The Best Coconut Cake the Way Grandma Made It

There's nothing better than a recipe that tastes like home. And this one takes the cake.

There are certain foods that bring us right back to our childhoods in a good way, and for Nicole McLaughlin, aka NicoleMcmom, this is one of the most special. Nicole is sharing her grandmother's famous recipe for an easy and delicious coconut cake, just in time for Mother's Day, or any special occasion. Full disclosure: While she didn't exactly love the cake when she was a kid, Nicole says her tastes have evolved and this is now one of her favorites.

What makes this recipe so easy is that it starts with a boxed cake mix (with extras added in to boost the flavor, of course) and her grandmother's seven-minute frosting. Watch the video up top to get all of Nicole's tips and tricks, and get the recipe below.

Get the recipe for Simply the Best Coconut Cake

side view of simply the best coconut cake recipe on a plate

Incredibly moist and sweet with a delightful coconut taste that's not overwhelming, this is the best coconut cake ever. Each bite combines a cold and creamy filling, a soft cake, and a thick, sweet frosting — it melts in your mouth! And it looks fancy, like you spent all day making it, but it's actually super easy and approachable.NicoleMcmom



  • 1 ½ cups white sugar
  • 2 (6-ounce) packages frozen coconut
  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream


  • 1 (15.25 ounce) package white cake mix
  • 1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • ⅓ cup light corn syrup
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup flaked sweetened coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), or 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for coated pans. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.
  2. Stir sugar, frozen coconut, and sour cream for filling together in a medium bowl until well combined. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, water, oil, eggs, egg whites, and vanilla for cake in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Blend on medium speed for 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Pour batter into the prepared pans.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then invert onto a parchment-lined cooling rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  5. Use a large, serrated knife to cut each cake layer in half lengthwise; you will have 4 pieces. Flip top pieces so all cut sides are facing up. Stack layers and filling on a serving platter as follows: 1 bottom layer, 1/3 of the filling, 1 top layer, 1/3 of the filling, remaining bottom layer, remaining filling, remaining top layer. Cover and chill, 30 minutes to overnight.
  6. Combine sugar, corn syrup, egg whites, water, vanilla, and cream of tartar for frosting in a large heat-proof bowl; stir until well combined. Place the bowl over a double boiler and whisk using an electric hand mixer until thick and glossy, about 7 minutes. Take care that the double boiler doesn't reach higher than a slow simmer.
  7. Spread frosting over cooled cake immediately and sprinkle with shredded coconut.
overhead view of a coconut cake with a slice cut out and served on a plate

Nicole's Top Tips

  • If you've never used frozen coconut or have never even heard of it before, look for it in the freezer section near the frozen fruit. #whoknew
  • To give the cake even more coconut flavor, add a dash of coconut extract to cake mix.
  • Make the filling while the cake is baking and cooling; it needs to sit in the fridge to thicken up.
  • When the frosting is finished cooking, you'll want to start right in on frosting the cake. Otherwise, the frosting stiffens up pretty quickly.
  • No need to do a crumb coat first because the frosting is so rich and thick.
  • Give the cake a light dusting of shredded coconut to make it look extra pretty.
  • Dip your knife into a cup of very hot water to make slicing the cake cleaner and easier.

You can connect with Nicole as NicoleMcmom on Allrecipes and on Instagram @nicolemcmom.

More tips, tricks, and ideas from Nicole:

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