This amazing gluten free coconut cake is super easy to whip up and it’s guaranteed to be a huge hit with any coconut lover. It has the most incredible, intense coconut flavour thanks to an abundance of desiccated coconut in the batter, as well as a buttery, soft, tender crumb. The chocolate ganache glaze on top makes it even more luxurious and it’s the perfect finishing touch for this cosy, flavour-packed cake.
I’ve been really loving simple single-layer cakes lately – cakes like my Easy Coffee Cake with the most DIVINE cappuccino whipped cream frosting or the Gluten Free Almond Cake that basically tastes like frangipane in cake form.
The great thing about single-layer cakes is that they’re super easy and quick to whip up, they require minimal or no decoration (which makes them less fussy and time-consuming than layered cakes), and yet, you can still go all out on the flavour and texture front.
Just take this FABULOUS gluten free coconut cake: it’s incredibly straightforward to prepare and while it does have a long-ish baking time (about 45-50 minutes), the actual active time you need to make it is less than half an hour. But most importantly, it has the most incredible, intense coconut flavour and a buttery, soft, tender crumb.
It also has a slightly rustic, old-fashioned charm to it. This isn’t a super fancy, polished, highly decorated cake – rather, it’s definitely the kind of bake you might throw together on a random Wednesday just because you fancy something sweet and comforting… although it also wouldn’t look out of place for a special occasion.
Basically, it’s the best kind of bake: low effort, minimal fuss and absolutely bursting with the most delicious buttery coconut flavour (there’s over a cup of desiccated coconut in the batter!!). And once you’ve added the luxurious chocolate ganache into the mix – well, let’s just say you’ll be making it over and over again. (Trust me, I’m speaking from personal experience here).
Before we get to the bits and bobs of making this amazing cake – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.
How to make a simple gluten free coconut cake
This gluten free coconut cake is incredibly easy and quick to whip up – it does take about 45-50 minutes in the oven to fully bake through, but the actual preparation step takes no more than about 20-25 minutes.
It also uses only the usual gluten free pantry staples, plus some desiccated coconut and coconut extract as an optional ingredient (don’t stress if you don’t have any on hand, the cake will be amazing either way).
When it comes to the assembly part, this cake couldn’t be more straightforward: this is a single-layer cake, so you don’t need to worry about stacking or elaborate decorations. You could serve it as is (it’s flavourful and decadent enough to not need anything extra), but I like to top it with a generous layer of luscious dark chocolate ganache. After all, coconut and chocolate are a match made in flavour heaven… and I’ll always take any excuse to add chocolate to a recipe.
Ingredients for gluten free coconut cake
Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy (and incredibly delicious) gluten free coconut cake:
- Unsalted butter. Make sure that your butter is at room temperature (softened) before starting.
- Sugar. I used caster/superfine sugar, but granulated sugar will also work well.
- Vanilla. I like to use vanilla bean paste in my baking, but you can use a double amount of vanilla extract instead.
- Coconut extract (optional). This is an optional add-in, but a few drops of coconut extract will make the coconut flavour even more intense and wonderful – just don’t go overboard with it: a few drops are more than enough.
- Eggs. Make sure that your eggs are at room temperature (otherwise, cold eggs can make the butter in your batter seize up, breaking the emulsion and resulting in a split, curdled batter). If you forgot to take the eggs out of the fridge, you can put them in some warm water for 10-15 minutes and that will bring them up to room temperature very quickly.
- Plain gluten free flour blend. I used Doves Farm FREEE plain white gluten free flour, but my homemade gluten free flour blend will also work great in this recipe.
- Baking powder. The amount of baking powder in this recipe is optimised to give a perfectly delicate and soft cake crumb.
- Xanthan gum. This acts as a gluten replacement and prevents your cake from being too crumbly. You can read more about the role of xanthan gum in gluten free baking here!
- Salt. Like with most bakes, salt really brings out all the wonderful flavours.
- Unsweetened desiccated coconut. This is the ingredient that makes this cake a proper COCONUT cake. And because I wanted the coconut flavour to *really* be the star of the show here, I made sure to stuff A LOT of desiccated coconut into the batter: in fact, there’s over a cup of coconut in the cake! In addition to giving it the most amazing coconut flavour, the desiccated coconut also contributes a wonderfully rich, very slightly crumbly, delicate texture that’s simply AMAZING.
