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This Chocolate Coconut Cake is a triple threat – with a layer of moist, rich chocolate cake with a layer of thick coconut cream soaked in, and topped with a layer of creamy frosting and toasted coconut. This dessert wins the day, any day!
In my mind, chocolate and coconut are one of the best dessert flavor combinations. It ranks right up there with chocolate and peanut butter. The nutty, almost savory quality of the coconut pairs so well with the rich, sweet chocolate. And this Chocolate Coconut Cake definitely tops my list of favorites.
Want more chocolate cake? Try Easy Chocolate Cake Balls, Easy Chocolate Snack Cake, and Marble Cake.
Table of Contents
Why We Love it
- Easy to make – The list of ingredients and steps make look intimidating, but I promise you it really is simple to make.
- Chocolate + Coconut – This is one of my all time favorite dessert combinations. I just love coconut!
- Everyone loves it – The great thing is the coconut flavor is subtle throughout the entire cake. And those who think they don’t like coconut might just be converted.
- Perfect for making ahead – Because there are times to chill the cake in between the steps, you can start making this cake a day or two ahead of time.
How to Make Chocolate Coconut Cake
For this Chocolate Coconut Cake, I started with my favorite from scratch chocolate cake recipe. It is so moist and delicious and has just the best chocolate flavor – not too sweet, not too bitter…it’s just right.
The chocolate cake recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart. To make it a little lighter, I swapped in Greek yogurt instead of buttermilk and a big handful of shredded coconut to the batter.
Step 1: Make the cake batter. Mix up the one bowl cake batter, pour the batter into a big cake pan and bake it until the top springs back when you lightly touch it, and a toothpick comes out clean.
Step 2: Poke the cake. Now it’s time to poke that cake! You poke the cake a bunch of times all over with a fork so the cream can soak into a luscious layer.
Step 3: Pour on the filling. Pour a thick layer of coconut cream and sweetened condensed milk over the top. You want to go slowly, so the holes have a chance to soak up the cream.
Step 4: Chill. Now (and this is an important step in the process) the cake must sit and chill in the fridge for a few hours. This allows the cream to settle into the cake, forming a thick, almost pudding-like layer. Once the cake has properly chilled for several hours, it will have a lovely sheen on the top and you won’t really be able to see any of the cream.
Step 5: Prepare the frosting. Beat the heavy whipping cream in one chilled bowl, and beat cream cheese and powdered sugar in another. Then fold them together and frost the cake. The frosting will have a light, fluffy taste and texture you’d expect from whipped cream, but cream cheese helps stabilize it and keep it from melting so fast.
Step 6: Toast the coconut. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet (preferably a rimmed baking sheet) and bake it in the oven at 350°F for about 5-7 minutes, then sprinkle it all over the cake.
That’s it – you’re done! And you have a delicious Chocolate Coconut Poke Cake to show for it!
Storage and Freezing
Storing: leftover cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Freezing: You can freeze the whole cake right in the pan if you want. Just cover tightly with plastic wrap, then tightly with foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before slicing.
For freezing individual slices, I recommend flash freezing on a baking sheet, then wrapping each individual piece in plastic wrap and foil, then placing into a freezer bag.
- If you’re having trouble with the fork sticking as you poke holes in the cake, wipe it clean and spray it with a little bit of cooking spray.
- For larger holes, use the end of a small wooden spoon.
- I highly recommend toasting the coconut because it adds a distinct nuttiness and also make the shredded coconut easier to chew.
- Try adding toasted sliced almonds with the coconut – tasted like an almond joy poke cake!
More Poke Cakes to Discover
- Orange Creamsicle Poke Cake
- Strawberries & Cream Poke Cake
- Lemon Lime Poke Cake
- Caramel Apple Pie Poke Cake
Chocolate Coconut Poke Cake
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- ¾ cup warm water
- 1 ¾ cup sweetened shredded coconut divided
- 13.5 ounce can unsweetened coconut cream
- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened to room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350℉. Spray a 13-inch rectangle baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- Add eggs, vanilla, yogurt, oil and warm water. Stir until well combined. Fold in ¾ cup of sweetened shredded coconut.
