Coconut Custard Cake

This Coconut Custard Cake is made with layers of moist coconut cake, a creamy coconut custard and coconut cream cheese frosting! It’s absolutely delicious and a dream cake for any coconut lover!

This post is sponsored by Challenge Butter, but all opinions are my own.

slice of coconut custard cake on a white plate with teal napkin

full image of coconut custard cake on wood and marble cake stand

Coconut Custard Cake

This cake is seriously dreamy. The coconut cake layers are tender and moist and made with coconut milk and coconut extract for lots of great flavor. The coconut custard is rich and creamy and easily my favorite part of this cake. And the cream cheese frosting compliments everything perfectly.

So let’s talk about the custard filling a bit. This filling is just so darn good you’ll want to eat it on it’s own. Typically a custard is going to be made with eggs, but not all “custards” use eggs. This filling definitely uses eggs and is therefore cooked over the stove to heat the eggs. If you ever do a taste comparison of custards with and without eggs, you will notice a HUGE difference in flavor. The eggs don’t make it eggy, but instead add richness. It’s kind of like the difference between a no bake cheesecake and a baked cheesecake. The richness of the baked cheesecake comes from the addition of eggs and it applies here too.

This cake is truly a winner. It’d be a hit for Easter or any occasion. It’s full of flavor and texture, and for as yummy as it is, it’s not hard to make.

cake slice on a plate with two packages of challenge butter behind it

Ingredients

Most of the ingredients used in this cake are pretty straight forward, you’ll just need some coconut things. Have plenty of coconut extract on hand, along with coconut milk and shredded coconut.

For the Coconut Cake Layers

  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Baking Powder: No baking soda here.
  • Salt: If you only have salted butter on hand, just leave out the salt the recipe calls for.
  • Unsalted Butter: It should be room temperature. And of course I used my favorite butter here, Challenge Butter. Challenge Butter is a high quality, creamy butter that goes from farm to fridge in just two days, ensuring that it’s nice and fresh. It has no added hormones, artificial flavors or fillings, so you can feel good about feeding it to your family. If you haven’t tried it before, you definitely need to. It will definitely elevate your baking and cooking.
  • Vegetable Oil: For extra moisture.
  • Sugar
  • Coconut Extract: For coconut flavor.
  • Vanilla Extract: Be sure to use pure vanilla extract.
  • Large Eggs
  • Coconut Milk: For more coconut flavor. Be sure to use coconut milk and not cream of coconut.

For the Coconut Custard Filling

  • Egg Yolks: These help thicken the filling, but also add that classic custard-y flavor.
  • Sugar
  • Cornstarch: Also helps to thicken the filling.
  • Milk: I’d recommend whole milk or 2%. The higher fat content helps make the filling extra creamy.
  • Shredded Coconut: I use sweetened coconut, but unsweetened would be fine.
  • Butter: Again, I’m using Challenge Butter here for superior flavor.
  • Coconut Extract: Bring on the coconut flavor!
  • Vanilla Extract

For the Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Cream Cheese: Should be room temperature. And Challenge Cream Cheese is definitely the way to go. It’s made with real milk, cream and natural ingredients for amazing flavor and creaminess.
  • Butter: Room temperature, as well. And again, Challenge Butter is the best!
  • Powdered Sugar: You’ll find a decent amount of powdered sugar in the cream cheese frosting, which adds both volume and stability so that it stays in place on your cake.
  • Coconut Extract: For even more coconut flavor!
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Shredded Coconut: I toasted mine, but you could leave it un-toasted, if you prefer.

two packages of challenge butter stacked in front of cakecoconut custard cake slice with a bite taken on teal napkin

How to Make Coconut Custard Cake

For the Cake

  1. Prep For Baking: Prepare three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine Dry Ingredients: Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl and whisk together.
  3. Cream Butter, Oil, Sugar and Extracts: Add the butter, oil, sugar and extract to a large mixer bowl and cream them together for about 2-3 minutes. You’ll notice the mixture lighten in color and get a nice, creamy texture to it when it’s ready.
  4. Add Eggs: Add the eggs one at a time and mix until mostly combined after each.
  5. Start adding dry ingredients: Add about half of the dry ingredients first and mix that until mostly combined.
  6. Add coconut milk.
  7. More Dry Ingredients: Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Don’t over mix.
  8. Bake: Divide the batter evenly between cakes pans and bake.
  9. Let Cool: Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely. The cakes will be nice and tender.

