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Desserts | August 17, 2021

The Best Coconut Cake made with Box Mix

My friend Nan bakes the best Coconut Cake made with a box mix! I’ve been making Nan’s Coconut Cake for years. You won’t find a better tasting coconut cake anywhere!

The Best Coconut Cake made with Box Mix

Nan’s Coconut Cake 20 years and counting…

This cake is the most moist and delicious coconut cake you will ever make in minutes! My friend Nan (who is btw the kindest, most considerate and loving person you will ever meet in your lifetime) is an amazing cook. She shared this recipe with me over 20 years ago and it has been made more times in our kitchen than I can begin to count.

The Best Coconut Cake made with Box Mix

How to make a cake mix taste good!

Nothing is easier than opening a box mix and then adding eggs, water, oil, and throwing it in the oven, am I right? Add extra ingredients and you have a cake that is unforgettable. This cake is reminiscent of cakes served back in the day when no one really cared much about how a cake looked, but were very concerned about how a cake tasted!

Nan's Coconut Cake

If you grew up on box mixes like me, you know they are easy to make and bake in minutes. Doctoring up cake mixes became a thing in the mid 80’s and into the 90’s. Adding a few additional ingredients to a box cake mix makes a huge difference. Usually those ingredients include, but are not limited to: sour cream, sugar, butter, and dry pudding or even jello. This cake has a secret ingredient as well. Coconut milk! A bit of canned coconut milk takes this cake to the next level!

Moist and Easy Coconut Cake

What is the difference between coconut milk and coconut cream and cream of coconut?

I usually buy coconut milk in the Asian section of the grocery store. Coconut milk is different than coconut cream. They are both made from coconut and contain coconut and water. Coconut milk is lighter and has less fat than coconut cream, as one might guess. Cream of Coconut is another product altogether. It contains sugar and is quite a bit thicker and sweeter than coconut milk or coconut cream. This recipe calls for coconut milk, which I think works best!

Box Mix Coconut Cake made with coconut milk and sour cream

The Best Coconut Cake made with Box Mix tastes as good as it looks!

One clue that the Best Coconut Cake made with Box Mix is going to be your new favorite dessert is the fact that this cake looks moist even in photos! It is often difficult to detect a quality such as the moist crumb factor in a cake, but I can verify without reservations this cake is off the charts moist and delicious. If you have some fresh raspberries on hand, wash and dry thoroughly and pile them on top for a beautiful presentation just before serving!

Update 2023:

After receiving a few reviews stating the cake turned out gummy or had a heavy texture, I experimented and found a way to handle the problem. Simply separate the egg white and yolks and beat the egg whites until stiff. Remove from bowl and set aside. Then proceed with the recipe as originally written, adding the egg yolks to the rest of cake ingredients, and fold in the egg whites last. Bake as directed. I am not sure why this problem presented in the first place, but suspect it may come from an ingredient in either the cake mix or the coconut milk that alters the texture for some!

Here are a few reviews you might find helpful for the most simple and delicious coconut cake recipe ever:

Just made this cake today for Valentine’s Day. Toasted some coconut for sprinkling on top as you suggested, and substituted a Pineapple Cake Mix because it looked good! Had to make it as a bundt cake. It turned out so well! Thank you for the recipe.


Made this cake today for a church fundraiser for the youth. It earned $180! Cake looked amazing and tasted super good! Thank you!


This is probably my favorite cake & since I won’t have any kids around this year on Mother’s Day I’M MAKING IT FOR MYSELF!! 


Other quick and easy cake mix recipes you will love…

Best German Chocolate Bundt Cake, Simple Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake, and Foolproof Chocolate Bundt Cake.

Nan’s Coconut Cake originally posted in October 2010, updated with new content and photos 2021

4.16 from 33 votes

The Best Coconut Cake made with a Box Mix

Best Coconut Cake made with a box mix, iced with cream cheese frosting and topped with coconut!

