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Coconut Custard Cake

Moist and decadent Coconut Custard Cake is made from fluffy coconut cake layered with a rich and creamy custard, coated in tangy cream cheese frosting, and golden toasted coconut. 

If you love creamy coconut desserts, my Coconut Cream Pie, a personal favorite or these Coconut Cupcakes which use the same base coconut cake recipe as this recipe.

A slice of coconut custard cake on a white plate, with the rest of the coconut cake on a cake stand in the background.

Fluffy Coconut Cake with Coconut Custard Filling

Where are my coconut lovers at? Today’s cake recipe is for you! First, we have fluffy layers of moist, spongey homemade coconut cake, filled with decadent creamy coconut custard. Then, the whole thing is finished off with a simple and tangy cream cheese frosting and covered with toasted coconut

The cake that inspired this recipe is actually from Croissant Bakery in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Heidi, the owner, wrote a wonderful cookbook, and the original coconut custard cake was so good, I couldn’t resist making my own variation! This coconut cream cake looks impressive, and it’s more than worth the effort.

Coconut custard cake covered with toasted coconut with a slice missing, on a white cake stand with a wooden base, next to a jar of toasted coconut.

Key Ingredients

The homemade coconut cake layers for this recipe are thick and stable, and perfect for stacking. Below are the key ingredients you’ll need to make this luscious coconut custard-filled cake, with the full recipe details available in the recipe card.

For the Coconut Cake

  • Oil and Butter – Oil brings more moisture to the cake crumb than butter would alone, while melted unsalted butter adds richness and flavor.
  • Egg and Egg White – The egg helps bind the ingredients, while the addition of an extra egg white makes the cake’s texture extra fluffy.
  • Coconut Extract – Despite it being an extract, coconut isn’t a very strong flavor, so I amp up the amount in this recipe.
  • Sour Cream – Sour cream brings loads of added moisture to cakes, and it’s especially helpful in this recipe since this cake is refrigerated. If you don’t have sour cream, substitute Greek yogurt instead.
  • Coconut Milk – You’ll find cans of coconut milk in the Asian food section of your local supermarket. Make sure you’re buying coconut milk, and not coconut cream. You’ll notice that the fat separates from the liquid, so make sure to stir it well.

For the Custard Filling

  • Heavy Cream – Full-fat heavy whipping cream will yield the richest, creamiest coconut custard.
  • Cornstarch – Thickens the custard without it becoming grainy.
  • Vanilla Extract – I use pure vanilla extract along with sweetened shredded coconut to flavor the filling.

To Make the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Butter and Cream Cheese – I recommend using unsalted butter and the cream cheese (full-fat) that comes in blocks (versus the tub kind). Take both ingredients out of the fridge ahead of time so that they can soften to room temperature.
  • Toasted Coconut – For decorating. Don’t forget to check out the section layer on with more decorating tips and ideas!
Coconut custard in a glass jar.

How to Make Coconut Custard Cake

There are a few steps involved in making this cake, but never fear! You can also prepare some of the components ahead of time, which I go into more detail about below.

Make the Cakes

While the oven preheats, grease, and then line three 8” round baking pans. Next, get started on your coconut cakes.

  1. Combine the wet ingredients. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar, butter, oil, and wet ingredients.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. After, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time, alternating with the coconut milk until just combined.
  3. Divide and bake. Distribute the batter between the prepared baking pans. Bake the cakes at 350ºF for 20-24 minutes. If you have hot spots in your oven, I recommend rotating the pans in the oven halfway through baking for more evenly baked cake layers.
  4. Toast the coconut. For some forward-thinking, it’s worthwhile to toast the coconut you’ll use to decorate your cakes while the oven is hot! Spread shredded coconut out across a lined baking sheet, and pop it into the oven for 5 minutes, until the coconut is lightly toasted and golden. Set the toasted coconut aside to cool while you prepare the filling and frosting.
Coconut cake inside an 8" round cake pan.

Make the Coconut Custard Filling

The filling for this cake is a simple coconut custard. I’ll warn you: you’re going to want to eat it with a spoon! The custard comes together with heavy whipping cream, butter, sugar, and some shredded coconut for texture.

I sometimes like to make the filling ahead of time and refrigerated it overnight, to really let the flavors develop. However, it does tend to thicken in the fridge, so if you do make it ahead, take it out of the fridge again about 30 minutes to an hour before you plan to use it. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Make a slurry. Whisk together cornstarch with heavy whipping cream. You want the mixture to thicken but stay at a liquid consistency to avoid any clumps.
  2. Heat the ingredients. Combine the remaining heavy cream with melted butter, sugar, and shredded coconut in a saucepan. Bring the mixture almost to a boil, stirring along the way.
  3. Combine. Add the cornstarch slurry to the saucepan, and continue to cook and stir until thickened. Lastly, whisk in the vanilla extract.
  4. Cool. Set the custard aside to cool completely. When I take my custard off the stove, the consistency was thick but still a bit liquid. This is fine – the custard continues to thicken to a spreadable consistency as it cools.