For the Filling

  1. Prep Egg Yolks: Put the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl and gently beat them together so they are ready for when you need them.
  2. Heat Sugar, Cornstarch and Milk: Add the sugar, cornstarch and milk to a large saucepan and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until mixture begins to thicken and bubble. You don’t want to turn up the heat to make this happen faster. The mixture needs time to thicken properly. You also don’t want to over heat it or you could actually break down the cornstarch.
  3. Temper the eggs: Remove the pan from the heat and add a little bit of milk mixture to the egg yolks and whisk together, then add egg mixture to milk mixture. This process slowly heats the eggs, ensuring that you don’t scramble them.
  4. Boil Lightly: Place everything back in the pan and the pan back on the heat. Stir in the shredded coconut. Bring the mixture to a light boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute or so, stirring continuously, until thickened. Keep in mind that it will continue to thicken as it cools. Don’t boil for longer than 2 minutes, or you can overcook it and it’ll actually break down, rather than get thicker.
  5. Add Flavorings and Cool: Remove from heat and add the butter and extracts. Stir until smooth, then pour into a bowl and cover with clear wrap pressed against the top so that it doesn’t get a film on top. Set in the fridge to cool completely.

For the Frosting

  1. Butter and Cream Cheese: Beat the butter and cream cheese together in a stand mixer until smooth.
  2. Add the sugar: Slowly add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.
  3. Flavorings: Add vanilla and coconut extract and mix until smooth.
  4. More sugar: Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Build the Cake

Time to layer everything together! See my tips on how to fill and stack a cake.

  1. Assemble Cake: To put the cake together, each layer must be completely cooled. Place the first cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round. Pipe a dam of frosting around the outer edge of the cake to hold the filling in place and fill it with half of the coconut custard filling. Top with the second layer of cake and another layer of coconut filling.
  2. Add Final Layer & Decorate: Add the final layer of cake on top and frost the cake with the remaining frosting. Press the toasted coconut onto the sides of the cake. You’ll want to do this right after frosting it so that the coconut will stick. Pipe a border around the top edge of the cake using the remaining frosting.
  3. Serve or Store: Store the cake in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.

two slices of coconut cake with a bowl of toasted coconut

Tips for Success

This cake isn’t terribly hard to make, but here are some tips to make sure it turns out perfectly.

  • Level the Cakes for Easy Layering: I recommend using a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes so that they’re flat. These cakes don’t have a large dome, but I like to make sure they’re completely flat for layering purposes. Particularly with a softer filling like this one, it’s nice to be sure things won’t slip around. I have a handy tutorial to show you how to do this: How to Level and Torte a Cake.
  • Don’t Skimp on the Creaming Time: Make sure you fully cream the butter, sugar, oil and vanilla for your cake batter. The mixture is ready when the color lightens and texture gets fluffy and light.
  • Don’t rush making the custard: Heating the mixture too quickly can keep it from thickening properly and so can over cooking the mixture. Take your time and remove the finished custard before it’s too thick, because it will thicken more as it cools.

How to Store Coconut Custard Cake

This cake lasts in the fridge for 3-4 days. Store in an airtight container if you have one. If you’d like, you can make the cake layers and filling a day in advance. Let the cake layers cool and store them in an air tight container or wrap each one in plastic wrap and store them in the fridge overnight. Store the filling in the fridge. When you’re ready to put it together, make the cream cheese frosting, assemble and enjoy!

