A beautiful layered chocolate coconut cake with 3 layers of chocolate cake, coconut buttercream frosting, chocolate ganache, and toasted coconut decorations. If you love the combination of chocolate and coconut, this is the cake for you! There's no coconut mixed into the cake because a lot of people don't like the texture, but we've provided notes on how to add it.
This is a boiling water chocolate cake, which are famously light, chocolate-y, and excellent for layered cakes. If you're not familiar, it's an old method and it's fantastic. For more impressive cakes, try a classic Victoria sponge with jam and cream or a lemon olive oil cake in a beautiful bundt pan.
For the Cake
For the Frosting
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Cocoa: don't use Dutch process for this recipe. The cake is leavened with baking soda, which won't work with Dutch process cocoa. Regular baking cocoa or natural cocoa are good.
- Coconut extract: this can be found with other extracts at the grocery store. It's potent, so we recommend measuring carefully and don't be tempted to add more.
- Shortening: we haven't tested this, but it should work to use coconut oil in place of shortening. This would add a little boost to the coconut flavour.
- Make it dairy-free: use a plant-based milk to replace whole milk in the cake. Use vegan buttercream frosting with a dash of coconut extract in place of the coconut buttercream.
Use the JUMP TO RECIPE button at the top, or scroll to the bottom of the post to see the printable recipe card with full ingredient measurements and complete instructions.
Step 1: whisk the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Step 2: in a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar, oil, milk, eggs, and vanilla to combine.
Step 3: add the dry ingredients to the milk mixture and mix to combine.
Step 4: divide the batter evenly between three cake tins.
Step 5: bake the cakes for about 35 minutes, then cool fully.
Step 6: mix the butter, shortening, and extract, then sift in the powdered sugar.
Step 7: beat until very smooth and creamy.
Step 8: frost the cooled cakes and decorate as you'd like before serving.
- Add coconut: if you like the texture of coconut, mix in about a cup of unsweetened shredded coconut to the dry ingredients of the cake. If you'd like to have it in the frosting, beat in the same amount after the frosting is mixed.
- Use a bag: for even distribution, use a piping bag to pipe the icing between each layer and on the outside of the cake.
- Do a toothpick test: this is a dark, almost black, chocolate cake and it's hard to tell when it's baked based on colour alone. Check the middle of the cakes with a wooden toothpick or skewer – if it comes out clean, the cakes are done.
- Add a crumb coat: for the neatest cake, do a crumb coat and then refrigerate the cake for at least half an hour before finishing the frosting and decorations.
The cakes must be completely cool before frosting, or the frosting will melt. If you think you might be short on time we suggest baking the cakes a day in advance (or more, see below) and frosting the day you plan to serve.
As usual, you should use room temperature ingredients for the best results. The cake batter probably won't curdle if the ingredients are cold, because it's made with oil, but it will rise more evenly if the ingredients are all at the same temperature.
How to Store
Storage: the frosted cake will keep for 3-4 days in a sealed container in the fridge, and can be stored at room temperature for a day or two. Keep the baked cakes, without frosting, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Layer some parchment or wax paper between the cakes if stored in one container to prevent them from sticking.
Freezing: the fully assembled cake can be frozen for up to a month and thawed in the fridge before serving. Baked cakes can be frozen for up to 2 months, wrapped well or in an airtight container, and the frosting can be frozen separately in an airtight container for up to a month. Thaw both at room temperature and assemble (you might need to give the frosting a quick mix if it's separated a little).
How do you get coconut to stick to cake?
To get the coconut decorations to stick to the outside of the cake, you have to add them right after frosting. The frosting is still at its softest at that point so the coconut flakes will stick easily.
How can I toast coconut for cake?
For raw coconut flakes, preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) and place the flakes onto a lined baking sheet. Toast, stirring a couple of times, for about 10 minutes or until golden.
If you make this Chocolate Coconut Cake recipe or any other cake recipes on the Baked Collective, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe. For more baking, follow along on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
Chocolate Coconut Cake
- Measuring cups and spoons or a digital kitchen scale
- 2 large mixing bowls
- 3 8-inch (20-cm) round cake tins
- Parchment paper
- Piping bag optional
For The Chocolate Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
For The Coconut Frosting
- 2 cups butter room temperature to soft
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 tablespoon coconut extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 cups powdered sugar
Make The Chocolate Cake Layers
- Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Lightly grease three 8-inch (20 cm) cake tins with vegetable oil and line with parchment paper.
- Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. Set aside.2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- Add the sugar, vegetable oil, milk, eggs, and vanilla to a mixing bowl. Mix well to combine.2 cups granulated sugar, 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup whole milk, 2 large eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Add the flour to the wet mixture and mix on low speed to combine. Stop when only a few streaks of flour remain. Add the boiling water and mix well.1 cup boiling water
- Divide the cake batter evenly between the three prepared cake tins (about 530 grams per cake). Place the tins in the oven and bake for 33 to 35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
- Remove the tins from the oven and transfer to wire racks. Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes before turning them out directly onto the racks to cool completely.
Make The Coconut Frosting
- Mix the butter, shortening, coconut extract, and salt until smooth and creamy. Sift in the powdered sugar. Mix on low to combine. Once the sugar is mixed in, increase the speed to high for one minute.2 cups butter, 1 cup shortening, 1 tablespoon coconut extract, ¼ teaspoon salt, 6 cups powdered sugar
Assemble The Cake
- Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the cakes. Place one cake on a serving plate or platter.
- Spread ½ to ¾ cup of icing on the cake top. Place a second cake on top and repeat. Place the third layer on top. Ice the cake with the remaining frosting.
- Garnish the cake with toasted coconut, chocolate ganache, or anything else you like before serving.
- For even distribution, use a piping bag to pipe the icing between each layer and on the outside of the cake.