Gluten Free Coconut Cream Cake

Spring is here, and with that comes my dad's birthday and Easter close behind. My dad loves coconut cake, so I decided to come up with my own recipe! I hesitate to say I came up with a healthier version because people automatically think that "gluten free" and "healthy" means your cake is going to be something similar to a cardboard cutout. Well, 2 cakes and one recipe later, my Coconut Cream Cake is ready for you to try! The cake is drizzled with homemade condensed milk (so easy to make you'll never buy it again) and covered in coconut whipped cream..delicious!

Gluten free baking is not easy. It is not a cup for cup conversion and I had to do some research as I whipped up this cake. I know it's tempting to try and swap things out as you go, but I recommend you stick to this recipe on this one.

First, I increased the amount of baking soda and powder to help the cake rise and added xantham gum to make up for the gluten. Unlike baked goods with gluten, you don't have to worry about over beating the batter and making it tough. Actually, gluten free batter can be beat or whipped for longer. This help to aerate the cake and add more air bubbles to the batter making it lighter. Gluten free baked goods can easily be dense so I found this to be a helpful step (it's also best to use a low protein flour for cakes).

For the liquids, I chose to use buttermilk to add moisture and sparkling water, again to add more air bubbles. If you wish to make this cake dairy free you can easily substitute coconut milk in place of the buttermilk.

The second time around I also played with oven time and temperature. I found that decreasing the heat helped the cake not get as brown and dry. You will want to watch the cake closely because once it becomes overcooked it becomes dry.

For the frosting I made a whipped cream with maple syrup and heavy whipped cream. Did you know you didn't need powdered sugar for homemade whipped cream!? I also added in some homemade sweet condensed milk (made with coconut milk and maple syrup) to add a hint of coconut flavor and extra sweetness. 

So, after some trial and error and what seemed like a few chemistry lessons, I feel this cake a great cake for spring that will be moist, light, and can be eaten with less guilt!

For those who are dairy free, you can easily replace the buttermilk with coconut milk and the whipping cream with whipped coconut cream.


For the Cake:

  • 2 cups King arthur gluten free all purpose flour sifted (other GF flours with bean flours would produce a more dense cake)
  • 1 1/2 cups Coconut palm sugar
  •  1/2 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes (without sulfites)
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 tbs Baking powder
  •  1 tsp Xantham Gum 
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 stick of butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup sparkling water (spring water)
  • 3 Eggs (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

For Frosting:

  • 16 oz Heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes (toasted)

For Condensed Milk:

  • Can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla


Before you get started on the cake, pre-heat the oven to 325* and butter your cake pans (I used 2 8x8 pans). If your pans are not non-stick, I suggest lining the bottom with parchment paper to avoid sticking.

Next, prepare the condensed milk on the stove so it can cool while the cake bakes. In a medium saucepan, mix together  the canned coconut milk, maple syrup, and vanilla. Let it simmer for 25 minutes until it's thickened and set aside.

Sift flour and whisk together baking powder, baking soda, xantham gum, cinnamon, and salt (set aside). Cream together the butter, coconut sugar, and maple syrup. Once well combined add the eggs one at a time and scrape down the sides when necessary. Turn speed to low and gradually add in flour mixture until all the ingredients are well combined then add the buttermilk, sparkling water, and vanilla. Turn mixer speed back up to medium and mix for 3-5 minutes (I did 5).

Divide batter between the pans and smooth out the tops with a spatula. Bake for about 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cakes cool about 10-15 minutes (you may want to run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake).

Next, it's time to soak the cake with the oh so yummy sweet condensed milk! I used paper plates to let them soak and then transferred the cakes onto a platter. Poke holes in the cake and pour about 1/4 cup on each layer depending how much it soaks up. You can add more if you'd like.  Let cake sit while you make frosting.

To toast coconut for frosting, spread about 1/2 cup thinly onto a baking sheet and bake at 325* for 1-3 minutes. This happens fast, so don't go far!  Let cool.

For the frosting pour heavy cream into mixer (I love using my stand mixer for this). Whip on high until stiff peaks start to form, then add maple syrup, condensed milk, vanilla, and coconut. Whip until combined.

Layer the cake! The cake will be moist from the condensed milk, so to keep them from breaking apart when you transfer, you will want to use a large spatula or slide the cake onto the platter. Once onto the platter, place some of the whip cream onto the first layer, spreading even to cover top and some running over the edge. Add second layer, and top with the remaining whip cream. Smooth tops and sides and you're done! I love this cake because you don't have to be an expert at decorating, it looks great just the way it is!

The cake will need to be kept refrigerated. 

Enjoy! If you make this, I would love to hear from you.