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cake, coconut, coconut cake, cream cheese frosting, frosting
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
cool and frost 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 12


  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk see recipe notes*
  • 1 white cake mix I like Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker
  • 1 small package instant vanilla pudding

Frosting and decorating cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk or half and half
  • 1 7-10 oz coconut flakes, sweetened
  • 1-2 pints fresh raspberries washed, drained well


  1. Grease and line 2-9 inch cake pans, 3 8-inch pans or 24 muffin tin with parchment paper/cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set rack in center of oven.

for cake:

  1. Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff, spoon into a small bowl, set aside.

  2. Combine egg yolks, sour cream, vanilla, water and coconut milk into the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl until blended well. This can be the same bowl used to beat the egg whites.

  3. Add white cake mix and instant pudding to the egg yolk mixture. Mix till smooth. Fold in the egg whites gently. It is okay if a few white streaks are visible.

  4. Pour batter into 2-9 inch round pans. Sprinkle a little coconut on top of cakes, if desired. bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Invert onto cooling rack and let cool completely. For cupcakes, bake at 350 for about 18-20 minutes.


  1. Blend butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar, salt and milk until desired consistency. Mix well. Spread frosting on cooled cake. Sprinkle remaining coconut on top and sides of cake and gently press into frosting.

  2. Chill until serving. Remove about 30 minutes before serving for best results. Before serving, place fresh raspberries on top of cake if desired. Reserve some raspberries for sprinkling on each piece of cake when served. Store any leftovers covered in refrigerator.

Recipe Notes

  • As stated in the recipe, do not over mix this cake. Once the pudding is added, mix just until ingredients are incorporated.
  • Coconut pudding may be used in place of vanilla pudding.
  • Nan’s recipe calls for coconut milk, which is sold on the shelf and often found in the Asian section of grocery stores. I have also used coconut cream which is thicker than coconut milk.
  • I do not usually add the coconut to the frosting while mixing, but Nan does.  When adding coconut to the frosting, add about 1/2 of a 7 oz package while mixing the frosting. 
  • If you like toasted coconut, place coconut on a foil lined baking sheet and bake at 325-350 degrees until golden. Top cake with toasted coconut.
  • If  baking this cake in a high (over 50%) humidity, reduce the water to 1/4 cup and add 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour to the cake mix. 
  • This cake may be made in a jelly roll pan with great results! Place a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan before spreading on the batter, for best results. Baking time is usually about 18 minutes. 
  • The layers of this cake freeze well. After baking, let cool and wrap each individual layer in plastic wrap, making sure to cover all of the cake. 

76 thoughts on “The Best Coconut Cake made with Box Mix

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Recipe Rating

  1. Recipe looks amazing— excited to try. As written the recipe does not explain what to do with the raspberries listed as an ingredient, although from the pics it looks like they go inside?

    1. Hi D!
      Thank you for your comment. The raspberries can be added to the top of the cake for a fruity flavor and decoration, but this cake is amazing without raspberries as well! Let me know how you like this recipe! Thanks for reading ABK.

    2. 5 stars
      I made this cake over the weekend for my Mum’s 85 birthday. Turned out so beautiful and was absolutely delicious. I will definitely make this again. Thank you for the recipe.

  2. The flavor was wonderful but I baked as cupcakes and they shrunk up after cooling. Any idea what I did wrong?

    1. Hi Mandy,
      Shrinking usually is a result of over cooking! I made this recipe today for a birthday party. It yields 24 cupcakes. I baked at 350 for about 18 minutes on the center rack, hope this helps!

  3. 1 star
    I am sorry but this is not right. The cake batter was thick. The cake after baking came out gummy. I made a small pan and cupcakes. The cupcakes stuck to the paper. And the cake fell out of pan like a brick. The only change i made was using greek yogurt instead of sour cream and I forgot the vanilla.

    1. Cynthia,
      I made this cake today, and have made it many, many times over the years. Never has it turned out like a brick! Not sure what went wrong? To avoid cupcakes sticking to papers, let the cake cool completely before eating. Hope this helps!

    2. Greek yogurt doesn’t have the same percentage of fat as sour cream. This is why the paper stuck to the cupcake and why it came out dense.

