A light and fluffy coconut cake—without any eggs or dairy? It’s not as hard as you might think.
You won’t need many fancy or hard-to-find ingredients, but there are a few key ingredients and techniques that take this cake to the next level. First of all, cake flour. For the longest time, I did not understand the purpose of cake flour. I thought, does cake flour really make a difference in the fluffiness of cakes? Yes, I realized, it absolutely does! In this recipe, cake flour helps the sponge be super-soft and airy as opposed to dense, a texture you really don’t want here.
This isn’t simply a cake with coconut. Coconut is basically everywhere in this recipe: in the batter (oil, milk, and extract!), in the whipped cream, and as a garnish. You can use refined or unrefined coconut oil here—the latter will have a more coconut-forward flavor.
For this recipe, instead of using a nut based milk and a neutral oil for the sponge, as is often the case with vegan cakes, I opted to use light coconut milk and melted coconut oil in order to really emphasize the coconut flavor. However, if you don’t have those on hand, feel free to swap the milk for your favorite non-dairy milk and the oil for any neutral oil (I like canola oil and melted vegan butter). In that case, I would highly recommend increasing the coconut extract to 1 teaspoon so that you still get coconut flavor in the sponge.
As for the whipped “cream,” this is a tricky subject in the vegan community: It can be hard to find a brand of full-fat coconut milk that separates really well (you need only the solidified cream that floats to the top to make whipped cream) and that whips up smoothly, not grainy or chunky. My advice is this: Choose a high-quality coconut milk that has only two ingredients, coconut and water, no additives. This will exponentially increase the probability of your coconut cream actually whipping up properly. If you prefer, you can also choose to buy a premade vegan coconut-based whipped cream; or if you are not vegan, simply replace the coconut whipped cream with a regular whipped cream—but add a touch of coconut extract to it for a stronger coconut flavor. Store this cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Prep time 1 hour 15 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- makes one 8-inch cake
- For the Cake
Cooking spray or melted coconut oil, for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups
cup cake flour
, plus 1 tablespoon light coconut milk (from a well-shaken can or a carton), divided
coconut oil, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons
apple cider vinegar
coconut extract (optional)
- For the Topping
unsweetened shredded coconut
(14-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
powdered sugar, or more to taste
- For the Cake
- Heat oven to 350ºF and grease an 8-inch cake or springform pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper (no need to grease the paper).
- Sift cake flour into a large bowl. Mix in sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add 1/2 cup of the light coconut milk, water, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, and coconut extract, if using, to the dry ingredients. Whisk to incorporate, but be careful not to overmix.
- Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
- While the cake is baking, in a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut milk along with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup.
- Remove cake from the oven and poke the surface of the cake with a toothpick. Brush the coconut milk-maple syrup mixture onto the cake.
- Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and let cool completely on a rack. If using a standard cake pan, once you take it out of its pan, flip it over so that the poked side is facing up, and let cool on a rack.
- For the Topping
- Toast the unsweetened shredded coconut in a dry skillet over medium heat until light brown in color, keeping a very close eye on it and stirring regularly so it doesn’t burn.
- Remove from the pan and transfer the coconut to a bowl to cool completely.
- Make the coconut whipped cream: Scoop out the solidified coconut cream from the top of the can into a medium bowl. Save the liquid coconut water to use in other recipes like smoothies.
- Whip the coconut cream using an electric hand mixer until fluffy. Stir in powdered sugar, adding more to taste.
- Spread the coconut whipped cream onto the cooled cake and sprinkle with toasted coconut.