not light coconut milk. Hope you enjoy the cake!

  18. Kathleen says

    I’m wondering if you could substitute coconut cream for the coconut milk and thereby skip the reducing step? I haven’t made this yet but I’m sooooo looking forward to it!

  19. Joan Siegel says

    I love toasted coconut, but for an upcoming event I need to prepare a coconut cake with untoasted coconut, to get the pristine white you remember of the “sweet, fluffy, and white” cakes sitting on your grandmother’s Formica counter. I don’t care for the 7-minute and white-mountain frostings typically used on coconut cakes and am wondering if, given the butter in your frosting, it is too off-white for the traditional appearance. I’m down with sprinkling and pressing on as much flaked coconut as possible, but is even too much not enough? What do you think?

    Your idea to reduce the volume of water in canned coconut milk was brilliant. It’s a rare cook who has actually tasted coconut milk; most do not realize how little flavor it has—and if they do, they resort to using coconut extract.

  20. NAILAH says


  21. CD Robinson says

    Made this for my friend’s birthday, and she loved it. Reducing the coconut milk was tricky since I didn’t want it to separate. So I kept taking it off the stove and measuring it. Eventually I thought it was thick enough so I just stopped reducing it.
    The cake is worth the effort. The frosting is also delicious. I’m mixing the leftover coconut milk with regular milk and adding it to my oatmeal, and it’s a nice change.

  22. Renee says

    I tried this recipe and it is indeed delicious. However, my cakes fell. I live in a high altitude city. Is there an adjustment for this? Perhaps that is why they fell?

    • says

      Hey Renee,
      Since none of the three of us live in a high altitude, we don’t know much about high altitude baking, but here’s a link that might help. Good luck!

    • says

      Hey Jen,

      For optimum freshness, I’d bake the cake a day ahead, but you can make and freeze the cake and frosting several weeks ahead, and then assemble on serving day.

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