Gluten-Free Coconut Layer Cake

Gluten free coconut layer cake from Karina
Coconut cake heaven. Gluten-free and dairy-free deliciousness.

Let Us Eat Cake

Birthdays are complicated when you reach a certain age. Oh, don't get me wrong. You're grateful for another year. I mean. You're still alive and kicking, right? Waking up to a fresh start. Starting a spanking new year on the planet with one more number under your (slightly pinching) belt. A number that grants you a whisker more authority in the world. A tad more wisdom.

If you've been paying attention to the lessons life likes to offer up as experience, and not sleepwalking, that is. Not acquiescing to the expectations of others. Or choosing safety over the challenge of the new. Or worse- finding yourself somewhere, in some situation, or relationship, strictly for the sake of momentum, chafing inside a role you don't remember signing up for.

Birthdays can be markers like that.

Defining where we've been. And how far we've come. Or not.

It was my husband's birthday this weekend. And yes, I baked a cake. And as I stirred the batter and scooped it into cake pans, I thought about the other cakes I have baked for him. The chocolate cake in our first year of marriage. Children beneath our roof. Blue balloons and candles. The newness of each others' dreams. The shine of our ideas. The belief in what was possible.

We've shared seventeen nineteen birthdays now. And the single constant through these nineteen years is change. Change has woven its intricate design deep inside our marriage, our seven living spaces in four different states, our work as artists and writers, our sons' lives.

There isn't a piece of our life together that has not been burnished by change.

I asked my husband what he felt about this birthday, if anything. He said at first he didn't feel anything about it. That is was just another day. Another number. But later he turned to me and said he'd been thinking about his early years. The stuff he assumed was important. The choices he made. Or rather, didn't make. The times he stuck with things out of a sense of duty. Or a bone bred stoicism, believing in the virtue of sticking it out. Trying to make the unworkable work.

Looking back, he said, I don't understand it. When people say they wouldn't change a thing?

I'd change ten thousand things, he said.

And that's why I love you, I told him.

And it got me thinking. Would I change ten thousand things? Or would I choose the devil I know?

The thing is, the devil I know is change.

Delicate and moist coconut cake with creamy vegan frosting
Moist and tender coconut cake- perfect for any gluten-free celebration.

Karina's Gluten-Free Coconut Layer Cake

Recipe posted March 2011 by Karina Allrich.

This moist and tender layer cake makes a lovely birthday cake. I baked it the morning of my husband's birthday, and covered it until serving (at room temperature). The next morning we had a slice for breakfast- and it was even better. Perfect texture. I would suggest wrapping and freezing for serving beyond twenty-four to thirty-six hours, however.


1 1/2 cups potato starch (not potato flour)
1 1/2 cups sorghum flour
1/2 cup organic coconut flour
1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 free-range organic eggs, beaten, or egg replacer
1/2 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil

1 14-oz can organic light coconut milk
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two 9-inch cake pans with a circle of parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flours and dry ingredients.

Add in the eggs, oil, coconut milk, lime juice and vanilla. Beat until smooth. It should resemble a slightly thick and sticky cake batter.

Scoop the cake batter into the two prepared cake pans and spread evenly. Use wet hands, if necessary, to smooth out the tops. 

Bake in the center of the oven, side by side for 33 minutes, or so, until firm and springy. A cake tester inserted into the center should emerge clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Make the frosting.

Gluten free dairy free coconut layer cake
Creamy vegan frosting adorns this elegant coconut cake.

Coconut Frosting

With any frosting, start with a small amount of liquid and beat well- add more liquid a smidge at a time- and beat again before you decide it needs more. Frosting will thin quickly- if you're not careful.


1 cup dairy-free butter, butter, or organic palm shortening
1 teaspoon pure coconut or vanilla extract
1 pound powdered sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk, a little at a time


Flaked sweetened coconut for topping


In a mixing bowl, beat the butter/shortening and extract till combined. Add in the powdered sugar and less than half the coconut milk, and beat till smooth. Slowly add the remaining coconut milk, as you need it, a little at a time, beating after each addition, until you achieve a smooth and creamy consistency.

