Festively Tropical Coconut and Lime Cake

To fit in with October’s tropical trend, Germarie asked me to bake something equally tropical.  So I did a little research and, combining ideas from a few recipes, this Tropical Coconut and Lime Cake came to be!  It incidentally doubled as my birthday cake, and I have to admit: it was divine.  Almost as good as a holiday on a tropical island somewhere!

coconut cake with limes

When I do this again (not if, but when!) I’ll go for a simpler, but equally light and creamy buttercream frosting instead, perhaps also flavoured with coconut.  I’ve made Italian Meringue frosting before (and absolutely LOVE the toasty marshmallowness of it) but I don’t think it’s worth going to all the effort of making the deliciously light meringue if you’re going to weigh it down by adding butter.  BUT:  To all the baking experts out there… this is only my opinion!  As one of my favourite teachers at school used to say: “Everyone’s entitled to their own ridiculous opinion.”


Equipment: An electric mixer/food processor with paddle and whisk attachments, sieve, additional heat-proof bowl, 3 x 20cm cake tins (or as preferred), greaseproof/baking paper, Bake Even strips*, sugar thermometer, piping bag


For the Coconut Cake:

225g butter, softened
400g granulated sugar
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract (substitute: coconut oil)
360g cake flour
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
125ml milk
250ml canned coconut milk

For the Lime-Coconut Ganache:

100ml cream**
160g dark chocolate – finely chopped
15ml granulated sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted

For the Italian Meringue Buttercream:

250g granulated sugar
158ml water
Pinch of cream of tartar
1tsp vanilla extract
5 egg whites
450g butter (soft, but not melted)

To finish:

Fresh coconut (shaved)
Lime-coloured piping icing 

coconut cake with coconut shavings on top


For the Coconut Cake:

Pre-heat oven to 175ºC (150ºC Fan / Gas Mark 3) and prepare your cake tins by lining with baking paper and wrapping in Bake Even Strips.

  • Sift dry ingredients and set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add in the sugar and beat on medium-high until fluffy and pale in colour.
  • Turn the mixer down to medium-low and gradually add in the egg yolks and extracts.
  • Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, alternate adding in the flour mixture and the milk. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl between additions.
  • Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for about 20 minutes or until done.

For the Lime-Coconut Ganache:

  • Toast shredded coconut in a frying pan over medium heat.  Toss to prevent from burning.
  • In a small saucepan, heat the cream and zest until it boils (be careful not to let it boil over!).
  • Place the chopped chocolate in the heat-proof bowl and pour the hot cream over it.
  • Allow to stand for 5 – 10 mins to allow the hot cream to melt the chocolate.
  • Now for the whisking: start slowly, then increase your speed, whisking the mixture in one direction until smooth and creamy. This may take a little while, the ingredients may initially look like they don’t want to mix, but just carry on whisking until you get that lovely thick, rich texture everyone loves about ganache.
  • Finally, stir in the toasted coconut.  Allow the mixture to cool down to room temperature before using.

For the Italian Meringue Buttercream:

  • Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and place on your stovetop, and stir gently until the sugar is dissolved. Heat on high until the mixture comes to a boil.
  • Using a sugar thermometer (this is a must), heat the sugar syrup until it reaches 114°C or softball stage.
  • Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whisk on low until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high until stiff but not dry; do not overbeat.
  • With the mixer running, add the sugar syrup to the egg whites in a steady stream, beating on high speed until all combined – about 3 minutes. Add butter bit by bit, beating until spreadable (3 to 5 minutes) then beat in vanilla.
  • If the frosting curdles, just keep beating – it WILL come together!

For the Coconut Shavings:

  • Open the coconut and drain the coconut water. If like me, you’ve never done this before, you’ll find many instruction videos on YouTube.
  • Remove long chunks of the white flesh from the shell and, using a vegetable peeler, shave slices off sideways along the curve – you get the best long shavings that way.
  • Using your frying pan once again, gently toast your shavings until light brown, then set aside to cool.

anélle meiring

To assemble:

  • Place your first layer of cake on your chosen plate.
  • Using the chocolate ganache, sandwich your 1st two layers together, then repeat for the 3rd layer.
  • Take a small amount of frosting and colour it lime green, then fill a small piping bag and set aside.
  • Proceed with covering all sides of the stacked cake in the plain white buttercream frosting.
  • Using the lime green, pipe your desired pattern along the sides of the cake.
  • Finish off by scattering your beautifully toasted coconut shavings on top!

coconut and lime cake with limes

Go ahead – escape to your own imaginary tropical island while creating your coconut cake. Please do let me know how yours turn out. Happy baking!

Cook’s notes:
* Bake Even strips help achieve level cakes with minimal doming.  If you don’t have proper Bake Even strips, you can use dampened tea towels or strips cut from old towels.  Simply fasten them around your tin with paper clips.
**The chocolate and cream quantities used in this recipe make for a lovely glossy ganache that sets quite firmly, but not so much so that it cracks when you cut it.  By adding more or less cream, you can make yours runnier or more firm according to your preference.