- Pour batter into the prepared baking pan. Tap on the counter a few times to help the batter settle.
- Bake in preheated 350℉ oven for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Using the tines of a fork poke holes into the top of the hot cake.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut cream and sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Slowly pour over the hot cake, using an offset spatula or the back of a metal spoon to spread evenly into the holes as you go. Cool completely and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight.
- Sprinkle 1 cup of coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the 350℉ oven for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool. Store in a ziploc bag if making ahead more than a couple of hours.
- In a chilled metal bowl, beat heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form; 1-2 minutes.
- In another large bowl, beat softened cream cheese on high until fluffy; about 1 minute.
- Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat on high for 1-2 minutes.
- Gently fold whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture. Chill frosting until ready to use, or spread immediately on chilled cake.
- Frost the chilled cake with the whipped frosting. Sprinkle evenly with toasted coconut.
- Store loosely covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Frosting: Chill metal bowls and beaters or whisk attachment for at least 10 minutes in the refrigerator before using.
- Storing: leftover cake in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- Freezing: You can freeze the whole cake right in the pan if you want. Just cover tightly with plastic wrap, then tightly with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before slicing.
- For freezing individual slices, I recommend flash freezing on a baking sheet, wrapping each piece in plastic wrap and foil, then placing into a freezer bag.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
Help, I just made this cake and it fell in the middle. I followed the recipe to the letter and even tested the warm water to made sure it was below 115. I do live in high altitude, 3800 feet. Making this desert for a family gathering and disappointed it won’t be up to par.
Hi Linda, I’m sorry to hear you had trouble with this recipe. There are so many reasons this could happen, but it’s tough to do without knowing the ingredients that were used and being in the kitchen with you. It’s important to check that all of your ingredients are fresh, especially the baking soda and powders since that they are the leavening agents. At your altitude you may need to slightly decrease the amount of leavening and slightly increase the flour. Here is a great guide to high altitude baking.
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For the toasted coconut for the top so you also use sweetened coconut or unsweetened? Thanks in advance, can’t wait to make this today!!
I used sweetened coconut. Enjoy!
Kristin, this was A-mazing! I did use a mix of large unsweetened coconut curls and sweetened coconut on top… but forward everything else to a T. This was NOT overly sweet, like others were concerned with because of the sweetened condensed milk. I was worried too – but it was really well balanced! Have you ever attempted this gluten-free? I have an event coming up that I need to make a gluten free cake for… and I can only imagine this would be a big bit! Thanks again!
So glad you enjoyed it! I haven’t tried with a gluten free cake mix, but I don’t see why it would be a problem. Let me know if you try it!
What size is the can of sweetened condensed milk? There’s a lot of liquid and just wondered. Thanks!
Hi Angie, it’s a 14-ounce can.
this cake is literally CRACK!!!!!! probably the best cake i have ever tasted in my entire life. This would be apart of my last meal!!!! it gets even better after the first day after the coconut cream really gets soaked into the cake. i would give up my first born if it meant i could eat this cake everyday and not get fat. Thank you Kristen you are a bad bitch and if i could give you a hug I would!!!!!!
Probably the best compliment I have ever received. Thanks, so glad you enjoyed it!
This cake is amazing! My family are chocolate and coconut lovers and this did not disappoint. Make it today! It is a crowd pleaser!
Awesome feedback Meg! Thank you for stopping by.
This cake is AMAZING. My daughter wanted a coconut cake for her 8th birthday party and I made this – it was a huge hit! Super moist and very tasty. The coconut flavor wasn’t overpowering, so people who weren’t huge coconut fans even loved the cake. My daughter requested that I add this recipe to my book, which is reserved for the best of the best! We will for sure be making this again. Thanks so much for sharing.
That is so awesome Jen! We are HONORED to be in your best of the best recipe book. Thanks for stopping by.