Frost the Cake:

When the cakes are cool, gently remove one from the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Trim off the domed top if you like, using a long serrated knife, to keep the cake layer even. Brush off any crumbs.

Center the first layer top side down on a cake plate. Frost the layer with roughly 3/4 cup of icing. Remove the second cake layer from the pan and peel off the parchment. Trim the dome top, if you like (brush off any crumbs). Place the layer on top of the frosted layer.

Scoop about a cup of frosting onto the top of the cake and spread it evenly to the edges. Begin adding frosting to the sides of the cake, spreading it evenly over the sides. Clean off the frosting spatula under warm water and dry it off.

Smooth the sides by turning the plate as you hold the spatula firmly in place. Clean off the spatula with warm water again, dry it, and smooth out the top.

Sprinkle with grated, sweetened coconut, if desired.

Allow the frosting to set, or chill briefly, before covering and storing the cake.

Yield: 1 9-inch layer cake

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Recipe Source:

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A slice of gluten-free coconut layer cake
A slice of sweet heaven. Frosted coconut layer cake.

Recipe Notes:


Using coconut milk is a classic choice for making a coconut layer cake. And inherently dairy-free. I used the richer coconut milk in a can- though it was the "lite" version. If you use full fat coconut milk, you might need to keep an eye on baking time- it may need a smidge longer to bake through the center.

If you'd rather try another milk- experiment and let us know how it worked. I imagine any good tasting nut milk, rice milk, or moo-cow dairy milk would be fine.

If you'd rather use butter or vegan stick margarine, either one will work. Just make sure it tastes buttery, not grassy.
For substitutions, please see my guide to baking with substitutions here.
We enjoy our sugary treats in moderation, darling, don't we? Gluten-Free Goddess® advises consuming no more than 2 tablespoons of sugar a day.

xox Karina


The Bendy Tree said...

Beautiful. The words and the cake.

Jaye Tee said...

Wow Karina! This looks amazing! I can't wait to try it!

Jessica said...

Yum! This looks amazing! We love coconut anything!

Jeanette said...

What a drop dead gorgeous birthday cake! I agree that life gets more complicated as the years go on, but hopefully we're better equipped to handle life's challenges.

Carla Rose said...

Looks delish!! Do you know off hand if omitting sugar and using stevia will work?


Ali - said...

Gorgeous photos Karina! I love the idea of a coconut cake! Yum! -Ali ;-)

Sue B said...

My favorite cake, which I haven't had since going gf 4 years ago. Many thanks....for the beautiful cake and the beautiful words.

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful, Karina. Happy Birthday to Steve. I've got my daughter's 25th coming up next week and can't wait to make this for her.

Sally JPA said...

That cake looks LOVELY.

Happy birthday to Steve.

Brenda said...

This looks absolutely divine. I love coconut anything, but coconut cake is the best.

goodnightstars said...

this looks sensational. if i had more time on my hands, i'd definitely make it.

Winnie said...

OMG this is so beautiful in each and every way. I adore coconut and cannot wait to make it :)

Pure2raw twins said...

Love coconut! But the funny thing is I never head a coconut cake before, I better get on that because this cake looks sooooo good!

Megan @ MAID in Alaska said...

Great minds think alike - I have a similar recipe on my blog! It's one of my favorite cakes!

Kalyn said...

First, hope Steve had a wonderful day.

Second, stunningly profound writing, gorgeous photos, drool worthy recipe. Another brilliant post from you!

Christine @ Nourish the Budding Lotus said...

What a beautiful cake! I will definitely have to play with this recipe. It looks delicious.

Lori said...

It's so nice to be able to bake 'healthy' cakes for birthdays. I made my husband a gorgeous carrot cake for his last birthday, and all our family and friends raved about it (gluten-free can be just as tasty!)

gfe--gluten free easily said...

