An old-fashioned southern coconut cake that’s moist and tender and made with coconut milk then topped with sour cream buttercream.
The coconut flavor is not overpowering and the addition of coconut milk makes this cake one of the moistest cakes you’ll ever eat. Sprinkle shredded coconut all around the outside of the cake and you’ll end up with THE perfect coconut cake.
It’s perfect for springtime, Easter, or any other time you have a coconut cake craving.
I LOVE a good coconut cake. One that has a subtle coconut flavor, but not so much that it hits you over the head with it.
This old-fashioned coconut cake is just that…a classic southern coconut cake without an overwhelming flavor to it.
The sour cream buttercream also adds just a slight tanginess, which is the perfect compliment for this cake.
Hey there! Before you scroll, there’s lot’s of important stuff in the post!…including the FAQ section, which may answer any questions you might have about this recipe. Enjoy!
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Now let’s talk a little about the ingredients that are in this cake and frosting. (The list of all ingredients are in the recipe card below.)
Unsalted butter: This cake is a butter cake, so the finished product is not a super white cake, but you get a richer, deeper flavor because of the butter. Unsalted butter is best because it won’t add additional salt.
Cake flour: This cake recipe calls for cake flour instead of all-purpose flour, which really makes it so much more tender. This cake is at its best when cake flour is used, but make sure to read the FAQ section below for substitutions if you don’t have access to cake flour.
Coconut milk: This is the secret ingredient to this cake. I would not suggest substituting with anything else. Coconut milk will make this cake super moist.
For this cake, I used Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk which you can generally find at any grocery store.
Vanilla bean paste & almond emulsion: You’ll need a bit of vanilla flavor and I always like to include just a touch of almond emulsion. If you really can’t stand almond, just omit it and you can always use vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean paste.
Coconut emulsion: This is the star of the cake here as it’s what will give it a good coconut flavor. You don’t want to skip this one.
Butter, confectioner’s sugar and sour cream for the buttercream: The icing on this cake is made with butter, confectioners sugar and sour cream. It’s got a slight tanginess to it, which really works well with the sweetness of the confectioner’s sugar.
This is a soft icing and you’ll want to refrigerate the cake if you go with this buttercream.
How to Make this Cake:
Let’s talk about how to make this cake. (The exact instructions are in the recipe card below.)
First, preheat the oven and make sure to grease and flour two 8 inch round cake pans. Then, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Next, add in the eggs, one at a time and mix after each addition. In another bowl, add the dry ingredients.
In another bowl, you’ll add the coconut milk, emulsions (or extracts), and the oil, then whisk well. (Don’t discard the milk fat on the top of the coconut milk can. Add all of it and the liquid.)
Then you’ll add the dry and liquid ingredients alternately to the butter/sugar mixture and finally add in the shredded coconut.
Pour the batter into the pans and bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 35 – 40 minutes. Set the cakes on a rack and let cool for about 10 minutes.
Next, turn the cakes out of the pans and directly onto the racks and let them cool completely and make the buttercream.
Cover the cake in buttercream and then cover with shredded coconut and serve.
Make sure to store this cake in the refrigerator.
Tips & FAQs:
It’s really best to use cake flour as it will help make the cake very soft and tender. If you can’t get it, you can substitute it, but you’ll need to make some changes as it can’t be substituted cup for cup.
To use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour use this substitute: For every 1 cup of cake flour that the recipe calls for, use 1 cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of it and replace with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
Make sure not to pack the flour down into the measuring cup. Spoon flour into the cup, don’t scoop the flour.
Make sure to allow the butter to come to room temperature on its own before you begin.
I would not suggest doing that in this recipe. The liquid and fat from the coconut is needed and regular milk will just not provide as much fat and the cake may turn out dryer and more dense.
Make sure to add the entire can including the fat at the top.
No, you can omit it, although the tiny amount that the recipe calls for just enhances the flavor of the cake and will not make the cake have an almond flavor.
Yes, if you want the cake to have a coconut taste, then you’ll need to add it. The coconut milk will not give enough coconut taste, so you need to add a bit more flavor by using coconut emulsion, or extract.
You can usually find it on Amazon or at local craft stores that sell cake decorating supplies. Here’s a link for it on Amazon: Coconut emulsion
Be very careful not to mix the batter too long. Scratch cakes should not be mixed for minutes at a time, or they will become dense. Stop mixing once the ingredients are well incorporated.