- Whole milk. Just like with the butter and eggs, make sure that you use room temperature or lukewarm milk.
In addition to the ingredients above that you’ll need to make the actual coconut cake, you’ll also need the following for making the dark chocolate ganache glaze:
- Dark chocolate (55-70% cocoa solids). I used a 55% dark chocolate to make the ganache, but you can use a darker chocolate with a higher cocoa solids content if you want the ganache to be on the slightly more bitter end of bittersweet. Just make sure to use a high quality dark chocolate, for best flavour and the glossiest ganache.
- Heavy/double cream.
- Extra desiccated coconut for decoration.
Making the cake batter: standard creaming method
There are two main creaming methods that I use in my cake recipes: the standard and the reverse creaming method. For this recipe, I used the standard creaming method where you cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, add the eggs (one at a time, mixing well after each addition), and then finally add the dry and the wet ingredients in alternating batches, so as to preserve the butter emulsion and keep the batter nicely silky-smooth.
This standard creaming method results in an airy, fluffy cake crumb and some slight doming (as you can see in the photos, the cake doesn’t have a perfectly flat top) but I actually like the fact that the cake isn’t perfectly level. The domed centre gives it a slightly rustic look that I simply love. And, as we’re not making a stacked layer cake here, it doesn’t really matter whether the cake is perfectly flat anyway.
Importantly, this method gives the coconut cake the perfect texture: soft, fluffy and tender, with the slightest hint of crumbliness thanks also to the abundance of desiccated coconut in the batter.
Bake until golden + the toothpick test
Once you’ve made the batter, you’ll need to bake the gluten free coconut cake at 350ºF (180ºC) for about 45-50 minutes or until well risen, golden brown on top and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. This so-called “toothpick test” is really the best way to tell when the cake is done – and this goes for all cakes in general.
If the cake starts browning too quickly, cover it with a sheet of aluminium foil (shiny side up) and continue baking until done. Then, allow it to cool in the baking tin for about 10 minutes before removing it onto a wire rack to cool completely.
It’s important that your cake has cooled completely to room temperature before you drizzle it with the ganache – otherwise, you’ll be left with a chocolatey mess as the ganache will drip all over the place if it gets into contact with a warm cake.
Finishing touches: dark chocolate ganache glaze
Now, you could serve the coconut cake as it is, and it would be delicious. But if you want to take it to the next level, you should *definitely* drizzle it generously with a glossy, luxurious dark chocolate ganache.
There’s nothing complicated about this ganache: you just need to combine the chopped dark chocolate with hot cream and stir it all together until it’s all glossy and luscious and terribly tempting. To get a nice thick layer of ganache on top of the cake and lovely, controlled drips down the sides, I recommend chilling the ganache in the fridge for about 15 minutes with occasional stirring, until slightly thickened.
And then, just pour it over the cake and spread it into an even layer with a small offset spatula or the back of a spoon, allowing it to gently drip down the sides.
As a finishing touch, you can sprinkle some extra desiccated coconut on top of the ganache, and that’s it!
Note that it’s best to let the ganache to set (either at room temperature for about 30 minutes or in the fridge for about 15 minutes) before serving. Although, I’m usually far too impatient and just cut into it straight away… the soft ganache really just makes it an even more indulgent experience.
How long does this gluten free coconut cake last?
This simple gluten free coconut cake keeps well in a closed container in a cool dry place for about 3-4 days. If you live in a warmer climate or if your kitchen is particularly warm, it might be best to keep it in the fridge (mainly because of the ganache).
And that’s pretty much everything you need to know in order to make a truly AMAZING gluten free coconut cake. This isn’t a super fancy or elaborate cake – and yet, it’s as perfect for a special occasion as it is for a simple mid-week treat.
With the glossy, tempting chocolate ganache glaze, perfectly soft texture and incredible coconut flavour, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a hit with all coconut lovers, regardless of whether or not they follow a gluten free diet.
