There is no shortage of coconut goodness in this Vegan Coconut Cake! Deliciously fluffy and decorated with vegan coconut buttercream and toasted coconut, it’s the perfect dessert for coconut lovers.
You’ll find heaps of intense coconut flavor in every layer of this Vegan Coconut Cake! Inspired by my coconut bread recipe, it’s a tropical and sweet dessert that’s not only perfect for coconut lovers but for vegans as well. Plus, it’s deceptively easy to make!
This coconut cake recipe features two soft and fluffy coconut cake layers, homemade vegan coconut buttercream, and toasted coconut. I mean, if you LOVE coconut, this is the cake for you! It’s tropical, sweet, and creamy, and you won’t even notice that it’s vegan.
- It’s the ultimate cake for coconut lovers! Coconut milk and shredded coconut in the cake and frosting provide every bite with sweet, tropical, and coconutty flavors.
- Light, fluffy, and moist cake layers that are completely dairy free and egg free.
- It’s just plain easy to make!
Cake flour - Cake flour is a low-protein flour that’s the secret behind light and delicate cakes. If you don’t have cake flour at home, this homemade cake flour substitute by Sally’s Baking Addiction is easy to make by sifting all purpose flour and cornstarch together. And while cake flour will give you the best results, you can use all purpose or whole wheat flour as a substitute.
Shredded coconut - I like using sweetened shredded coconut. It’s folded into the cake batter as-is and the rest is toasted and used for decoration.
Coconut milk - Canned full fat coconut milk is best here. Don’t use coconut milk from a carton. Both the solid coconut cream and liquid milk in the can are needed to make this recipe.
Applesauce - For moisture and to help bind the cake together. Plain vegan yogurt should work well as a substitute.
Vegan butter - You need vegan butter (like Earth Balance) to make the cake and vegan coconut buttercream. For an even stronger flavor in the cakes and/or icing, try using melted and softened coconut oil instead.
Step 1: Make the dry mix. Whisk the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and shredded coconut together in a mixing bowl.
Step 2: Mix the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the coconut milk, applesauce, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar together. Finish by folding in the melted butter.
Step 3: Finish the batter. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, then mix until they just come together.
Step 4: Bake. Pour the batter into your prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let them cool in the pans for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Step 5: Make the icing. While you wait for the cakes to cool, toast the coconut in a skillet until it’s golden brown. Next, beat the butter, coconut milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar together until you have a smooth icing.
Step 6: Decorate, then serve. Place one cooled cake layer on a cake stand and spread some icing on top. Finish with a sprinkle of some of the toasted coconut. Place the other cake layer on top and decorate the tops and sides with the rest of the icing and coconut. Slice and enjoy!
Tips and FAQs
- Whisk the coconut milk. Most cans of coconut milk are lumpy, which is why you’ll need to whisk the milk on its own before combining it with the rest of the wet ingredients.
- Don’t over-mix the batter! Only mix the dry mix into the wet until they just come together and no dry flour streaks remain. If you keep mixing, the cake will be dense and lose its fluffiness.
- Toast the coconut very carefully. It will burn easily if it gets too hot or you walk away from the stove.
- Decoration ideas. Transform this into a vegan pina colada cake by topping it with pineapple wedges and maraschino cherries! Otherwise, fresh fruit, like kiwi, cherries, or bananas, pair nicely and are easy last-minute decorations.
Can I use this recipe to make cupcakes instead?
Absolutely! You can follow my vegan-friendly coconut cupcakes recipe or make this recipe as normal, then bake the cupcakes in a lined muffin tin for 25 to 30 minutes
Can coconut cake be made gluten free?
I haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour, but you can try replacing the cake flour with a high-quality all purpose gluten free flour blend.
Can I use a different cake pan?
Sure. You can bake the entire batch of cake batter in a 10-inch square pan or bundt pan instead of the two 8-inch round pans. Just watch the cake carefully, as the baking times may vary.
- Refrigerator: The decorated cake or plain cake layers will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. The icing can also be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for about 3 days.
- Freezer: Wrap the cake layers in a layer of plastic and aluminum foil, then freeze for up to 3 months.
More vegan cake recipes
If you made this recipe, be sure to leave a comment and star rating below. Thanks!
Vegan Coconut Cake
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 ½ cups cane sugar
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup shredded coconut I used sweetened
- ½ cup vegan butter melted and cooled to room temperature
- 14 oz. coconut milk canned; full fat
- 1 cup applesauce
- 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
for the icing:
- ½ cup vegan butter softened
- 5 tablespoon coconut milk canned
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup shredded coconut sweetened; toasted
- Preheat oven to 350° and line two 9" cake pans with parchment paper; set aside. Next, melt the butter then set it aside and allow it to cool to room temperature.
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and shredded coconut together.
- In a separate large bowl, whisk the coconut milk until it's smooth, removing as many lumps as possible, then add the applesauce, vanilla and apple cider vinegar and stir to combine. Last, pour in the melted butter and stir. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet, using an electric mixer to stir the batter, being careful not to over-mix.
- Divide the batter into the prepared cake pans, then bake the cake for 33-38 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then carefully invert them onto a cooling rack. Allow the cakes to cool completely before icing them.
- While you're waiting for the cakes to cool, toast the coconut for the icing. Pour the shredded coconut into a skillet and heat it over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until the coconut is golden-brown and toasted; pour into a bowl and let it cool.
- For the icing: whisk the butter, coconut milk and vanilla together. NOTE: for the coconut milk, just use the cream that's on the top of the can. Then, pour in the powdered sugar and mix until the icing is smooth.
- Once the cakes have cooled, place one cake on a cake stand, then add a large dollop of icing and spread it around. Add some of the toasted coconut on top, using your hands to press it down. Add the second cake on top and repeat this process, icing the entire cake and pressing toasted coconut onto the top and sides. Slice and enjoy!
UPDATE NOTE: This post was originally published in February 2019. It was updated with new text and photos in March 2023.
Can we use coconut vinegar ?
Hi -- I'm not sure what that is? So I'm going to say no.
Love your site. This looks absolutely fantastic.
Yummy! Gonna try this one this weekend.
Emilia Medina says
I've made this before and everyone loved it! I do have a question though, can I use half of the batter for the cake and make cupcakes with the rest? If so, how long do I put them for?
I'd bake the cupcakes for around 30 minutes!
First time making vegan anything, first time using whole wheat flour, and I am pleasantly surprised at the taste. It's very good! I used coconut sugar and it has a really nice molasses flavor, but not overpowering the coconut flavor. I made it for tomorrow and I hope the icing doesn't get too hard. The icing is just delicious! Question: you wouldn't happen to have nutritional facts on this?? Thanks for the recipe!
Yay I'm glad you like it! I'd say just don't put the cake in the refrigerator and the icing should be ok. If it does harden I promise it'll still be delicious! Unfortunately I don't have the nutrition info, but you can put it into a tracker like MyFitnessPal.
Can we skip applesauce? Or what alternative can we use intead of it?
Hi! So I wouldn't skip the applesauce because it's going to help make the cake nice and moist. If you don't have applesauce, you could use dairy free yogurt instead (or regular yogurt if you're not vegan).
Could I make this a day ahead, frosted and all, and then let it sit out for a few hours to get to room temp? Trying to figure out logistics as in making it for an event. I’m so excited to make it!
Yes I think that should work!