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Martha's Favorite

Coconut Layer Cake

This recipe yields a six-layer cake. However, if you prefer the look of five layers, the extra cake layer makes a delicious snack.

  • Yield: Makes three 6-inch layers
Coconut Layer Cake

Source: 10th Anniversary Cookbook; Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, 2000


  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour, not self-rising, plus more for pans
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Coconut Cream Filling
  • 11 ounces (about 3 3/4 cups) sweetened angel-flake coconut
  • Seven-Minute Frosting


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange two racks in the center of the oven. Line the bottom of three 6-by-2-inch buttered round cake pans with parchment paper. Dust the bottom and the sides of the cake pans with flour, and tap out any excess. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set the bowl aside.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-low speed until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, and keep beating until the mixture is fluffy and light in color, about 3 minutes. Gradually drizzle in egg yolks, beating on medium-low speed between each addition until the batter is no longer slick. Beat until the mixture is fluffy again, about another 3 minutes.

  3. Alternate adding flour mixture and sour cream to the batter, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Beat in vanilla. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans in the oven, if needed, for even browning. Transfer cake pans to wire racks to cool, about 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, and let cool completely on racks, tops up.

  4. To assemble, remove parchment paper from the bottoms of cakes. Split each layer in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Set aside the prettiest dome; it will be used for the final layer. Place another domed layer, dome side down, on the serving platter. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of flaked coconut over the cake. Spread a generous 1/2 cup coconut-cream filling over coconut flakes. Repeat sprinkling and spreading process on the remaining layers until all but the reserved domed layer are used. Top cake with the reserved domed layer. Transfer cake to the refrigerator to firm for 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator, and frost the outside of cake with seven-minute frosting. Sprinkle remaining coconut flakes all over cake while frosting is soft; do not refrigerate. Cake can be left out at room temperature for several days.

Cook's Note

Sweetened angel-flake coconut is available in grocery stores. You can bake the batter in two 8-by-2-inch cake pans, but the layers will be slightly thinner (place a baking sheet on the bottom rack in the oven to catch any spills).

Reviews (30)

  • hannahetsebeth 24 Nov, 2015

    I made this twice and could not get it to work. However, it worked 2 years ago when I made it. I'm so confused. I used 8" pans so I split it in half, but the layers were so thin, I couldn't cut it in half without it being awkwardly thin. Any ideas why mine are so much thinner than others? I followed the recipe to the T.

  • elainekyu 2 Jan, 2014

    I made this cake for a new years day dinner party and it was a huge hit! It took almost 4 hours but was definitely worth it. I used one 8" round cake pan (that's all I have), and was only able to make 2 cake layers out of it. Had way too much cream filling left over. The cake was crumbly and almost fell apart when I cut it in half horizontally- however the icing held everything together. You don't need to be a pro to make this cake look pretty. The coconut flakes will do all the work for you!

  • lbrauer 1 Jan, 2014

    Just made this cake. Cake is very tender to work with, the cream was watery but delicious and the frosting was very good. It didn't look picture perfect but was delicious!

  • wildsage1981 29 Oct, 2013

    .....also its very important to follow the frosting and cream instructions. If storing cream overnight, place the plastic wrap on top and cover tightly. I didn't cover tightly and only left the plastic and it got watered down. Don't leave frosting ingredients in fridge overnight without mixing.

  • wildsage1981 29 Oct, 2013

    Well I have to say that this recipe took awhile for me to complete. Lots of problems, all because I misplaced my cream of tartar! I had to put the frosting mixture in the fridge overnight without mixing it over the boiling water and then it wouldn't fluff so I had to remake it. Then my cream went watery because I didn't store it right overnight. My layers were fragile because they were too thin. I might try to leave some of the flour mixture out next time, it was too thick. I used 2 8inch pans.

  • elfhaven13 31 Jul, 2013

    For Justin B , you must make the layers thin in the pan or it is to much, I have found spreading it out into more pans than is called for to get beautiful layers and they are still thick not real skinny. Maybe check your oven temp or go down about 25 degrees? If using a convection oven I find the time takes longer?

  • elfhaven13 31 Jul, 2013

    I like the 6 inch cake pans and to measure sour cream I always use a dry measuring cup. I like the round or square cake pans. This is a great cake. I don't make the 7 minute frosting though. I like either the stabilized whipped cream or a light butter cream! I only use 2 cups of powdered sugar or I do the Italian Buttercream!!

