Coconut Lime Cake
This stunning cake is made of tender coconut cake layers, lime curd filling, and a coconut-lime buttercream.
Birthday cakes are my favorite thing to bake. I mean, how can they not be? They’re doubly special— the cake is usually a little fancier and put together, and it’s always made with so much love.
I baked this coconut lime cake to celebrate my husband’s birthday this past weekend, and it was perfect. A version of this cake has been on my site for many years, from another birthday of his actually, and I had a vision to make it even better. More coconut. More lime. More wow.
And because it would be crazy not to, I borrowed the cake layers from my crazy popular southern coconut cake. Why reinvent the wheel, right? In between those light and tender cake layers I sandwiched homemade lime curd and frosted the whole thing with coconut-lime Swiss meringue buttercream.
Swiss meringue buttercream is slightly more complicated than traditional classic buttercream, but the work is more than worth it. This frosting is so light in both flavor and texture, and not too sweet.
You can decorate the cake however you like, but I kept mine simple with swirls of frosting on top, toasted coconut, and lime slices. The hubby definitely loved this cake, and so did the rest of us!
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Coconut Lime Cake
FOR THE CAKE:
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk (375 ml), divided
- 1 tablespoon coconut flavoring
- 3 cups cake flour (340 grams)
- 2 ⅓ cups granulated sugar (470 grams)
- 4 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter (226 grams), softened to room temperature
LIME CURD FILLING:
- ½ cup fresh lime juice (125 ml)
- Zest of 2 limes
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 5 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup unsalted butter (56 grams)
- Food coloring , optional (see Notes)
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar (250 grams)
- 2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks, 450 grams), at room temperature
- ¼ cup coconut milk or cream of coconut
- Zest of 2 limes
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- Approximately 1 cup toasted coconut , sweetened or unsweetened
TO MAKE THE CAKE:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two or three 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. (See Notes)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites, ½ cup of the coconut milk, and coconut flavoring.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and remaining 1 cup coconut milk and combine on low speed until moistened. Increase speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add the egg white mixture in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing just long enough to incorporate between additions.
- Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in their pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto cooling racks to cool completely.
- Cake layers can be made in advance. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for several months. Defrost before assembling.
TO MAKE THE LIME CURD:
- Add the lime juice, zest, and sugar to a small saucepan set over medium heat. Heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.
- Add egg yolks to a medium bowl. While whisking constantly, add the heated lime juice mixture in a small steady stream until completely combined.
- Return mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickened, 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Mixture should coat the back of a spoon. Stir in butter.
- Pass lime curd though a mesh strainer to remove zest and any egg bits. Stir in green extract if using. Chill completely.
TO MAKE THE COCONUT-LIME BUTTERCREAM:
- In the bowl of the stand mixer, combine the egg whites and sugar. Place over a pot of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.
- Heat egg mixture, stirring frequently, until sugar is completely melted and it's hot to the touch. For best results, insert a candy thermometer and heat mixture to 160°F.
- Transfer bowl to the stand mixer and beat with the whisk attachment on high speed until cooled and egg whites have medium peaks, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce mixer speed to medium and add butter a tablespoon at a time. Egg whites will deflate a bit and may appear soupy, but will thicken and come together once all the butter has been added. If not, chill in the fridge for 15 minutes, then whip some more.
- Stir in coconut milk or cream and lime zest and beat until light and fluffy.
TO ASSEMBLE CAKE:
- Add about 1 cup of butter cream to chilled lime curd and stir until smooth.
- Remove any domed cake tops and/or split cake layers if desired (see my full tutorial). Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate.
- Pipe or frost a small "dam" of buttercream around edge of the cake layer (this will keep the curd from leaking out while you assemble.). Spread ½ or ⅓ of lime curd mixture (depending on how many layers you have) into the center. Top with another cake layer.
- Repeat with remaining cake layers.
- Frost entire cake with buttercream and decorated as desired. Top with toasted coconut.
- Store cake in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving, and leftovers may be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- This cake can be baked in either 8 or 9-inch pans. I prefer 8-inch as it makes a taller cake, but it's up to you. You can use 2 or 3 pans, depending on the look you're going for: double layer (2 pans), triple layer (3 pans), or quadruple layer (2 pans, then slice each layer in half). I've had some comments about the batter not fitting in two 8-inch pans. My pans are 4 inches deep and can accommodate a lot of batter. If you have only 2-inch deep pans, consider using 3 pans or 9-inch pans.
- Lime curd is naturally yellow in color. If you'd like it to be green, I suggest adding a tiny bit of blue gel food coloring. You can always add more, so start small. Adding green coloring will actually make it more of a neon green color.
- To toast coconut: spread into a single layer on a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 3-5 minutes. Watch closely to make sure it doesn't burn. Let cool completely.
- For help assembling and building your cake, see my complete tutorial on how to build a layer cake.
Note: This recipe was originally published on Completely Delicious in January 2010.
40 Comments on “Coconut Lime Cake”
This looks amazing!!
Three layers!? One intense cake, but the flavor combination sounds so good! I'll have to bookmark this, it would be perfect for a spring dinner party.
Beautiful cake! Fit for a birthday celebration, indeed. My husband is the opposite of yours — he "says'' he doesn't like dessert. But then, he'll eat only the sweetest ones. Go figure…. 😉
How wonderful! I love me some lime&coconut….great idea!
BEAUTIFUL! BRAVO! These are some of my favorite flavors as well. I recently found coconut flavoring oil at Whole Foods I use it when coconut milk is in a recipe – because, I too sometimes feel the coconut flavor isn't enough with just the coconut milk. ~Mary
fluffy frosting, coconutty cake, tangy filling–this is all kinds of awesome. wonderful display!
Food o'del Mundo, what a great idea! I'll definitely try that next time.
