Lemon Coconut Cake

Decadent coconut flakes…sweet vanilla buttercream…tart lemon curd.  One slice of this Lemon Coconut Cake will whisk you away to a warm Caribbean island!

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Decadent coconut flakes...sweet vanilla buttercream...tart lemon curd. One slice of this Lemon Coconut Cake will whisk you away to a warm Caribbean island!So last summer, my wife and I were wandering through the garden center at a local store.  Doesn’t it seem like every weekend in the summer involves a project and a trip to the home improvement store?  But, hey, I’m not complaining.  I love being outdoors in the summer.  As we were heading up to the registers, we noticed a bunch of miniature lemon trees (I guess they were kinda like lemon bushes?) on the clearance rack.  Huh?  Lemons?  I thought they only grew in warmer climates, and upstate New York is most certainly not a warmer climate!  The bushes were small-ish and potted, so we decided, “What the heck?  Let’s give it a shot!”

Decadent coconut flakes...sweet vanilla buttercream...tart lemon curd. One slice of this Lemon Coconut Cake will whisk you away to a warm Caribbean island!We stuck that lemon bush (along with it’s 6 mini lemons) on our back porch where it got a ton of afternoon sunlight.  That was one happy tree!  It grew quite well, and those lemons (which were green when they were small) slowly started turning yellow.  Some sort of creature…I suspect a squirrel…stole 3 of our lemons, but we still ended up with 3 lemons from that little bush.  (On a side note, I would’ve loved to see the look at that squirrel’s face when he bit into that lemon.)

We brought the bush indoors once the weather started turning, and we watched the lemons continue to grow bigger and bigger indoors.  Finally, we picked our first lemon a few weeks back, and it was one of the best lemons I’ve ever tasted!  We’ve been saving the last lemon on the tree for something really special, and after much debate I finally settled on making a batch of fresh lemon curd.  I had big plans for that lemon curd!

Decadent coconut flakes...sweet vanilla buttercream...tart lemon curd. One slice of this Lemon Coconut Cake will whisk you away to a warm Caribbean island! We were hit with snowstorm after snowstorm this winter in upstate New York, and all I could think about lately was sitting on a warm beach somewhere.  I’m not even that much of a beach guy…but I would’ve traded all of those snow mounds outside for sand dunes in a heartbeat!

Lemon Coconut Cake

Partially inspired by my longing for a warmer climate, I decided to whip up this Lemon Coconut Cake.  The cake itself is lightly flavored with coconut, and I pressed Unsweetened Coconut Flakes all around the outside of the cake.  Then the aforementioned lemon curd got spread onto the top.  This cake was magical!  While it didn’t whisk me away to the Caribbean like I had hoped, it did help me forget about all of the snow outside…at least momentarily!

Decadent coconut flakes...sweet vanilla buttercream...tart lemon curd. One slice of this Lemon Coconut Cake will whisk you away to a warm Caribbean island!I used Unsweetened Coconut Flakes from Bob’s Red Mill to make this cake.  I don’t know if you’ve ever looked, but unsweetened coconut flakes can be kinda tricky to find.  I prefer to use the unsweetened version whenever possible as sweetened coconut flakes can change the flavor profile of your recipe.  In this case, the unsweetened coconut flakes were perfect!  The large flakes are packed with coconut flavor, and they look awesome when pressed into the side of this cake.  The tasty coconut flakes combined with the sweet vanilla buttercream and the tart lemon curd produce a perfectly balanced cake.  Just close your eyes when eating a big slice of this Lemon Coconut Cake, and you just might find yourself drifting away to a warm Caribbean island somewhere!  Enjoy!

P.S.  I just noticed that our little lemon bush now has it’s first bud of the year.  I didn’t realize that it would bud indoors, but I’ll take it!  That little bud doesn’t know it, but it’s destined to become lemon curd on the top of another Lemon Coconut Cake next winter!

Did you make this Lemon Coconut Cake at home?  Leave a comment, or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog)!

Decadent coconut flakes...sweet vanilla buttercream...tart lemon curd. One slice of this Lemon Coconut Cake will whisk you away to a warm Caribbean island!

