If you've been with me a while, you might know my love of boxed cake mix. Who needs to weigh out every dry ingredient if someone has already done it for you!!! This coconut cake recipe uses a regular white cake mix and spruces it up with a lovely cream cheese frosting + optional lemon curd. This coconut cake is easy to make and will impress everyone.
It's my point of view on cake-making that you should really not be precious about it. Save your time baking cakes with a good boxed cake mix and focus your energy on presentation and overall design. No one is going to be impressed if you spent time weighing out every ingredient and mixing it just right. Just use a boxed mix. It's so much easier!
And, the beauty of baking a layer cake is that you can do a lot of the work ahead. The cake layers can be baked whenever, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and frozen. The frosting can be made a day ahead and sealed in a 1-gallon plastic bag -- then you can snip off a corner when you're ready to frost and you have a ready-to-go icing bag! You can even bake the whole cake and decorate it all, then store it in the fridge for a day ahead of time.
My tricks to making a great layer cake using a boxed cake mix are to be thoughtful with how you bake the cake, and then to get creative with the frosting/toppings.
Pro tips for baking a great cake using a boxed cake mix
- Use good cake pans -- for a two-layer cake, I use these 9" cake pans
- Spray your cake pans with baking spray
- Weigh out the batter to ensure even cake layers
- Trim the tops off so you're icing a level cake layer
How to use a boxed cake mix to make a coconut cake
So the gist of it is that you're going bake the cake mix largely as it prescribes, but sub in coconut oil where the boxed cake mix calls for vegetable oil, and then add in a ½ teaspoon of coconut extract.
For the frosting, make a cream cheese frosting also with a ½ teaspoon of coconut extract, then top it with coconut shavings.
Full details below in the recipe card!
How to Make a Coconut Cake out of Boxed Cake Mix
- 1 box of white cake mix
- substitute coconut oil for vegetable oil
- add ½ teaspoon of coconut extract
- Optional: Lemon curd filling
- Cream cheese frosting
- 1 cup 8 ounces of cream cheese (1 packet), room temp
- 1 ½ cups 8 ounces of powdered sugar, plus more to adjust for consistency as you see fit
- 1 ½ sticks 6 ounces of butter, room temp
- ½ teaspoon of coconut extract
- about 1 cup of coconut shavings - I used unsweetened shavings but up to you
- pinch of kosher salt
- Bake the cake. Spray two 9" cake pans with cake spray and preheat the oven to 350F. Substitute in coconut oil for where the recipe calls for vegetable oil, and add in ½ teaspoon of coconut extract into your wet ingredients. Bake for the prescribed time (probably 25 minutes) and then let the cake layers cool COMPLETELY before icing.
- Optional! If you want to make lemon curd to put in the middle, follow this recipe for my foolproof citrus curd. Also let it cool before assembling/icing the cake.
- Make icing. In a stand mixer or a large bowl, cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add in coconut extract and salt and mix a little more, then add in the powdered sugar in thirds until it's a smooth, thick, creamy consistency.
- Ice the cake. Place your first cake layer down on a cake stand. If it's not level, make sure you've leveled it. Using an offset spatula, smooth icing or lemon curd across the top of the bottom layer, about ½ inch thick. place the second layer on top. Add a layer of icing on top of the second cake layer, and smack a few globs of icing on the sides. Using your spatula, distribute the icing as evenly as possible around the sides, and smooth it out as you go. Stick the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes so the icing hardens up before doing a second layer of icing. Then, sprinkle coconut shavings on the top and apply the coconut shavings on the side by making a little cup with your hand and gently patting the shavings on the sides.