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Coconut Cake

An old-fashioned coconut cake with pink icing and toasted coconut topping.
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coconut cake with pink icing and lightly toasted coconut

This old-fashioned Coconut Cake Recipe comes direct from the pages of Nana Ling’s handwritten recipe book and is dated April 1940.

Eighty-one years later, I can confirm this cake is absolute coconut perfection. A fluffy, buttery cake topped with a pretty pink coconut icing and topped with lightly toasted coconut flakes.

They really knew how to bake up a treat back then!

coconut cake with pink icing and toasted coconut topping

Making the cake

The cake recipe calls for all of the traditional ingredients for butter cake – butter, sugar, eggs, milk and flour – along with half a cup of desiccated coconut.

Ideally, your butter and eggs should be at room temperature before you begin.

coconut cake ingredients

You’ll need a bar cake tin for this recipe, approximately 24 x 13 x 7 cm. Prepare the tin by greasing with butter and then lining with baking paper.

The method involves creaming the butter and sugar before adding the egg yolks, coconut, flour and milk. The egg whites are whisked until stiff and then gently combined into the mixture.

The cake is cooked in a bar tin for 50 minutes.

The icing on the Coconut Cake

Once the cake is cooled, it’s time to add the pretty pink coconut icing.

The icing is packed with 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut, to be precise, and made by adding all ingredients in a bowl and stirring to combine.

Top off the cake with some lightly toasted coconut flakes.

Toasting the coconut

The easiest way to toast coconut is to use the grill function on your oven.

Spread the coconut out on a baking tray and then pop it in the oven for about 5 mins, taking it out to stir around a little every minute or so.

Keep an eye on it, though, as it’s really easy to burn. It turns a lovely golden colour quite quickly, so keep watching and remove it from the oven as soon as you achieve the desired colour.

Allow the toasted coconut to cool completely before using it to decorate the cake.

slice of coconut cake

If you love coconut, or know somebody who’s a coconut lover, this old-fashioned cake is simple to make and a delight to devour.

You might also like our other coconut recipes, which include Coconut Biscuits, Coconut Ice and Choc Coconut Slice.


Nana Ling’s Coconut Cake Recipe

Keep scrolling for the tested and tweaked version.

handwritten coconut cake recipe
coconut cake with pink icing and lightly toasted coconut

Coconut Cake

An old-fashioned coconut cake with pink icing and toasted coconut topping.
4.57 from 30 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Australian
Keyword: coconut cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 16 slices
Calories: 200kcal


  • medium bar tin (approx 24 x 13 x 7 cm)



  • 125 grams butter
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups SR flour
  • 1/2 cup milk


  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons boiling water
  • few drops pink food colouring (optional)


  • 2 tablespoons flaked coconut, lightly toasted


  • Pre-heat oven to moderate (160 degrees celsius, fan-forced)
  • Grease bar tin and line with baking paper.
  • Cream butter and sugar.
  • Separate eggs and add whisked egg yolks. Beat until well combined.
  • Add coconut and SR flour. Stir to combine.
  • Add milk and stir to combine.
  • Beat egg whites until stiff and then fold into mixture until combined.
  • Pour into bar tin and bake for 50 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove cake from tin and allow to cool completely.
  • To make icing, combine all ingredients and then pour over cooled cake.
  • Immediately sprinkle toasted coconut flakes over icing to decorate.


Calories: 200kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 39mg | Sodium: 72mg | Potassium: 40mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 247IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 8mg | Iron: 1mg
Recipe Rating

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Monday 12th of June 2023

Amazing cake :) I didn't have the correct ingredients for the icing so I used condensed milk, dissecated coconut and a splash of milk and it worked very well as well. Thank you for the recipe. Greetings from Portugal :)

Libby Hakim

Monday 12th of June 2023

Hi Patricia! Lovely, so pleased you enjoyed and thanks so much for the great rating, review and variation ideas. Portugal - amazing. We lived near a "little Portugal" suburb when we lived I Sydney and loved the food, especially the chicken and little custard Portuguese Tarts. Sending warm wishes from Australia :)


Sunday 4th of June 2023

This may be the most precious cake I’ve ever baked. It is absolutely delicious and perfect. I baked it in a loaf pan, which seems to have similar dimensions. I am so pleased to have found this lovely recipe! Thank you.

Libby Hakim

Sunday 4th of June 2023

Hi Megan. What a lovely review. Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to rate and review. Enjoy your cake! Libby x


Thursday 14th of April 2022

Hi can I use an electric mixer for this recipe or is best by hand also could I use coconut milk in place of ordinary milk ?


Sunday 4th of June 2023

@Carole, I used oat milk and it turned out great! I bet coconut milk would be nice.

Libby Hakim

Saturday 16th of April 2022

Hi Carole. Yes, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar and after adding eggs bit just fold through flour and coconut by hand. I haven't tested it with the coconut milk, sorry, but you should be able to substitute it 1:1. Happy cooking!


Wednesday 26th of January 2022

Hi, I would like to try this recipe for coconut cake, I’m just not sure on the amount of milk. The handwritten recipe says 1/4 cup of milk and the new recipe says 1/2 cup. Can you let me know the right amount? Also can you use regular coconut, as I’m not sure were to get desiccated coconut? And would that be sweetened or unsweetened?

Libby Hakim

Friday 28th of January 2022

Hi Heather. The recipe card is the tested and tweaked version. I've add extra milk as I felt the cake was too dry following the original recipe (recorded at a time when cup sizes varied and flour may have been a little different).And yes, you could use regular unsweetened coconut. Good luck!

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