Lemon Coconut Cake

Decadent coconut flakes…sweet vanilla buttercream…tart lemon curd.  One slice of this Lemon Coconut Cake will whisk you away to a warm Caribbean island!
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 12 slices
Calories: 631kcal


For the Cake

For the Frosting

For the Lemon Curd


For the Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (3) 8" round cake pans; set aside.
  • In the bowl of a countertop mixer, combine all of the dry ingredients (cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt). Stir until well combined.
  • Add the butter, egg and egg whites; mix until well combined. (Tip: Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula occasionally to ensure batter is well mixed.)
  • Add half of the coconut milk to the bowl; mix until well combined. Repeat with the remaining coconut milk and the vanilla extract.
  • Mix for 2-3 minutes on medium speed, or until batter is fluffy and well mixed.
  • Divide batter evenly into (3) 8” round pans.
  • Bake at 350° for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Allow cakes to cool in pans and then transfer to a cooling rack until fully cooled.

For the Frosting

  • Using a countertop mixer, cream the butter on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
  • Add the vanilla and powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition until fully absorbed.
  • Add the milk and mix on medium speed until well combined. (Note: If the frosting is too thick or thin, just add a bit of additional milk or powdered sugar.)
  • Whip the frosting for another 3-4 minutes on high speed.

For the Lemon Curd

  • Using a medium saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, sugar and eggs. Add the pieces of butter and place pan over medium-low heat.
  • Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (~7-8 minutes).
  • Let cool and then refrigerate until firm.

To Decorate Cake

  • Place the first layer of cake on a large plate and spread a generous layer of Frosting on top. Spread ½ cup of coconut flakes evenly on top of the frosting.
  • Repeat with the second layer of cake, spreading another ½ cup of coconut flakes on top of the Frosting. (Tip: When frosting the inner layers, make sure to save enough Frosting to cover outer edge of cake.)
  • Frost outer edge of cake with the remaining Frosting. (Tip: This will get covered with flaked coconut, so it doesn’t need to look perfect!)
  • Gently press remaining coconut flakes into outer edge of cake.
  • Using an offset spatula, spread the lemon curd evenly across top of cake.
  • Serve cake either chilled or at room temperature.


Canned coconut milk is typically found in the Asian food aisle at your local supermarket. Coconut milk tends to separate in the can, so just pour it into a small bowl and whisk together before using. Canned coconut milk is not the same as the refrigerated coconut milk you find in the dairy section of the supermarket.

Decadent coconut flakes...sweet vanilla buttercream...tart lemon curd. One slice of this Lemon Coconut Cake will whisk you away to a warm Caribbean island!

Looking for more tasty cake recipes?  Check out these other favorites, too:

This Lemon Blueberry 7UP Pound Cake is packed with bright lemony flavor...and it's a great dessert for warm Spring days!Lemon Blueberry 7UP Pound Cake

Chocolate vs. Vanilla.  Vanilla vs. Chocolate.  Why not just go with both?  This Marble Pound Cake is a tasty and fun dessert!Marble Pound Cake

Fresh Strawberry Cake | This cake features loads of fresh strawberries and a light whipped cream topping. It's PERFECT for summer!!Fresh Strawberry Cake

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  1. That squirrel, what a jackass. We should hunt him down and feast on his flesh…or maybe not, I don’t think it’s a good idea after all, squirrel meat doesn’t sound too tasty (it’s just a rat with a fancier outfit).
    So let’s leave the squirrel be and let’s concentrate on this amazing Lemon Coconut Cake. I could definitely use a big slice right now, it looks soooo delish!

    1. Yeah, I’m gonna go with let’s pass on the squirrel hunt. It sounds like a very Wolfpack thing to do…but they really are just fancy rats. And the ones up here are fancy fat rats. They really packed it on to get through the winter. Let’s stick with the cake instead. I’ll save you a slice! #WolfpackHunts

  2. O.M.G.! This cake looks AMAZING! Lemon and coconut together is such a winning combination in my opinion. One question, though it may sound weird, is unsweetened coconut sweet? 🙂 I remember eating or drinking real coconut as a child, but I can’t remember what it tastes like. I have to admit my taste buds have been tainted by the sweetened version of coconut so I am curious.

