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Gluten-Free Coconut Cake

The ultimate cake for coconut fans. Made with both coconut milk and shredded coconut, this gluten-free coconut cake is packed full of real coconut flavor. Filled with tangy lemon curd, guava filling, and covered in a light whipped cream cheese frosting, it’s coconut cake heaven!

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A close up picture of a white frosted layer cake. There is a large slice taken out allowing you to see the inside cake layers and filling.

Food Network: The Big Bake Inspiration

Old news by now, but I was given the very exciting opportunity to appear on an episode of Food Network: The Big Bake. My girlfriend, Fabulous Cakes by Jenn, invited me to team up with her and try our hand at a reality baking competition. And my oh my did we have fun.

Gluten-Free Coconut Cake

The main cake flavor I created for the show was inspired by our tropical take on the episode theme Reindeer Games. Everyone knows that beach volleyball-playing reindeer love some coconut cake. I paired moist coconut cake layers packed full of shredded coconut with zesty lemon curd, a smooth almost floral guava filling, and covered it all with tangy whipped cream cheese frosting. Tropical cake deliciousness!

A slice of coconut cake laying on a plate in front of the white frosted cake. There are three layers of cake and it's filled with both lemon and guava filling.

How to Make Gluten-Free Cake Layers

The biggest feedback I received from the judges during the competition was that the shredded coconut absorbed some of the cake moisture causing the crumb to be a bit tight. After receiving this feedback, I immediately went to my kitchen and started to problem-solve.

First, and most important step to a moist gluten-free coconut cake, is to soak the shredded coconut in coconut milk. Open up that can of full-fat coconut milk and pour it over the shredded coconut in a bowl and let that soak for an hour. Allowing the coconut to absorb the coconut milk lends extra moisture and coconut flavor to the cake layers.

If you are making this cake gluten-free, take note that the gluten-free flour blend contains xanthan gum. If it does not you will want to add 1 tsp of it to the dry ingredients. Xanthan gum acts like glue or a binder for gluten-free baking and holds everything together.

Without it, you will end up with crumbly cake layers. If you are not gluten-free, feel free to use regular cake flour but go by the cup measurement and not the gram measurement as gluten-free flour and cake flour differ in weight.

A white frosted coconut cake topped with large slices of guava fruit and there are two slices cut into the side of the cake.

Lemon Curd Filling Tips & Tricks

Who doesn’t love lemon curd? That zesty lemon punch makes your mouth pucker in the very best of ways. Allowing the true zing of lemon to shine through, my recipe calls for very little sugar. I strongly recommend keeping it tart as it will complement the sweet coconut cake layers. Freshly squeezed lemon juice will transform this easy lemon curd from delicious to OMG amazing! Trust me, it’s worth the extra effort.

How To Make Guava Filling

Have you ever tried guava? It’s simply divine. A sweet almost floral flavor, it pairs beautifully with coconut and lemon. Using guava paste as the base, I created a wonderfully silky and smooth guava filling that will totally rock your world.

Cut the guava paste into chunks, combine it with the water, lemon juice, sugar, and salt, and heat it over medium heat until it begins to boil. Reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer. The guava paste chunks will begin to break up and melt into a smooth consistency. Sometimes I’ll grab the potato masher and mash up any remaining pieces to speed the process up a bit. You will know the guava paste is ready when there is no gritty/grainy texture left.

Transfer the guava filling to a shallow container and place plastic wrap directly on the surface. Allow the filling to fully cool to room temperature before using. If you make this the day before, it will sometimes require a gentle re-heating ever so slightly to bring it back to a spreadable consistency. Again, allow it to cool to room temperature before using it in the cake.

A white frosted coconut cake with a large slice taken out of it. You can see the inside cake layers with lemon curd and guava filling.

How To Fill And Stack A Dairy-Free Cake

Cream cheese frosting, especially dairy-free cream cheese frosting, is notoriously soft. Seeing as how this gluten-free coconut cake has two different fillings, the fridge is going to be your best friend while filling and stacking this cake. Most cakes I frost with room-temperature buttercream, however, I encourage you to keep this frosting a tad on the colder side while using it.

