amy chaplin

celebrating the art of eating well

Coconut layer cake

POSTED ON July 13, 2010

coconut layer cake

I have been wanting to share this, my most famous cake with you for a whole year; after all it is what inspired half of the name coconut and quinoa. Part of the duo that helped brainstorm the name of this blog (some of you know him as Mr. Weiss) had been promised this cake for a very long time (and the other half of the duo had been eagerly awaiting too!)


beauty spot

The cake is simply divine, and the most decadent and wholesome cake I have ever made; that is saying a lot, I know. Made with 100 % whole grain spelt flour, extra virgin olive oil, pure maple syrup, ground coconut, lots of dark berries and vanilla beans…what could be more delicious?

You’ll know exactly what I mean when you take your first delicious and deeply satisfying bite.

cake on stand

A perfect cake to celebrate a birthday or special occasion and since it was this little blogs 1st birthday last month I began to wonder, how many more reasons I needed to share it, so here it is!

A few notes; it is involved and I recommend making the frosting a day or even two ahead. Be sure every component of the cake is cold before assembling it; and then chill completely before serving.



blended frosting



1st layer

1st layer

berry layer

frosting cake



tea party


Coconut vanilla bean frosting

3 cans coconut milk

½ cup agar flakes

Large pinch sea salt

6 tablespoons agave syrup or grade A maple syrup

¼ cup brown rice syrup

1 vanilla bean

1 ½ tablespoons arrowroot

2 tablespoons filtered water

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Place coconut milk, agar flakes, salt, agave syrup and rice syrup in a medium size saucepan. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthways and remove seeds using the tip of a small knife. Place seeds and pod into saucepan. Whisk everything together, place over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking every minute or so. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until agar flakes have completely dissolved.

Mix arrowroot with water and slowly pour into coconut mixture, whisking constantly. Raise heat and continue whisking until mixture begins to boil again. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Pour into a baking dish or bowl, once it has stopped steaming place in the fridge and chill until completely set, about 2 hours.

Mixture will be hard, use a metal spoon to scoop into food processor and blend until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides and blend again. Place frosting in a container and chill for at least an hour or better still overnight.

Coconut cake

3 ½ cups whole spelt flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

2 ½ cups unsweetened dried coconut, divided

1 ½ cups maple syrup, any grade

1 ½ cups filtered water

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Oil 3 8-inch cake pans with olive oil and line with a parchment circle.

Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda into a medium size-mixing bowl.

Blend 2 cups of the coconut in a food processor until fine. Add to flour mixture along with remaining ½ cup of coconut. Use a whisk to stir, making sure everything is combined, set aside.

In another bowl whisk together the maple syrup, water, olive oil, vinegar, salt and vanilla until emulsified. Pour into flour mixture and use the whisk to gently stir everything together. Don’t over mix. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and to check if there are dry lumps of flour on the bottom of the bowl. Divide mixture between the 3 prepared cake pans. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and cake begins to pull away from the edge of pan. Cakes should be a deep golden color. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before turning out onto individual plates and gently removing parchment paper.

Berry filling

1 cup raspberries

1 cup blueberries

½ cup blackberries

¾ cup raspberry jam

1 teaspoon arrowroot

2 teaspoons filtered water

Place all berries and jam in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Stir until mixture begins to simmer, cook on low heat until blueberries burst (not long if your using frozen berries) Dissolve arrowroot in water and slowly pour over berries, stirring constantly. Once mixture thickens and begins to simmer again, remove from heat and allow to cool completely, it will thicken more as it cools.

Assembling the cake:

Make sure that cake and filling are completely cool and frosting is well chilled before you begin to assemble cake.

On a flat plate or base of a spring form cake pan, place one cake topside down. Spread about ½ a cup of frosting over it and then top with 1/3 of the berry filling. Don’t spread berries all the way to the edge.

Repeat with the next layer and then place 3rd cake on top and cover everything with frosting, saving about a cup to decorate top.

Place remaining frosting in a pastry bag or makeshift one (zip lock fitted with piping tip). Pipe around the edge and then spread remaining berries over top of cake.

I toasted some coconut chips and placed one on each swirl.

Chill cake for 30 to 60 minutes before serving.

Serves 12 to 14.


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  • rachel says:

    I keep going back up and down looking at all your beautiful, wonderful pictures. Lovely light. I don’t generally like frosting but this is unlike any frosting I have ever seen or read about. I have been agar experimenting lately so this is timely. I am intrigued by the ingredient list. You are truly original and this is great stuff Amy. Not sure I will ever make this – I’d love to come round for a slice though – but I am very inspired. rachx

  • Sarah says:

    Oh my, while reading through the ingredients and viewing the gorgeous photos I actually felt my heart rate increase. I particularly love the vanilla bean, coconut milk, agar combo for the frosting, as well as your use of spelt flour within the cake. Stunning cake through and through. Next time I want to bake a cake to impress, this will be it.


  • susan says:

    testimonial: I know this cake, I’ve eaten this cake, I love this cake!!! Cake doesn’t get much better than this one.

