Luscious, rich, moist and packed with coconut flavor, this perfect vegan coconut cake is a show stealer at any party but also perfect for imagining yourself on a tropical island--while at home. Frosted with homemade vegan buttercream frosting and toasted coconut flakes, this isn’t a cake you’ll soon forget--in fact, you’ll want to make it again and again!
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Hey Internet, since it’s been a bit since I posted a cake, I figured it was time to make another since you all liked my vegan matcha pound cake and carrot cake so much! I am honestly so flattered, especially since I am far less confident in baking than I am in cooking.
Speaking of which, though, this cake is pretty darn easy to make!
This cake is bursting with coconut flavor! I used coconut milk, coconut extract, and coconut shreds right in the cake itself. The shreds lend an awesome tiny crunch in the texture of the cake (though if you’re worried it might be unpleasant you can give them a whiz in your food processor a spice grinder first).
I experimented with a vegan buttercream frosting with no vegan butter just for this recipe which uses, guess what, coconut cream! The frosting itself does not have a strong coconut flavor, so I added a dash of coconut extract to that too.
Finally I covered the outside of the cake with toasted coconut flakes (shreds will also work) and sprinkled some on top too, though I was practicing my cake spatula skills (read: still needs a lot of work, hehe).
Alright enough yapping about how amazing this vegan coconut cake is, let’s make it!
What You’ll Need
Don’t be scared by the number of ingredients in this recipe, most are easy to find. See the substitutions section below for making alterations to my recipe.
Let’s start with the obvious ingredients: all purpose flour (see the substitutions section below for gluten-free options), organic cane sugar, baking powder and baking soda, and some unsweetened applesauce to replace the eggs.
I used two different types of milk in this recipe--whole fat coconut milk from the can and regular nondairy milk from the carton (for this recipe I actually found a Toasted Coconut milk from Califia Farms that was perfect! But any non-dairy milk will work.
I experimented a lot with the ratios of milk. Using all canned coconut milk (instead of the extra nondairy) will work, but it made for a heavier cake. Conversely, using not enough of the canned coconut milk made for a cake that was too light and had the wrong texture.
Apple cider vinegar helps activate the baking soda (any clear vinegar should work (don’t use balsamic…)) but don’t worry as it doesn’t affect the taste of the cake.
Finally, for extra coconut flavor, I added coconut extract and coconut shreds to the batter. The type of flakes I used are called angel flakes, so they’re smaller and flatter than the shreds or the giant desiccated coconut I used on the cake decoration.
If you can’t find coconut angel flakes or you are concerned about the texture (though I’ve had this cake with shreds in the batter and it’s delicious), whiz up the coconut shreds in the food processor or a spice grinder before adding it to your batter.
Note: this cake is already pretty sweet so I recommend using unsweetened coconut flakes. If you can only find sweetened, I’d dial back the cane sugar by about a quarter to a half cup depending on your tastes.
What Substitutions Can I Make?
I understand that you can’t always find the same stuff I can or you might have an aversion to one of the ingredients I use. I try to provide substitutions wherever possible, but not everything can be substituted.
You could also do oat flour and follow the guidelines for that in my carrot cake recipe. Remember to adjust the baking powder and baking soda too, since oat flour rises differently than regular all purpose flour.
For color and texture reasons, I used organic cane sugar for this recipe. If you’re vegan, you’ll want to buy organic since some non-organic sugars are processed with animal bone char.
Coconut palm sugar could also work, though the cake will be much darker and somewhat denser--though still delicious.
I wouldn’t recommend substituting a liquid sweetener in this recipe, but if you do you’ll probably have to majorly adjust the flour amount since you’ll be throwing off the dry to wet ratio.
I highly recommend using full fat canned coconut milk for this recipe. It makes up for the lack of oil. However, you could try subbing a little less lite coconut milk and/or more applesauce to make this cake lower in fat.
Speaking of applesauce, I used unsweetened applesauce to replace the oil and eggs in this recipe. You could also try aquafaba (the liquid in a can of (recommended unsalted) chickpeas), flax eggs, or you can use oil if you’re cool with that. I would recommend using half the amount if you choose any of these options.
A Note on Cake Size
This cake recipe makes 2 tiers consisting of 8-inch round cakes. You can also put this cake in a 9x13 rectangular pan and it should work. You can also halve the recipe and make one round or square cake (in an 8-inch square pan).
How to Properly Measure Flour
We want to measure our flour by weight, not by volume. When you scoop flour out of a bag or tin with a measuring cup, you're packing it in there and not necessarily getting the same amount each time.
