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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.


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.


Honey Lemon Syrup

Whipped Vanilla Buttercream


  • 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. Hi there!

    Was just wondering if you line the sides of your pan with parchment paper to make the edges of the naked cake perfect or if you just put a parchment paper circle at the bottom of the pan? I always seem to mess up getting a perfect ring of parchment paper to line the sides!

    1. Hi there! I have done both, but I would recommend lining the whole thing with parchment paper to get those nice clean edges! Enjoy 🙂 xTieghan

  2. Do I need to sift my flour for this recipe or have you ever used cake flour? How would this adjust the measurements?
    Thank you!

    1. Hey Brianna,
      I did not sift my flour for this recipe, I am sure using an equal amount of cake flour would also be just fine to do here. I hope this recipe turns out amazing for you, please let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan

  3. I’m making this vanilla buttercream frosting tomorrow for a sweet friend. But without the coconut. Any tips – You mentioned you tried to turn it pink in a previous version but it didn’t work out. Was that bc you browned the butter? I’m hoping to make it pink and without the coconut. Thank you!

    1. Hey Ellen,

      You can just omit the coconut. Not a big deal! The frosting should turn pink nicely. Hope it is a hit. Thank you!

  4. If I’m making this a day ahead of time, do you recommend making and assembling the entire cake the day before or only making the cakes a day before then making frosting and assembling the day of? In either scenario, how do you suggest wrapping the cake(s)? Should they be stored at room temp or in the fridge? Thank you!

    1. Hey Francis,
      I would make the cakes, wrap them in plastic wrap or in an airtight container, and then assemble the following day. I hope you love this recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  5. 2 stars
    This came out beautiful to look at, but the taste was overwhelming for me and my family. I am pretty good at following recipes, so I know that was not the issue. It was just too sweet. Sweetened coconut, plus sugar, plus honey sauce and honey icing just became too much. If i make it again i’ll add unsweetened coconut, reduce the amount of honey sauce i drizzle on top of the cake and not add any honey in my icing. Other than that, i loved the flavors this recipe brought out. I could taste the coconut and the honey lemon sauce kicked it up a notch. The cake batter was the consistency of banana bread when it went into my baking pans, but it turned out nice and moist. Not too fluffy, but not dense either. I wish i could upload a photo, I added a pink peony and purple little flowers from my garden.

    1. Hey Francis,
      So sorry this recipe was not enjoyed, please let me know if I can help in anyway! xTieghan

  6. 5 stars
    Ive made this cake twice and it’s a definite favorite with friends!! Love the combination of flavors and perfect for spring!!
    Only thing is, I can never make it in an hours time. What am I doing wrong?! I always have to add at least an extra thirty minutes to the recipe to allow for enough time to cool and decorate.

    1. Hey there,
      Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try, I am so glad it was enjoyed! Happy Monday! xTieghan

  7. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! Thank you for sharing! I made this for Mother’s Day last year and I’m making it again (by request) for Easter!

    1. Hey Megan,
      Thanks a bunch for giving this recipe a try, I am so excited that it was enjoyed! Happy Friday! xTieghan

    1. Hey Ema,
      You can just click “metric” below the list of ingredients and the measurements will change for you. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  8. 5 stars
    Made this today and it turned out beautifully! Loved your recipes before lockdown but they’ve been an absolute saviour over the last year – sending so much gratitude and thanks from the UK! xx

    1. Hey Sandra,
      Thanks so much for giving this recipe a try, I am so glad that it was enjoyed! Have a great week:) xTieghan

  9. I have three 9 inch cake pans. Would I double the cake batter and the frosting to make the cake in my pans?