My Mom’s Best Ever Coconut Cake is a decadent poke cake topped with whipped cream and coconut. My family fights over the last slice every time I make it!
Where do I even start with this coconut cake? It’s been around my family’s dinner table for years. Every time there’s a birthday or holiday or get together party type thing I’m asked to make this cake. It’s THE dessert around here. (Okay maybe only second to my husband’s obsession with angel food cake.)
This coconut cake recipe is super easy to make. You’ll need to spend some time going through the steps, but there’s nothing tricky about it.
All it takes is one bite for everyone to start requesting you to bring this coconut poke cake around all the time.
My mom made this cake one night when we came over to her house for dinner, and now I fantasize about it. It’s the best coconut cake recipe I’ve ever had.
The cake itself is moist like a tres leches cake and has a tender crumb with a subtle coconut flavor. Top that off with coconut flavored whipped cream and tons of shredded coconut for the perfect slice.
I double-dog dare you not to fall in love with this cake.
I can’t tell you guys how many times I’ve made this cake. I sat on this recipe for a good year or two before finally baking it up myself. But once I did… I couldn’t stop! Ready to get baking?
Coconut Poke Cake Ingredients
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Coconut oil
- Egg whites
- Cream of tartar
- Evaporated milk
- Sweetened condensed milk
Coconut Cake Frosting
- Heavy cream
- Coconut extract
- Sweetened flaked coconut
If you want, you can go ahead and swap out coconut cream for heavy cream. Whip it up just like normal to make coconut whipped cream. You can leave out the coconut extract if you’re using coconut cream.
My Aunt Cindy tells me to put your coconut cream in the fridge. Then open the bottom side of the can (if you chilled it upright) and drain the water. Then whip up the solidified cream in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients.
How to Make Coconut Cake
- Start off by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F. Then you grab a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish and grease it with some butter or non-stick cooking spray. Then you’ll add some flour to the dish and roll it around until the whole inside is floured.
- Be sure to turn the pan upside down and tap any excess flour into the sink. You just want a light coating of flour over the fat. Set your dish aside for now.
- To make the batter, add the sugar, shortening, and coconut oil to a large mixing bowl. Beat until the fats and sugar at medium speed until they are combined. You can use a stand mixer or hand mixer here. Next, you’ll add in the vanilla and coconut extracts and beat that into the sugar mixture.
- Now you’ll add in half of the flour mixture and beat everything together. It’s going to look really dry and have a sandy texture. That’s okay. Once the flour is mixed in, add all of the water and mix the batter. After that, add the rest of the flour and mix once more until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.
- Let the batter hang out for a minute while you prep the egg whites. Add the egg whites and cream of tartar to a medium mixing bowl. Beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
- Add the beaten egg whites to the batter and fold them in. Once everything is incorporated, pour the cake batter into your prepared baking dish.
- Pop your cake into the oven and let it bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The edges will be golden and pulling away from the side of the baking dish too.
- Carefully remove your cake from the oven and let it cool to room temperature on a wire cooling rack.
- Once the cake has cooled, use the back end of a wooden spoon to poke holes all over the cake. You could also use a fork or any other smallish instrument to make the holes.
- To make this a poke cake something needs to go into all those holes. Add the evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk in a small mixing bowl and whisk them together. Then pour the mixture all over the cake. Then give it a minute to soak in.
- Whipped cream time! Add the heavy cream sugar, vanilla, and coconut extract to a medium mixing bowl. Beat all the ingredients on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread your whipped cream ALL over the cake, out to the edges of the baking dish.
- Then all you have to do is sprinkle shredded coconut over the top of the cake and you’re done!
I like to refrigerate my coconut poke cake for at least 30 minutes before serving. You can absolutely make this cake ahead of time and let it hang out in the fridge until you’re ready.
This coconut cake takes time. This is not an “I need a cake in 30 minutes for a party! Ahhhhh!” recipe. This is a do part 1, wait, do part 2, wait, and THEN eat kind of recipe. It’s 100% percent worth the wait!!
Or just pry up the cover a little a eat it a fork full at a time when no one’s looking. I’d be the last person to judge you for that. Actually, I’d be right behind with my own bigger fork.
Should you refrigerate coconut cake?
Yes. This cake has a whipped cream topping that needs to be kept cold. Refrigerating also helps the cake cut into neater slices when it’s time to serve it up.
How long does coconut cake last in the fridge?
This cake will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. We’ve pushed to 5 days and it’s been fine, but it’s better to eat this cake sooner rather than later.
I completely adore this cake and I’m sure you will too. I totally have plans to hoard the whole thing and not share it with anyone. Ha!
Okay, I’ll probably pass some off to the neighbors so it doesn’t go to waste. I always end up making the whole recipe instead of a small, half-size cake. (Use a 9-inch by 9-inch pan if ya want to half the recipe!) But there are worse things in life than cake. Amiright?!
Need a slice of something sweet? Try these other crazy good cakes!
- Angel Food Cake
- Rum-Soaked Honey Pound Cake
- Homemade Carrot Cake
- Guinness Gingerbread
- Brown Sugar Bacon Chocolate Cake
- More dessert recipes
Mom's Best Ever Coconut Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish.
- In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form; set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together shortening and sugar. Beat in vanilla and coconut extract.
- Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, alternating with water, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Fold egg whites into the batter until just combined.
- Pour batter into prepared baking dish, and spread evenly.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely in the pan (about 1 hour).
- Poke holes in the cake’s surface using the back end of a wooden spoon.
- Whisk together the evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk. Pour the milk mixture all over your cake so it gets into all the holes you just made.
- Beat together whipping cream, sugar, coconut extract, and vanilla until stiff peaks form.
- Spread whipped cream over the entire cake and out to the edges of the pan. Sprinkle top of cake with shredded coconut. Cover and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. When you're ready to eat, cut the cake into 12 slices and enjoy!
- You can substitute all shortening instead of shortening and coconut oil. Just be sure to add 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract to the cake batter if you make this substitution.
- You can also make real coconut whipped cream instead by substituting coconut cream for the heavy cream. You can leave out the coconut extract if you do this.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.