More Great Coconut Recipes

Coconut Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie Cupcakes
Easy Coconut Cheesecake
Coconut Poke Cake
Key Lime Coconut Cupcakes

Print
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slice of coconut custard cake on a white plate with teal napkin
Recipe

Coconut Custard Cake

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 12-14 slices 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This Coconut Custard Cake is made with layers of moist coconut cake, a creamy coconut custard and coconut cream cheese frosting! It’s absolutely delicious and a dream cake for any coconut lover!


Scale

Ingredients

Coconut Cake Layers

  • 2 1/2 cups (325g) all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup (168g) unsalted Challenge Butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp coconut extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups (300ml) coconut milk

Coconut Custard

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 6 tbsp (78g) sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups (360ml) milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1 cup (75g) shredded coconut, sweetened
  • 1 tbsp (7g) salted Challenge Butter
  • 1/4 tsp coconut extract
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 oz (452g) Challenge Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup (224g) unsalted Challenge Butter, room temperature
  • 11 cups (1265g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp coconut extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (113g) shredded coconut, sweetened, toasted

Instructions

FOR THE CAKE:

  1. Prepare three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the butter, sugar, oil and extracts to a large mixer bowl and beat together until light in color and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  5. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined.
  6. Add the coconut milk and mix until well combined. The batter may look a little curdled, but that’s ok.
  7. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
  9. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.

FOR THE CUSTARD:

  1.  To make the custard, put the egg yolks in a medium sized bowl and gently beat them together. Set aside.
  2. Add the sugar, cornstarch and milk to a large saucepan and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until mixture begins to thicken and bubble. You don’t want to turn up the heat to make this happen faster. The mixture needs time to thicken properly.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and add a little bit of milk mixture to the egg yolks and whisk together, then add egg mixture to milk mixture. This process tempers the eggs and ensures that you don’t scramble them.
  4. Place everything back in the pan and the pan back on the heat. Stir in the shredded coconut. Bring the mixture to a light boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute or so, stirring continuously, until thickened. Keep in mind that it will continue to thicken as it cools. Don’t boil for longer than 2 minutes, or you can overcook it and it’ll actually break down, rather than get thicker.
  5. Remove from heat and add the butter and extracts. Stir until smooth, then pour into a bowl and cover with clear wrap pressed against the top so that it doesn’t get a film on top. Set in the fridge to cool completely.

FOR THE FROSTING:

  1. To make the cream cheese frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.
  2. Add half of the powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.
  3. Add the coconut extract and vanilla extract mix until well combined.
  4. Slowly add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until well combined.

TO BUILD THE CAKE:

  1.  To assemble the cake, use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes.
  2. Place the first layer of cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round. Pipe a dam of frosting around the outside of the cake. I use Ateco tip 808 for the dam so that it’s tall.
  3. Spread half of the coconut custard evenly on top of the cake layer, inside the dam.
  4. Add the second layer of cake, another dam of frosting and the remaining coconut custard.
  5. Add the final layer of cake on top, then frost the outside of the cake.
  6. Press the toasted coconut onto the sides and top of the cake, covering it fully. Do this immediately after frosting it. The frosting will “crust” as it sits and the coconut will not stick if you try to add it later.
  7. Pipe shells or swirls of frosting onto the top of the cake. Note that it’s a little tricky for the frosting to stick to the coconut, so you may want to pipe the frosting onto the cake prior to adding the coconut. It just depends on the look you want.
  8. Refrigerate well covered until ready to serve. Cake should be eaten within 3-4 days.

Keywords: coconut custard cake

cake slice on a plate and full image of cake on cake stand

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Recipe rating

37 Comments
  1. Rebekah Green

    I’ve never used coconut milk to bake with before so I’m not sure what kind to get. Should I get the canned kind? And sweetened or unsweetened?

    Thank you for your recipes! I love them all!

