My Coconut and Lemon Curd Snack Cake has layers of fluffy coconut cake, lemon curd, and coconut cream cheese frosting. This take on a Southern classic has warmer days written all over it!
Coconut Cake and my Southern roots
I think I'm geographically predisposed to craving a Coconut and Lemon Curd Snack Cake. I'm sure there's a Food Historian out there who can tell me the reason that coconut cake is so deeply rooted in Southern tradition. Every Holiday or special occasion means a coconut cake on the dessert table. The cafeterias we ate in (kind of a buffet thing down south), always had slices of coconut cake in the dessert case. But I don't care why. It's just a Southern thing, and it makes me happy.
So, sometimes I'll just a get a craving for a bit of coconut cake. That's why I developed this recipe. Being a snack cake, it's just the right amount of cake. No stacking layers or swirling fussy frosting. The most fuss we make is making the lemon curd, and that's easier than you think.
What are the ingredients in this cake?
- Lemons Pick the juiciest lemons you can. There are oodles of tips to tell if a lemon is juice and ripe, but I just do the squeeze test in the store. If it's squeezy, it's juicy. I also find if the skin feels tight and looks smooth and shiny, it tends to be juicier.
- Eggs You'll be using three large eggs in the recipe, and they need to be separated. The egg yolks will be used in the curd and the whites will be used in the cake. When separating the eggs, make sure to get no yolk in the white, or you won't get a good whipped egg white. The egg whites are used in the cake to increase fluffiness, but I also firmly believe that a coconut cake should be as white as the inside of a coconut. And mine is because I only use the egg whites.
- Unsalted Butter I always use unsalted butter, because different brands have different amounts of salt. It's not standardized. It's always a better practice to use unsalted butter in both sweet and savory recipes. In my opinion.
- Cake Flour We're already using whipped egg whites, to create fluffiness. The cake flour will just further ensure we have a light, fluffy cake.
- Unsweetened Coconut Milk I replaced the usual milk from my white cake recipe with coconut milk, to really drive home the fact that this is indeed Coconut Cake.
- Coconut Extract Instead of the usual vanilla extract found in most cakes, I use coconut extract. It's in the spice aisle of your Mega Market, right next to the vanilla. Not only does it ensure extra coconutiness, it's a clear liquid that won't color your batter. Did I mention I like a white coconut cake?
- Cream Cheese I like the tang of a whipped cream cheese frosting with this cake, especially since it'll be finished with sweetened coconut flakes.
- Sweetened Coconut Flakes In most recipes where I use coconut, I prefer the larger unsweetened coconut flakes, but in this recipe I really want that traditional, finely chopped, sweet coconut flake. So that's what we're using.
Putting it all together
There are a few “layers” involved in making this delicious cake. There’s the lemon curd, the cake, and the frosting. I’ll break it all down into easy to follow steps, so don’t worry, it’ll be fine.
- Making the lemon curd Over the years I've seen many overcomplicated recipes for lemon curd, but I've simplified it for you here. You'll just whisk all the ingredients, except the butter, until the mixture thickens. Then you take it off the heat and slowly add in bits of butter until it's smooth and creamy. That's it. The lemon curd needs a couple of hours to fully thicken and set before you spread it on the cake, but it should be ready by the time your cake is cooled. But, if you want to make the lemon curd the day before, your cake baking day will be a... piece of cake 😂 *badum-tss* 🥁
- Reverse creaming your cake batter I use the reverse creaming method in this recipe. In the reverse creaming method, the butter and/or oils are mixed into ALL of the dry ingredients, including the sugar, before adding the wet ingredients. It’s easier, results in a light and fluffy cake, and is practically foolproof.
- Making the frosting Because it's a sweet cake, I thought that cream cheese frosting would be the perfect compliment. It's quick and easy to make and you don't have to be a frosting artist, because we cover it all in coconut flakes!
Want more cake recipes?
Coconut and Lemon Curd Snack Cake
- Zest from 2 lemons
- ½ cup lemon juice from 2-3 lemons
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 3 large egg yolks save the whites for the cake
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup unsalted butter 1 stick/113 g
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ cup unsalted butter 57 g, cut into small cubes and softened
- ¼ cup vegetable oil 60 g
- 1 ¾ cups cake flour 224 g
- ¾ cup granulated sugar 150 g
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup canned coconut milk 240 g (save 2 teaspoon for the buttercream)
- ½ teaspoon coconut extract
- 3 large egg whites whipped to soft peaks
Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
- 4 oz cream cheese 113 g, softened
- ¼ cup unsalted butter 113 g, softened
- ½ teaspoon coconut extract
- ⅕ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon coconut milk 10 g
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar 150 g
For the top
- ½ cup sweetened coconut flakes
Making the lemon curd
- In a small saucepan, whisk together your egg yolks, egg, sugar, lemon juice and zest, and a pinch of kosher salt until well combined.
- Place pan over medium low heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken. Continue to cook until the mixture coats the back of your spoon and running your finger through leaves a nice clean trail, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and drop in your butter piece by piece, waiting for each bit to melt before adding the next one.
- Transfer the curd into a bowl, using a small strainer. Press the curd through the strainer with a rubber spatula to remove the zest and any possible cooked egg or shell bits. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd and refrigerate at least two hours. After making the cake, any leftover curd can be stored in the refrigerator up to two weeks.
Let’s make some Coconut Cake!
- Preheat oven to 350° F Spray an 8 inch square pan with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper.
- In a stand mixer, mix together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder for about a minute to combine. Add your softened butter and oil and mix on low speed until it’s the texture of wet sand.
- Add coconut milk and coconut extract into the mixed dry ingredients and combine on medium speed for about one minute. There will still be some lumps in the batter, but that’s fine. They will incorporate while baking.
- If you haven’t already done so, whip your 3 reserved egg whites in a bowl with a hand mixer until you get nice soft peaks. You should be able to (but don’t) hold the bowl upside down over your head without egg white falling on you (really, don't). Add about ⅓ of the whipped whites into your batter and mix in well. This will “loosen” your batter a bit, so you can better fold in the rest of the whites. Add the rest of the egg whites and fold gently until fully incorporated. If there are a few small white streaks left, that’s fine.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula and bake in a 350° oven for 24-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool on a rack.
Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
- Combine cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Combine with a handheld mixer on high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add coconut extract, salt, and 2 teaspoons of coconut milk and mix just until combined. Add powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, beating on low speed until just combined before adding more. After all the sugar is added, increase speed to high, and beat until smooth and fluffy. If the frosting seems too thin, add more powdered sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time. If it seems too thick, add more coconut milk, one teaspoon at a time.
Coconut Cake! Assemble!
- Spread lemon curd in a thin layer over the top of your cooled cake. Using an ice cream scoop or large spoons, drop dollops of frosting over the top of the cake. Using an offset spatula, spread frosting over the curd layer. Sprinkle with a blanket of coconut flakes. Slice, serve, and enjoy!
The nutritional and caloric information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It does not assert or suggest that readers should or should not count calories, and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s or doctor’s counseling.