Do you use cream of coconut or coconut cream? You said in a comment that cream of coconut isn’t very sweet so it can be mixed with the sweet milk without being too sweet. But cream of coconut has tons of sugar and is very sweet, just like condensed milk. So are we supposed to use use coconut cream?
You are correct and I’ve updated the recipe.
Coconut cream is listed in the ingredients, but the instructions still say “cream of coconut”. That may confuse future bakers of this recipe.
Noted, and fixed.
I tried this and it was delicious! Everyone who tried it also loved it. I am definitely making this again 🙂
Thank you Njoki!
Vou fazer para vender este bolo aqui no Brasil. Adorei sua receita.
I’ll do it to sell this cake here in Brazil. I loved your recipe.
Can I poke the cake after it’s cooled down completely? Also can I substitute cream of coconut with whipping cream ?
I wouldn’t substitute the coconut cream. It’s much thicker than whipping cream or coconut milk.
This was a total disaster. My cake sunk in the middle…very gooey but just in the middle. I followed the recipe exactly and made sure nothing was expired.
I’m sorry that you had trouble. Without being there, I can only guess at what could have happened and my first thought would be that maybe the oven temp was off and the cake didn’t bake long enough. Oven temperatures can vary from oven to oven so that is a possibility. I hope you’ll try again – I’ve made this at least 5 times and it’s delicious every time.
I agree. Also, if you use a different shape pan then cooking times will be different. Right now I’m trying to figure out the correct time to bake for an 8 inch round. It’ll be much longer than 30 min since the cake will be deeper.
The cake is pretty deep in the 9×13 pan. I don’t know that I’d try just a simple 9-inch round.
Do you think this would work as a round two layer cake?
I don’t think so.
Just made this cake for a friend’s birthday at work…oh my gosh, this is to die for!!! This is truly amazing!
The cake is so moist and delicious! This cake is by no means to sweet like I had seen others wonder. Everyone at the office wants a copy of this recipe! Way to go Kristin!
Thanks Tanya! So glad your whole office enjoyed it!!
This recipe is just perfect the way it is! I’ve made it several times now and it’s my husbands favorite. I’m making it today again to bring to my parents house for Father’s Day so everyone else can enjoy it too. I’ve also cut it into portions and stored in a ziplock freezer bag in the freezer and took it out when we wanted it and it was still delicious then too. When I freeze them my husband likes his cold so I take his out about 20-30 minutes before eating. I like to warm mine up in the microwave after it’s been frozen, gives it an ooey gooey molten vibe! ☺️☺️
Great tip on the freezing! Thanks!
Hello! This looks delicious! Do you think the recipe could work for cupcakes? I thought it might be too moist for cupcakes, but bird’s nest cupcakes with this recipe would be mighty cute for Easter… so I thought I’d ask!
I don’t think this would work for cupcakes. This cupcake is delicious though, and similar, and would be great for bird’s nests. https://www.yellowblissroad.com/chocolate-cupcakes-toasted-coconut-whipped-cream/
Yay! Just what I was looking for! Thanks 🙂
I like my cakes just a bit more moist, so I add about 1/2 cup of heavy cream to the coconut and condensed milk mixture. This tastes almost like an almond joy candy bar, My husband and family always request it at our get togethers. YOU DEFINITELY HAVE A WINNER HERE!!!
YES IT DOES!!!
Hi, I was wondering if I could use coconut milk instead of cream of coconut?
Coconut is different from cream of coconut, so it wouldn’t be a good substitution.
Is there a substitute for the Greek yogurt I could use?
You could swap out the Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream or another plain yogurt, or even vegetable oil.
Thank you!going to try it this weekend!
Was excited to see the pics of the chocolate coconut poke cake. Until I read that the recipe has sweetened condensed milk. Made something similar and was over powered by the sweet. Ended up throwing it out.
Because it’s mixed with the coconut cream, which isn’t very sweet, you might be surprised. I hope you give it a try!
When a poke cake calls for sweetened condensed milk I add a stick of butter in with it!! It cuts the sweetness way down and everyone know’s butter makes everything better!