First, there was the fact that this is a gorgeous cake. Then there was the fact that it contains olive oil. Then there was the fact that it contains coconut milk, plus coconut in the icing (bonus!). All of these combine to make this cake irresistible and super delicious without a doubt! Happy birthday to your husband, Karina! Love his birthday sentiments. :-)


Ellen said...

First glance I thought it was a wedding cake! Man, it looks scrumptious!

freeeats said...

Lovely post Karina. The photos are absolutely luscious. You reminded me of the Italian Cream Cake I grew up making with my Grandma. I recently converted it to gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free so that I could eat a little bit of nostalgia. :)

Anonymous said...

I love your stories and comments as much as I love your recipes.

Char said...

Great food for thought... thanks!
Makes me wonder, whose life is this, anyways--the baby's? the child's? the teenagers? the young show-off's? the middle aged mom's? They all seem to want different things out of life. Thank goodness we can change our minds... (if I just could notice when I'm trying to fulfill something I don't want anymore)

Dana said...

Happy belated birthday to your husband. This cake looks delicious. I can't wait to make it for my daughter. She'll be eight next month!

Cookin' Canuck said...

Oh, Karina - this is absolutely gorgeous. Your photos truly do this lovely cake justice.

Anonymous said...

I am turning 45 on 3/21. I was planning on making coconut cake (w/a dk chocolate sauce on the side!), and today, what do I see in my inbox but this beautiful Coconut Layer Cake - the cake goddesses are on my side!

Thank you thank you thank you! Happy Birthday to your hubby, my hubby's bday is today!

barb said...

This will be an excellent coconut cake for Easter.

The question for me is why are some old people so happy? I think the
answer is they've come to terms with how life has been for them but still have some hopes for the future.

VeganCookingforCarnivores said...

The cake is made so clean and very inspriring!

The InTolerant Chef said...

Some lovely deep sentiments there,but really, I just love the idea of cake for breakfast! :)

Amanda Stuckey said...

Beautiful words and such a beautiful, enticing cake! I love classic desserts made newly gluten free. I want to make this as soon as I have an excuse.

CassidyS said...

This looks fantastic!! Thanks for the delicious recipe. I love, love coconut!

Stephanie said...

This looks extraordinary! And, as my birthday is coming up... I have a friend I love to cook for on the occasion I can find something he can eat (gluten free, soy free, dairy free, yeast free, low sugar, caffeine free), and I'm thinking we should try this out at his place! Carla Rose, if you make this with Stevia, please report back! I'm wondering whether a combination of Stevia and coconut sugar would work?

docaddix said...

Can I use egg replacer and not eggs? Vegan and I don't use eggs?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the beautiful start to my day. Here's a tip about canned coconut milk: buy the regular type and mix 50/50 with water to make it a 'lite' version. Your milk & money will go twice as far.

Audrey said...

I want to fly to my kitchen right now and bake this gorgeous treat! Thank you for the new recipe! Can't wait to see how it turns out!

Karina Allrich said...

Thank you all for the coconut cake love! xox

As for using stevia in this recipe- no, I do not recommend it. The sugar lends significant volume and structure. Not to mention, texture and taste.

As for eggs- I have found that Ener-G Egg Replacer works quite well in cake recipes.

Karina xox

Anonymous said...

I noticed that you're going with tapioca starch quite a bit these days. I can't do tapioca at all. Can I substitute something else without entirely defeating the purpose?

Anonymous said...

When you show pictures of the baked goods you have made, are you showing the recipe with eggs or with the egg replacer? Thanks

Karina Allrich said...

Tapioca starch is a starch equal to potato starch (NOT potato flour) or cornstarch, or arrowroot starch. You can sub it one-to-one, or with a combo of starches, depending upon personal preference.

This birthday cake was made with free-range eggs and the photos you see contain eggs. I usually bake vegan, and those photos are vegan photos.


Eftychia said...

This cakes looks like Heaven!! Thanks for sharing!

Jenny Eliuk @ Stay on Path said...

My 30th birthday is in a month and I want to bake myself a very special cake. For one, it'll be the only way I get cake at all, and two, a milestone deserves a special acknowledgment. My mom recently sent me a gorgeous glass cake stand and cake decorating supplies, so I need to pick a recipe and make sure I have all the ingredients. Coconut sounds divine and is very tempting!

