Chocolate coconut cake

Chocolate coconut cake with coconut meringue buttercream frosting

Have you ever stayed up at night because you couldn’t stop thinking about cake? I have. Maybe it’s because I’m over-tired. Maybe I’m obsessed. I have a list of cakes I want to make –at least 20 of them, and this one made it to the top. A perfectly rich chocolate coconut cake paired with coconut meringue buttercream frosting. What could be better for a coconut and chocolate lover?

Chocolate coconut cake recipe

Chocolate coconut cake

There are a few things I love about this cake (besides how amazingly good it tastes). You see, it looks incredible from the outside. Even without cutting it open, this cake tells you how good it is before you even take a bite. But then you cut through the coconut shavings and fluffy white frosting and see the chocolate. It kind of makes my knees shake. Unlike a heavy German chocolate, this cake has a light-as-air meringue buttercream that melts in your mouth. The coconut flavors are layered throughout, yet the coconut is still understated. You taste it on the backend, after the chocolate and the frosting, and it lingers a little until your next bite.

I’ve made this chocolate cake recipe a few times (see chocolate espresso cake and chocolate cake with mousse filling and port wine frosting). It’s a damn good recipe. This time, I adapted it by adding coconut milk, coconut oil and I cut the sugar in half. I don’t need that extra cup of sugar in my life and neither does this cake. It stays moist for a long time, and I think it gets better by the day.

Did I mention the frosting is phenomenal? The recipe is from Brown Eyed Baker and it is yummy to the extreme. In fact, everyone in my house at the time was eating finger-fulls of it. Paired with the crunchy, barely salted coconut flakes, it is mind blowing good. In an adult way. It’s not overly sweet. This is a sophisticated icing that takes itself seriously. I’m not kidding. If you had some, you would just nod your head in agreement and say, “Yes, that makes perfect sense.”

I’m happy to add a Swiss buttercream recipe to my cake accumulation. Now that I feel somewhat comfortable making cakes, I felt this needed to be my next challenge. After making a French buttercream, the Swiss was a cinch. Yes, I had to stand there at the mixer for longer than I wanted. Yes, the whole thing curdled on me and I thought all was lost. But we made it back from the abyss and it was all worth it. Because this week, we eat cake.

Coconut chocolate cake recipe

Chocolate coconut cake


Chocolate coconut cake with coconut meringue buttercream frosting

Yield: 8 servings

Cake recipe adapted from Ina Garten's "Beatty's Chocolate Cake."
Coconut Meringue Buttercream Frosting recipe by Brown Eyed Baker


    Chocolate cake:
  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the baking pans
  • 1 cup sugar (original recipe has 2)
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk, shaken
  • 1/2 cup coconut or vegetable oil
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed, strong hot coffee
  • Coconut meringue frosting:
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more if preferred)
  • ⅔ cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut


To make the cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F/177°C.

Butter and flour two 8 inch cake pans. I use a paper towel to smear the butter around, and then tilt the pans over the sink to make sure the flour covers every bit of the pan. You can line them with parchment on the bottom, but my cakes came out fine without.

Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, blend together the coconut milk, oil, eggs and vanilla. Using an electric mixer on a low speed, slowly combine the wet and dry ingredients. Once combined, mix in the hot coffee.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until they are done and a wooden cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 30 minutes, and then remove them from the pans to cool on a wire rack.

To make the frosting:

Using a small heat-proof bowl (or double boiler), whisk the egg whites and sugar together. Place over a saucepan with an inch of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Heat the mixture for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until is hot to the touch and the sugar is completely dissolved (rub the mixture between your fingers to make sure).

Transfer the egg white mixture to a mixing bowl and whip on medium-high speed for another 6-8 minutes. It should be a stiff white meringue that is cool to the touch. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter a few pieces at a time. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 4-5 minutes.

At this point, the frosting should be smooth and glossy.

If the frosting curdled like mine did the first time, try separating out about a cup of frosting and heat it in the microwave for about 20 seconds or less. Slowly pour back into your bowl while beating on high. This will usually work like a charm to save a meringue buttercream.

Now that your frosting is light and creamy, add the vanilla extract, salt and coconut milk. Give it another whip on medium speed until the frosting is smooth. If it looks separated, just keep whipping until it comes together.

