Today's light and fruity Lemon Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd Filling and Whipped Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting is the perfect dessert for spring!
Lemon cakes are a year-round favorite but in the spring, we especially crave lemon cakes and all sorts of flavorful fruity combinations.
Lemon and coconut are a match made in heaven, and this light, ultra moist dessert has the perfect balance of lemon flavor and coconut.
One of the things that makes this delicious lemon cake different from the others is that we've folded coconut right into the batter. We've made a coconut layer cake in the past with lemon filling which is another great combination, but today's cake has the lemon cake front and center.
How to Make a Lemon Coconut Cake
Today's lemon cake is a moist lemon buttermilk cake with coconut folded into it. It is light, fluffy, and wonderfully moist!
We are using the conventional mixing method (as opposed to reverse creaming) which results in a nice, soft cake- and it all comes together very easily.
**Find the full, printable recipe further down-- but here is a quick rundown of the steps!
Preheat: Preheat oven (to 350 degrees f). In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt for 30 seconds to help distribute the ingredients and aerate.
Buttermilk Mixture: In another bowl, add the buttermilk, oil, lemon extract and lemon juice. Using buttermilk in the recipe is helpful as the acidity helps to soften the gluten (resulting in a softer cake)!
Butter and Sugar: In the bowl of your mixer, add the butter and mix at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and continue to mix on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until fluffy and light.
Eggs: Add the room temperature eggs one at a time (We like to wait until the yellow of the yolk disappears almost completely before adding the next)
Dry and Wet Ingredients: With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (I did 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of liquid).
Shredded Coconut: Finally, fold in the shredded coconut and divide the batter between the three prepared 8 inch cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 22-24 minutes until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched or until a toothpick comes out clean (or with just a few crumbs attached)
Lemon Curd and Coconut Whipped Cream Cheese Filling
Our moist lemon and coconut cake layers deserve to be filled with an equally luscious filling. That's where our lemon curd and coconut whipped cream cheese filling come in!
- If you've never tried our Lemon Curd filling, you are going to be amazed not only by the flavor (thanks to the fresh lemon juice and lemon zest) but also by how quickly it comes together over the heat of the stovetop.
- Making lemon curd is just a matter of combining sugar, corn starch, and water in a saucepan over medium heat and then combining with the butter, egg yolks, and lemon.
- The result is so silky smooth and wonderful! This tangy lemon curd is not overly tart- it has just the right amount of lemon to give your cakes and cupcakes an extra flavor boost!
- The lemon curd will thicken as it cools.
- After spreading our cake layer with lemon, we followed with coconut cream cheese filling so that we can keep the balance of coconut and lemon equal.
Whipped Coconut Cream Cheese Filling
We love cream cheese frosting recipes and have made tons of variations over the years. However, sometimes we want a lighter consistency to our frostings and fillings.
This is exactly what we wanted for today's cake, and so we used our go-to whipped cream cheese frosting recipe and added coconut extract. We only used a teaspoon of coconut extract but you can easily adjust it to your liking!
Whipped cream cheese frosting is just a matter of whipping up heavy cream in a cold bowl (with a cold whisk attachment preferably) on high speed until stiff peaks form.
Then, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and flavorings and then gently combine with the whipped cream. The result is just as you would imagine-- the whipped consistency is still there, but is slightly more stabilized by the cream cheese and sugar mixture.
* While I find it difficult to frost cakes with a perfectly smooth finish when working with whipped frostings like this - it pipes great and is fine to use for textured frostings (as we tried with out Butter Pecan Cake).
The decorating is especially easy when flaked coconut is involved! I simply frosted with coconut whipped cream cheese frosting and pressed the coconut into it.
Assembling the Coconut Lemon Cake
Place the first cool (or room temperature) cake layer on your cake base or cake stand.
Spread with a fairly thin layer of (cooled) lemon curd. The lemon curd at this point will have thickened to a very spreadable consistency. I like to spread softer fillings to about ¼ to ½ inch from the edge fo the cake to prevent it from escaping.
Is it necessary to pipe a dam?
If I were using a buttercream or cream cheese (not whipped) frosting, I would pipe a dam of buttercream about ¼ inch from the edge of the cake layer before adding a soft filling.
However, since our whipped coconut cream cheese filling is going to be used as our frosting as well, and it is no thicker than our lemon curd, we are skipping the dam today. Instead, just do not take the fillings all the way to the edge of the cake. This worked well for us!