  • Jacqui says:

    That’s the best tasting cake I’ve ever wrapped my lips around. I’ve never baked in my life but the challenge and promise of this may just get me started. Thanks for sharing the recipe with all of its fans.

  • thecatskillkiwi says:

    now i get to see if i can make it look just as good.

  • bonnie says:

    This is THE only cake that brings tears to my eyes.
    I too know this cake very well and looking at these beautiful photos takes me back to the first time this heavenly cake touched my lips… of my most favorite birthday memories!

  • Bex says:

    Oh My Goodness,
    …sitting here in Indonesia and stomach is growling over the pics. What i would do to have a slice of this cake!
    ….Of course the full package would be to have it with the chef herself…..

  • What a stunning cake! My daughter’s birthday is on new year’s day and I always try to bake her something extraordinary. This cake is going to the top of the list – thank you for sharing your recipe.

    • Clara Pierucci says:

      Hi Amy, my birthday is on 2/14 so I was planning to do this cake, thought its too big for the occasion as it will be only 4 of us. Would you suggest cutting the recipe by half? and only make 2 layers? many thanks
      P.s I just got your book and love it! did so many things already!!

  • mangocheeks says:

    Beautiful photographs.

    And the recipe is just as lovely. The cake is beautifully presented. Shame to cut into it, but it had to be done – just to taste all those lovely flavours. I can only imagine. YUm.

  • Veggie Belly says:

    This is so lovely! Is there a substitute for arrowroot?

  • Anu says:

    What a wonderful cake this is! I love the creative way that you have made it quite healthy and yet look so stunning and taste so delicious. Who’d think there were no eggs, no butter, no refined sugar, no white flour?! Yes, I’ve made it now, and the only thing I can say is thank you so much for sharing it and your talent with the rest of us. Best wishes to you.

  • Oh wow! I love coconut cake but have never seen one as delectable as the one in the pictures. I will definitely be trying out the recipe!

  • kathy says:

    GORGEOUS! I really hope you will submit this and more to ~Kathy

  • Laurel says:

    Oh my my. You just made my dream of soy free vegan frosting come true. Bows down humbly and kisses your feet. I happen to have some agar flakes and some kuzu but not 1/2 cup of either. Would kuzu be like a 1 to 1 substitution? I’d been wondering exactly how to use it.
    The photos of that cake are absolutely gorgeous. I wish I had a crowd to cook for before Thanksgiving but I’m definitely experimenting with a fractional amount of that frosting beforehand. All hail the mighty and amazing Amy may she reign forever.

  • Laurel says:

    So, if I’ve got this right one third of the frosting recipe would be:

    1 can coconut milk
    2 Tbsp + 2tsp agar flakes
    Pinch of salt
    2 Tbsp agave or maple syrup
    1 Tbsp + 1 tsp brown rice syrup
    1/3 to 1/2 vanilla bean
    1/2 Tbsp arrowroot or kuzu
    2 tsp filtered water
    1 tsp vanilla

    that’s if my math is right. I think I’m going to start out with some GF vanilla cupcakes using this frosting and some of the berry mixture for my own miniature moments of heaven. The full cake will be great for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
    Thanks so much and I hope the conversion will help anyone else who’d like to try this on a smaller scale.

  • Sarah says:

    i stumbled across this recipe when i looked into the fridge and saw both the maple syrup and coconut flakes on the same shelf. I thought how lovely it would be to sweeten a coconut cake with Maple Syrup! your cake recipe was one of the first to come up in a search, and I’m so glad it did! I am so excited to try it, as it looks delicious, the ingredients are so beautiful and your comments only rave of baking fulfillment. Thank you for sharing!

  • Noelle says:

    WOW! I am so glad I ran into your blog. Such a marvelous cake! I want to try this soon! Thanks!

  • I just wanted to let you know that I did indeed make this cake for my daughter’s birthday on NYD, and it was amazing. I’m so glad you posted this recipe back in July and I blurted out to everyone I know that I was going to make it – otherwise I think I would have chickened out. But I didn’t, and it was so worth it! I have a few questions/comments for you about the process that I will e-mail you about in the next few days, as soon as I find my notes and get them dusted off. Thank you again for sharing this recipe – it really made my daughter’s birthday extra-special.

  • commonkettleMarga says:

    I’m about to make the pie today. Almost have all the ingredients together… I grew up with a macrobiotic diet so i’m very familiar with agar!
    Last march i made the carrot cake for my sons 5th b’day. It was a great succes! Thanks you so much. Love your blog.

  • ella says:

    I so want to try this cake!!! It looks absolutely amazing. All of your recipes are so real and honest – I wish I could cook with you one day. Ella x

  • Jean says:

    Is there any way to fix the broken links for some of your photos? I would love to see the cake in all its glory!

    I can’t wait until I have an occasion to try out this lovely recipe.


  • Sophia says:

    My friends and I just made this and it tastes amazing!!! I have to say your cake looks much better but WOW what an absolute treat…..was quite easy to make as well.

  • Blandine says:

    Wow, this cake looks fantastic! Could agar powder be used instead of agar flakes in the frosting?

