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Lemon Coconut Naked Cake with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream. The pretty “garden” cake that tastes amazing too. Three soft, perfectly sweet, very moist, extra coconutty, lemon scented cake layers. Each drizzled lightly with a sweet honey lemon syrup, and then generously frosted with the most delicious whipped vanilla buttercream. Decorate with coconut, and dainty chamomile flowers and you’ll have a beautiful spring coconut cake that’s just a touch more special…and delicious…than any other coconut cake.

side angled photo of Lemon Coconut Naked Cake with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream on cake stand

I feel like I say this every time I make a new layer cake, but I really think this is my favorite yet. I take that back, I really love all the layer cakes I’ve created. Especially the spring cakes, because they tend to be the prettiest. But this one…this cute little layer cake…it was a true labor of love. Even when I thought I’d given up on it, I somehow talked myself into trying one last time. Finally I had success.

I could not be more excited to share this cake today, it’s everything I wanted it to be, but actually better. When a recipe turns out better than I had envisioned, all is good in my world. It’s the simple things, right?

lemon honey syrup being drizzled on Lemon Coconut Naked Cake

You guys may remember, but the other week I hinted that I was really struggling to create a coconut cake that was both delicious and beautiful. At this point, I can’t even remember how many versions of this cake I attempted. I just know it was a lot. I also know that I am currently well loved at both the rec center and my little sister’s school. As they’ve been the recipients of multiple cakes over the last couple of weeks.

Guess it’s cool they like me! And yes, we don’t throw the “testing” food out…unless it’s incredibly gross. In which case I will not hand it off to anyone because, well, that’s just mean.

Anyway…

Lemon Coconut Naked Cake with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream being sprinkle with coconut and hand in photo

I wanted so badly to create a cake that would be perfect for both Easter and Mother’s Day. I’ve never shared a true coconut cake before, so I knew right away that the flavor needed to be more classic coconut. In the past, I’ve shared a coconut banana cake, and a coconut carrot cake, but never just coconut. So coconut was my favor. With the additional flavors of lemon and vanilla hinted throughout, and a vanilla buttercream frosting. Sort of simple, but not too simple, and SO GOOD.

I had the flavors down, now I just needed to get the cake as perfect as can be. This was the (very) hard part. First round was dry, second round was way too moist, third round was just ugly, and I can’t even remember the round after that. I started out with normal standard (8 inch) cake layers. Then moved onto a pink buttercream. After that I attempted to add in brown butter. I tried just about everything, and then I just needed to give up. I could not make this cake one more time. So I told myself I was done…

overhead photo of Lemon Coconut Naked Cake with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream on cake stand

Until three days later when a slightly different version of this exact cake formed in my head. I hesitated to even try one last time, but for some reason, I was feeling good about this cake. I had the fresh chamomile flowers and pretty thyme blossoms to decorate with. So I went for it, and IT WORKED!

Yes. Yes. YESSSS. It worked, and then I made it again to be sure, and then again to film the process. So much cake, but I’m so happy.

This cake is everything. It’s springy, coconutty, so delicious, and pretty too! All the things a cake needs to be.

side angled photo of Lemon Coconut Naked Cake with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream on cake stand and flowers on table
Lemon Coconut Naked Cake with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream with slice cut

The best part is that even though this cake is layered with deliciousness and might look fancy, it’s pretty simple. I mean, simple for a layer cake.

First, I used 3 (6 inch) cake pans, but 2 (8 inch) standard cake pans can also be used. The cake layers are true coconut with just the slightest hint of lemon swirled throughout. It’s not even that you notice the lemon so much as it really just helps to highlight the coconut flavors and make them that much better. These cake layers are MOIST, and SOFT, and SO FLUFFY.

You’ll love it.

Lemon Coconut Naked Cake with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream with slice cut
Lemon Coconut Naked Cake with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream on cake stand and slice removed from cake

Now, I wanted this cake to be sweet, but not like a sugar bomb. I also wanted to ensure that the layers of cake would hold up and stay moist if you plan to leave the cake out during your spring gatherings. So…I added a honey lemon “syrup” to drizzle over top each cake. The syrup adds a light sweetness all while keeping each cake layer very, very moist. The syrup is my secret. Go with it.

Moving along. No cake is complete without a buttercream. This one is extra buttery, extra whipped, very heavy on the vanilla, and sweetened ever so slightly with a touch of honey. It also has a touch of cream cheese, to really play with the classic coconut flavors going on in the cake. Simple vanilla flavors, but kicked up a notch. It’s better than words can describe.

Every forkful of cake is roll your eyes back good, and filled with lemony, coconutty, and vanilla flavors.