What's better is to use a food scale with a tare function (allowing you to zero out the scale after you've put the bowl on it so your bowl isn't playing a factor in your equation).
Working in grams, put your bowl on the scale and zero it out. Scoop the flour into the bowl until you reach the desired measurement.
How to Make Vegan Coconut Cake
Making this cake seems like a lot of steps, but they’re all pretty easy to do. I only section it off into a lot of steps so you can check off what you’ve already done, either mentally or you can print out this recipe and check off the steps as you do them.
First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 177 degrees Celsius).
I like to prepare my cake pans before I start mixing my batter. I used 8 inch springform pans because I find it easier to remove cakes from springform pans than traditional cake pans. I’m sure it’s not proper but that’s what works best for me.
Anyway, to avoid using oil, I usually using coconut cream to grease the insides of my pans, so I always have a container of coconut cream in my fridge (it does last a while in there but I do a lot of baking for the blog). You can use oil spray or shortening if you don’t have coconut cream.
I also trace the bottom of my pan onto parchment paper and cut out the circles and place them at the bottom of my pans to help ensure an easy cake release. Set your prepared pans aside.
Next, mix your wet ingredients at the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Once well combined, sprinkle in your flour and then other dry ingredients (except coconut flakes / shreds) on top.
Use your spatula to gently mix together the ingredients, pressing the spatula against the sides of the bowl to scrape everything inward as you mix, being careful not to overmix (this can cause your cake to not rise properly or deflate).
When the batter looks ALMOST combined--OK to have a little flour still showing--add your coconut flakes / shreds and gently fold them in. The batter will finish combining as you do this.
Divide the mixture into your two springforms evenly and use your spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pans. Tap each pan on the counter a few times to eliminate any air bubbles and place them in the oven.
Bake cakes for 33 - 38 minutes (sweet spot for me is about 36 minutes) or until an inserted cake tester or toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs on it (not wet batter, but crumbs). This means it’s JUST done. If there no crumbs and it comes out clean, it’s slightly overbaked but will still be super delicious.
Take them out and let them cool in the pans until they are only slightly warm to the touch, then release them from the pans and let them finish cooling on wire racks. Do not attempt to frost a warm cake! The frosting will melt.
Decorating the Cake
If you’re using my Vegan Buttercream Frosting recipe, you can make it while your cakes are cooling, and then set in the refrigerator until you are ready to frost.
This batch of frosting was plenty enough for the cake, but if you’re doing fancy piping work you may need a second batch.
Let it come to room temperature for about 10 minutes beforehand.
I recently got a cake turntable and I LOVE it. It really helps you frost the cake without so much hassle in turning the plate and reaching around it, etc.
Place your bottom cake on the turntable (or a cake stand or a plate). Remember to peel off the parchment paper first.
Using a cake / icing spatula, add a generous dollop of frosting to the first cake. Use the spatula to spread out the frosting until it’s an even layer, as thick as you desire.
Carefully place the second cake on top of the first. Cover it in frosting, then add the toasted coconut.
How to Toast Coconut
By the way, you can use sweetened or unsweetened coconut as is your preference. I prefer unsweetened coconut.
Set your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) and spread out your coconut in a single layer on a silicone mat (or parchment) lined baking tray. I always recommend silicone mats because they're cheaper, they're less wasteful, and they encourage the browning process!
I toasted my coconut on the top rack of my oven for about 5 minutes, stirring / checking halfway through. It is imperative to check often -- I usually turn the oven light on so I can check it often since I've burned it probably about a million times since I'm easily distracted. :)
That's it! Store your toasted coconut in an airtight container (like a mason jar) at room temperature (I recommend a cool, dark place like a cupboard) for up to 2 weeks.
Other Delicious Desserts
While I do consider myself an amateur baker, I definitely enjoy it! It’s kind of ironic, then, that my most popular recipe is this vegan matcha pound cake. Here’s some of my best desserts!
Phew! That was a lot of info! But my goal with all this information is not to overwhelm you but rather just to provide resources to help you make this delicious vegan coconut cake.
I really hope you like this recipe. I may have run around my kitchen like a mad scientist screaming “IT WORKS, IT WORKS!”
This coconut cake is:
- Supremely Moist
- And pretty easy to make!
It’s definitely a showstopper, and perfect for a birthday, a BBQ, or a fun summer treat. Kids can even help make it, and will have fun decorating the cake and licking the empty frosting bowl (ah, memories).
For even MORE coconut flavor, I recommend serving this cake with a dollop of my toasted coconut nice cream which is super delicious and dairy free!
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!