Use this frosting within 30 minutes, or store at room temperature for 1 day. Whip again with an electric mixer if stored.

To assemble:

When cool, level the cake tops if necessary. Place one cake layer on a stand and frost with a generous amount of frosting, spreading it to the edges and leveling with a spatula. Place the second cake layer on top. Cover the top and sides with a thin layer of frosting (crumb coat) and refrigerate 15-20 minutes.

Mix the frosting a little, then add the remaining to the cake and spread evenly. Using your hand, press the shredded coconut into the icing.



  • Mimi Arcese

    Wow that looks fantastic ! I love it ! looks like my favorite combination chocolate and coconut. As a kid my grandmother always fed us the coconut candies from her box of chocolates, she didn’t like coconut and always pawned those off on us kids. We we just little so what did we know candy was candy. To this day each of us has a certain flavor we love because of her cast offs. To this day this combination is my favorite, from Mounds to Hostess snowballs Yum !.

  • Marni Mutrux

    Thanks Mimi! Mounds are my favorite! I get a bag every year for Halloween-and it usually gets “lost” somewhere before the trick or treating begins. I was thinking a Mounds cake would be good…a moist coconut cake made in a loaf pan, covered in a layer of mounded, sweetened coconut, then drenched in ganache. What do you think?

  • Naomi Regan

    This is without doubt the most amazing dairy free chocolate coconut sponge recipe I’ve ever tried. Amazing, moist, rich sponge, not too sweet and perfectly balanced coconut melt in your mouth flavours. The topping tastes perfect with it, but unfortunately mine did split at the end. It didn’t affect the flavour so I just put it on anyway and hid it with coconut! I did do the trick of putting a cup of the mixture into the microwave and it worked at first but it split again twice so I just left it 🙂 still, best recipe ever! Thanks!

  • Amy

    Hi. I’m going to attempt this recipe today and since the peeps sin my office are off tomorrow (I’m not) I wanted to take it with me on Tuesday. I’m planning to frost tomorrow buts will the meringue frosting be okay until Tuesday for the office to enjoy? I always like to make cakes the day before being cut but there isn’t always the time on work days. Hope to hear from you soon. Looks delicious and I can’t wait…the frosting looks intimidating as I have been able to get that type to work.

    • Marni Mutrux

      Hello Amy!
      The meringue frosting will be fine if you keep in in the fridge overnight. It will travel better, too. If you want the coconut to stay on better, you can mix it right into the frosting, too. Then pat a little onto the sides for presentation. Let me know how it goes!

      • Amy

        Hi Marni!
        First, excuse the typos in my original comment. That’s what happens when I type on the phone or ipad.

        I think I got the frosting to work. yay! I wasn’t sure if by hot you meant burning to the touch. When I touched it, it was warm but then all the sugar was dissolved. That took me about 10 mins which was a little over your estimate. Then I didn’t know if I use the whisk or paddle on the electric mixer so I started with the paddle but it seemed odd so I switched to the whisk which was much better. I went 6-8 mins and then slowly started adding the butter. Nothing was happening except the frosting started to look really thin. I questioned adding the coconut milk. I carried on with adding all the butter. I let it go on high speed for a few more minutes and then added the vanilla, salt and as I was opening the can of coconut milk boy did the texture to the frosting change. I was getting a little worried. It’s like it curdled but didn’t if that makes sense. So I added the coconut milk and it thinned it back out to a smooth consistency. It tastes semi sweet which is how I remember meringue buttercream tasting, very light and a hint of coconut. Now that the frosting was a success I can justify making the cake. I’d rather keep the coconut separate to allow easier spreading onto the cake. I’ll put the frosting in the fridge until tomorrow (Monday) night when I frost the cake and hope it holds overnight on the cake. Do I need to put the cake into the fridge once frosted? I’ve always made cakes and cookies and kept them at room temp so it’s a bit out of character for me to put something like this as a finished state into the fridge. Please let me know what you think. Thanks for the response…much appreciated. Sorry for novel reply.