Linda said...

I recently saw a coconut cake in a magazine and have been thinking about making one ever since. Now you have gone and made a gluten and dairy free version for me so I have no excuse. I actually thought about making one for my husband's birthday this week, but he wanted chocolate. :)

Stina said...

Coconut is my favorite and I am excited to use this recipe for my next birthday!

Plus, do you think you'll get a button for your blog eventually? (or do you have on eand I'm just not seeing it?) I want to add you to the side of my blog.
Thanks! Stina from 3M Evergreen

Jas. said...

Karina this looks delicious! My man isn't a fan of coconut but I'm going to make this anyways and share it with some girlfriends!

Faydra Jones said...

It's a beautiful cake...why wait for a birthday? :-) Coconut is so luscious...I eat dried, unsweetened coconut for a snack regularly. Maybe I need to dress it up a bit?

Janet NZ said...

I love the way you write, you always make me think. Happy birthday to your Steve. I would change 10,000 things too

Kristen said...

Beautiful! I see that you said "no stevia". That is fine with me because I prefer Agave, maple syrup, and honey. Would any of those substitutes work or is cake too fragile? Thank you! I just found your blog and I love it. Kristen

moonwatcher said...

Dear Karina,

All things coconut are now forbidden to me, and to the betterment of my illness, but once upon a time I loved it like no other, so I really enjoyed just looking at the pictures of your beautiul cake.

The writing is beautiful, the exchange between you and Steve you rendered here profound. I have been contemplating it myself off and on ever since. What would I change? And when has change carried me, sometimes kicking and screaming, to exactly where I needed to go, but didn't know it? And when has the courage to change been the magic ingredient? Thank you for prompting such a lovely meditation. It seems to me you are indeed an adept at change, and making change work. I guess we all can be, even in spite of ourselves. Life is funny that way.




Janet NZ said...

Karina - on the subject of coconut, and the way gluten-free baking dries out quickly... my Mother has a trick with her (non GF) banana cake. She measures the flour, then removes 1 tbsp of it. She replaces that tablespoon with one of dessicated coconut. This makes the cake very light and moist. Nobody ever guesses what she has done and everyone asks for the recipe. I don't do much GF baking yet (my gut is still too fragile), but I wonder if this would help keep GF goods from crumbling? What do you think?
Many regards

Julie said...

Oh my. I am not a big cake person, but somehow the beauty of this cake in white makes me crave it. Beautiful, scrumptious photo.

Anonymous said...

Just an FYI about powdered or icing sugars-I live in Canada and these kinds of sugars always contain starch at a low level to keep it free-flowing. I have seen both corn starch and wheat starch used in the same name-brand of icing sugar so I am very careful to contstantly check the labels.I really loved your comments about change,as well as the beautiful photos of the cake.

lynne said...

Oh! This looks divine!

Anonymous said...

I would love to make this for my daughter's second birthday, which is tomorrow. I cannot find butter-flavored palm shortening. Can I use the Spectrum shortening, the only ingredient is palm oil, but it is not butter flavored.

Thank you so much!

Karina Allrich said...

Thanks again- Everyone! I'm sad the cake is GONE. Must make again- soon! Best coocnut cake, ever. Pre-GF + post-GF. xox

Evelyn- Sure, you can use the plain Spectrum Organic Shortening. Happy Birthday to your daughter! :-)


Karina Allrich said...

Janet- I love your idea about using coconut flour. Tried it in a new bread recipe and it added moisture. Will share the recipe soon! Thank you. xox

Kristen- You'll have to experiment with using agave, as it would change the volume and structure of this cake. Possibly, would also affect baking temp and time? xox


Ann said...

Karina, thank you for sharing this - coconut cake is my very favorite. There's something so glam about it! I am so looking forward to making this. Do you think it would work with coconut oil? I have some incredibly fragrant coconut oil right now...

Anonymous said...

