Coconut Chiffon Cake


This dreamy cake is a masterpiece.

Active Time:
1 hrs 15 mins
Total Time:
14 hrs 25 mins
10 to 12

Coconut is the doyenne of Southern layer cakes, a masterpiece of home cookery that has crowned dining room sideboards for more than a hundred years. Purists sing the praises of simple but divine, opting for coconut water-doused cake layers and dreamy swirls of meringue. With this latest creation, we opted for a thick and rich filling.

Southern Living Coconut Chiffon Cake on a platter with a serving cut out beside it

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox



  • 2 ½ cups sifted cake flour

  • 1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon table salt

  • ½ cup canola oil

  • 5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar

  • Shortening

Coconut-Mascarpone Filling

  • 1 (8-oz.) container mascarpone cheese

  • ½ cup powdered sugar

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • ¾ cup whipping cream

  • 1 (6-oz.) package frozen grated coconut, thawed

White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 ½ (4-oz.) white chocolate baking bars, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream

  • 1 cup butter, softened

  • 3 cups sifted powdered sugar, divided

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 3 cups sweetened flaked coconut


  1. Prepare Cake Layers: Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together sifted cake flour and next 3 ingredients in bowl of an electric stand mixer. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add oil, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and ¾ cup water. Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth.

  2. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of egg whites into batter; fold remaining whites into batter. Spoon batter into 4 greased (with shortening) and floured 8-inch round shiny cake pans (about 2 cups batter in each pan).

  3. Bake at 350°F for 12 to 14 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (Do not overbake--cakes will be a very pale golden color.) Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 30 minutes).

  4. Prepare Filling: Stir together mascarpone cheese, ½ cup powdered sugar, and 1 Tbsp. vanilla in a large bowl just until blended.

  5. Beat ¾ cup cream at low speed with an electric mixer until foamy; increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture until well blended. Add thawed grated coconut, and stir just until blended. Spread mixture between cake layers (about 1 ⅓ cups per layer). Cover with plastic wrap, and chill 12 hours.

  6. Prepare White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: Microwave chopped white chocolate and 2 Tbsp. whipping cream in a microwave-safe bowl at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 to 1 ½ minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals. Cool completely (about 20 minutes).

  7. Beat 1 cup softened butter and 2 cups powdered sugar at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Add white chocolate mixture, 2 tsp. vanilla, and remaining 1 cup powdered sugar, and beat at high speed 2 to 3 minutes or until fluffy. Spread frosting on top and sides of cake. Cover top and sides of cake with 3 cups flaked coconut, gently pressing coconut into frosting.

    Southern Living Coconut Chiffon Cake on a platter ready to serve

    Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox


We tested with Birds Eye Tropic Isle Fresh Frozen Flake Grated Coconut and Mounds Sweetened Coconut Flakes. Test Kitchen Tip: Be sure to measure flour after sifting. (If you measure before sifting, you'll end up with too much flour and a dry cake.) Check for doneness at the minimum bake time—even 1 or 2 minutes of extra baking can also create a dry cake.

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