    3. 1 star
      I did everything exactly as the recipe said. The cake looked absolutely beautiful. I did the toothpick test just to make sure because white cakes are very deceiving and it came out clean so I thought after 35 minutes all was good but nope!! It fell into an ugly heap!!! I give up! I will not ever use another recipe off of Pintrest. They never turn out. I was so freaked out about there being no fat and I should have listened to my instinct!!

    4. 5 stars
      Indeed this cake over the weekend for my Mum’s 85 birthday. Turned out so beautiful and was absolutely delicious. I will definitely make this again. Thank you for the recipe.

  4. Hi Si,

    This sounds amazing! I plan to use your recipe as a guide a veganize it. I’ll let you know how it turns out🤞🏻

  5. 5 stars
    I have never received so many compliments on a cake. Made this for my dad’s birthday and everyone raved about it- thank you for a great recipe!

    1. Hi Eliane,
      I can assure you this cake is amazing! The sour cream and coconut milk have plenty of fat included. I made one today for a neighbor’s birthday!
      Give it a try, I think you will love it.

  6. 5 stars
    I made this coconut cake in a jelly roll pan. It was very moist, dense and flavorful. I ended up cooking it a lot longer than 18 minutes.

    I wondered how it would do in a Bundt pan? Also, I would like to know if I could substitute plain yogurt for sour cream?

    I am definitely going to make this again!

    Thanks Si!

  7. 5 stars
    I made this cake recently and it was really delicious! It turned out perfect and my whole family loved it! I tried it again today. On my first attempt, the cake fell flat and I had to throw it out. The second attempt was not much better. I can’t figure out what I did wrong. I followed the recipe exactly. Any idea or advice?

  8. 5 stars
    I made this as a 13×9 sheet cake to take on a camping trip (skipped the raspberries), and everyone swore it was the best thing they’d ever tasted. Serious raves and marriage proposals. Had requests to make it again already. Thank you!

    1. Annie,
      I’m so glad all your campers loved this cake, it’s a favorite! Thank you for your positive comments! I made it last week (upon request) for a birthday party and we devoured it! I have found it tastes even better the next day (if it lasts that long!) Thanks for your feedback and thank you for reading ABK.

  9. 1 star
    Zero if I could! Sure wish I’d read the reviews before making these gooey flat cupcakes. Total fail Si – really need to remove this recipe or try again. Something was way off.

    1. 5 stars
      I’ve made this countless time and it’s never failed … you are missing something ! It’s absolutely delicious and tastes so gourmet !!!

      1. This is one of our very cakes that we have made time and time again!! Never fails! I would encourage you to try again!!

  10. 1 star
    I tried to make these as cupcakes, they all sunk. I followed the recipe step by step. I’ve been making cakes for over 2 decades, and never had cupcakes turn out so poorly. I even read you tip to only bake for 18 minutes. Super disappointed. I don’t think this recipe is meant for cupcakes.

  11. 4 stars
    I made this for Easter and it was delicious. Best cake I’ve ever made. Got so many compliments I’ll have to make it again.

  12. 1 star
    Didn’t work at all – the cake inflated well in the oven, it tested done at about 35 minutes – and it fell completely while cooling, ending up like gummy rubber. I’ve never had a cake fall like this in 30+ years of baking; won’t be trying this recipe again.

  13. 5 stars
    I was more than a little worried when this recipe started out with a box cake mix. But I needed to make a white coconut cake for coconut loving dear friends on their special anniversary. WOW! It was really great. Very moist. And they really loved it! And so did I. I did as the recipe suggested and removed from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to serving. We bought the cake back out on the next night and didn’t wait the 30 minutes and it was really just as good. I have several “go-to” cakes that I make from scratch but this recipe gives me a whole new confidence to use a box cake mix. I will add this recipe to my “go-to” recipes.

    1. Thanks Josephine! I appreciate your feedback. I also used to hesitate when making a cake that starts with a cake mix, but have found a few I love and have made over and over, this is one of those recipes. Thanks again for your comment!