Lemon Coconut Naked Cake piece standing up on dessert plate with fork on plate

To decorate, I used fresh thyme blossoms and chamomile flowers, which gave the cake a very spring-like garden feel. It’s exactly what I wanted from the start…even though I may not have known that from the start.

Sometimes things really just need time to evolve into their best version. That could not have been more true than with this cake. It may have just about driven me insane, but I’m so happy I didn’t give up on it. Often the recipes that I try over and over again, until I am more than happy with them, are the ones I just can’t wait to share.

I hope my excitement over this cake inspires you to make it a part of your Easter celebrations this weekend. Or maybe Mother’s Day in a few weeks. Or maybe just a celebratory spring weekend cake. For absolutely no reason at all. Other than that you simply want a damn good coconut cake.

Whatever your reason for making this cake may be, I hope you love it as much as I do!

Lemon Coconut Naked Cake piece on plate

If you make this lemon coconut naked cake, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to also tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Lemon Coconut Naked Cake with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings: 12
Calories Per Serving: 2424 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

Ingredients

Honey Lemon Syrup

Whipped Vanilla Buttercream

Instructions

  • 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 3 (6-inch) round cake pans or 2 (8 inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter/spray with cooking spray.
    2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand-held mixer) beat together the coconut oil, yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and coconut milk. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix until just combined. Fold in the lemon zest and shredded coconut. 
    3. Pour the batter among the cake pans and bake 30-35 minutes, until the tops are just set, and no longer wiggly in the center. Remove and let cool five minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack. Poke 3-5 holes in the top of each cake.
    4. Make the honey lemon syrup. In a small sauce pan bring the lemon juice and honey to a boil over high heat. Boil 1-2 minutes, until just slightly thickened. Let cool until warm to touch, about 10 minutes. 
    5. Make the buttercream. Add the butter and the cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until extra light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and honey. Beat together until whipped, about 2 more minutes. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. If the frosting feels too loose, add powdered sugar to thicken.
    7. To assemble, place one cake layer on a serving plate or cake stand and drizzle lightly with the cooled honey syrup. Spread 1/3 of the buttercream over the cake and add a handful of shredded coconut. Repeat with the remaining 2 cake layers. Be careful not to over fill your layers or the cake will be hard to slice. Serve or store in the fridge for up to 1 day. If desired, decorate the cake with thyme blossoms and edible flowers. 
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  1. 5 stars
    I made this cake for my daughter’s 1st birthday and it has been on my mind ever since! I am going to make it again for her birthday this year. Although, we now have a dairy allergy in the group. Do you think it’s possible to use a dairy free yogurt in the cake recipe?

    I am debating on trying dairy free butter/cream cheese for the buttercream or try a whipped coconut milk version. If you have any ideas with your experience, I would love to hear!

    1. Hey Sarah! I haven’t ever tried this recipe with dairy free subs before, so I can’t say for sure! Let me know if you give it a try! xT

  2. 5 stars
    This cake was brought to my house last night. I think it is one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever eaten (and my favourite cake is chocolate). She made it into 4 layers, decorated with pink icing and gold leaf with three beautiful roses on top. It looked stunning!

  3. I made this cake for the Fourth of July barbecue yesterday. It was a huge hit. Everyone loved it. The only thing I did different was toast the coconut. I wish I could share a photo.
    Thank you so much for the recipe

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Thanks so much for making this recipe and your comment! So glad to hear that it turned out well for you:) Love the idea to toast the coconut! xT

  4. 5 stars
    Such a yum cake! Love the subtle honey flavour in the icing and the honey lemon drizzle is absolutely delicious, don’t skip that part! Would definitely make again! Thx!

    1. Hey Leannda,
      Happy Wednesday!! Thank you so much for making this recipe and sharing your review, I am so glad it was delish! xT

    1. Hi Kayla,
      Totally, that will be just fine for you to use! If you like salt, I would add 1/4 teaspoon:) I hope you love this recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xT

  5. What if my crew does not like lemon? Could I remove the lemon zest and lemon juice completely and keep it a traditional coconut cake? Would I then just skip the honey/lemon syrup? I know it makes it less special, but would it still work?

    1. Hi Brianna,
      I like to order from Gourmet Sweet Botanicals. I just gently press into the frosting. Please let me know if you have any other questions! xx

    1. Hey Kim,
      Totally, that would work well for you! Let me know if you give this recipe a try, I hope you love it!! xT

    1. Hey Mary,
      You can go ahead and skip the cream cheese:) Let me know if you have any other questions, I hope you love this recipe! xx