Moist Vegan Coconut Cake Recipe (2 mini layer cakes)

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slice of coconut cake from a mini vegan pastel rainbow colored cake

These mini 4-inch vegan coconut cakes are moist, fluffy, and packed full of coconut flavor. Filled and topped with vanilla coconut frosting, you’ll think you’re on a tropical island when you eat it. The cake layers, as well as the frosting are the prettiest pastel colors all swirled together, making this a perfect cake for any birthday, easter, or baby shower celebration. They’re also the perfect size for a baby smash cake or to drop off on a friend’s doorstep to brighten their day.

This recipe makes two mini 4-inch layered vegan coconut cakes. (See the FAQ section for how to make this cake recipe into an 8-inch or 9-inch cake.)

Table of Contents

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♫ Listening to ♫

Annihilation by i_o and Lights

Are you looking for a homemade coconut cake recipe that’s eggless or a cake recipe that’s dairy free? This vegan vanilla coconut cake uses a buttermilk equivalent (nondairy milk and apple cider vinegar) to interact with baking soda to give the cake the lift that a traditional cake has. All of the coconut flavour in this cake comes from coconut ingredients. You won’t see any coconut extract listed here.

This was my first attempt at making a pastel rainbow swirl cake. I prefer pastel colors over bright ones, but when I was recipe testing, I made a brightly colored version for those of you who aren’t looking for a coconut cake for easter or a baby shower. Just add more food coloring for brighter colors.

I used a wrapped cake method to do the buttercream frosting transfer on one of the cakes. With the other cake, I applied the frosting right onto the cake. I tested and modified this coconut cake recipe quite a few times before I got it right (yes, it was a very delicious month, thanks for asking). This coconut cake recipe is made completely from scratch. If you try any shortcuts, like using store-bought frosting or using a box cake mix, please let me know how it works out.

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Ingredients for Vegan Coconut Cake

(jump to the substitutions section to see ingredient details and suggestions for substitutions)

Dollhouse Shortcut

For an easier and faster vegan coconut cake, skip the food coloring and make a white cake with white frosting.

  • 1 can (13.5oz/400mL) full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons (8-9g) vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup (144g/160mL) melted coconut oil
  • 1 ½ cups (375g) raw, organic, or vegan sugar*
  • 2 ½ cups (325g) unbleached flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (5g) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (4-5g) baking powder
  • 1 cup (3oz/100g) shredded coconut, blended

Coconut Cake Directions

prep time: 25 min | baking time: 30 min

Dollhouse Shortcut

To make the cake ahead of time, wrap each layer tightly with cling wrap and chill them in the fridge for up to 3 days or the freezer for up to 3 weeks. The day before you want to decorate, transfer them from the freezer to the fridge for at least 8 hours before unwrapping and assembling.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Line a lasagna pan with parchment paper .

Mix 1 can full-fat coconut milk, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 2 teaspoons vanilla, ⅔ cup melted coconut oil, and 1 ½ cups sugar using a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer. You can also mix this cake batter by hand, but you’ll need a stand nixer or an electric mixer when you get to the frosting instructions.

Sift 2 ½ cups unbleached flour, 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda, and 1 teaspoon baking powder into a large bowl.

Whisk the dry ingredients, and whisk in 1 cup of blended coconut. When you blend your shredded coconut, just use the pulse button for a few seconds to turn it into a finer consistency. You don’t want to overblend it or you might end up with coconut butter.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix only until you can’t see any dry ones.

Divide the batter into 3 separate bowls.

Color each bowl of batter a color of your choice using vegan food coloring.

Spoon the batter into the lasagna pan spoonful by spoonful alternating colors.

Bake for 30 minutes.

colorful pastel vegan coconut cake out of the oven

Cool on a cooling rack for an hour while you make the frosting.

Ingredients for Vanilla Coconut Buttercream Frosting

Dollhouse Shortcut

If you forgot to chill a can of coconut milk overnight, you can buy cans of just coconut cream without the milk that you can use without chilling.

  • ½ cup (100g) vegan butter or margarine*
  • ½ cup (100g) spectrum organic palm shortening
  • ¼ cup (64-65g) coconut cream (the solid part of a chilled can of coconut milk)
  • ¼ cup (54g) coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla
  • 4 ½ cups (560g) organic powdered sugar*

How to Make Coconut Cream Frosting

Set the ingredients on the counter a half hour before you’re ready to make the frosting. This isn’t mandatory, but using room temperature ingredients makes a creamier frosting.

Whisk ½ cup vegan butter or margarine, ¼ cup coconut cream, and ½ cup spectrum sustainable organic palm shortening for 1-2 minutes using a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer. It’s possible to do this by hand, but you’d need the upper body strength of an athlete, which I most certainly do not have.

