Dreamy Coconut Cake

This Coconut Passion Fruit Cake really is dreamy. Is there anything prettier than a coconut cake? Tall and snow white, sprinkled with shredded coconut, it looks just as scrumptious as it is. This cake gets even prettier when you cut a slice and see the beautiful bright-yellow layer of passion fruit curd in the middle.

A coconut cake on a white cake stand

Creating new cake flavors is probably my favorite thing to do as a professional baker. I love tinkering with the ingredients and amounts to create a whole new cake flavor. From a few basic recipes and concepts the possibilities are endless. 

Coconut cake is an old fashioned and favorite cake flavor. But here I’ve updated an old favorite with an extra layer of tropical flavor. I added a layer of tangy passion fruit curd in the middle of the cake. But first we need lots of coconut flavor and there are plenty of ways to get coconut flavor into the cake.

How to get layers of flavor into Coconut Cake:

  • I love the texture and beauty of the shredded coconut on the outside of a coconut cake, but I don’t like to put shredded coconut into the filling or bake it into the cake. I’ve found that coconut inside the cake makes it hard to cut neat slices. The bits of coconut tend to catch onto the knife and shred the cake.
  • I use coconut milk in the rum syrup and in the cream cheese frosting. The milk adds plenty of coconut flavor without compromising the texture of the tender cake crumb.
  • I use my vanilla butter cake as the base for this cake.  I prefer thinner layers of cake and frosting so I split the 2 cakes to make a 4 layer cake.
  • You could certainly toast the coconut for the finish if you prefer the look and flavor of toasted coconut. I prefer to leave it snow white.
  • Passion Fruit Curd is a nice foil for the rich cake and frosting, and of course the tropical flavor is perfect for this cake. 

Scroll through the process photos to see how to put together a Coconut Passion Fruit Cake:

a cake layer with an icing "dam" around the rim
Pipe an icing “dam” around the rim of the cake to keep curd filling from leaking out of the cake.
a layer of passion fruit curd on a cake
Spread the curd to the edge of the “dam” then add the next layer.

How to make Coconut Passion Fruit Cupcakes:

You could also make filled cupcakes from this same recipe. Bake the vanilla cake in a cupcake pan. Use the tip of a small serrated knife to cut a small hole (about 1″ around) in the middle of each cupcake. Don’t cut all the way through to the cupcake paper. Sprinkle a little of the coconut syrup into the hole, fill the hole with passion fruit curd and top the cupcake with the coconut cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle with coconut.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please consider giving it a 5-star review.

a slice of coconut cake
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5 from 1 review

Dreamy Coconut Passion Fruit Cake

Tall and snow white, sprinkled with shredded coconut, it looks just as scrumptious as it is. This cake gets even prettier when you cut a slice and see the beautiful bright yellow layer of passion fruit curd in the middle.
Prep Time1 hour
Bake Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
16 portions
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Coconut Rum Syrup

  • 3 oz granulated sugar (⅓ cup)
  • 4 oz water (½ cup)
  • 1 oz rum (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 oz canned coconut milk (¼ cup)

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz unsalted butter (room temp)
  • 12 oz confectioner sugar (3 cups)
  • 8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 oz canned coconut milk (¼ cup)




  • Combine3 oz granulated sugar and 4 oz water in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool to room temperature. Add 1 oz rum and 2 oz canned coconut milk. Set aside to cool completely. The syrup can be made several days ahead and refrigerated

Cake Prep

  • Trim the browned edges from each cake and slice off the domed top. Split each cake in half horizontally so you have 4 layers.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

  • In a mixer bowl, cream together 8 oz unsalted butter and 12 oz confectioner sugar until there are no lumps of butter and the mixture lightens a bit. Scrape down the beater and the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Still using the beater, add 8 oz cream cheese and mix until combined. Scrape down the paddle and bowl. Switch to the whisk attachment. Add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and2 oz canned coconut milk and whisk until the frosting is light and fluffy. Use immediately to fill and ice the cake.


  • Place a dab of frosting your serving plate to hold the cake in place. Set a layer onto the serving plate and generously brush the entire layer with coconut rum syrup.
  • Spread about 1 cup of the coconut cream cheese frosting evenly on the layer. Place the 2nd layer on the cake and brush generously with the syrup. Using a pastry bag with a star tip, pipe a “dam” of frosting around the edge of the layer. Spread the passion fruit curd inside the dam of frosting.
  • Place the 3rd layer on the cake and brush generously with the syrup. Spread about 1 cup of the coconut cream cheese frosting evenly on the layer. Place the top layer on the cake and brush generously with the syrup.
  • Ice the cake with the remaining frosting and cover the entire cake with the shredded coconut.
  • The cake is best eaten at room temperature. Any uneaten leftovers should be refrigerated. Return to room temperature before serving.

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Watch this video to see how to build a layer cake.
Watch this video to see how to ice a cake.


Serving: 1slice | Calories: 454kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 45mg | Sodium: 307mg | Potassium: 107mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 45g | Vitamin A: 545IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 91mg | Iron: 1mg
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    1. Because of the curd and the cream cheese frosting the cake should be refrigerated if you’re making it a day ahead. Take it out of the fridge 3-4 hours before servings so it has time to soften up before you slice it. All the components of the cake can be made ahead of time and frozen. Defrost everything when you’re ready to assemble. You’ll need to rewhip the frosting before using it if it’s been frozen.

  1. I have a question… what kind of coconut mil do you use? the can one? or de silk one that comes in carton?

    1. Well, I would use my Chocolate Butter Cake or Old Fasionhed Chocolate Cake as the base for a German chocolate cake. The filling for German Chocolate Cake has coconut and pecans, evaporated milk, sugar and eggs. You could use the filling for this cake and add pecans and shredded coconut, but it is a different type of filling than the traditional German Chocolate Cake. Thanks for the question. I’ll German Chocolate Cake on my list of future posts.

  2. I was thinking of using a larger pan and just cutting thinner slices, as some of the people are kids anyway. Would that work?

        1. Hmmm, 2x the recipe would probably be too much for those pans. If you double the recipe I suggest filling the pans 2/3 full and using any extra batter to make cupcakes.

  3. This cake looks great. Would it pair nicely with your Italian buttercream rather than cream cheese frosting? I’m not wanting the cake to have a rich taste that sometimes does with cream cheese frosting?

      1. Great thanks. How many people would this size cake feed? i need to make it for around 25 people so would i just double the ingredients?

        1. An 8″ cake should serve about 12-16 (depending how big you cut the slices). Since this cake is fairly tall, the slices don’t need to be super thick. You could double the recipe. Would you just bake it twice or do you have 4 pans or larger pans?