  2. Sylvia

    Nice recipe ma’am. Your recipes are always a hit everytime. Can I add shredded fresh coconut to the batter? If yes, what quantity please?

    1. Lindsay

      So glad you enjoy them! You could add shredded coconut, but how much depends a little on how much you like. I might start with 1 1/4 cups.

  3. Pooja Urjoon

    Hello, interesting recipe. Can i used this batter for cupcakes? if yes, then which temperature and how much time should i bake it?

  4. Brenda T

    I made this for Easter and it was a hit. This cake is the best, I followed the recipe exactly as written. So moist and was not too sweet. The flavors are balanced very well with the sugar in the frosting. I wish people would stop commenting on recipes before trying them. Yes this recipe does have a lot of sugar in the frosting but this is needed for the consistency

  5. Tina

    I made this new recipe from Lindsay for Easter and it was AMAZING! My hubby who doesn’t even like coconut LOVED it! It was NOT hard to make – especially if you make the custard ahead so you are not waiting on it to cool in order to put the cake together. I actually made several of Lindsay’s cakes for friends for their Easter dinner – so I made the cake 3 days ahead, sprayed with simple syrup 5 min out of the oven, and after it cooled -wrapped it well in press & seal then foil and popped in freezer till night before I was going to put the cakes together. THIS cake was the big hit! The toasted coconut added texture/crunchy which was so good! This is a forever keeper all through the year! Thank you Lindsay for another amazing recipe that WOW’s everyone!

  6. roo

    I followed the recipe to the letter and made a thick, great tasting custard (using whole milk), but it wasn’t nearly stiff enough to support the top layer of the cake, even after chilling overnight. It mostly ended up oozing out the sides while I was frosting.

    1. Lindsay

      The recipe should definitely make a custard that is plenty thick. I’ve made it many times. If it didn’t, then I would double check your ingredients and how the custard is made. And it should not seep out the sides of the cake if you properly seal each layer with a dam of frosting, as described in the instructions.

  7. Colleen

    Is the 11 cups of confectioners sugar right? How come such much frosting when you are only doing the outside of the cake.

  8. Jill Phillips

    I made the cake only so far, double wrapped and put in a zip lock bag, froze for later. It was very nice batter, smelled great. My layers were not real thick, like you think of a two layer, is that ok? Hard to tell in the picture.

    1. Lindsay

      When I bake three layers, they are all about an inch thick. So for two layers they would probably be roughly an inch and a half thick.

  9. Nicole

    Absolutely delicious coconut cake and the coconut custard was perfection. I understand why the amount of sugar in the frosting was used but I would use 1/2 to 3/4 of the amount and then check the consistency before adding the rest. The cake and custard was outstanding! The consistency of the frosting was great but the sweetness overpowered everything else including the cream cheese flavor.

    1. Lindsay

      It’s a lot of sugar, yes. But whether or not it’s necessary would be debatable. If you’d like to read more about how I make my cream cheese frosting and why it has that amount of powdered sugar, you can find that information in this post.

  10. Jaime Matta

    This is a great recipe and I will definitely make for Easter! Thank you! My wife will love me for this.

  11. Ruth Pelswijk

    1265gr of sugar for the frosting? That is a lot of sugar. I used to make your recipes , but sometime they are way to sweet that I can’t enjoy it. Can I add less sugar?

    1. Lindsay

      Yes, I do use a fairly large amount of powdered sugar. It’s all about the stability and volume of frosting. If you don’t mind that it’s thinner and harder to pipe and you have less to work with, then you can certainly reduce it. That doesn’t bother some people, I just like a decorator’s style frosting. Read more about how I make my cream cheese frosting here.

  12. Suzy-q

    Oh, boy! You hit the mark with this one! I absolutely love coconut! I can’t wait to make this cake and enjoy every bite myself! Well, maybe I’ll share. LOL.
    Thanks Lindsay and enjoy the day!

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12