overhead angle of a coconut cake covered in white frosting and lots of shredded coconut on a midcentury countertop

This 3-Day Coconut Cake Is So Delicious It’s Going to Knock Your Socks Off

This is a wonderfully beautiful and delicious cake that is sure to impress. Very easy to make. So moist, without being soggy. The hardest thing about making this cake is to let it sit for 3 days in the fridge. But you must! That’s 72 hours under virtual lock and key, hear?

overhead angle of a coconut cake covered in white frosting and lots of shredded coconut on a midcentury countertop

What do Pat Benatar, George Foreman, and I, your humble columnist, have in common? We share the same birthday! I only know that because someone gave me a 768-page book titled The Portable Book of Birthdays. Good thing too, or I’d never known that Pat, George, and I have “socially savvy personalities, a keen ability to promote our ideas and to get what we want. We are intelligent, easily irritable, and need constant emotional stimulation,” too. Who knew?!

While the book doesn’t mention our favorite birthday cake, I feel confident in speaking for the three of us when I say that it is, without a doubt, coconut cake. But not just any coconut cake. It has to be 3-Day Coconut Cake, which is so delicious it will knock your socks off no matter the day you were born. But first, a small explanation. 

Why 3-Day Coconut Cake?

By letting this cake sit for at least three days, its flavors mingle and deepen, creating a moist, tender texture and an explosion of coconut flavor in every mouthful. This waiting time is crucial, allowing the ingredients to blend and the cake to reach its peak deliciousness. So, don’t give in to the urge to sneak a peek or have a taste too soon—have faith in the process, and you’ll be treated to a cake that’s truly worth the anticipation.

The Quest for Frozen Coconut

The recipe that follows, which I have used for years, calls for “frozen coconut.” As many times as I have made this cake (I wonder if Pat and George make their own birthday cakes), I have yet to find such a thing.

I’ve looked everywhere and asked store managers and anyone else who might be handy, but they are nowhere to be found.

I do understand, however, that frozen coconut is readily available in some parts of the country, such as the grocery frozen food case with the frozen fruit. Someone recently suggested that I try an Indian market, and I will do that as soon as I locate one. Another reader says she finds frozen coconut at Trader Joes!

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The Alternative: Baker’s Sweetened Angel Flake Coconut

In the past, I have tried fresh coconut with acceptable results, but it was a real pain to crack, smash, break, drain, pry, peel, and grate. So, I will continue to use Baker’s Sweetened Angel Flake Coconut, which comes in a bag and can be found in the baking aisle of just about any food market.

What You’ll Need

Be sure to collect everything at least 4 days before you plan to serve the cake to allow ample time for preparation and flavor development.

White Granulated Sugar

A cup of this sweet stuff adds the perfect touch of sweetness to our cake. Feel free to swap it out with Splenda if you’re looking to cut back on sugar.

Sour Cream

Sour cream gives our cake its delightful moistness and tangy flavor.

Coconut

We’ll need 12 ounces of Baker’s Sweetened Angel Flake Coconut to infuse our cake with that delicious tropical flavor we all love.

White Cake Mix

My personal favorite is Duncan Hines Perfectly Moist Classic White Cake Mix. Over the years, I’ve perfected this recipe, originally designed for the 18.25 oz cake mix standard. Nowadays, most cake mixes are only 15.25 oz. To ensure your cake turns out as fabulous as ever, I recommend upsizing to match the original quantity. Here are two methods to achieve this:

Method #1:
Purchase two cake mixes and add 3 oz from the second mix to make up the difference. Store the remaining mix in a tightly sealed container for future use.

Method #2:
Combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup white granulated sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp baking soda in a sealed mason jar or airtight container. When you need to upsize a white or yellow cake, measure out the necessary ounces to reach 18.25 oz.

Large Eggs

These eggs add structure and richness to our cake, ensuring it turns out light and airy. For those seeking alternatives, substitutes like vinegar and baking soda, plain yogurt, or buttermilk can maintain the cake’s structural integrity and fluffy consistency. Simply replace each egg with 1 teaspoon of baking soda combined with 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 1/4 cup of plain yogurt, or 1/4 cup of buttermilk.

Vegetable Oil

A half cup of vegetable oil keeps our cake moist and tender without imparting any unwanted flavors. Canola oil is an excellent alternative. It won’t overpower your cake’s flavor either, allowing it to shine through while still achieving a moist texture.