I am so torn over this. This cake looks absolutely amazing. I love the combination of coconut and lime. My husband on the other hand hates lime, and my sister (whom I share all of my baked goods with) hates coconut. I think maybe I will make these into cupcakes and fill a few of them with the lime curd…my sister can make her own goodies 😉
I can't wait to make this cake – and the idea of making the recipe into cupcakes and fill them with the lime curd is brilliant…..!!!!
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OMG this looks so divine!
What about the Butter in THE LIME CURD ingredients?]
Oops! Add it once lime curd is cooked and before straining. I’ve corrected the instructions. 🙂
Annalise, I am truly sorry to be the grammar police, but I love your work and don’t want you to have an error on your gorgeous website. It should read “more fancy” not “more fancier” in the paragraph under the photo of that spectacular cake. I’m actually making a coconut cake for my husband’s birthday coming up on Tuesday and just baked the layers this morning and will tackle the frosting on the day of the party. I chose a recipe very similar to yours, which I just came across this afternoon. I think in the buttercream directions you mean not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. My question is, will I have trouble getting the egg whites to whip up properly given that I’m in Colorado, at a little more than 5,000 feet? When making the cake, I used about an 1/8 tsp of cream of tartar in the whites and they whipped perfectly. Maybe I should do the same for the frosting? Thanks for your help.
I am in SLC at about 5,000 ft and have never had any problems with egg whites not whipping properly. I don’t think cream of tartar will be needed. Hope this helps! 🙂
It looks so yum! And I love how to decorate it! Simple and elegant! Thank you for sharing the recipe!
It kooks like and reads like a great cake, but why do people review a cake before making it? I want to know how it came out, not if your husband likes dessert.
The cake layers for this particular cake are borrowed from my southern coconut cake recipe which has lots of lots of reviews for you to browse! Hope this helps. 🙂
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I can’t find coconut flavoring listed in the cake batter. Can I substitute coconut extract?
I cant find either.. what do I do?? 🙁
I made this cake yesterday for my 60th birthday. It was fabulous! So tender, great flavor. Everything was perfect. I am now a big fan of yours!
Yay! Thanks so much Karen. Glad it turned out so well for you. 🙂
Hi Annalise.. I cant seem to find coconut extract or flavoring. What can I do? Please advise
Hmm, maybe try buying online? There’s really no substitute for getting a concentrated coconut flavor. Good luck!
Is coconut flavoring stronger than coconut extract, do I use the same amount for either or.
You can use them interchangeably!
My sponge did not rise, I wonder what I done wrong ! White whites and coconut milk was not stiff could this be a reason?
Yeah I cant get my egg whites to whip at all. What am I doing wrong?
I have a similar question. Is the goal when whipping the egg whites, 1/2 c coconut milk and extract to incorporate a lot of air in the batter or to just combine? I’m curious if the baking powder is the sole source of leavening? I made the cakes and they are quite sunken in the middle telling me that I didn’t leaven enough or there’s too much sugar. I decreased the baking powder by 1/2 tsp because I’m at altitude, but in reading comments, I see that I’m at relatively the same altitude as Annalise at 5000 ‘. I’m going to try again, and appreciate any insight you can offer. Thank you 🙂
Nope, the egg whites are not whipped, just whisked together with the other wet ingredients. The leavening power comes from baking powder alone, and if you’re having trouble with the cakes sinking it could be a lot of reasons, like under-baking, over or under mixing, the baking powder is expired, etc. Cakes can be tricky at higher altitude but I am at almost 5000ft and have baked this cake successfully literally dozens of times. Happy to troubleshoot more with you if you want to send me an email at email@example.com. 🙂
Thanks for this great recipe. I made it for my daughter’s birthday yesterday and it was loved by all. I didn’t have any coconut essence but still tasted delicious without. I used vanilla essence in the cake and lime juice in the frosting instead.
Curious if you are using coconut milk from a can/carton as the ingredients in both vary widely (ie. sugar, salt content plus the cartons usually have lots of additives)! Hoping to have all of the proper ingredients on hand before making this for my daughter’s birthday next week.
Thank you! 🙂
I want to make the cake in a 9×13 pan (quarter sheet) and then cut three 6″ circles from that. Is the recipe enough for a 9×13 pan? Thanks so much!
I made this cake for my mom’s birthday. It is still hands down the best thing I have ever baked. Exquisite in appearance, and down right indulgent to taste, one slice simply isn’t enough. Quite a lot of effort went in to making it but it was so much fun and the results did not disappoint. Everyone at the party raved about it. 10/10
Curious if anyone has tried using key limes?
When I saw this cake I knew it would be perfect for my friends birthday. My husband made it, and it turned out perfectly! We will definitely be saving this recipe 🥰 Thank you so much for sharing! It was fluffy , light, and delicious 😋.
I followed the recipe exactly as written but the cake layers turned out very very dense. They looked like they had no crumb at all and almost looked underbaked, even though the cake was in the oven for 41 minutes and a toothpick came out clean. Wondering what I may have done wrong, any ideas? I used cake strips on the outside of the pan but don’t know if that might be connected to the cake being so dense.
I finally made this after having it on my “to make” list forever. It turned out super tasty, but it was a lot of work! My favorite part was the lime curd. Kinda wish I had doubled that so I could use it on my toast or yogurt!
A few little things–you should put the optional food coloring in the actual instructions instead of just listing it in the ingredients with a note.
Also the coconut extract in the buttercream is not in the instructions.
You mistakenly called it “lemon” curd in step 4 of the curd.
I think I overmixed the frosting and it started to separate, so maybe make a note about when to stop mixing. It became chunky and adding the coconut milk just made it worse (but I still used it and just covered the whole cake with coconut, lol).
Thanks for the challenging, yummy recipe!