Adding the Coconut Whipped Cream Cheese Filling
Spread a layer of coconut whipped cream cheese filling on top of the lemon curd. It will spread very easily. However, remember not to take it all the way to the edge of the cake. I sprinkled a little shredded coconut on top of the Whipped Coconut Cream Cheese layer of filling but this is optional ;0)
Stack the second layer and repeat the steps, spreading with a thin layer of lemon curd followed by the coconut whipped cream cheese frosting (and extra coconut if you like).
Finish with the final lemon coconut cake layer. At this point, I spread the top of the cake with lemon curd, and filled in the gaps in between the cake layers with coconut whipped cream cheese frosting (applied from a disposable piping bag with the tip snipped away).
This gives us a little extra insurance that everything will stay contained.
You can see the "fill in the gaps" step in the cake photo below- you can also see that I may have gotten a little carried away with the amount of lemon and coconut filling that I used! This meant larger gaps to fill with frosting ;0)
Next, frost the cake as usual around the sides with the coconut whipped cream cheese frosting, and press coconut flakes into it. I finished off the cake with a piped border around the top edge.
More Lemon and Coconut Recipes!
We've made lots of coconut cakes and lemon cakes over the years-- we just love both of these fruity flavors! In fact, we have a "sister recipe" to today's cake which is our Coconut Lemon Cake! In this recipe, coconut cake layers are used rather than lemon. Here are a few other cakes for you to try!:
Doctored Cake Mix Version of Lemon Coconut Cake
If you prefer working with doctored cake mixes, you are in luck! We have a DELICIOUS Lemon Coconut Cake- Doctored Mix cake recipe!
The layers are so moist with a fine crumb and have a light lemon flavor. You will love this recipe!
Sharing The Best Cake Recipes and Cake Tutorials!
Thanks so much for stopping by today! We hope that you'll give this Lemon Coconut Cake recipe a try. If you do, we would love for you to leave a comment and photo below!
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Lemon Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd Filling
You'll love these moist lemon cake layers with coconut baked right into the batter. The filling of lemon curd and whipped coconut cream cheese frosting is heavenly!
For the Lemon Coconut Cake Layers
- 1 ½ sticks (170g) unsalted butter, softened ( holds it shape but dents when pressed)
- 2 cups (400g) sugar
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 3 cups (342g) cake flour (spooned into measuring cup and leveled off) If you do not have cake flour see substitution in Notes below.
- 2 teaspoons (8g) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (3g) baking soda
- ½ teaspoon (3g) salt
- 1 ¼ cups (296g) buttermilk — if you do not have buttermilk, see substitution below
- ¼ cup (57g) lemon juice
- ¼ cup (54g) vegetable oil
- 1 Tablespoon (10g) Lemon Extract
- 1 ½ cup (113g) sweetened coconut (shredded)
- Zest of two lemons
For the Lemon Curd Filling
- ¾ cup (150g) sugar
- ¼ cup (30g) cornstarch
- 1 cup (236g) water
- 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 2 Tablespoons (18g) butter
- 1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
For the Coconut Whipped Cream Cheese Filling and Frosting
- Two 8 ounce (423g total weight) packages cream cheese, softened. It must bee full fat, not reduced fat or cream cheese in a tub, those are too soft.
- 2 cups (230g) powdered sugar, sift then measure
- 2 teaspoons (8g) vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon (4g) coconut extract
- 3 cups (696g) heavy whipping cream
- *Optional: We sprinkled some coconut between the cake layers on top of the filling.
For the outside of the cake
- Additional coconut to press into the frosting
- Optional: Piping tip 2D for border
- **One 14 oz bag shredded coconut should be enough for the coconut used both inside and outside of the cake.
For the Lemon Coconut Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour three 8×2 inch round pans.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and zest for 30 seconds. Set aside
- In another bowl, add the buttermilk, oil and lemon extract and lemon juice. Set aside..
- In the bowl of your mixer, add the butter and mix at medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and continue to mix on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until lightened in color and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time mixing until the yellow of the yolk is blended.
- With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of liquid). Mix just until blended.
- Fold in the shredded coconut. Divide batter between three prepared 8 inch cake pans.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 22-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just few crumbs attached. Let cool 10 minutes and turn out.