  14. 5 stars
    I LOOOOOOVE THIS CAKE!! My friend has been making this every year for my birthday for at least the past 6 years. It is so moist and delicious and it’s the only cake I ever want!! I am a foodie so it seems almost blasphemous to have cake mix cake be your favorite, but honestly if it ain’t broke don’t fix it haha. It’s amazing and the best breakfast the second day!! We sub coconut cream pudding for the vanilla just to make it a little more coconutty! But seriously a favorite!! Make it already!!

    1. HI Bella,
      I laughed when I read that comment about being a foodie and loving this cake! I agree. It is so good, it’s hard to believe its made with a mix. Love the coconut cream pudding tip too!

  15. 5 stars
    Best cake recipe ever. I have been this for years and it turns out perfect every time. I think it is even better the next day and love keeping it in the fridge. I sub vanilla pudding for coconut and add a little coconut milk to the frosting. Everybody who tries it loves it. A winner for sure and super easy.

    1. Thank you Meredith! So good to hear from someone who has made this for years! Coconut milk in the frosting is a great tip 🙂
      Thanks for reading ABK,

  16. 5 stars
    I made this cake for Father’s Day and it was AMAZING!!! The recipe was easy to follow and turned out beautifully! The frosting was amazing as well and I added coconut milk to substitute for the milk/cream to add additional coconut flavor because I don’t think you can ever have too much coconut. I also lightly sprinkled coconut on top of each cake before baking and it added a nice texture. It was a crowd pleaser and everyone asked for seconds. Thanks for a new easy go-to cake recipe!

  17. 2 stars
    The cake was horribly dense and gummy. I followed the directions exactly, and I am not a novice baker. I bake on average 4 cakes a month. Sometimes it’s 3-4 a week. I have no idea what’s wrong with this receipt, but I don’t advise using it. The frosting was fine, but the cake was terrible. I had 1 bite and threw the piece away. Fortunately the people who were eating it thought it was supposed to be like that and said they liked it, but I was mortified that I’d brought something that awful to celebrate our COO’s birthday.

  18. 5 stars
    Came out amazing! My husband loves it! Made for thanksgiving dinner ( tomorrow) but my husband couldn’t wait….! I added Knott’s Berry farm boysenberry preserves on top of the layers, perfect match!

    1. Hello, Cindy! Good idea on the berries, sounds delicious! Glad you guys enjoyed it. Thanks for reading ABK.

  19. 5 stars
    Just made this for my mother’s birthday and it was a huge hit! Mom, grandma, and I both had to have a second piece! Most delicious coconut cake we have had. We used the remaining coconut milk in the frosting and also mixed coconut into the frosting. So delicious!

    1. Thank you, Regan! I am so happy that you, your mother and grandma enjoyed this cake! Good tip on the frosting! Thanks for reading ABK! Happy baking!

  20. I did not like the pudding showing up in this cake after it was done. I need to find another recipe without the pudding.

  21. 5 stars
    Made this today but with chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding. Cake came out so delicious n I did have to bake it for about 40 minutes though, but so good. This will be a go to for any cake recipe I think now (with or without the coconuts)

    1. Hello, you can add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and replace the coconut milk with regular milk. Let me know how it turns out!
      Happy Baking!

  22. 5 stars
    I made this cake today. It looks absolutely beautiful and taste delicious! I used a yellow butter flavor cake mix because it is what I had on hand. I added coconut milk to the icing just because I had it left from the recipe. I also added a little more coconut milk to the icing because it was just to thick for me to spread. Overall it is a wonderful moist cake and plan to keep in my CAKE recipes! Thank you for sharing.

  23. 1 star
    I followed the directions exactly and it shrunk as soon as I took it out of the oven. Very gummy and I’m so disappointed.

  24. Can you tell me the brand or what kind of coconut milk you use? I’m not sure if there is a difference in the cartons and cans. Sweet or unsweet? I want to make this for Easter.

    1. Hey Jill, I’ve used the coconut cake from Trader Joe’s. The canned coconut milk is a little thicker and works best for this recipe. Any brand works- just make sure it’s coconut milk and not coconut water. Let me know how it goes after you make it!