Cover the base cake layer with a layer of cream cheese frosting and then pipe a generous buttercream ring around the border. Fill the bottom layer with the lemon curd filling. Top with the second cake layer and crumb coat those bottom two layers to give extra stability. Please place it in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes or freezer for 5 minutes. Take the cake out after it’s chilled and repeat with the remaining layer and guava filling. Do a quick overall crumb coat and get it back into the fridge as fast as possible.

The key to working with soft frostings and fillings is to keep it as cold as possible. Chilling the cake frequently as you fill and stack, allows the frosting to firm up and give extra support. So don’t be shy with the fridge.

A final coat of cream cheese frosting, smoothed with a Wilton cake comb, and this gluten-free and dairy-free coconut cake is ready to be devoured. For an extra splash of fun flavorful flair, I added some guava filling on the top along one edge, a light dusting of shredded coconut, and some fresh guava chunks. Chefs kiss.

A close up picture of a slice of coconut cake. There are three layers and filled with lemon curd filling and guava filling.

The Best Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Coconut Cake

Packed full of tropical coconut flavor, this gluten-free and dairy-free coconut cake was a total hit with The Food Network judges and I think it will be a hit for you as well. Filled with zesty lemon curd and smooth guava filling and covered with the most delicious tangy cream cheese frosting, this coconut cake is a must-bake for every coconut lover.

A white frosted coconut cake topped with a chopped guava fruit and some guava curd.

Fun And Tropical Inspired Baking Recipes

Needing a dose of summer tropics? I bet these delicious recipes will whisk you away someplace warm.

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A white frosted coconut cake topped with a chopped guava fruit and some guava curd.

Gluten-Free Coconut Cake

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 8 reviews

  • Author: Katie Stymiest
  • Total Time: 2 Hours 25 Minutes
  • Yield: 16 Slices 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


The ultimate cake for coconut fans. Made with both coconut milk and shredded coconut, this gluten-free and dairy-free coconut cake is packed full of real coconut flavor. Filled with tangy lemon curd, guava filling, and covered in a light whipped cream cheese frosting, it’s coconut cake heaven!



Coconut Cake

  • 1 can (398ml) coconut milk, full fat
  • 1 cup (120g) sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 ½ cups (400g) gluten-free flour blend *
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup (180g) vegan salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cup (288g) granulated sugar
  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • ½ cup (120g) vegan sour cream or yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)

Lemon Curd

  • 3 large egg yolks

  • 1 large egg

  • ⅛ cup (24g) granulated sugar

  • ½ cup (118ml) lemon juice, freshly squeezed (approximately 3-4 large lemons)

  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

  • ¼ cup (60g) vegan salted butter, room temperature

Guava Filling

  • ¾ cup (400g) guava paste
  • ¾ cup (177 ml) water
  • ¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice, freshly squeezed (approximately 12 lemons)
  • ⅛ cup (24g) granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt

Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 1 cup (227g) vegan salted butter, cold
  • 1 cup (227g) vegan cream cheese, cold
  • 7 cups (840g) icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt


Coconut Cake

  1. In a medium mixing bowl combine the shredded coconut and coconut milk. Make sure the coconut is fully covered and allow it to soak for 1 hour. After it has soaked for 1 hour, strain the shredded coconut and set it aside. Save the coconut milk too as that will be used in the cake.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF degrees and prepare three 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick baking spray and parchment paper.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the flat beater attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in the egg whites and mix again on high for 2 minutes.
  5. Add in the sour cream or yogurt, vanilla extract, and coconut extract (if using) and mix on high for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add in the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda and turn the mixer on low.
  7. As the mixer is on low slowly pour in 1 cup (not the entire can) of canned coconut milk that was used in step 1 and allow the batter to mix until just combined. Be careful to not overmix the batter. Scrape the sides of the bowl when necessary.
  8. Add the soaked shredded coconut into the cake batter and combine with a spatula until just incorporated.
  9. Divide the cake batter evenly into the three prepared cake pans and bake for approximately 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs and the cake edges begin to pull away from the cake pans.
  10. Allow the cake layers to cool for 10 minutes and then invert them on a cooling rack to fully cool.

Lemon Curd

  1. In a medium pot combine the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, and lemon juice.

  2. Cook mixture on medium-low heat constantly stirring with a whisk until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. This should take approximately 5-10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

  3. Add in the salt and butter and mix until fully melted and incorporated.

  4. Strain curd into a shallow dish to remove any cooked egg bits and immediately cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Let cool completely before filling the cake.