For the Lemon Curd Filling
- Combine sugar, cornstarch and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil (3-4 minutes).
- Boil, stirring, for 1 minute more.. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Spoon about ½ cup of the hot mixture into a small bowl with egg yolks and stir quickly until combined. Continue stirring, while pouring the egg mixture back into the saucepan.
- Return pan to medium heat and cook, stirring, until the curd is thickened and lemon colored (1-2 min). Remove from heat and stir in the butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest.-- Let the lemon curd cool, then press plastic wrap onto the surface, this will prevent a skin from forming on the top. Refrigerate.
This will fill a 2-3 layer 8 or 9 inch cake with some leftover. The recipe can be halved.
(I have refrigerated the lemon curd for a week and it was fine....I'm not sure how long it will keep beyond that. Makes about 1 ¼ cups.)
For the Coconut Whipped Cream Cheese Filling and Frosting
- Freeze your mixing bowl and beaters 15 minutes before whipping the cream (30 minutes if chilling in the refrigerator.
- Use the whisk attachment for a stand mixer, beaters on your hand mixer. Beat the cream until stiff peaks form. This can happen very quickly so don't walk away from the mixer. You are at the stiff peak stage when you lift the beater and the cream stands straight or falls over slightly, Keep in the refrigerator while completing the next step.
- In another bowl combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar and extracts. Beat until very smooth. Fold the whipped cream into this mixture. Cover and refrigerate. If you are piping this frosting and it becomes too soft, just refrigerate the filled piping bag for a short while.
Assembling the Cake
- Place the first cake layer on the pedestal or cake base. Spread with lemon curd (stopping about ¼ to ½ inch from the edge of the cake layer.
- Spread the curd with a layer of the whipped cream cheese frosting. Repeat steps for the next layer, and top with the third layer. *I had enough lemon curd leftover to spread the top with lemon curd as well.
- Fill in any gaps between the cake layers with frosting- I do this by loading the frosting into a disposable piping bag with the tip snipped away. This step helps to keep the filling contained. (Normally I would pipe a dam of buttercream when working with soft fillings but we aren't working with buttercream today. This is why it's a good idea not to take the filling all the way to the edge of the cake.).
- Frost around the sides of the cake with the coconut whipped cream cheese frosting. Press coconut into the sides. Lemon curd is on top of the cake and I'm leaving that exposed. I piped a border using a 2D piping tip with the remaining frosting.
Substitute for Buttermilk: No Buttermilk? Here is a substitution: To a measuring cup, add 1 Tablespoon plus one teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice. Add milk to the 1 ¼ mark, stir. Wait 5 minutes and it is ready to use.
Substitution for Cake Flour: Using all purpose flour (plain in UK) to make Cake Flour: For each cup of flour in a recipe, remove 2 Tablespoons of flour and replace with 2 Tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour in the UK). This recipe has 3 cups of flour so you will measure out 3 cups of all purpose flour, remove 6 Tablespoons and replace with 6 Tablespoons cornstarch, whisk to blend
Recipe makes approximately 7 ½ cups batter.
*If making standard sized cupcakes with this recipe, bake at 350 for 18-20 .minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (or with a few crumbs attached).
Hi Jennifer, I don't think it would be a good idea to make the frosting in advance. Since the whipped cream is folded in it would deflate over time. You could make the cake layers in advance. Bake the layers, while they are still warm wrap individually in plastic wrap then in aluminum foil. When kept airtight they can be frozen for 2 months. You could also make the lemon curd at least 5 days in advance. Doing this would save you a lot of time. Hope all goes will and you enjoy the cake.
The cake tastes amazing. Got a lot of compliments on it. Made it for my mother’s birthday. The lemon curd tastes really great but I made it the day before I baked the cake and when I assembled the cake the curd was not as thick as day one. The icing was too soft also. Despite that, the cake still tasted fabulous.
Can this recipe be made with a lemon cake mix? If so, how do I modify it?
Hi Natasha, I used a cake mix and followed the directions on the box. I used 2 boxes and made 4 (9 inch) layers as they were on the thin side. The curd and the frosting from this recipie was outstanding. I did not have to make extra frosting as there rwas enough to fill between the layers and cover the cake.
I’d like to use this cake recipe as the base for a key lime coconut cake. Do you think I can just swap key lime extract and key lime juice for the lemon extract and juice?