Thankfully I chose to make this cake today. It is utterly delicious! I loved the fine crumb, lovely moist texture and the fact that it has no weird tunnels or anything. It also rose nicely. It looks as wonderful as on your site. The buttercream is decadent, too.

The only thing I would change is add more lime juice but that is only personal taste. I love the combination of lime and coconut. This recipe is a great place to use coconut flour.

So many possibilities with this in the future - lemon poppyseed, orange olive oil, vanilla bean, plain with mocha buttercream and so on. Oh, and yummy with my pure tangerine oil.

I would think most would be hard pressed to know this is GF. Truly. My husband loved it - it sure is not going to last long!

Thank you, Karina, for this delicious recipe. It really is impressive looking and tasting.

Johanna GGG said...

The cake looks very stylish and I like your reflections on birthdays - I would like to change things in my life and yet so many good things in my life have happened since then that I worry if I could go back and make changes that I would wipe out too much good - it is such a hard choice (not that I need to make it)

glutenfreespinner said...

Absolutely beautiful! Loved your words and your picture is stunning. I so admire your passion and work, Karina!

Antoinette said...

Oh what I would give to have a big piece of the delicious looking cake!
Such a fabulous blog.


Anonymous said...

I just popped the cake out of the oven and already it is looking fantastic! Won't be served until tomorrow and I don't know how I'll manage to wait until then! My mom's favourite is coconut, so I was so excited to find a coconut cake here! Thanks for the recipe!

Heather said...

This looks so good. I love your writing style also. On a somewhat silly note, I also love the flatware in the picture. It looks to be sort of a bamboo design. Do you know the brand?

Karina Allrich said...

Thanks, All for your coconut cake love. xox

As for the flatware- I found it at World Market/Cost Plus. ;-)


Anonymous said...


Beautiful cake! However, my son cannot eat rice. What can the rice flour be subbed out for? If I used a cup of sorghum, what can the other 1/2 cup of flour be?

Thank you for sharing your recipes!


Karina Allrich said...

Kelly, I would use sorghum and maybe a little starch. So- say, 3/4 cup sorghum, 1/4 cup more starch to replace the one cup of brown rice flour. xox Karina

kellypea said...

Mmm...coconut cake is so yummy, and yours is lovely as well. Funny about changing things -- I always think because it's all interconnected that if I changed just one aspect of any of the years I've lived ( a million!) so many others would change by default. Thanks for giving me pause to think about it -- food for thought.

Andrea said...

I just finished making this delicious cake! So wonderful. Thanks for the recipe. I have made many of your recipes and they are all wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!

I would like to share this with my family when I go to visit them on Saturday (today is Tuesday), but I'm worried it might not hold up. I have it in a metal cake saver from the 1950s currently and in the fridge. Will it last in the fridge or should I wrap it up in saran and freeze it?

What are your recommendations? This is my first GF cake and I don't want to ruin it.

Thank you,

Karina Allrich said...

Kelly- Exactly- a single change will have a ripple effect.

Andrea- I'd only make this up to 24 hours ahead. So if you must make further ahead, do wrap and freeze it for best taste and texture.

Gluten-free baked goods dry out quickly. Preserve it by freezing, then thaw slowly- on the day you're going to serve it. Delicious slightly cold, or at room temp.

xox Karina

Christi said...

Delicious! Thank you so much for sharing all your lovely recipes! I am allergic to gluten, potato, soy, corn, dairy, and on and on, but I can have this! What a treat!

Sarah said...

I haven't even tried this cake yet...but I'm sold! I will definitely be holding onto this recipe and I can't wait to try it soon!

I do have a questions regarding frosting the cake... I know presentation is huge when making a homemade cake, and I always do my best to keep the dish I'm serving the cake on clean. I've tried a Martha Stewart trick, by placing 3 pieces of parchment paper (slightly dusted with some sort of flour to keep from sticking) underneath the cake to cover the plate. After it's frosted, the parchment paper slides out, and the plate is spotless. This works great with lighter cakes. However, with 3 or more layer cakes, the cake is often too heavy for the parchment paper, which causes the cake to slide or even crack! Boo!! Any suggestions??

