Fresh Coconut Cake

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Coconut contention is a “thing” in my house. My husband hates the stuff. But I love it, having inherited my grated-white fetish from my dad who has been known to keep a secret stash of Almond Joys in little wooden drawers around and about his flat. My best friend, Lisa, is also a coconut-nut. It’s to her this post is affectionately dedicated. In the search for the perfect coconut cake, I made lots of them, some with fresh coconut, others with packaged sweetened. The version I’m printing here is an adaptation that marries best elements of several vintage cakes. 1950s home-baker Mr. Ray Sharp gave us the idea of glazing cake layers with a syrup made from the fresh coconut milk before assembling and frosting them. But his Elegant Fresh Coconut Cake recipe didn’t bake the fresh coconut meat into the cake. Our version here does that, with nicely coconut-ty results. Because the glaze adds sweetness to the cake, we thought the traditional egg-white & sugar frosting would be too sugary. Mounds of lightly sweetened whipped cream, sprinkled with fresh coconut, work better. Don’t frost this cake until just before service. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Makes 2, 9-inch layers

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 fresh coconut, liquid reserved and coconut meat shredded
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 4 unbeaten egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 cups grated fresh coconut
  • 4 egg whites

Glaze Ingredients

  • 1 cup reserved coconut liquid
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Frosting/Filling Ingredients

  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup fresh grated coconut


  1. Make cake: Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. cream butter and shortening with sugar until light and fluffy; add 4 egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. combine buttermilk with almond extract. Add alternately with dry ingredients to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and blending thoroughly after each addition. Fold 2 cups fresh grated coconut into batter. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350. Whip four egg whites until stiff but not dry. fold into batter. Turn into two, 9-inch layer pans that have been well-greased and floured.
  3. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.
  4. While the cake bakes, make coconut glaze: combine coconut liquid with sugar, lemon juice and almond extract in a saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. When cake is finished baking, remove from oven and paint coconut glaze over layers until completely absorbed. Cool.
  6. Whip cream. Sift confectioners sugar into whipped cream and mix in. Spread cream over bottom layer of cake. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the remaining fresh coconut. Top with second layer. Spread with cream again and top with remaining coconut.

9 thoughts on “Fresh Coconut Cake

  1. This recipe is very similar to the “One Egg Christmas Cake” that my father’s great-grandmother passed on. It was from the 1800’s. It was called a Christmas cake because it was only at Christmas time that the she could get fresh coconut. I bake the layers in cast iron skillets as they did years ago, but in my conventional oven. I always cook some of the coconut in with the glaze. Add more coconut when the glaze is done and poke holes in the cake layers until they absorb the liquid, add more fresh coconut between layers and on top. My recipe doesn’t call for lemon juice or almond, but will try it today when I bake. This is the moistest cake by far and when thoroughly chilled can be cut very thin. I have tried it with whipped cream for topping and it is wonderful. Thanks for posting this recipe.

  2. My step-mother served a Coconut cake 30 years ago, for my fathers birthday. My father and I were crazy over that cake. I asked my stepmother for the recipe for years. She would not give it to me as she “did not share her recipes”. She did say, ” it was a lot of work and had to sit in the fridge for some time.” I have been on a quest for one similar, since! This is a close to what I could feature the cake to have as is did have a glaze between layers and was very moist.
    Thanks for sharing!
    BTW, I do so enjoy your blog! Thanks for that, too!

  3. This cake is amazing!!!! Thanks so much. I served with sliced fresh peaches and some chopped macadamias, and am making it again for my husband’s birthday this week.

  4. I think this is the BEST cake I’ve ever made. I made a few modifications because it’s what I had- coconut oil for shortening, a tsp of almond paste broken up into whipped butter/sugar and buttermilk powder. The cake came out scrumptious!!! Needless to say there was a argument over the last piece. Looking forward to making this again just need more fresh coconuts from the keys!

  5. this cake sounds yummy…my grandma made a fabulous cake that she called “Molasses Cake” and guess what-she didn’t share the recipe. I remember it was a very moist, dense cake with molasses, raisins, various spices -like cinnamon, nutmeg covered with a great peanut butter frosting. This recipe was common before 1953. Have you found any recipes like this?

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