The wonderful synergy of coconut and lemon in a spongy, flavorful and easy-to-make sheet cake. Covered with our favorite lemon cream cheese frosting, it's the perfect cake to make for a brunch, tea party or simply to snack on.
We all know coconut cake and lemon cakes are favorites among most crowds. Who can argue with those flavors, or with the fact that they are used in a cake, right?
I agree completely and up the stakes putting them together in this simple lemon coconut sheet cake. Because there are times when 1+1 equals more than two. This is one of those times.
About sheet cakes
They are cakes baked in a flat and rectangular pan - a jelly-roll pan with higher sides or a sheet pan. Usually, they have a single layer of frosting on top and the cake itself is moist and tender.
This results in a great cake/frosting ratio. For me, the wrong proportions is a deal-breaker, as it happens many times with cupcakes - waaay too much frosting for such a small amount of cake.
This is a fairly straight forward cake recipe. That said, let's talk about a few of the ingredients:
- Coconut: I use unsweetened shredded dry coconut. There is a sweetened version but I find that it's too much sweetness considering we're adding a layer of cream cheese frosting on top.
- Flavorings: using vanilla extract together with coconut extract brings out the flavor of coconut in this sheet cake. You can omit the latter if you don't have it. The cake will have a great flavor anyway.
- Liquid: buttermilk is great in this type of cake recipes because it helps in having a tender crumb. If you can't find it (I don't since I don't live in the US) substitute it with milk + lemon juice. The proportion is about 1 tablespoon juice per cup of milk. The mixture will curdle and that is fine.
- Frosting: for me, a sheet cake is not complete without that single layer of frosting. So I added lemon zest to a traditional cream cheese frosting and the result is phenomenal.
Lemon cream cheese frosting
I think cream cheese frosting is one of the best sweet inventions of all time. OMG, is there a better way to eat cake? Well, in my case I think dulce de leche trumps everything (I'm from Argentina, we invented it, so it's no surprise), but let me tell you that cream cheese frosting comes second.
I love it on everything.
A few years ago I added lemon zest to some leftover frosting and it was just mind-blowing! I could never look back. I might say it's even better than the original...
Anyway, this cake has a layer of lemon frosting on top, to crown the idea of a lemon coconut sheet cake having both flavors at the same time without them overpowering each other.
It can be done. You can bite into both at the same time.
Since sheet cakes are so simple - you know, a rectangular, somewhat short cake with no apparent impressive qualities - I find that the layer of frosting (any type you want) is essential. And a sprinkle of colorful sprinkles doesn't hurt.
- Flavorings: don't underestimate the power of a little vanilla flavoring, no matter what the flavor of the cake is. I find that it enhances other flavors (like a pinch of salt does), especially lemon. Adding some coconut and/or lemon flavoring if you have can work well too.
- Buttermilk: it makes the crumb more tender. Homemade buttermilk is easily made at home by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of milk.
- Keeping: this cake can be frozen, well wrapped and without the frosting, for a month. And the cream cheese frosting too. Have both ready in the fridge and assemble it the day you want to eat it. Bring it to room t° before eating, it tastes better in my opinion.
- Frosting: I favor the lemon frosting in this recipe, but a layer of dulce de leche is fabulous! Buy dulce de leche online here.
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For the cake:
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose or cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest of ½ a lemon
- 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- ¾ cup shredded dry coconut, unsweetened
For the frosting:
- ¾ cup cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- About 1 cup powdered sugar
- Zest of ½ a lemon
For the cake:
- Preheat oven at 350°F/180°C.
- Butter or spray a 8x11-inch sheet pan and line the bottom and two sides with a piece of parchment paper.
- In a large bowl beat butter with sugar until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add extracts and lemon zest.
- Sift flour with baking powder and salt and add in 3 parts alternating with the buttermilk in 2 parts, beginning and ending with flour.
- Add coconut. Mix well but don’t overbeat.
- Pour into the cake pan, smooth top and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a tester inserted in center comes out clean.
- Let cool on a wire rack.
For the frosting:
- Beat cream cheese with butter until smooth and creamy.
- Add sugar until you have a thick consistency. You will use more or less depending on your personal preference of a more or less firm frosting.
- Add lemon zest and mix.
- Adjust powdered sugar if you want a thicker frosting.
- Keep refrigerated.
Pan sizes: depending on what pan you use will result in a shorter (if using a larger pan) or taller cake (if using a smaller pan). Adjust the amount of frosting depending on the height of your cake. This cake can also be made in layers or cupcakes.
Flavorings: don't underestimate the power of a little vanilla flavoring, no matter what the flavor of the cake is. I find that it enhances other flavors (like a pinch of salt does), especially lemon. Adding some coconut and/or lemon flavoring if you have can work well too.
Buttermilk: it makes the crumb more tender. Homemade buttermilk is easily made at home by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of milk.
Keeping: this cake can be frozen, well wrapped and without the frosting, for a month. And the cream cheese frosting too. Have both ready in the fridge and assemble it the day you want to eat it. Bring it to room t° before eating, it tastes better in my opinion.
Frosting: I favor the lemon frosting in this recipe, but a layer of dulce de leche is fabulous! Buy dulce de leche online here. This frosting lasts for weeks in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container.
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 35
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/12
- Calories: 389
- Sugar: 27 g
- Sodium: 147.2 mg
- Fat: 22.5 g
- Carbohydrates: 43.1 g
- Protein: 5.7 g
- Cholesterol: 97.5 mg
Keywords: coconut lemon cake