Add ¼ cup melted coconut oil and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix for another minute.

Sift in 4 ½ cups powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing for at least a minute between each addition.

Divide the frosting into 3 bowls.

Add vegan food coloring to each bowl of frosting and mix well. I used the stand mixer with the whisk attachment, but you can mix by hand.

pastel colored vegan coconut frosting

How to Assemble a Coconut Layer Cake

Before you continue, ask yourself this. Would you rather have a single layer vegan coconut sheet cake? If so, you’re basically done. You can need to frost the cake and call it a day! However, if you want to learn how to make mini layered 4-inch cakes, keep reading.

Cut out circles from your lasagna pan of cake using the largest of a set of biscuit cutters (assuming you want to make the size I made). I was able to get 6 mini 4-inch cakes out of my lasagna pan, so I could make two cakes that each had 3 layers.

cutting out layers for mini vegan coconut cakes

Stack the first of the three layers of cake onto a cake surface. Think carefully when choosing your cake surface. Are you giving this cake to someone and don’t want them to have to remember to return a dish? If so, I recommend making (or buying) a disposable cake board. Since these cakes are mini, you can easily cut a 5-6-inch circle out of a cardboard box and wrap it in foil or anything else you have.

Top the bottom layer of coconut cake with some coconut frosting. If you’re using colored frosting like I did, you can use a different color between each cake layer or all the colors between each cake layer. It’s totally up to you. You’re the cake artist this time, not me.

Smooth out the layer of frosting using an offset spatula and a cake decorating turntable (if you have them). If you don’t have these items, just do your best with whatever you have.

Repeat until your cake is 3 layers tall.

assembling a unicorn-colored mini vegan coconut cake

Coat the entire cake in a thin layer of frosting. It’s okay if some crumbs get into the frosting layer, because this is called the crumb coat. It’s the coat of frosting that’s underneath the pretty layer.

mini vegan coconut cake with a crumb coat of frosting

Chill the cake in the fridge or freezer until the crumb layer is firm when you touch it. While it chills, you can start on your buttercream transfer if that’s the method you want to use.

How to Decorating a Cake Using the Buttercream Transfer Method

Fill a disposable piping bag with the remaining frosting in bowl 1. Repeat with the other colors of frosting so each color is in it’s own disposable piping bag (you don’t have to use disposables, but people don’t usually have enough reusable piping bags for all the colors).

Cut acetate or parchment paper to a couple inches bigger than the circumference of your cake, and tape it down to the table or counter.

Draw your design onto the acetate or parchment paper by piping swirls of colored frosting all over.

making a pastel swirl buttercream transfer for the the mini vegan coconut cake

Wrap the acetate or parchment paper with your frosting design around the entire perimeter of the cake.Then place the cake back in the freezer with the acetate or parchment paper stuck on the sides. It will peel off easily once the frosting is completely frozen.

mini vegan coconut cake wrapped with a pastel swirl buttercream transfer

Set the frosting bags side-by-side inside of a piping bag fitted with a large Wilton star tip 1M (or any large tip you prefer).

Pipe the colored frosting onto a plate or a napkin until it starts to come out swirled (all colors showing).

Remove the cake from the freezer after 2 hours of freezing. Slowly and carefully peel the acetate or parchment paper off of the cake.

Trim any walls that are taller than the top of the cake.

Pipe the colored frosting around the perimeter of the top of the cake in any design you like.

Sprinkle vegan sprinkles all over the top of the cake.

top view of the mini vegan coconut cake after decorating

mini vegan coconut cake after decorating

How to Decorating a Cake Using the Buttercream Splotches Method

Dab different colored splotches of frosting all over your cake using an offset spatula or just a butter knife.

Smooth it out using a bench scraper/chopper and a cake turntable, if you have them.

an alternative way of decorating the mini vegan coconut cakes

I also added a chocolate ganache drip to this one, because chocolate and coconut taste so good together.

How to Store Your Cakes

Freeze the cakes until frosting is hard to the touch. You only need to do this if you’re making the cakes in advance or preparing them for a car ride. Otherwise, they can stay in the fridge or on the counter in a cake stand with a dome top if you plan to serve them within a day.

Wrap the cakes with plastic wrap once the frosting is hard to the touch. This is to make sure no air can get to it.

Freeze the cake until 12-24 hours before you’re ready to serve it or until right before you’re ready to deliver it.

Defrost in the fridge for 12-24 hours, and then remove it from the fridge 30 minutes before you want to serve it. Remove the cling wrap as soon as it comes out of the fridge.

slice of the mini vegan coconut cake

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I convert this 4-inch cake recipe into a 8-inch or 9-inch cake recipe?