  • Marni Mutrux

    Hi Amy! I’m happy it worked for you. The frosting did the same thing when I made it, I thought it would be too runny with the coconut milk, but it all worked in the end. It is NOT necessary to chill the cake when it’s frosted, unless you want to firm up the frosting prior to transport/serving. It’s really up to you. Just make sure everything is room temp for spreading and you should be fine.
    Enjoy! I’m sure it will be a hit!

  • Amy

    Hi Marni, Oops before checking to see if you had responded I had taken the frosting out of the fridge and started to whip. I was like ut oh…something is definitely wrong, looks curdled. Now I backtrack and check for your reply and oooooh i have to wait until it’s at room temperature. I hope it will smooth out once it’s room temp. I tasted some crumbs to the cake and it doesn’t seem very sweet…did you find this to be true too? I have the frosting on the counter so hopefully it will work once it gets to room temp. Fingers Crossed!

  • Amy

    Yes…pheww it worked and I frosted it late last night. Gosh that frosting is a weird one. I put the cake in the fridge as I wanted to make sure the frosting didn’t ooze and slide off. I’m taking it to work this morning. We’ll see how it tastes and what the peeps think. Thanks so much for your patience while I walk through this step by step via comments.

  • Amy

    Success! Wow. Now that is a wonderful cake. Incredibly beautiful too once cut. Love the contrast of light and dark. It’s super moist (thank you oil) and the frosting is so light…the entire cake for that matter is super light. Thank you for sharing and indulging my play by play.

  • Fiona

    Hey, this looks amazing! I’m just wondering if there’s anything I could use instead of coffee? Not a huge fan of coffee really but think if I omit it, it will change the texture of the cake… Any suggestions?? thanks 🙂

  • Marni Mutrux

    You don’t taste the coffee at all, but if you want a substitute, hot water will work just fine. or you could try a half cup of hot water mixed with unsweetened coconut milk for more flavor.

  • Sarah

    Hi there, just wondering if you use coconut oil if it should be melted first so it’s a liquid or whether it will be okay to mix in with the other liquid ingredients still in a solid state. Thanks!

    • Marni Mutrux

      Hello Sarah! I used room temperature coconut oil in my recipe–if yours is solid, warm it until just melted to incorporate. Even if it gets a little chilled while mixing (which can make it lumpy again), the hot coffee will melt the coconut oil before baking.

      • Sarah

        Thanks for that. I made the cake last week and melted the oil and the the cake turned out very well. I also used egg replacer as my daughter is allergic to eggs and then iced it with whipped coconut cream, sweetened and flavoured with cocoa – delicious!

  • Amanda

    I just made this cake an its great, not too sweet. For the icing I don’t know if I should use the whisk or paddle attachment. I’m using the paddle and it seems to be okay but I’m not sure. It’s taking a really long time, I’ve never made meringue before so I don’t know if this is right. It isn’t forming peaks, but it tastes okay. Im just gonna go for it and see what happens. Should I have used the whisk tho?

  • Joyce B in ID

    Okay, people you can make this! I just did. I made a couple of cupcakes from the batter, tried it with the icing…divine! The icing is NOT difficult. I completed mine with no problem and I’ve never made Swiss buttercream before but it is fabulous and easy. The cake is simply stunning. I made it for a bridal shower. Good luck!

  • Renelda

    Tried this, it turned out horribly. The frosting didn’t whip properly and I thought the cake was good. I tried the batter before baking but after it was already and I served it it had a horrible after taste and was very strange. I bake a lot and make many different recipes which all turn out wonderfully. I was so disappointed with this and will not be making it again.

  • Luisa

    I’m so happy I stumbled upon this recipe because this cake is Perfect!!!!!!! It’s uncomplicated, super moist, not to sweet, and just plain delicious. The light airy frosting together with the rich chocolate cake is simply a match made in heaven. Instead of sugar, I substituted honey in the cake and coconut sugar in the frosting. I also substituted toasted unsweetened coconut for the sweetened coconut. Since I had just enough coconut milk for the frosting, I used a cup a regular whole milk in the cake. Thank you so much for posting this Marni, this is one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever made, and I will definitely be making this cake again in the future!

  • Sara

    In case anyone was wondering….the kind of coconut milk for drinking RUINS the frosting. 🙁 Trying again for the 3rd time with canned coconut milk…

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