Lemon-Coconut Cake


This bright and sunny layer cake was made to impress.

lemon coconut cake
Photo: Photographer: Greg DuPree, Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs

A gorgeous cake on a pretty serving plate is a must-have at many Southern holiday gatherings. This coconut-dusted layer cake takes a bright turn thanks to a sunny yellow filling that tastes like lemon curd, which makes it just right for an Easter dinner and other springtime celebrations. To help save on time, make the curd while your cakes are in the oven. It can cool in the fridge while your cakes cool to room temperature. The filling has the consistency of jam, so to ensure it stays put between the cake layers without dripping down their sides or causing them to slip and slide around, pipe a thick ribbon of the cream cheese frosting around the outer edge of each cake layer, which will serve as a dam to hold the filling in place. If you don't have a pastry bag for this bit of piping that no one will see, use a small plastic storage bag with one corner snipped off.



  • 1 cup (8 ounces) salted butter, softened, plus more for pans

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • 4 large eggs, separated

  • 3 (about 12 ¾ ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup whole milk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups (7 ounces) sweetened flaked coconut

  • Lemon wedges, for garnish

Lemon Filling

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • ¼ cup cornstarch

  • 1 cup boiling water

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus ⅓ cup fresh juice (from 2 lemons)

  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

  • ½ cup (4 ounce) unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. For the Lemon Filling: Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan; whisk in 1 cup boiling water. Cook over medium, whisking constantly, until sugar and cornstarch dissolve, about 2 minutes. Beat egg yolks in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk about ¼ of hot sugar mixture into egg yolks; add to remaining hot sugar mixture in pan, whisking constantly. Whisk in lemon zest and juice.

  2. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is significantly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter; cool completely, at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

  3. For the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour 3 (9-inch) round cake pans.

  4. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl if needed.

  5. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

  6. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites at high speed with electric mixer until stiff peaks form; about 6 minutes. Fold ⅓ of egg whites into batter. Gently fold in remaining beaten egg whites just until blended. Spoon batter evenly into prepared cake pans. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 22 to 28 minutes. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks, at least 1 hour.

  7. For the Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended, about 3 minutes; stir in vanilla.

  8. Assembly: Place 1 cake layer on desired serving platter or cake stand. Spoon ½ cup Cream Cheese Frosting into a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip (or a plastic bag with bottom corner cut off). Pipe a ½-inch ring of frosting around outer edge of cake layer. Spoon 1 cup Lemon Filling inside frosting ring, and spread evenly. Top with second cake layer, and repeat procedure with frosting ring and remaining 1 cup Lemon Filling. Place third cake layer on top; spread remaining Cream Cheese Frosting on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle sides of cake with coconut. Garnish with lemon wedges, if desired.

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