  25. 5 stars
    This cake is so easy to make and is so delicious! I have been making it since Christmas 2021 and I frequently get requests for it for birthday parties for my nieces and nephews. I make it for all family gatherings now. I’m actually making it today for a large Easter gathering. Thank you for the recipe!

    1. Thank you April! We love this cake, I made it for Easter as well! Always a crowd favorite for kids to grandparents <3 Thanks for reading ABK!

  26. 5 stars
    Just made the cake, I haven’t tried it yet. My question is about the butter and cream cheese. How long should I be mixing them together? I’ve read that good butter cream should mix for about 10 minutes. I mixed it for about 5 minutes and then frosted a layer and then mixed the rest of the frosting for longer and completed a different layer to compare and contrast.

  27. 5 stars
    This cake is delicious! I actually made it with a chocolate cake mix and it was amazing!

  28. I first tried this recipe at a family party and loved it. The host shared this wonderful recipe with me and I bring it to every get together now. It is so simple yet hits all the right marks every time. Thanks so much Si!

  29. 5 stars
    This is a must try cake for anyone that is wondering if they should try it. It’s so moist and so good. I was so pleased that it turned out beautiful and seriously so yummy.

  30. I am looking forward to trying this recipe. May I ask why the water should be cold instead of room temperature? Thanks.

    1. Hi Teressa,
      no, there is not oil in this cake. Just sour cream and the coconut milk. Did you try separating the eggs and folding in the egg whites? I’m not sure why, but some have said the texture has changed on this cake in the past year, and I suspect it is either the cake mix or coconut milk. We remedied this by beating the egg whites until stiff, then folding in after all of the other ingredients were mixed.

  31. 5 stars
    I’m not sure what happened with other people trying to make this cake, I made it yesterday and it came out fine. I love the texture it looks like it was made from scratch. I used the instant coconut pudding and the coconut milk and I did mix the coconut into the frosting. I have to say it was good but very sweet. Next time I may put in some coconut extract in the mix instead of vanilla for more of a coconut taste. I think once it sits a day or two it’ll be even better. I will make this again I used 3 8 inch pans which I think made it look like a professional baker! Thank you for a great recipe Nan! Now do you have a chocolate one like it?!

    1. Hey Linda! Thank you for your positive review. I am glad that the recipe turned out well for you. If you want a chocolate version you could make the coconut cake recipe but swap out the white cake for chocolate by using a devils food mix. Let me know how it goes!

    1. Hi Karen, I recommend just using the whole eggs, but I also recommend separating the eggs and beating the whites until stiff and then Folding in the whites ( the instructions are in recipe notes) after all ingredients are mixed together. Let me know how it goes after you make it. Thanks for reading ABK!

  32. QUESTION: I hope you can answer quick as I’d like to make this cake soon. You say the recipe is like 20 years old…and cake mixes have downsized from their original approximately 18 ounces. I have a Betty Crocker Super white cake mix that is 14.25 ounces. Will this work…or do I need to make adjustments? THANK YOU!

    1. Hi June!
      The cake mix will work without any adjustments. Beat the egg whites and the yolk separately and fold the egg whites into the batter at the very end. You can see instructions in my post.

  33. 5 stars
    This is my favorite recipe!!!! I’ve made it twice and always get asked for the recipe! I made a cake once and cupcakes the next. Perfect each time! My hubby doesn’t like coconut so I leave off the flakes, but you can still taste just a hint of coconut in the cake if you know it’s there 😉
    A few other people picked up on it, but not everyone. It’s just perfect! Thank you for sharing your recipes!!! Bless you!

    1. Hi Chris!
      This is such a nice compliment! How great that it turned out so delicious. The coconut flavor adds so much to the recipe and I’m happy that you were able to adjust it to fit your families needs!

  34. Hello,
    Could you please clarify how much coconut flakes are needed for frosting? I see “1 7 – 10 oz” and not sure if you mean 7-10 oz or 17+ or something else. Thank you!

    1. Hi Suzanne!

      Yes of course. To clarify this means that you can use 7, 8, 9, or 10 oz. Whichever you prefer!

      Jillian @ABK Team