I really hope you’ll love it as much as I do.
More amazing gluten free cake recipes
If you’re looking for more ridiculously delicious gluten free cake recipes, you’re definitely in the right place!
- The Ultimate Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
- Small Batch Gluten Free Boston Cream Pie
- The Best Gluten Free Lemon Drizzle Cake
- Tiramisu Swiss Roll
- Small Batch Gluten Free Strawberry Shortcake Cake
- The Best Gluten Free Orange Pound Cake
- Gluten Free Coffee Crumb Cake
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Easy Gluten Free Coconut Cake
- 125 g (1 stick + 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
- 150 g (¾ cup) caster/superfine or granulated sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- a few drops of coconut extract (optional)
- 3 US large/UK medium eggs, room temperature
- 150 g (1¼ cups) plain gluten free flour blend (I used Doves Farm Freee plain gluten free flour that doesn't have any xanthan gum added. You can also mix your own gluten free flour blend using this recipe. Note that for this homemade blend, 1 cup = 150g, so ideally use a kitchen scale for best results.)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp xanthan gum (If your gluten free flour blend already contains xanthan gum, reduce this to ¼ tsp.)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 90 g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) unsweetened desiccated coconut
- 120 g (½ cup) whole milk, room temperature
Dark chocolate ganache:
- 80 g (2¾ oz) dark chocolate (55-70% cocoa solids), chopped
- 120 g (½ cup) heavy/double cream
- desiccated coconut, for decoration
- Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Lightly butter an 8-inch (20cm) springform pan and line its bottom with a round of parchment/baking paper.
- In a large bowl, using a balloon whisk, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla and coconut extract (optional) until pale and fluffy. You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer fitted with the double beaters.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.Tip: It's very important that your eggs are at room temperature and that you add them one at a time. This way, you'll maintain the emulsion of the butter and guarantee a silky smooth cake batter – which will ultimately result in a fluffy, tender cake crumb. If you forgot to take your eggs out of the fridge, place them in warm water for 10-15 minutes before using them.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the gluten free flour blend, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt. Add the desiccated coconut and mix well until combined.
- Beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, alternately add the dry ingredients (in three batches) and milk (in two batches) to the butter-sugar mixture, whisking well after each addition, until you get a smooth, fluffy cake batter with no flour clumps.Tip: This alternating way of adding dry and wet ingredients helps to maintain the emulsion of the butter in the cake batter, ensuring that your batter remains smooth and that the final baked cake has the perfect crumb. When alternating dry and wet ingredients, make sure to always end with the dry.
- Transfer the cake batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth out the top.
- Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for about 45-50 minutes or until well risen, golden brown on top and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. If the top of the cake starts browning too quickly, cover it with aluminium foil (shiny side up) and continue baking until done.
- Allow to cool in the springform pan for about 10 minutes, then remove from the pan onto a wire rack to cool completely.Tip: It’s important that your cake has cooled completely to room temperature before you drizzle it with the ganache.
Dark chocolate ganache:
- Place the chopped dark chocolate into a heat-proof bowl.
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the double/heavy cream until it only just comes to a boil.
- Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes, then stir together until smooth and glossy.
- Chill the ganache in the fridge for about 15 minutes with occasional stirring, until slightly thickened but still runny.Tip: Chilling the ganache will allow you to get a nice thick layer of ganache on top of the cake and lovely, controlled drips down the sides. If you used the ganache straight away without chilling, most of it would run off the cake and onto the serving plate.
Assembling the cake:
- Transfer the cooled cake onto a serving plate or cake stand of choice.
- Pour the cooled and slightly thickened ganache on top of the cake and use a small offset spatula or the back of the spoon to spread it out into an even layer, allowing it to gently drip down the sides. You can create swoops and swirls in the ganache as additional decoration.
- Sprinkle some extra desiccated coconut on top of the ganache for decoration.
- Allow the ganache to set either at room temperature for about 30 minutes or in the fridge for about 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
- The gluten free coconut cake keeps well in a closed container in a cool dry place for 3-4 days.If you live in a warmer climate or if your kitchen is particularly warm, it might be best to keep it in the fridge (mainly because of the ganache).