Lemon-Coconut Cake

This recipe combines two favorites: lemon and coconut! I found this recipe in the December issue of Southern Living in 2006, and I’ve baked it for Christmas dinner several times. However, I took the easy way out this year since we had an abundance of other baked goods. I also know that while Dad and I love lemon and coconut, it’s not your favorite so I waited and baked it yesterday. We invited friends for leftovers (you know you’re a good friend if we can serve leftovers when you visit), but at least I baked a special dessert.

Make sure you read to the end of the recipe where I’ve included modifications that make this cake easier to prepare.

Lemon-Coconut Cake - Make sure you check out the short cuts at the end of the recipe!
Lemon-Coconut Cake – Make sure you check out the short cuts at the end of the recipe!


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Lemon Filling (see ingredients below)
  • Cream cheese frosting (see ingredients below)
  • 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut


1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.

2. Combine flour and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

3. Beat egg whites at high speed with electric mixer until stiff peaks form; fold one-third of egg whites into batter. Gently fold in remaining beaten egg whites just until blended. Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.

4. Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

5. Spread Lemon filling between layers. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle top and sides with coconut. Garnish, if desired.

Lemon Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter

1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan; whisk in 1 cup boiling water. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until sugar and cornstarch dissolve (about 2 minutes). Gradually whisk about one-fourth of hot sugar mixture into egg yolks; add to remaining hot sugar mixture in pan, whisking constantly. Whisk in lemon rind and juice.

2. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened (about 2 to 3 minutes). Remove from heat. Whisk in butter; let cool completely, stirring occasionally.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended; stir in vanilla.

Now for a little secret – the first time I made this cake I followed all directions exactly as written and the cake was delicious, but it was also a lot of work. I’ve made some modifications that enable me to make this cake with much less work without giving up anything on taste.

1st – Instead of baking the cake from scratch I use Duncan Hines cake mix. We prefer yellow cake to white, but either work fine.

2nd – Robertson’s lemon curd, found in the baking section at Publix, can be substituted for the lemon filling. The filling itself is not difficult to make but it must be completely cool before spreading on the cake. I’ve rushed this step with disastrous results – the top layer slides off. Not a problem with the premade filling.

Under no circumstance would I change the frosting! This is the key to incredible cakes. Invest time and effort into the frosting, and a box cake is transformed into something special.