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slicing a small layer cake

Coconut Cake made with Cake Mix


Enjoy a Delicious coconut cake made with cake mix that will leave your friends and family begging for your secret!


Units Scale

For the Cake:

  • 115.25 oz cake mix. I used Duncan Hines® Dolly Parton’s Coconut Cake Mix
  • 1 cup whole milk, buttermilk if you have it
  • 1 stick of melted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

For the Frosting:

  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • 3 1/2 cups or 420 grams of powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 23 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream to thin frosting as desired

For the Decorations:

  • 1 bag of sweetened, shredded coconut


For the Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Prepare cake pans. 
  • Combine cooled, melted butter, eggs, and flavorings In a mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until well combined. About 60 seconds.
  • Stop mixer, add all the contents of the cake mix to the wet ingredients. Run mixer on low speed to combine mix with wet ingredients. While running the mixer on low, stream in the milk. Run on low until everything is moistened, about 30 seconds.
  • Increase mixer to medium speed and run for 2 minutes. This is an important step so don’t short cut it.
  • Distribute batter evenly across prepared cake pans. Bake as directed on the package. If you use 6″ pans like I used, bake them the same time as 8″ pans. Check for doneness using a toothpick. Cool cakes in the pan on wire racks for 15 minutes. Removed from pans, leave on the racks until cooled completely.

For the frosting:

  • Whip the butter for 5 minutes on medium high in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stop frequently to scrape down the sides.
  • While the butter is creaming add your flavoring. Fat carries flavor so adding your flavoring now is a great way to enhance the taste.
  • Add powdered sugar in TWO additions. It is important the sugar is sifted as lumpy sugar will give you lumpy frosting. Nobody wants that. Mix the first addition for 3 minutes and be sure to scrape down the bowl and the paddle several times to make sure everything is mixing properly. Add the second addition, and do the same.
  • At this point, assess the consistency of your frosting. Time of year and elevation will play heavily into your frosting thickness. Also, if you are frosting a layer cake, you will want denser frosting to go in between the layers.
  • Add cream a tablespoon or two at a time and mix well before deciding to add more. You don’t want it so thin it won’t hold its shape. If you desire color in your frosting add it now.
  • Run the mixer on a lower speed and add color one drop at a time until desired hue is created.

To toast the coconut:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Spread 2 cups (or the whole bag) coconut evenly over a cookie sheet line with parchment. Transfer baking sheet to the preheated oven and bake for 4-6 minutes If you are using a very dark or black baking sheet, bake for only 4 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and use a spatula to turn/stir the coconut, once again redistributing evenly over the baking sheet. Return to 350°F oven and bake another 5 minutes (Note: if you are using a very dark or black baking sheet, check after 4 minutes).
  • If coconut is not adequately browned, return to the oven in 2 minute increments, stirring in between, until coconut is toasted.
  • Allow coconut to cool before using.


  • Assemble your layer cakes by putting frosting and some toasted coconut in between each layer. If your cakes dome on top, evenly slice them away to create a flat cake.
  • Frost cake as desired.
  • Decorate by piping frosting swirls or flowers and add toasted coconut as a final decoration. 


I recommend toasting the coconut as the first step. While the coconut is toasting, prepare your cake pans.

  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 26
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American