To make a 2-layer 8-inch or 9-inch round coconut cake, just divide the batter evenly into two 8 or 9-inch cake pans. Use the same method I describe in the recipe of alternating colors of batter when you fill each cake tin. Bake them for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Can I convert this vegan coconut cake recipe into a cupcake recipe?

To make 24 pastel-colored vegan coconut cupcakes, line 2 cupcake pans with cupcake liners. Fill the cupcake liners ⅔ of the way full using different colored dollops of cake batter Bake both cupcake trays on the same rack in the oven (if possible) for 21-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Is this coconut cake low in sugar?

If you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake, there a few ways you can alter this coconut cake recipe. One way is to reduce the amount of sugar in the cake batter by a third (from 1 ½ cups to 1 cup). Another is to replace the vegan sugar in this recipe with coconut sugar, which is considered a healthier sugar than evaporated cane juice. For an even healthier coconut cake, skip the frosting. This vegan coconut cake recipe is so moist and flavorful, that you won’t even miss the frosting! Just bake it in a 9"x13” oven safe pan, cut it into squares, and serve it. You can even add some berries to the side and call it breakfast.

Can this vegan coconut cake be made gluten free?

If you want this to vegan a gluten-free coconut cake, replace the all-purpose flour with whatever gluten-free flour blend you like best.

What’s the best way to store leftover cake?

This is obviously a trick question because there’s no such thing as leftover cake. I know this because I eat 3 servings of cake a day. But, in a hypothetical scenario where there is somehow leftover coconut cake, just wrap it in cling wrap and keep it in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a few months.

slice removed from the mini vegan coconut cake

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Apple Cider Vinegar: You can replace the tablespoon (15g) of apple cider vinegar with the same amount of white distilled vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice. You just need some sort of acid to interact with the alkalinity of the baking soda to make a fluffy cake.
  • Shredded Coconut: Since you’re blending the coconut, coconut flakes can be used in place of the shredded coconut.
  • Coconut Milk: You can use any non-dairy milk in place of the can of full fat coconut milk in the cake batter, but it will affect the flavor intensity and moistness of the cake. If you’re worried about the cost of canned coconut milk, I use the organic 365 brand from Whole Foods because it’s cheap. You can replace the can of coconut milk in the frosting recipe with a can of coconut cream.
  • Coconut Oil: You can replace the ⅔ cup melted coconut oil in the cake batter with ⅔ cup sunflower oil or safflower oil (or any vegetable oil). In the frosting recipe, you can replace coconut oil with an additional quarter cup of vegan butter or margarine.
  • Vegan Butter: For the vegan butter or margarine, I like to use the organic whipped earth balance. Keep in mind this one does have soy, so if you avoid soy, try the soy-free earth balance.
  • Piping Bags: If you don’t have any piping bags, you can use ziplock bags or sandwich baggies with twist ties to keep the frosting from leaking out the top.

baggies of vegan pastel colored frosting

Comments or Questions?

If you make this fluffy coconut cake recipe (or any of my delicious recipes), I would love it if you’d snap a pic, post to instagram, and tag me @vegandollhouse. It seriously makes my day/week/month!

Please message me (instagram or email) if you have any questions or feedback about the recipe.

Similar Recipes

What is your favorite thing about this recipe?

Are you making dessert for a family of coconut lovers? If so, you might also like my german chocolate cake that has a gooey coconut filling and topping. Another good recipe is my mounds cake, which is a chocolate cake with a coconut frosting and filling.

Do you like the pretty colors in this delicious cake? If so, you might also like my no-knead rainbow bread and my naturally-colored pink and blue burger buns.


* I use mostly organic ingredients when I cook. I realize that not everyone has the disposable income to buy only organic ingredients. So, I only specify organic on the ingredients that matter: when buying the organic (or non-GMO) version is the only way to ensure that an item is vegan.

This post links to items I used when I made this recipe. If you click on the purple Buy Now button on a product page, you will go to a website (like Amazon) where you can buy the same product I used. Sometimes, the store you purchase from (Amazon, Etsy, etc.) will pay me for referring you. This costs you nothing extra, and I would never recommend a product that I don’t use. These affiliate programs help me buy the ingredients to create these recipes for you. Read more about this in my privacy policy.



Your website/recipes are so well done! I can't wait to try some out. Thank you!
HeavyDoseOfLavender -⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I can always immediately tell when a recipe is yours, I love your style! Thanks for all the recipes, I've made a few and they've all been great!
Consistent_Pea -⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is adorable! I've seen your recipes a couple of times before and they're always so pretty and creative!
pepperohni -⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