Milk

Cake mixes typically call for water in the instructions on the back of the box. I like to use milk instead of water, to guarantee a homemade taste, however you may use water instead of milk in this recipe.

Cool Whip Original Whipped Topping or Fresh Whipped Cream

Whether you opt for the convenience of Cool Whip or the homemade touch of fresh whipped cream, either one will crown our cake with creamy perfection.

Cake Server

Also, you will need a cake saver or reasonable facsimile for the best results. This locking cake carrier is the “cake saver” I own and love. It is large enough to cover and seal this cake without touching the side or top.

How to Make 3-Day Coconut Cake

So, you’ve decided to embark on the journey of baking our 3-Day Coconut Cake? Buckle up, my friend, because this adventure requires a pinch of patience and a dash of precision to reach its full potential.

First things first, it’s the night before baking—gather your troops: combine the sour cream, coconut, and sugar in a bowl, ensuring they are well incorporated. Reserve a portion of this mixture for frosting the cake later. Cover both portions with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight and let those flavors mingle and dance the night away.

Morning arrives, and it’s showtime! Preheat your oven and grease two 9-inch cake pans. In a large bowl, combine the white cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil, and milk. Beat the mixture until smooth and pour it into the prepared cake pans.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Once baked, allow them to cool in the pans before removing them and splitting each layer horizontally to create four layers in total.

Now, it’s time to assemble your masterpiece. Lay down the first layer like a foundation and slather it with that reserved coconut mixture. Repeat this process with the remaining layers, stacking them on top of each other. Then, mix the remaining coconut mixture with Cool Whip or fresh whipped cream to create the frosting. Spread this frosting over the sides and top of the assembled cake, ensuring it is evenly coated.

But wait, there’s a twist! This cake isn’t quite ready to be served. Pop it into the refrigerator and let it chill for three whole days. That’s right—three days of tantalizing anticipation, during which the flavors will develop and intensify over time.

After the three-day waiting period, remove the cake from the refrigerator, slice it, and savor each moist, coconut-infused bite. And remember, my friend, leftovers are a treasure to be cherished. Store them in the refrigerator and indulge in coconut bliss for up to six days.

overhead angle of a coconut cake covered in white frosting and lots of shredded coconut on a midcentury countertop
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4.67 from 18 votes

3-Day Coconut Cake

This is a wonderfully beautiful and delicious cake that is sure to impress. Very easy to make. So moist, without being soggy. The hardest thing about making this cake is to let it sit for 3 days in the fridge. But you must! That's 72 hours under virtual lock and key, hear?
Prep Time45 minutes
Chilling out in the fridge3 days
Total Time3 days 45 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12
Calories: 447kcal

Ingredients

Coconut mixture (make this the night before!)

  • 1 cup white granulated sugar, OK to substitute Splenda
  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 12 oz coconut, like Bakers Sweetened Angel Flake Coconut,

Cake

  • 1 18.25 oz. white cake mix like Duncan Hines Perfectly Moist Classic White Cake Mix. Can't find it in 18.25 oz? See NOTE 1 for how to upsize that smaller mix.
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk see NOTES

Frosting

  • 12 oz Cool Whip original whipped topping or equivalent fresh whipped cream

Instructions

The night before ...

  • The night before you make this cake, place the sour cream, coconut, and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Mix until ingredients are well incorporated. Separate 1 cup of the mixture and place it in a separate bowl. Cover bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate both portions.

The next day ...

  • Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by greasing them well. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F for shiny metal pans, or 325 F for dark or nonstick pans.
  • Mix cake mix, flour, eggs, oil, and, milk in a large bowl. Beat with electric mixer set on medium speed (or beat vigorously by hand) for two minutes. Pour into the prepared 9-inch round cake pans.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  • Remove cakes from pans. Using a serrated knife, split both layers in half horizontally, to end up with 4 layers. 
  • Place layers on the plate of a cake stand or the plate part of a "cake saver" one at a time, spreading all but the reserved 1 cup of coconut mixture you made last night evenly between the layers. 
  • Mix Cool Whip together with the reserved 1 cup coconut mixture. Frost sides and top of cake with this mixture. Cover the cake wit the top of the "cake saver" or another method (but not plastic wrap or anything that touches the cake) place in the refrigerator.
  • Do not remove, open, or eat for THREE DAYS. Do not even peek. The longer this cake sits in the refrigerator, the better it gets. However, it is not humanly possible to wait longer than three days. Store any remains in the refrigerator. Enjoy to the very last delicious crumb, hopefully within three additional days, for up to 6 days total.