    1. That’s not a weird question at all, Tamara! Sweetened coconut is easy to find, but it’s harder to come across this flaked unsweetened coconut. So I just ran downstairs and ate a pinch of it so that I could accurately answer your question. It isn’t sweet. It’s got a nice coconut flavor, but it’s not sweet at all. That’s why it works well in this recipe. The lemon curd is super tart and the buttercream is super sweet…so the unsweetened coconut is the perfect addition. Plus, it just looks good! 🙂

  3. This looks so sweet, and by that I mean amazing. The lemon curd on top idea is way cool. Love it and I’m not even a dried coconut fan. See what you did? You guys are welcome to come out here to San Diego anytime, I’d show you around, too.

    1. Thanks, Kevin! Haha…yes, San Diego might as well be a Caribbean island with the weather you guys have out there. I’ll just sit here and eat my piece of cake and think about enjoying the warm San Diego weather…

  4. Good golly gawsh!!! Wow – this cake IS magical! Stupid squirrel – he should’ve hung around y’alls house till you made this and stolen it and run down south and delivered it to me in Atlanta I would’ve rewarded him with a fridge full of Cabot and Castello cheeses!
    By the way – if you happen to have access to a South Asian store, they have tons of unsweetened shredded coconut – or y’all can come down here to Atlanta! Yup – your welcome for the tip – and Yup, I accept payment in the form of FRESH lemon curd topped cake (squirrel or no squirrel I need to get me some -or ALL- of this cake)!!!

    1. lol! Now that would have been one adventurous squirrel. You expect him to steal this cake and run it ALL the way down to Atlanta without nibbling on it at all. Hah. Good luck. Although I might be interested in hearing more about this fridge full of cheese that you talk about. 🙂 I’ll save you a slice of cake, mmmkay?

    1. Heck yeah! Lemon and coconut always make me think of warmer weather. Since it’s starting to think about warming up, this cake is perfect for Spring! Thanks, Christina! 🙂

    1. Haha! Thanks, Oana. I’m fairly certain I would have eaten half of this cake by myself if we hadn’t taken it in to the curling club! They thought I was just being nice…little did they know they were doing me a favor! 🙂

    1. Haha! Thanks, Manali. I’m pretty sure I could have eaten this whole cake myself, too…thankfully I had some friends at the curling club who were more than happy to grab a fork and help out with this cake. Happy (almost) Spring!

  5. This cake is a beauty- You really are a Dave of all trades when it comes to the kitchen. You should have cooked the squirrel in the cake….Actually, probably not. Thank goodness the Paleo folk haven’t gone that far yet.

    Also..I kind of think this would go well with Malibu. 😉

    1. What happened to Jack? Now it’s Dave of all trades? Haha…I’ll take it! And yes, I was tempted to cook that darned squirrel straight into the cake. He’s probably the same one that stole 1 of the 2 apples that our apple tree produced this year. He’s a jerk.

      And yes, rum would be a fun addition to this cake. I might have to get thinking about a Caribbean-inspired rum dessert next! Thanks for the idea!

    1. So I wasn’t the biggest coconut fan when I was a kid, but now I love it! If you get a chance, try unsweetened coconut…it’s way better than the sweetened version that most stores carry. Of course, I’m not sure what sort of coconut options you have over there in Greece! (It is Greece, right?) 🙂

  6. David!!! oh my gawd, I’ve always wanted my own lemon tree!!!! that would be a dream come true! when we lived in CA, we had an apple tree and peach tree .. the peach tree was AWESOME! Like, it gave us a ton of fruit but we also had issues with squirrels. Those darn things took like half, if not more .. we tried everything to keep them away. . now my brother-in-law’s family live in our house (renting it) and they have two big dogs so no squirrel problems for them and they got a TON of peaches! ok, you and I must totally be on the same wave length. . I made a lemon cake with lemon curd too. . YOURS is gorgeous! love this and pinned!

