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What is Coconut Cake?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Any cake that has coconut in its batter, filling or frosting might be referred to as a coconut cake. Regardless of the name, though, the distinctive flavor and texture of coconut makes it easily noticed by anyone who is eating cake that has coconut in it. There are many variations of coconut cake, and bakers can find recipes that will really change the way the cake tastes. Many popular versions are two-layer cakes that use shredded coconut in the batter and the frosting and another fruit, such as strawberries or raspberries, in the filling between the layers. Some recipes also call for coconut milk.


The base of many coconut cakes is a simple white or yellow layer cake. White is typically preferred because the light color of the cake has great visual appeal when paired with grated coconut. These mixes are available in grocery stores, or bakers can make them from scratch. Many coconut cake recipes call for adding shredded coconut to the regular cake batter. Some people recommend using coconut milk or cream of coconut instead of liquids such as water or milk.

Sometimes, a coconut cake is called a poke cake. After baking the layers, the baker can poke holes in the cake and pour coconut milk or cream of coconut over the poked layers. The liquid will run into the holes, transferring the coconut flavor throughout the cake and making it particularly moist.


How a coconut cake is frosted will depend on the recipe. One fairly traditional recipe for frosting is seven-minute frosting — a combination of whipped egg whites and heated corn syrup or sugar and water. This makes a high fluffy frosting to which shredded coconut can be added before it is spread over the cake. Some bakers don’t add the coconut to the frosting but instead sprinkle it all around the frosted cake, pressing into the top and sides. Seven-minute frosting is sticky and will easily hold most of the shredded coconut in place.

Another type of frosting that some people prefer on coconut cake is a cream cheese-based frosting. This is more dense than seven-minute types of frosting and imparts more of a slightly sour taste, which can be an excellent contrast with the sweet cake and coconut flakes. Some recipes for the cake use a sour cream-based cake, which helps to provide more of this contrast.


Coconut cake typically is made as at least a two-layer cake, and some people like to use a contrasting filling instead of the frosting as filling. Lemon filling or raspberry or strawberry jam are some of the most popular types of filling between the layers. If the cake is iced and filled with only one frosting, some people like to add chocolate sauce or raspberry topping for additional flavor. Each forkful of fluffy cake also can be dipped into the sauce or topping, which makes for a decadent dessert.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon44397 — On Sep 07, 2009

You can also add the coconut liquid (water) to the cake batter, or to the frosting. Cream of coconut is extremely sweet, so the cook should be very careful when adding it to the batter or frosting. It's a little like working with sweetened condensed milk. Very, very sweet.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia...
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