  • justin 6 Jul, 2013

    Tried making it in a 12 inch x 4 inch pan but no luck. I did the recipe up x 3 but I can't get the middle of the cake to cook fully. I have tried the cone and flower nails at slower temp for longer time but still not fully cooked. Anyone, have any ideas of what I could do? Was looking to make a version of this cake for a wedding but cannot get the 12 inch layer to cook fully.

  • joanne evans2 18 Jun, 2013

    I would use a dry measure to measure the sour cream. Easier and more accurate.

  • taysiewleng 4 May, 2013

    This is not so much a review as a query. What do you use to measure the quantity of sour cream; a measuring cup for solids or for liquids? Thanks.

  • poetees 17 Jan, 2013

    This is the best cake I have. EVER. Had!! It's not that I'm a coconut lover in particular; in fact, I don't care for it a great deal in terms of candy and most desserts. This cake is just THAT good! The cake itself is rich, but not overly so--really delicious. The creamy filling adds to all that yumminess perfectly, and it makes for such a moist cake. What I really like is that it is the PERFECT balance of sweetness. The cake and filling are sweet, but not overly so. My favorite cake ever!

  • RetireInFigi 25 Feb, 2012

    I've made this cake several times and it great - but does anyone else have a problem with the batter being too thick. It doesn't pour into a pan. I was just wondering if I am off on my measuring on the flour or what.

  • Jpetty17 5 Feb, 2011

    So I have recently picked up baking as a hobby. This will be my first time baking a coconut cake! My problem is I don't have any sticks of butter in the house and we are currently in a winter storm here in Oklahoma. What would be the probable outcome if I attempted it with margarine instead? Or is it not worth the risk?

  • RetireInFigi 15 Aug, 2010

    WOW! What a wonderful time in the kitchen... 4 hrs making this one but it was for my son's birthday so it was a gift and a huge hit with everyone. I used 4 - 9"pans - it gave me 4 thin layers. The cream filling was amazing. And the 7 minute frosting was so good - my first time making it and it was a lot of fun. I double the receipe since i had so many leftover eggswhites which allowed me to really mond on the white frosting - it was beautiful! THanks Martha!!

  • regankinder 20 Apr, 2010

    Here is a website for pan size conversion: Pans!opendocument

  • regankinder 20 Apr, 2010

    Here is a website for pan size conversion: Pans!opendocument

  • VTParker 23 Jun, 2009

    I used 2-9 in pans. Turned out pretty well. The layers are quite thin, but great anyway. The filling is GREAT....definitely recommend this!

  • Catfish 21 Mar, 2009

    I made this today for my Mom's birthday and though it was hard work, it was GREAT! The best cake I have ever made. I went out and purchased three 6x2 cake pans and I cannot wait to bake more multi-level cakes. They look beautiful when you take the first piece out! :)

  • mattafer 12 Mar, 2009

    I made this cake for a birthday and it turned out great! I had leftover filling, which was not a big deal, but it was very good. I think I did refrigerate it, tho....I thought because of the filling. iEiher way, it was very delicious!

  • teakettle 24 Feb, 2009

    I'm thinking the cake could be left out for several hours rather than several days!?

  • Sugarlicious 10 Feb, 2009

    oh my goodness--this is the longest recipe I've ever seen in my life!! It will be a miracle if I can bake this cake!

  • Sugarlicious 10 Feb, 2009

    oh my goodness--this is the longest recipe I've ever seen in my life!! It will be a miracle if I can bake this cake!

  • Myrnagarza 20 Jan, 2009

    What is the cake flour???

  • ICanBakeACake 14 Jul, 2008

    I actually use two 9 inch pans and it works fine, you juts have to be careful when splitting them with a knife because they are thin, and you only need to bake them 20 mins.

  • kathie 13 May, 2008

    Did the question about using 2-8" cake pans get answered?

  • Dollydisante 21 Apr, 2008

    This is a favorite. I love coconut cake. Thank goodness I have my mother's six-
    inch cake pans.


  • christinabee 17 Apr, 2008

    Who has 6-inch cake pans? Not me! Does the recipe work as well for, say, two 8-inch pans?

  • gina3308 26 Jan, 2008

    This cake is a winner! It has become an expected tradition at all family gatherings.

  • jammiejulie 31 Dec, 2007

    WOW! My husband and mom are coconut cake fans and they loved this one! I too toast the coconut that goes on top of the cake!

  • MWetzel 8 Nov, 2007

    You will need to manage your time with this great cake. I usually take a couple of days to make sure I do this cake right. Make the cake and filling one day and assemble and frost the next. I toast the coconut that finishes the cake. Also, just for fun sometimes color the coconut with food coloring and then toast. YUM! Everyone loves this cake well worth the time.

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