Notes

1. This is a recipe I have had for many years—from that time when cake mixes were always 18.25 oz. Cake mixes these days are typically 15.25 oz. For this cake to turn out fabulously, you'd be smart to upsize that 15.25 oz. cake mix so that it is back to 18.25 oz.
Method #1:
Purchase two cakes mixes. Add 3 oz. from the second mix to make up the difference. Keep the balance of that 2nd mix in a tightly sealed container to use the next time you make this cake. 
Method #2:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white granulated sugar
2 tspn baking powder
1/4 tspn baking soda
Mix ingredients and keep in a sealed mason jar or other airtight container. When you need to upsize a white or yellow cake, measure out the number of ounces you need to get that mix up to 18.25 oz. 
2. Cake mixes typically call for water in the instructions on the back of the box. I like to use milk instead of water, to guarantee a homemade taste, however you may use water instead of milk in this recipe.
3. This Sterilite Cake Saver is one I own and love. It is large enough to cover and seal this cake without touching the sides or top.
4. You can freeze this cake. Here's the best way to do that: Cut it into portions then wrap each slice in 2 layers of plastic wrap, then one layer of aluminum foil. Place the wrapped slices in freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to 2 mos. 

Nutrition

Calories: 447kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 29g | Cholesterol: 62mg | Sodium: 65mg | Potassium: 237mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 21g | Vitamin A: 311IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 1mg

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35 replies
Newer Comments »
  1. Amazing! says:

    5 stars
    Our Preacher’s favorite cake is a Coconut cake. I saw this recipe and decided to try it for him. He said it was delicious! Have made it for him a few times and each time he says it’s better than the last. Lol. I think he just wants me to keep making them. Easy recipe as well, which always makes it better! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  2. Marlene Mielke says:

    5 stars
    Would it be a huge mistake to eliminate the sugar in the coconut and sour cream mixture?? We returned from bring gone all winter, and thought I bought everything I needed for this wonderful cake and found I did not have sugar in the pantry…..

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I’m afraid you will be terribly disappointed in the result without sugar, Marlene. Maybe you could borrow some from a neighbor?

      Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I’m sure you could, just not sure how you will get multiple layers for all that filling! Experiment, then let us know!

      Reply
      • Delores says:

        5 stars
        I made it in a disposable 9×13 pan to take to a work. Let it cool overnight. Then used my cake splitter to cut it in half horizontally. Carefully put bottom layer back in pan. Filling then top layer, filling & topping. In fridge for 3 days. Much easier to transport.

  3. Karen says:

    Frozen coconut is available on the internet. Love this cake-so moist! Frozen coconut gives a better taste and texture than dried coconut.

    Reply
  4. val jo says:

    5 stars
    My Aunt Eloise always made 3 Day Cake when she knew we were coming for vacation! It is my husband’s favorite. I’ve made it before with a chocolate cake mix, too. Yummy. My local grocery chain often carries the frozen coconut. It is a finer, smaller shred and not as sweet. However, our stand-by Angel flake is available everywhere and is a fantastic substitute! I need to go make one, now.

    Reply
  5. Cally Ross says:

    I love coconut!
    it is my understanding that the frozen version is unsweetened and wouldn’t last on the baking aisle shelf… I don’t know if that’s true or not, and i don’t remember where/who/how i learned that. so, do you adjust the amount of sugar when you use sweetened coconut?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      You may be referring to freeze-dried coconut? If it’s frozen, it won’t be on the baking aisle but in the frozen food/fruit section instead. I have never used frozen coconut, resorting to the sweetened version on the baking aisle of most food stores. However, the original recipe calling for frozen coconut uses the same 1 cup of sugar. Perhaps it too is presweetened? Maybe others can weigh in here to give you a more definitive answer!

      Reply
  6. Cynde says:

    I have a question… I run from cake mixes, too many “ingredients”, have you tried to adapt this recipe using homemade yellow cake batter? I refuse to use mix that has a list of ingredients as long as your wrist.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Hi Cynde … I haven’t but I will definitely look in this. I’d suggest that this method would work well with any standard cake recipe. Do you feel like experimenting? Make sure you report back!

      Reply
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