    1. Well, I don’t know if I can consider our lemon bush a ‘tree’…it’s a bit small, and I do have to bring it in for the winter. But, hey, it’s as close as I can do for upstate New York. I do have the apple, cherry and nectarine trees ready to go this year! (We’ve been picking the buds off for about 3 years now so they would grow big and strong…and we’re turning them loose this year.) I suspect the squirrels will have a hayday with all that fruit. And I hope our two (smallish) dogs have a hayday chasing the squirrels away. We totally must be on the same wave length…I’ve got to go find your lemon cake now! 🙂

    1. Haha…if I’m ever asked what things I would want to take with me to a deserted island, I’m saying this cake! 🙂 Would that make it a desserted island then? Haha!

  7. Your lemon plant cracks me up! I love the pic on Insta. Adorable.
    And this cake isn’t too shabby either! Jk this cake looks amazing! As I was scrolling down drooling, I got to thinking about how much trouble you give me for not sending you cake…..where is my cake, David?!?!!
    Pinned 🙂

    1. You remembered the pic on Instagram…you’re such a good friend, Lindsey! You know, I would be more than happy to make you a cake…but I suspect you already have more pastries, pies and cakes than you know what to do with down there in the city. I guess I’ll just have to eat the second cake myself. 😉

  8. I’ve seen those lemon tree/bush things before and thought the same thing! Glad to know you got some success with it. This cake looks totally legit! Asheley loves all things lemon when it comes to dessert, so I’m pretty sure she’d down the entire thing (and then say it was a “pregnancy craving” of course hahaha)

    1. Hahaha…darn those “pregnancy cravings!” Why can’t guys have pregnancy cravings? But yes, those lemon tree/bush things are totally legit. You only get a handful of lemons, and you could certainly buy 6 lemons for less than the cost of the tree…but it’s pretty awesome to grow your own lemons. You should totally pick up a lemon tree/bush, and then we can have matching lemon tree/bushes.

    1. Everyone needs a lemon tree, Lindsay! If I can manage to keep a lemon tree (err…lemon bush) alive in upstate New York, then I think that’s proof that they’ll grow anywhere! (Of course, now we need to see if it will produce lemons again…haha) Have a great Friday!

  9. Hi David! This cake sounds dangerous to me, just like carrot cake is! It would not last long at our house! I found a co-op market is Knoxville that carries unsweetened coconut, along with all sorts of other goodies! I think a road trip is in order and soon!

    1. Yes! This cake is amazing, Dorothy. We took it with us to the curling club and it disappeared quite quickly after our game that night. Now I think I should make another one for this weekend! 🙂

  10. The recipe before opening the link for instructions says 1 3/4 cup sugar for the cake & when you open the link for the instructions, it says 1 cup of sugar…..so which is it? I’m planning to make this cake in a few days for Easter.

    1. Hi Diane! I’m really confused about where you are seeing the 1 cup of sugar. Could you point me to where you see that? Either way, the amount of sugar should be the 1 3/4 cups listed in the amounts. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we did…happy (early) Easter!!

      1. Thanks for getting back with me! It is the weirdest thing……when I click on the link for recipe preview, it gives the ingredients which reflect 1 3/4 cups sugar; when I click on the link for full recipe, it reflects “1 cups” sugar—this is when I open the recipe on my iphone—only on my iphone. I swear I’m not crazy! When I open it on my desktop, it’s not like that!

        1. Interesting! You just found a problem with the mobile version of my site, Diane. Thank you! It’s clearly a problem that needs to be fixed ASAP. Apparently, the mobile version is not displaying any of the special characters (such as °, ¾, ½, etc.) I’m not terribly happy with how the mobile version of my site looks, so I’ll be working on this for sure. Thank you for bring this to my attention! You absolutely aren’t crazy! 🙂

        2. Hey Diane, I just wanted to let you know that the problem with the mobile site is now fixed. It should be showing the correct values in the recipe now! I am so sorry for the confusion that it caused. Happy Easter, and I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we did! 🙂

          1. Great! Glad I could be of help! I am planning to start working on it tomorrow and am excited about making it! 🙂

  11. Just made the cake! I wish I could share my picture of it! It looks fabulous! The icing & lemon curd taste fabulous! Just hope the cake itself tastes good! The batter tasted good! Lol! Hopefully, it baked up okay too! I just can’t cut it & have a piece until tomorrow! 🙁

    1. Yay! I’m so glad it looks awesome, Diane. Hopefully it tastes as good (or better!) than it looks. I always like to sneak a little bit of the batter, too…you know, just for taste testing purposes of course. Have a great Easter!!