P.S. Your website is my new favorite! It's even surpassed Facebook :)

Aimee said...

Hello Karina!
I just came across your blog and wow! This cake looks amazing! I'm vegan but not gluten free-if I were to use flour how much? Would I need to add or omit anything else?
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I just made this cake and it came out perfect!! I made it for Easter tomorrow and I actually cut it out to be a bunny and it's so cute. I got to eat a little that I cut off the bowtie and it's so yummy. It works so well for a cake you need to cut/shape. It really holds it's form. Thanks for sharing!

Karina Allrich said...

Aimee, My recipe is formulated to gluten-free baking. I'm not sure how it would work converting it to a wheat flour recipe. I haven't baked a wheat flour cake in ten years. ;-) Karina

Karen said...

yum!! One of my sisters eats gluten free and the other doesn't, and their birthdays are a week apart. Last year I made my gluten eating sister a coconut layer cake which was delicious but it made my other (gluten-free) sister so sad becuase she really wanted one. I think this is the answer! This cake looks like it is the perfect cake density!! Thanks Karina!

Jessica said...

OMG OMG OMG I am SOOOOOO in love with this cake. I made it vegan and it came out PERFECT!! Thank You for another wonderful recipe!!! :-)

Anonymous said...

I made this for my friend that just recently found out she was gluten free.... and she adored it! This was the best texture of cake you could ever imagine! spongy! and just wonderful! Thank you!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Karina, I would love to make muffins out of these. I wonder about the amounts though.

Ester said...

This looks like a wonderful recipe. Have you ever used sprouted flour in your recipes? I use organic sprouted brown rice flour. It increases the fiber and protein by 300-400%. I am not trying to make any money off of this but I went to a lecture and learned about the health benefits of baking with sprouted flour and found the gluten free alternatives. I sometimes use half sprouted and have Pamelas gluten free flour mix for a less dense cake.
Thanks for all your hard work in sharing these amazing recipes with all of us interested in staying healthy!

Anonymous said...

May I ask why you don't toast the coconut ?

Anonymous said...

I made this with EnerG egg replacer today. The cake was a bit dense. How do you suggest that I lighten it ?

Karina Allrich said...

Coconut flour is moist and dense, and relies on eggs for lightness. If you use the egg replacer, the coconut flour will not rise as high, and will be more dense. Karina

elizabeth said...

August is birthday month in my family but I am the only one who eats GF so I wanted to be sure to find a cake recipe everyone would love. Coconut cake is my mom's all time favorite. When I saw this recipe I had to try it!

My cake looked almost exactly like the one in your photos and it tasted every bit as good as you said! I used the full fat coconut milk and unsweetened coconut flakes. Otherwise, I followed your recipe exactly.

Thanks for the post and the recipe! I hope you are planning to write a cookbook some day to capture all of your wonderful writing and yummy recipes.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I really want to try this but I cant find sorghum flour or cane sugar. (I live in Guatemala!!) Could I substitute Sorghum flour for rice flour? and cane sugar for brown sugar or even normal sugar?
your recipes are incredible (and the pictures... WOW!!)! Thank you!!

deeneesie said...

Hi Karina! So excited to see this beautiful cake. I'm getting married in January and decided I'd be making my own cake... A small one for cutting and for me and my other gf and vegan friends to enjoy. The others will have their gluten-filled cake. ;) Since I'll need to bake the cake a couple days early, how should I wrap it up to freeze? Should I wait to frost it the day of?

Thanks so much!!! I'm excited to make this!

Karina Allrich said...

Thanks so much!

For substituting flours- sorghum is soft and lovely in cake. You can sub brown rice flour, but it will be a slightly drier cake. Brown sugar would be a darker, denser choice than white sugar- I'd go with white sugar.

Congrats on the wedding! I would wrap and freeze bare layers. Then defrost the night before, for frosting. We thought this cake was even better after sitting overnight. Enjoy your special day!

xox Karina

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