Guava Filling

  1. Cut the guava paste into chunks and place it into a medium pot.
  2. Add in the remaining guava filing ingredients and begin to cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low.
  3. The guava chunks will begin to melt and the sugar will start to dissolve. Continue to stir. (If there are any stubborn guava chunks, you can mash them with a potato masher or a fork to speed the process up.)
  4. Allow the guava filling to gently simmer for 5 minutes and remove from the heat. (The mixture should be smooth and without grit when rubbed between two fingers.)
  5. Pour the guava filling into a shallow dish and immediately cover it with plastic wrap directly on the surface. Allow to fully cool to room temperature before filling the cake.

Cream Cheese Buttercream

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment cream the butter and cream cheese together on high for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary.
  2. Add in the icing sugar and salt and mix on low until combined.
  3. Turn the mixer to high and allow to beat for 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Cake Assembly

  1. Level each fully cooled coconut cake layer with a cake leveler or knife if needed.

  2. Place one leveled layer of cake on a cake board, plate, and/or cake turntable and top with approximately 2 cups of cream cheese buttercream.

  3. Pipe a buttercream border around the edge and fill with approximately ¾ cup of lemon curd.
  4. Place another layer of leveled coconut cake on top of the lemon curd and very gently apply a thin coat of buttercream to all of the cake. If the cake feels unstable or the buttercream is soft, stop here and chill the cake for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the cake from the fridge and repeat step 4 but with the guava filling. Top with the remaining coconut cake layer and apply a thin coat of buttercream all over the exposed cake. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  6. Cover the cake with a final layer of cream cheese buttercream and smooth the sides with a cake smoother or Wilton cake comb.

  7. Decorate the cake as you please. I topped the cake with some leftover guava filling, shredded coconut, and large slices of guava fruit. Enjoy!

  8. Store leftover cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.


* Make sure the gluten-free flour blend contains xanthan gum. If it does not you will need to add in 1 tsp of xanthan gum.

  • Prep Time: 2 Hours
  • Cook Time: 25 Minutes
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 1 Slice
  • Calories: 676
  • Sugar: 67 Grams
  • Sodium: 211 Miligrams
  • Fat: 37 Grams
  • Saturated Fat: 26 Grams
  • Unsaturated Fat: 8 Grams
  • Trans Fat: 1 Gram
  • Carbohydrates: 85 Grams
  • Fiber: 1 Gram
  • Protein: 6 Grams
  • Cholesterol: 91 Miligrams

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  1. These cakes just would not cook! Did anyone else have this problem? Minute 35 and still uncooked in the center :/

    1. Oh no, that’s so odd Regina. May I ask what size cake pan you are using and how many? Did you remember to strain the shredded coconut before adding it to the batter?

  2. Delicious!! Made this at home in the Basque Country for my birthday and it turned out spectacular ? next time I won’t leave out the coconut extract, as the cake layers didn’t quite scream coconut enough for me. My family and celiac sister LOVED it! Thanks, Katie!!

    1. You sure can! I recommend measuring the flour by the cup as gf flour weighs different than AP.

  3. A absolute MUST try for tropical-lovers! The combination of coconut cake with the lemon and guava… SO delicious! I am personally not GF or Vegan but had no issue using unbleached All-Purpose flour and non-vegan ingredients (using cups, not weighted measurements). Definitely making this again!

  4. I’ve been looking for gluten free recipes and this is the first cake one I’ve tried and it was phenomenal! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Oh Katie!! I made coconut cake many times but never quite turned out this well. Soaking the coconut was a game changer for sure. I also used reg butter and AP flour, but will definitely try it GF as then my sister in law can enjoy too ?. I look forward to trying the guava filling next time as well.

    Thanks for another great recipe!!

    1. I think there will be too much batter for it to bake through fully. I suggest 3 9-inch pans if possible.

  6. I’m trying to make a vegan version of the coconut cake. Can the egg white be substituted with something else? Thanks!

    1. I have not tried this one vegan yet but my first thought would be to use aquafaba. If you do attempt it vegan, I’d love to hear how it works.

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