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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.
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.
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!
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 two 8” round baking pans. Next, get started on your coconut cakes.
- Combine the wet ingredients. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar, butter, oil, and wet ingredients.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Combine. Add the cornstarch slurry to the saucepan, and continue to cook and stir until thickened. Lastly, whisk in the vanilla extract.
- 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.
- Beat the butter and cream cheese. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with butter until smooth.
- 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.
- Prepare the first layer. First, divide the coconut filling in half, and have your bottom cake layer ready on a cake board.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 (just ask my Coconut Lime Poke Cake!). 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.
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
Coconut Custard Cake
- Prep Time: 60 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: 12 slices
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!
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
For the cake:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. As the mixture thickens, add the vanilla extract.
To assemble the cake:
- 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.
- 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.
- Use your hands to gently pat the shredded coconut into the frosting, covering the cake as thoroughly as possible.
- Refrigerate the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving. Keep covered in an airtight container to prevent the cake from drying out.
- 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.
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: coconut cake recipes, custard cake, coconut custard
I would like to make this for 20 people in a senior center. I would have to double the recipe and bake it in a 9″/13″ pan’ Is that possible?
Hi Wendy, the cake itself without alternations can be baked in a 9×13 inch pan, if you double the recipe for the cake, you can make two 9×13. You may not need to double the filling or frosting for two cakes
Can I make this cake aheadcof time
Hi Maggie, the answer to this is explained in the blog post under helpful tips, how to store it and also there’s a section explaining how to freeze it.
This cake is so delicious! Each element tasty in their own way! Frosting is the best! This is on our rotation of sweetness!
Love to hear that!! Thank you so much for sharing!
Could I make this with gluten free flour? Thanks
Hi Anna, a 1:1 GF replacement AP flour should work
Sooo amazing, moist, and the filling is to die for!
Thank you Alex!!! Love to hear that!
Can I use coconut cream for the filling instead of heavy cream?
I have not tested this, so I can’t say one way or the other if it’s going to work
Omg this cake was so delicious!!!! I made it over the weekend and it was a hit! Definitely a lot of steps but so worth it!
The cake was so moist and delicious! Could I use this recipe and skip the coconut extract if I were making a simple vanilla cake and buttercream?
Hi there, I am so glad you loved this cake! Here is the link to my vanilla cake recipe, which this coconut one was based off of.
This cake is delicious!
Thanks so much Yvette. I am so happy you enjoyed them!