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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. This looks gorgeous. Where do you find chamomile flowers and thyme flowers? I’ve never seen them in our local stores in NYC.

    1. Hey Hilary,
      I order them from Gourmet Sweet Botanicals. Please let me know if you have any other questions! xx

  2. 4 stars

    I made these and for some reason they did not rise! Taste delish and moist. So I’m not sure what has happened. Im thinking my cake tins may have been too big?

    1. Hi Sophie,
      Thanks so much for making this recipe! What size cake pans did you use? Was your baking soda and baking powder fresh? Let me know how I can help! xT

  3. This cake looks delicious and I can’t wait to make it for Easter. This is a silly question, but where is your copper saucepan from that is shown pouring the honey lemon syrup? I love it!

    1. Thanks so much Lacey!! So sorry, I don’t have a link for that, it’s vintage! Let me know if you give this recipe a try! xx

  4. Hi Tieghan,

    I want to make this cake but I am not really a fan of buttercream. Do you think it would work if I substituted the butter for mascarpone? Maybe mascarpone and cream?


      1. Hi Tieghan,

        Thanks I will try it. Forgot about the frosting of the chocolate zucchini banana cake. I have actually made that cake and it was delicious.


  5. 5 stars
    I’ve made this cake several times and it’s amazing! Have you ever tried freezing the cake layers? I want to make it ahead of time and then decorate closer to my event date. Thank you!

    1. Hey Alicia,
      So glad to hear you have been enjoying this recipe! Yes, you can totally freeze the cake layers:) Please let me know if you have any other questions! xTieghan

  6. 5 stars
    This cake was incredible. Everyone in my family said its the best thing I’ve baked and their favorite cake to date. I used two 9 inch rounds and it was perfect. Definitely will be making again!

    1. Hey Simone,
      Amazing! I love to hear that this recipe was a winner, thanks so much for making it! Have a great Monday! xTieghan

  7. 1 star
    Unfortunately this was not a tasty cake. The flavors are off. It sounds yummy in theory but in reality, not one of our dinner guests liked it. Although I followed the directions exactly, it is very dense, dry and the lemon coconut combination just doesn’t work. ?‍♀️

    1. Hi Joy,
      Thanks for giving the recipe a try and sharing your feedback, so sorry to hear it was not enjoyed! xTieghan

    2. I’m excited to make this for my moms 70th birthday! I need to bake one day ahead. Would you recommend storing the cakes in fridge before or after applying the lemon honey syrup? Or should I do all, the syrup and frosting, the day ahead and just store with toothpicks and cling wrap? Thanks for your recommendations!

      1. Hey Abigail,
        You can store these on the counter in an airtight container:) I hope you love the recipe and happy birthday to your mom! xx

    1. Hey there,
      Fantastic!! Thanks a lot for trying this recipe and sharing your review, I love to hear that it was enjoyed! ?Tieghan

  8. I believe the ratio of butter to powdered sugar for the buttercream is off — traditionally more like 1:2 (butter:sugar)

    1. Hi Cecilia,
      Thanks for sharing your feedback, these are the measurements that I used for the cake:) Let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan

  9. 5 stars
    This recipe is so fresh and lovely – so much fun to make a cake with different ingredients like coconut milk and coconut oil ! Loved the buttercream. Happy Easter

    1. Hey Kim,
      Happy Sunday!! Thanks so much for making this recipe, I am so glad to hear that it was enjoyed! xx

  10. I was thinking of making this gluten free with 1:1 flour and a little extra xanthan. Anyone else try this? TIA

    1. Hi Shelley,
      You can just use gluten free flour, you shouldn’t need to add xanthan. Please let me know if you give the recipe a try, I hope you love it! xTieghan

  11. 4 stars
    I had to make this cake – lemon and coconut – my two favorites – together! I missed folding the coconut into the batter and the cakes had been cooking for 17 minutes when I realized it, so I skipped that part. Still absolutely tasty! In fact, I like the fact that the cakes have a very lemony taste and think the coconut in the batter would have sweetened them too much for my taste. I feel you can never make a lemon dessert too tart. Paired with the honey-lemon syrup, the delicious buttercream frosting topped with coconut – a wonderful combination. I’ll definitely make this cake again.

    1. Hi Lalita,
      I’ve not tried this, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for you. Let me know if you give the recipe a try, I hope you love it! xTieghan