A few years ago around Easter, my aunt and I decided that we wanted to make my Grammy Al’s recipe for fresh coconut cake. We gathered up all of the ingredients (and most of the family!), and set out to make it. We had a few mishaps, but it was fun and the cake was the perfect addition to our Easter dinner!
The first year that we made this cake, we didn’t have three of the same size cake pans. So, instead of buying a third we thought we could make it work with 2 9-inch and one 8-inch. Not the case. The cake ended up being lopsided and almost fell over, which stressed my aunt and I out so much – we laugh about it now, but make sure you have 3 pans that are the same size!!
One of the best things about making this cake, for me, is that it’s a good way to get the whole family involved. My dad always opens the coconuts (just like his dad used to do), my aunt gets all the ingredients ready, and I peel and grate the coconut. We were lucky enough to have most of the family there the first time we made the cake, so everyone helped do something and we had a blast.
If you’ve never worked with fresh coconut before, you can find loads of videos online on how to open them. Most come with instructions that tell you how to drain the liquid and open them. The extra effort is definitely worth it – the flavor of fresh coconut is amazing! I’ve included quite a few notes to the recipe, so be sure to read them before you make the cake.
Fresh coconut cake is definitely an impressive dessert. As a 3-layer cake, you can really feed a crowd – so it’s perfect for a big family dinner. If you choose to do cupcakes, you’ll get about 2 ½ dozen – so those are perfect for traveling with, and everyone gets their own little cake! I personally like having the daintiness of the cupcakes, but the layer cake is quite the showstopper, so choose whichever best suits your needs.
I strongly urge you to make this cake… it’s fun to do, tastes great, and is something you can do with your kids or a couple of family members. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon!
Even coconut haters will love this one. Fresh coconut has a nice mild flavor and a great texture; it’s not like the bagged stuff you can buy that is usually too sweet. The icing is unique for this cake… you cook part of it and then cream it all together, which results in a really nice texture. It’s light and perfectly sweet! I like to pile on the icing with a plain old knife – so no need for a piping bag here. I really enjoy the rustic look for these, and when you top them with the coconut they look like beautiful little snowballs. YUM!
I hope you give this wonderful cake a try – it would be the perfect dessert to serve at your Easter dinner, or any spring/summer parties! Do you have any baking traditions that involve the whole family?
Fresh Coconut Cake
Moist cake flavored with fresh coconut and topped with a unique buttercream and lots of fresh coconut make this one showstopper of a cake. Or cupcakes!
Yield: 1, 3-Layer Cake or 30 Cupcakes | Prep Time: 30 Min. | Total Time: 2 Hours
3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
3 Teaspoons Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup (2 Sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
2 Cups Sugar
4 Eggs, at room temperature
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Coconut Liquid, from fresh coconut
2 Cups Grated Coconut, from fresh coconut
For the icing:
3 Sticks Butter, softened
½ Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 ½ Cups Milk* (see notes)
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 ¼ Cups Powdered Sugar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
Fresh Grated Coconut, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350º
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar until very pale in color. Add the eggs one at a time until each is combined, and then mix in vanilla extract. In alternating additions, add in the coconut liquid and flour mixture, allowing each to be completely incorporated before adding the next. Fold in the fresh coconut.
Divide the batter evenly between 3, 8-inch round cake pans. If making cupcakes, line a cupcake pan with liners and fill each one ¾ full. Bake at 350º for 30-35 minutes for cakes and 18-20 for cupcakes. Let cool completely before frosting.
For the icing:
Melt 1 stick of butter in a large saucepan, whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add in the milk and whisk to combine and add in the salt; cook over medium heat until thick, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, cream together the remaining 2 sticks of butter and the powdered sugar until well combined. Add in the vanilla and mix well. Refrigerate the icing for at least 30 minutes.
Frost the cake or cupcakes with the icing and sprinkle generously with fresh coconut.
- If you don’t want to use fresh coconut, don’t make this cake! It just won’t be the same. You really need the fresh coconut liquid and nothing beats the fresh grated coconut.
- You can make this cake with one fresh coconut, but I always use two. I like to have enough liquid to use in the cake and the icing. However, if you don’t have enough liquid, you can use what you have and add milk to it to get the required amount. Another reason I like to use two coconuts is to be sure that I have lots of grated coconut for topping.
- Most coconuts that you buy will come with directions to open them. Generally you poke a few holes and allow the liquid to drain into a bowl. It’s best to run the liquid through a strainer to get any dirt or solids out of the liquid.
Then using a hammer and nail you can crack it open. You want to have the biggest pieces possible to make for easy peeling. The coconut has 2 outer layers. You can gently scoop it out of its protective shell with a spoon. For the skin around the flesh you will need to use a vegetable peeler to remove it. Once you have the coconut peeled, make sure you rinse it off and then grate it (carefully!) with a cheese grater.
My suggestion for this step is to find someone to do it for you!
- If you are making this as a cake, you will want to add the icing to each layer along with some fresh coconut. Then, once you have all of the layers put together you can ice the rest of the cake and top it with coconut.
- If you choose to make cupcakes (like I did), you can either fill them, or not. I chose to fill them – to do that I mixed 1 cup of whipped cream into 1 cup of the icing. Then, I hollowed out the center of the cupcake with a cupcake corer (a melon baller works here too) and then filled them using a piping bag. Then spread lots of the icing onto each cupcake and top with fresh coconut. YUM!