Make the Cream Cheese Frosting

I opted to stay as close as possible to Heidi’s original cream cheese frosting recipe. It’s just perfect for covering this cake in a light layer. This is not a traditional cream cheese frosting, it’s much thinner than I would normally make.

  1. Beat the butter and cream cheese. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with butter until smooth.
  2. Combine. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, and finally, beat in the vanilla extract until the frosting is evenly combined.

Assembling the Coconut Layer Cake

Now, it’s time to assemble this layer cake! This three-tier cake is easy enough to fill and stack and then decorate with a simple crumb coat, topped with toasted coconut.

  1. Prepare the first layer. First, divide the coconut filling in half, and have your bottom cake layer ready on a cake board. 
  2. Fill and repeat. Pipe a border of frosting around the outside edge of the cake, then fill it with custard. This frosting “dam” keeps the custard from oozing out of the sides. Afterward, place the second layer gently over top. Repeat with the third and final layer.
  3. Frost the cake. Give the top and sides of the cake a light coating with cream cheese frosting. It doesn’t have to be a thick layer, as we’re going for more of a crumb coat. Finally, pat the shredded toasted coconut from earlier in an even layer over top of the frosting.
  4. Chill. Place the frosted coconut custard cake, covered, into the fridge for at least a half hour before serving.

If you’re new to baking layer cakes, you can check out my helpful step-by-step on How to Make a Layer Cake with more information. 

Coconut custard cake covered with toasted coconut on a white cake stand with a wooden base.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

  • Get a headstart. Both the frosting and the filling can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator. The cream cheese frosting is usually still spreadable after sitting in the fridge overnight, though you can soften it up by letting it sit out with the filling before assembling the cake.
  • When making the custard filling ahead: If the filling still seems too thick to spread once it’s been out of the fridge for a while, pop it in the microwave for just a few seconds at a time. The consistency should be spreadable but not melting. 
  • Make sure to evenly mix the cake batter. Remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, and give the batter a good stir from bottom to top.
  • You will have leftovers. This recipe was originally a 4-layer cake that I turned into a 3-layer cake. Be careful to not overfill your layers.
  • Start with flat, even cake layers before filling. This helps make a stable cake. I like to use bake-even strips as these prevent the cakes from “doming” too much as they bake. You can also use a bread knife to trim off the domes, as needed.

More Ways to Decorate

The original cream cheese frosting for this cake is on the thinner side, ideal for doing a rough crumb coat that I finish off with toasted coconut. 

If you’d prefer a thicker frosting for piping and decorating, you may wish to use my recipe for traditional Cream Cheese Frosting instead (and check out my tutorial on How to Decorate with Piping Tips). Here are more easy decorating tips and variations:

  • Different Frosting – Try classic Vanilla Buttercream or Mascarpone Whipped Cream.
  • Sprinkles – Top your coconut custard cake with your favorite colored sprinkles, nonpareils, or sanding sugar (in place of or in addition to toasted coconut).
  • Fruit – Citrusy lime and coconut are a zesty pair. Top your cake with lime wedges or lime zest for a pop of color. Or, make a pineapple coconut cake with a garnish of fresh drained pineapple.
A slice of coconut custard cake on a white plate next to a forkful.

How to Store Coconut Layer Cake

Due to the custard filling and cream cheese frosting, you’ll want to keep your finished coconut custard cake refrigerated. Store the cake in an airtight container (such as a cake carrier) or wrap the entire cake with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. 

Remove the cake from the fridge approximately 20-30 minutes before serving to take the chill off.

Can I Freeze it?

I don’t recommend freezing cakes with custard or cream fillings, as the filling tends to separate once thawed and turns the cake soggy.

If you’d like to prepare the cake layers in advance, however, you can freeze the individual cakes. It’s easy to wrap the cooled cake layers tightly in plastic wrap, and then freeze them for up to 3 months. Thaw the cakes in the fridge, prepare your filling and frosting, and assemble the cake as usual.

Print
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A slice of coconut custard cake on a white plate.

Coconut Custard Cake

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.7 from 47 reviews
  • Author: Julianne Dell
  • Prep Time: 60 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: 12 slices
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Coconut Custard Cake is made from moist coconut cake layers filled with silky coconut custard and frosted with tangy cream cheese frosting. Cover this cake with shredded coconut for the ultimate coconut lover’s dessert! 


Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 ½ cups (285g) granulated sugar
  • ½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoon (28g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large egg
  • 2 large egg white
  • ½ cup (118 ml) sour cream
  • 2 ½ cups (350g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon (7.5g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (4.5g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) salt
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup (315ml) coconut milk, well stirred

For the filling:

  • 1 ¼ cup (296ml) heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 4 teaspoons  (13g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup (114g) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup (142g) granulated sugar
  • 2 ¼ cups (170g) shredded coconut, sweetened
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the icing:

  • 1/2 cup (114g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 12 oz (339g) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (390g) powdered sugar
  • 2 cups (151g) shredded sweetened coconut, toasted

Instructions

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8-inch round baking pans, line the bottom with parchment paper, and grease the sides. Prepare your bake even stripes if desired.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, butter, eggs and sour cream. Beat on medium speed until well incorporated and the batter is lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients. Alternate adding half the dry ingredients, the extracts, and half the coconut milk at a time and mix just until the flour starts to incorporate. Repeat until all ingredients have been added. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir the batter from the bottom to the top to ensure it’s well mixed.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, about 1 2/3 cups of batter per pan. Bake at 350°F for 20-24 minutes and rotate your pans in the oven halfway through.
  5. Test the cake for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, your cake is done. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  6. Toast the coconut in the preheated oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread the coconut evenly on the pan. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until the desired color is reached. Transfer to a bowl or plate to stop the cooking process. Cool completely.

For the filling:

  1. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and cornstarch and whisk until thickened. Add additional heavy cream if necessary to get a liquid consistency.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the remaining heavy whipping cream, sugar, and shredded coconut. Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally just until the mixture is nearly boiling.
  3. Lastly, add the cornstarch mixture and continue to heat over medium-high heat until the mixture is thickened, stirring constantly. Whisk in the vanilla extract last. Set the mixture aside and all it to cool completely.

For the frosting:

  1. Once the cake and filling has cooled, prepare the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and cream cheese and beat on medium-high speed using the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth and creamy.
  2. Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. As the mixture thickens, add the vanilla extract.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Divide the coconut filling in half. Place the bottom layer of cake on an 8 or 10-inch cake board. Pipe a dam of frosting around the outside edge of the cake using a large round piping tip.
  2. Fill the center with the coconut filling and gently spread evenly. Place the second layer of cake and repeat the above steps. Place the final layer of cake on top. Ice the top and sides of the cake with the cream cheese icing, you don’t need a very thick layer.
  3. Use your hands to gently pat the shredded coconut into the frosting, covering the cake as thoroughly as possible.
  4. Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Keep covered in an airtight container to prevent the cake from drying out.

Notes

  • Recipe adapted from Bonjour Y’all. If you are looking for the original recipe you can download it here.
  • Both the frosting and the filling can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Let them sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before using. The coconut filling might still be too firm to spread, and if so, pop it into the microwave for 15-25 seconds until it’s a spreadable consistency. Make sure to let it cool completely.
  • You will have a little bit of leftover frosting and filling since this was originally a 4-layer cake and I turned it into a 3-layer cake. Don’t overfill your layers.
  • Storing: Due to the custard filling and cream cheese frosting, you’ll want to keep your finished coconut custard cake refrigerated. Store the cake in an airtight container.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 1061
  • Sugar: 83g
  • Sodium: 547mg
  • Fat: 68g
  • Carbohydrates: 109g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 9.7g
  • Cholesterol: 146mg

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More Easy Layer Cakes to Try

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241 thoughts on “Coconut Custard Cake”

  1. Avatar photo
    Christy Justice

    Second time to make this and we love it! This time I had about a quarter of a can left of the coconut milk. I used the 1/4 to mix the cornstarch for the custard and deducted 1/4 on the heavy cream. I use 3) 8 inch round pans. Very easy!






  2. Avatar photo
    Michelle Lattanzi

    This cake did not disappoint! I was afraid it would dry out in the refrigerator, it didn’t, it remained moist until it was gone. My family loved it, even those who aren’t fans of coconut.






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      I just love this! So many people have said that people who don’t love coconut love this cake. It makes me so happy!

  3. Avatar photo
    Linda Forrest

    I am definitely making this next week for a birthday! One big question. You mentioned changing this from a 4-layer cake to a 3-layer cake, yet your instructions say to grease 2 – 8inch cake pans??






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      I see the instruction in the recipe card are correct for 3 layers but the blog post mentions 2 layers. I’ll update that, thank you

  4. This cake was a hit. I did reduce the amount of powdered sugar in frosting to 2 cups and added a bit of lemon juice to add some tang.






  5. This is the best coconut cake recipe I have ever tried. I have had people that do not usually like coconut cake love this cake.