No, you can omit it from the batter and the outside if you want. As long as you use the coconut emulsion, then you will still get a coconut taste.
This cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center of each layer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.
Yes, you sure can. Cream cheese buttercream is also delicious on this cake.
This buttercream is soft, so refrigerate the buttercream for about 10-15 minutes to firm it up a bit before icing the cake. You may need to chill the cake periodically while frosting it as the icing can become super soft again.
If you will be traveling with this cake, it’s best to use a thicker type of icing like cream cheese buttercream or vanilla buttercream.
This cake can be made ahead of time and frozen if desired. Let the baked cake cool completely, then wrap in plastic wrap, then foil and place in the freezer for up to a month.
To thaw, place the wrapped cake on the counter at room temperature and let thaw completely, then remove the wrapping. Once defrosted, add frosting.
This cake should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator and can last up to 5-6 days.
This cake is perfect in springtime or as the perfect Easter dessert.
**By the way, this recipe was developed and tested using volume measurements (cups etc.). I do this because most people are used to measuring, instead of weighing. You may use the metric converter button to see the weight (gram) measurements. Those numbers are estimates on weight. Your results may vary a bit if you use the weight measurements.
Old Fashioned Southern Coconut Cake Recipe with Frosting
For the cake:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 3 cups cake flour (different than all-purpose flour, see FAQs in the post)
- 3 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¼ cup coconut milk (13 oz can) (I used Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk, do not discard the solid milk fat on the top of the can.)
- ¼ teaspoon almond emulsion or extract (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract
- 1 ½ teaspoon coconut emulsion, or extract (I use LorAnn Oils coconut emulsion)
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
For the buttercream:
- 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 pinch of salt
- ⅔ cup sour cream
- 8 cups confectioner's sugar (the sour cream makes this icing soft, therefor it does need the extra confectioner's sugar to thicken it.)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or extract
- shredded coconut, optional for covering the iced cake
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease and flour two 8" round pans and set aside.
- With an electric mixer, cream the butter on medium until creamy.
- Add the sugar and mix on medium until well mixed, then on medium-high until fluffy-about a minute and a half to two minutes.
- Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low after each only until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again just for another 5 to 10 seconds.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.
- In another seperate medium sized bowl, mix the coconut milk, emulsions (or extracts) and the oil. Whisk until mixed well. (Do not discard the milk fat on the top of the coconut milk can. Add all of it and the liquid.)
- Add the dry and liquid ingredients alternately to the butter/sugar mixture. (Start with a third of the dry ingredients and mix on medium just until combined. Add in half of the liquid ingredients and mix on medium just until combined. Add another third of the dry mixture, mix, then the last half of the liquid ingredients and mix. End by adding the last of the dry ingredients. Only mix until just combined after each addition.)
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the shredded coconut and mix on medium only until the coconut is incorporated. (Be careful not to overmix.)
- Pour batter into prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 35 – 40 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean.
- Remove the cake layers from the oven and set on cooling racks to cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out of the pans and directly onto the racks and let cool completely.
- Add buttercream too cooled cake.
- (Optional: Cover the iced cake with shredded coconut. You can also toast the coconut a bit before covering the cake in it for a deeper flavor.)
For the buttercream:
- Mix the butter and salt with an electric mixer on medium speed until very creamy.
- Add the sour cream and mix on medium until smooth.
- Add half the confectioner's sugar and mix on low until combined, then on medium until smooth.
- Add in the second half of the confectioner's sugar plus the vanilla and mix on low until combined, then on medium until smooth.
- This buttercream is soft, so refrigerate the buttercream for about 10-15 minutes to firm it up a bit before icing the cake. You may need to chill the cake periodically while frosting it as the icing can become super soft again.If you will be traveling withthis cake, it's best to use a thicker type icing like cream cheese buttercream or vanilla buttercream.
How to Share
I’d love for you to share this recipe link or tag it, but please do not share screenshots or copy/paste the recipe to social media as the content and photographs are copyright protected and we (bloggers) work really hard on our content. Sharing the link, tagging us on socials and pinning it is super appreciated though!
Don’t Forget to Pin it Below!