You’re sure to fall in love with this light lemon coconut cake made up of tender coconut cake layers, homemade zesty lemon curd, and velvety Chantilly cream frosting.

sliced lemon coconut cake on a cake stand

I feel a little guilty that it’s taken so long to share this cake recipe with you all. For many years I’ve been combining my southern coconut cake with homemade lemon curd and chantilly cream frosting for the ultimate spring dessert. But when I got a recent comment on my coconut cake recipe “can I fill this cake with lemon curd instead?” I realized I need to make this winning combination more official.

And so here we are! This lemon coconut cake is one of my favorite things to make in the spring, especially for Easter, though honestly it’s wonderful year-round. It’s both light and rich at the same time, and the combination of lemon and coconut is so fresh and vibrantly delicious.

closeup of a slice of lemon coconut cake on a plate

Table of Contents

What’s in this cake

This layer cake has 4 specific components:

  • The most light and tender coconut cake layers 
  • Bright lemon curd filling just bursting with lemon flavor
  • Unbelievably fluffy Chantilly cream frosting
  • A blanket of sweetened shredded coconut 

What is Chantilly cream frosting? Basically it’s a fancy name for sweetened whipped cream, often beaten with cream cheese for stability and flavor. It’s somewhere in between cream cheese frosting and whipped cream. It’s so light, fluffy and creamy, but also not too sweet or heavy. 

If you’ve ever though that traditional buttercream or cream cheese frosting is too sweet or rich, then you’re going to absolutely love this Chantilly cream frosting. It’s the perfect topper for this lemon coconut cake!

Ingredients you’ll need

lemon coconut cake ingredients measured out

baking tip:Why you should use cake flour

Cake flour is high in starch and low in protein. It’s the proteins in all-purpose flour that can cause a cake to be tough if the batter is overworked, and cake flour helps to make sure that doesn’t happen. Use cake flour in a recipe when it calls for it and you’re setting yourself up for success every time.

If you don’t have cake flour on hand, substitute 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch for 1 cup of cake flour. You can also simply just use all-purpose flour, cup for cup. The results won’t quite be the same, there’s not the same guarantee of success, but you’ll likely still have a delicious cake.

How to make lemon coconut cake

Layer cakes can be a bit time consuming, and this lemon coconut cake is no exception. However, anyone with basic baking skills can make it, and should! It’s definitely worth the effort.

Now, let’s bake a cake!

  1. Prepare the coconut cake batter. This cake uses the “reverse creaming method”, which means that the butter is beaten with the dry ingredients, before adding the liquid ingredients. The reverse creaming method makes for a more tender, velvety crumb since the butter completely coats the flour and prohibits the formation of gluten. If you’re new to this method, find more info here!
  2. Bake, then chill. Make sure your cake pans prepped with parchment paper and nonstick baking spray. Cakes are done when the edges are golden and the center of the cake spring back when gently pressed. Do not over bake!coconut cake layers wrapped in plastic wrap
  3. Make the lemon curd. Lemon curd is so easy to make! Look for step-by-step instructions for how to make lemon curd here. Since the lemon curd should be completely chilled before assembling the cake, make it while the cake bakes or even earlier. It lasts for weeks in the fridge so it’s a great step to make-ahead!bowl of luscious lemon curd with a spoon in it
  4. Make the Chantilly frosting. Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt with an electric mixer till smooth, then add heavy cream in a few additions. It’ll look lumpy as it comes together, so stop and scrape the beater and sides of the bowl often. But once all of the cream is added, it’ll whip up beautifully and turn into the creamiest frosting.whipped chantilly frosting in mixing bowl
  5. Fill the cake. Before layering the cake with the lemon curd filling, pipe or frost a small “dam” of frosting around the edges of the cake layers to prevent the lemon curd from squishing out. filling the coconut cake with lemon curd and a dam of chantilly frosting
  6. Frost and cover in coconut. Once the cake layers have been stacked, cover the whole cake with the Chantilly cream frosting and then top with coconut, using your hands to gently press the coconut onto the sides.assembling the lemon coconut cake on a cake stand, and frosting it
  7. Slice and enjoy! For best results, chill the cake for at least 30 minutes before serving.
assembled lemon coconut cake on a plate stand

Tips for making this cake

  • Need extra help assembling a cake? If you’re new to baking layer cakes or need a little help, be sure to check out my complete guide for how to build a layer cake. It’s got everything you need to know!
  • This recipe uses one 13.5-oz can of unsweetened full-fat coconut milk. If you don’t see it in the baking aisle, look for it with the Asian foods, do not use coconut cream or coconut milk from a carton as it’s not the same. You can also use whole milk in a pinch, just increase coconut extract by 1 teaspoon.
  • You can use either 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans. (These are the pans I have and love.) 8-inch pans will yield a taller cake, 9-inch will yield one that’s wider. 
  • Don’t forget to line cake pans with parchment paper! The cake layers are so tender, and this is the only way to ensure there’s no sticking. Here’s all my tips for prepping cake pans before baking.
  • I recommend making this a 2-day baking project. Since it’s easier to work with chilled cake layers, prepare the cake layers one day, wrap them in plastic wrap and store in the fridge along with the prepped homemade lemon curd. (See my tips for storing cake layers.) The next day, make the frosting and assemble the cake.
  • I prefer to cover this cake with un-toasted sweetened shredded coconut as I like its bright white appearance. However, if you prefer the look and flavor of toasted coconut, toast the coconut in a 350°F oven for 3-4 minutes (check it often so it doesn’t burn).
a slice of lemon coconut cake on a plate

Storage and how to make-ahead

Store any leftovers in the fridge. It will keep for about 5 days, though it will taste its best within 1-2 days of assembly. (And I promise it won’t last long!)

