Vanilla Cake with Coconut Filling


My birthday was in late August and I decided to make my own cake. But what flavor? I love coconut and have been eating it almost daily, and being that I love vanilla cake, it seemed like the right combination.

The recipes are very basic to make this cake. You’ll be using many of the same ingredients for each mixture. I’ve simplified the process so you don’t have to buy a lot of ingredients you may not use. If you don’t keep cake flour on hand, just use the recommended combination of all-purpose flour and cornstarch.

The vanilla simple syrup is optional but if you like more of a vanilla flavor punch, I would go for it. It takes no time at all to make and can be stored in the refrigerator to use on future cakes and cupcakes. You can also use it in cocktails.


I focused more on decorating this time. I’m not normally a girly-girl but I like blue and purple, and flowers, so I tested my buttercream skills by making a large flower to cover the top of the cake.

The hardest part was actually smoothing the sides of the cake. I thickened the buttercream to make the flower and just went forward instead of thinning part of the batch to smooth the sides. For the most part, it was smooth. As my technique improves, the buttercream consistency won’t be so much of a hurdle.

I used icing flower petal tip #125 to make the flower. I usually use the #1A tip in a circle around the outside of the cake to apply the buttercream evenly before smoothing but I decided to free-hand it this time.

I used three shades of blue to make the petals. I started with a darker color then, what I didn’t use in the center of the flower, I put back into a bowl and added more buttercream to lighten it up. I continued doing that until I was finished. Starting with the darker color helps to utilize the buttercream and not waste it. If I were a professional baker and making this in my shop, I would make separate batches and color them all to decorate more quickly. The buttercream would be used up in a shop that makes multiple cakes.

This is a photo from a previous cake. This method, using the #1A tip, really helps to apply the buttercream evenly before smoothing it out.

Vanilla Cake with Coconut Filling

Moist vanilla cake with coconut filling and rich vanilla buttercream frosting.
Servings 12 servings
Prep Time 42 mins
Cook Time 54 mins
Total Time 1 hr 36 mins


  • Two 8-inch cake pans or two 9-inch or one 9×13-inch
  • Parchment paper
  • KitchenAid® Professional 600 Series Mixer
  • Rubber spatula
  • Medium bowl
  • Sifter
  • Whisk
  • Large measuring cup
  • 1 Toothpick
  • Small sauce pan
  • Pastry brush
  • Medium sauce pan
  • Icing bags
  • Icing tip – flower petal tip #125
  • Icing scraper
  • Icing spatula
  • Food coloring
  • Sprinkles



  • cups cake flour sifted (or 2¼ cups all-purpose flour + ¼ cup cornstarch)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • tsp salt
  • 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter (1½ sticks) room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • cup buttermilk (make your own)
  • 1 tbsp bourbon-vanilla extract (regular is fine in all recipes)


  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp bourbon-vanilla extract


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp bourbon-vanilla extract
  • tsp salt
  • cups unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter


  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp whole milk
  • 1 tsp bourbon-vanilla extract
  • tsp salt



  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If using two 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans, cut parchment to fit the bottoms then grease the pans. If using a 9×13-inch pan, grease the bottom and sides. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine sifted cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • If making buttermilk, combine ingredients in a large glass measuring cup or small bowl and set aside to allow coagulation. I used whole milk and lemon juice to make buttermilk for this cake.
  • Using a stand up or hand mixer, cream butter and sugar on high speed for 3-5 mintes until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides.
  • Add eggs and vanilla extract to the buttermillk in the measuring cup and stir together.
  • With mixer on low, alternate the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture until all ingredients are just combined. Do not over-mix the batter. Make sure to scrape down the sides during the process.
  • Pour cake batter into prepared pans and bake on the oven's center rack. Bake 8-inch pans for 35 minutes, 9-inch pans for 25 minutes or a 9×13-inch pan for 30 minutes. Adjust times slightly according to your oven. Toothpick should come out mostly clean when checked in the center. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from round pans.
  • Careful not to over-bake as the cake will continue to cook for 10 minutes on a cooling rack before being removed from the pans. Cake in a 9×13-inch pan will not be removed so watching your baking time will help retain moisture.


  • In a small sauce pan, combine water and sugar over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add vanilla extract. Stir several times to combine. Let cool to room temperature. Brush on to top of cake layers with a pastry brush.
  • Store leftover syrup in a glass jar in refrigerator for up to two weeks.


  • In a saucepan over medium heat combine the milk and sugar. Stir frequently until sugar is dissolved. Go slowly as you don't want the milk to boil.
  • Stir in coconut, vanilla extract, salt and butter until combined. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before spreading on to cake layers.
  • Recipe makes enough for two cake layers. Filling can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.


  • In a large bowl, use a stand-up or hand mixer to cream butter. Add powdered sugar and combine completely.
  • Add milk, vanilla extract and salt. Beat for 3 to 5 minutes until smooth and creamy and you reach your desired consistency.


The Prep and Cooking times are for the entire process before decorating.
Course: Dessert
Keyword: Birthday, Buttercream, Cake, Coconut, Frosting

Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment on Facebook or Instagram and tag with @morganskitchn and #morganskitchn.

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