  6. I’ve never left a comment for a recipe before but I had to for this cake. I made it for Easter dinner and my Dad said it’s the best cake he’s ever had.

    I made a few little alterations because I didn’t have coconut extract and wanted to make sure the flavour came through.

    I did:
    Half veg oil half coconut oil
    Added finely shredded coconut (about 1/3 cup) to the cake batter
    Used the 2 egg yolks leftover from the cake in the coconut custard

    10000/10, loved this cake!!






  7. This cake was DELICIOUS! I made this for Easter/ my grandparents 65 anniversary.

    At Easter lunch we were talking about everyones favorite foods and my gramps proclaimed to the table “I don’t really like anything with coconut in it”. INSTANT PANIC. I hadn’t debuted the cake yet. Thankfully I didn’t add the coconut flakes to the outside of the cake so I just cut everyone pieces and prayed. To my delight he suddenly shouts “THIS IS DELICIOUS!”. All that to say, even a self proclaimed coconut hater loved this cake.

    The cake was moist and not overly sweet or coconutty. It was perfectly balanced with the custard and vanilla butter cream. Also halfway through baking I had a question and on a whim reached out to Julianne on instagram and she replied immediately which was so helpful!






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Wow Madeline! That is incredible, what a fun story. Thanks for sharing my recipe with your family.

  8. This recipe is AMAZING! I had never made coconut cake and simply love it. The filling is what sets this recipe apart from others.

    I actually made this recipe last year the very first time I made coconut cake and then couldn’t find it when I try to do it again . The second time I made the cake. I used another recipe and it was notably very different.

    I became so happy when I found this recipe again and have now marked this page to make sure that I don’t lose it.






  9. We love this cake! My eight year old loves to bake and we did it together. It was not as difficult as I expected. Whole family loved it!






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      That is wonderful to hear Christy! I love getting kids involved in the kitchen, thank you for sharing my recipe with your family.

  10. Avatar photo
    Heather Wright

    This recipe is AMAZING! I am lactose intolerant so I tweaked a few things. I used mayonnaise instead of sour cream. You would never notice a difference! I used plant based heavy cream, lactose free cream cheese and plant butter. I have plenty of icing left over for some cinnamon rolls too. Best cake I’ve made to date. Thank you ❤️






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      I’ve done the cake portion as cupcakes before. The filling technically could be used to fill the cupcakes but I would not recommend using the frosting for cupcakes, it’s way too thin. Instead I’d recommend this cream cheese frosting.

      1. Thank you! This was my thought as well, but just wasn’t sure. Think I may try it out using a jumbo cupcake tin.

  11. I’m making this recipe for Thanksgiving but would like to add banana to the custard, any ideas on this or should I forego it?

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Crystal- I have never made a custard with fresh bananas, and unless they’re just sliced in between the layers, I don’t have a better recommendation. Personally I don’t like to wing it for a big holiday myself.

  12. Avatar photo
    Tena Christensen

    The taste and texture was so good. We had guests that loved it yes it was so good and also the icong






  13. Can I make this using 3 , 10” rounds to create about 6 thinner sponge discs/layers ? And if so how can I adjust the baking time ? Also. Should I double recipe? Thank you !

    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Hi Suzanne, I have not baked them this cake in a 10-inch to know how thick the layers are, so not sure if it’s thick enough to slice. The baking time would probably be reduced by few minutes. If you want to cut the layers in half, I would personally double the recipe

  14. This cake is absolutely THE best coconut cake I’ve ever made. Thank you for sharing this sweet beauty. Baked it today for my hubby’s birthday his statements were, “This is the best damn coconut cake I’ve eaten!!” Absolutely amazing!






  15. Made this GLUTEN FREE. Whoever needs to hear it – it’s possible. I had so much fun making it. At the moment it’s sitting in the fridge waiting for the birthday party in the evening. I tasted all the different parts to it and it was mouthwatering delicious and I can not wait to try it all in one. I minimised the sugar amount as it seems like to a family of not big sweettooths.

    Thank you for the inspiration and the recipe.






  16. Oh my goodness this cake is delicious!! Despite it having a Lot of moving parts, it was well worth it!! I can normally, look over a recipe and envision making it and know if it’ll be good! I was NOT WRONG! I will d3finitely be making this for Christmas when the kids come home.






    1. Julianne - Beyond Frosting
      Beyond Frosting

      Wow! I am so happy to hear that! I’d love to be apart of your celebrations with your family. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Has anyone at High Altitude tried this? I’m at 7500 above sea level. I’ve tried the usual tricks to adjust cakes and I cannot get the cake to come out. I made the rest of the pieces with another cake mix and it was so good, I can only imagine how good it must be with this cake turning out.