  12. I made the cake portion yesterday. Thought it was strange with this recipe to add butter, egg whites, vanilla & coconut milk one at a time. Your instructions are not clear on that portion of the recipe. The cake did not rise enough. I feel the egg whites would of been best to beat to until they are stiff and folded in. There are a number of ways it could be done to improve upon the final result. I basically have 3 layers that did not rise.

    1. Hey Karen, I’m sorry you had trouble with this cake. I’ve made this cake several times, and I’ve never experienced any trouble. I read back over the instructions, and I believe they do make sense. Instead of adding the butter, egg whites and vanilla separately, those are all added together in step 3. The next step calls for adding the coconut milk, and I recommended adding it in 2 additions to ensure an evenly mixed batter. This is essentially just a slight variation on the standard 2-stage method for mixing cakes. (The coconut milk is just split into a separate stage rather than combining it with the other liquids.) I’ve never beaten the egg whites until stiff for this cake, but if you feel that it will better suit your needs, then feel free to make that adjustment. As you can see in the pictures, the cake should rise perfectly fine. Perhaps there is another explanation to why your cake didn’t rise. Either way, good luck and happy baking!

  13. Really delicious. Fun to make, even better to eat! Thank you for the recipe – it is a keeper!

    1. Thank you so much, Mary Ann! Your comment just made my night. I’m really glad you liked this cake, and I really appreciate you coming back to leave a comment. Happy baking…and happy eating! 🙂

    1. Hey Marguerite! You certainly could make this cake in another size pan. However, you’ll have to pay close attention as it bakes as the timing could change due to the new pan size. Other than that, you should be good to go as a 10″x15″ pan would be the same volume as 3 8″ rounds. Good luck, and I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we do! 🙂

  14. Made this cake last weekend,and I am not a baker at all so instructions are super important for me.
    The recipe instructions don’t talk about the third layer at all. This was a very buttery cake, everyone else seemed to like it but all I could taste was butter 🙁 I would make it again but would hope to find a way to make it taste less like butter.

    1. Hey there, Katy! So I’m a little confused. I just reread the recipe, and it calls to bake the cake in 3 pans to create the 3 layers. Am I missing something here? I want to make sure these recipes are approachable to everyone…even non-bakers! And did you perhaps double check your butter? I haven’t found this cake to be too buttery, but that could just be personal preference. Either way, I wish you better luck next time!! 😀

  15. Hi David, I’ve made this cake last weekend. At first, i googled for a nice and fluffy lemon coconut cake from the Internet and I found your blog with a nice picture of this cake. Your cake looks so soft, white and fluffy. I decided to give a try. I am so happy. The cake is so nice and fluffy. I really like the texture. Thank you for the recipe. But, maybe next time I would reduce the sugar to 1 and half cup. Thank you again 😀

    1. Hey Liana! Thank you so much for stopping back and leaving a comment. Comments like yours really do make my day. This cake is one of my favorites, and I’m really glad it lived up to what you were looking for. Thank you for visiting my site. Without readers like you, I wouldn’t be able to do this! 🙂

      1. Addition to my comment 🙂 My husband keep saying that this cake is delicious. For myself, I can’t stop eating the cake. Oh my! Since we have plenty, I asked him to bring the cake to his office. One of his friend never like citrus cake but surprisingly this cake they love it. This recipe is a keeper. Thank you again 😀

        1. Haha! Just for the record, this cake freezes quite well, too. We often slice the cake up and keep a few slices out. Then we wrap the other slices in plastic wrap and freeze them…that way we can just pull out 2 slices for dessert when we have a lemon coconut craving. Thanks again, Liana!

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