You can freeze the assembled cake, but because of the cream cheese in the frosting the texture may not be the same once it thaws. If you want to make this cake far in advance, I recommend freezing the cake layers individually in plastic wrap, and making the lemon curd up to 2 weeks in advance and store it in the fridge. When ready, thaw cakes overnight in the fridge, make the frosting fresh, then assemble.

More coconut cake recipes

Get the recipe

sliced lemon coconut cake on a cake stand

Lemon Coconut Cake

Servings: 12 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Layers of moist and tender coconut cake filled with fresh homemade lemon curd and frosted with the fluffiest Chantilly frosting.


 For the Coconut Cake:

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 ½ cup (375 ml) canned unsweetened full-fat coconut milk , divided
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flavoring
  • 3 cups (340 grams) cake flour
  • 2 ⅓ cups (470 grams) granulated sugar
  • 4 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter , softened to room temperature

For the Lemon Curd Filling:

  • ½ cup (113 grams) butter
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (224 grams) freshly squeezed lemon juice , about 3-4 lemons
  • 3 lemons , zested
  • 10 large egg yolks

For the Chantilly Frosting:

  • 8 oz (226 grams) full-fat cream cheese , cubed and softened
  • 1 cup (114 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract or vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ½ cup (568 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 ½ cups (128 grams) sweetened shredded coconut


To make the cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. (See Notes)
  • In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the egg whites, ½ cup of the coconut milk, and coconut flavoring just until combined.
  • 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.
  • Since these coconut cake layers are so soft and tender, I prefer to wrap them in plastic wrap and chill them completely in the fridge to firm them up a bit before assembling the layer cake.

To make the lemon curd filling:

  • Add butter, ½ cup sugar, zest from the lemons, and lemon juice to a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
  • In another bowl, combine the egg yolks with the remaining ½ cup sugar. Slowly add the hot lemon juice mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously. When fully combined, return the mixture to the saucepan and continue to cook over medium heat until thickened and the whisk leaves a trail in the curd.
  • Remove from heat and pass through a mesh strainer set over a bowl to remove the zest and any egg clumps. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the curd and let it set in the fridge until completely cooled, 1-2 hours.
  • Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. (Lemon curd can also be frozen for several months.)

To make the Chantilly frosting:

  • Add cream cheese, powdered sugar, coconut/vanilla extract, and salt to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium high speed for 3-4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl and whisk as needed, until smooth (it will be very thick).
  • Add the heavy cream to the mixing bowl in 3 additions, mixing on medium low speed until combined. Then scrape down the bowl and mix on medium high speed for about 1 minute until thick and frosting holds medium peaks.

To assemble the cake:

  • Place one cake layer on a plate or cake stand. Add a small amount of frosting to a piping bag and pipe a "dam" around the edges of the cake.
  • Spoon a heaping ½ cup of lemon curd onto the cake and carefully spread it into an even layer inside the dam of frosting (if you have 9-inch cakes you will need slightly more lemon curd). Carefully place another cake layer on top.
  • Make another frosting dam and fill the center with lemon curd. Place the final cake layer on top.
  • Cover the cake with the Chantilly frosting, starting on top and then using a spatula to work it down the sides. Use your hands to gently press the sweetened coconut onto the sides of the cake and sprinkle coconut generously on top.
  • Chill the cake for at least 1 hour before serving. You can serve it straight from the fridge, or let it come to room temperature a bit.


  • This recipe uses just about one 13.5-oz can of unsweetened coconut milk. Do not use “coconut cream” or coconut milk from a carton as these products are not the same.
  • The cake can be baked in either 8 or 9-inch pans. 8-inch pans will yield a taller cake with thicker cake layers. 9-inch pans will yield a wider, shorter cake. If you have 8-inch pans I recommend baking 3 layers to avoid overflowing your pans, but if you have 9-inch pans you can bake either 2 or 3 layers.
  • Take your time with this layer cake! Bake the cake layers and make the lemon curd one day, then the next day make the frosting and put it all together.
Calories: 878kcal, Carbohydrates: 109g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 47g, Saturated Fat: 32g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 109mg, Sodium: 217mg, Potassium: 362mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 83g, Vitamin A: 1255IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 116mg, Iron: 1mg
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Author: Annalise Sandberg
Have you tried this recipe?I’d love to hear about it! Leave a rating and review below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram @completelydelicious with #completelydelicious.