  • Amy Chaplin says:

    Yes. It’s 1 teaspoon of powder for every tablespoon of flakes. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Happy baking!

  • Christine says:

    Hi Amy,
    OMG! It looks like it should almost be illegal, that cake! Could you please translate the list of ingredient to metric (or US) units. I’m not quite sure the “3 cans of coconut” is the same in Europe as in the states… But I sooo want to make this cake. It looks devine!

  • Bridget says:

    This cake looks amazing!!!
    I would love to make it for Thanksgiving but am gluten free and was wondering if the spelt flour could be substituted for gluten free flour of some sort?? I am praying the answer is yes! 😉

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Without the addition of eggs I think making these kinds of cakes gluten free is a challenge….
      But you could make any gluten free cake you know and trust and use the recipe for this frosting?

  • Bridget says:

    That’s a good idea! I will try and find another gluten free cake recipe and still use your frosting and filling. I can’t get this cake out of my mind so I’m gonna make it work! 😉 Thanks again!

  • LNdA says:

    Amazing revelation, your frosting! My 40th birthday is coming and I think I’ll have to try it then. I just finished the Clean Gut cleanse and have always been a big baker but now have no taste for butter laden, sugary desserts. So many vegan, low sugar recipes are heavy on the nuts and coconut oil. I love nuts but it can be much. I’m so happy to have found your blog. I loooove quinoa and coconut!!!

    Ever made a similar type of frosting but chocolate flavored? Would love to hear about it if you do!!

    Laurel: Thanks for posting the 1/3 recipe numbers. If anyone gets them figured out in grams I’d love them too! Or maybe I will…

  • Milica says:

    Great cake!
    I made it for my daughter’s first birthday, and everyone loved it!
    Can I re post it on my blog (with reference of course)?

  • Gina says:

    hi there,

    Just tried a trial run of this cake with just one layer. The cake and berry filling came out great. But the frosting was like a custard texture. I don’t know if this is because I subbed gelatin for the agar, or if it was because the coconut milk can was all creamy rather than a hard fat part and then liquid. Any ideas? what type of coconut milk did you use? The fat and the liquid together, just the fat, or more of a creamy one? Just trying to determine if the fail was due to gelatin, or some other reason. SOOOOO glad I tried a practice run. I guess I need to do another run on the frosting.

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Yes absolutely because you subbed gelatin, it works in a completely different way than agar. I use an organic full fat unsweetened coconut milk and use the whole thing. Hope you can try again!

  • Clara Pierucci says:

    Hi Amy, my birthday is on 2/14 so I was planning to do this cake, thought its too big for the occasion as it will be only 4 of us. Would you suggest cutting the recipe by half? and only make 2 layers? many thanks
    P.s I just got your book and love it! did so many things already!!

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Hi Clara,

      You could cut the recipe in half and even bake the cake in one layer, if you used an 9-inch pan.
      So happy to hear you’ve been cooking from my book!

      Have a great birthday!

      Amy x

  • This cake looks simply amazing and the fact that is my loves bday this weeked it is something I’d love to make for him. One question you mentioned to put the vanilla seeds and pod into the pot. However, I didn’t read to remove the pod. So, do you mix it in the end or is it removed at some point? Thanks soooo much! xo – H

  • Cindy says:

    I made this cake, delish! Only my frosting wasn’t quite as hard as yours. I followed the directions exactly but the frosting was a bit squishy. Any ideas?
    But, the cake was LOVED by all, none-the less! And I love this cake as a base for all other kinds of ideas =)
    Thanks you!

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Hi Cindy,

      Yes, since agar is a natural product it varies which is why I suggest testing it when using it in anything. I wrote in depth about using agar and kudzu/arrowroot in the dessert section of my book if you;re interested in learning more. Glad everyone loved the cake!
      Amy x

  • Team Goodman says:

    I made this for our daughter’s first birthday and she loved it! The additional guests and cake eaters loved it too, exclaiming that it was one of the best cakes they had ever eaten! Praise indeed. I used vanilla powder in pace of the vanilla extract (half the amount) and therefore it compromised the white colour of the frosting, but still looked very appealing. Had a surplus of both frosting and berry filling and so next time (because there will definitely be a next time!) I shall be more generous with the layers of filling between the sponge and add slightly more than the measurements in the recipe. Thank you Amy. You’re making our vegan lifestyle very easy and wonderful. Best, Team Goodman x

  • Brynne says:

    Hi Amy!
    I’ve made this icing 3 times now with absoutle success – it’s simply irreplaceable and incredibly sumptuous. Today I’m making my Mums birthday cake and would like to play around with adding citrus flavour as the cake has peaches in and I think it would complement it well ! I don’t have any extracts on hand and would prefer to use the juice/zest of the lemons, limes & oranges I have on hand – so just wondering if you could advise! Sorry it’s a last min question 🙂

    • Amy Chaplin says:

      Hi Brynne,

      So glad you’ve had such great success with the frosting. I would use zest of any citrus you have and perhaps add a little lime or lemon juice add as much as you can without thinning it out too much. I have a great frosting in my book inspired by this one that is citrus flavored….on orange cupcakes.
      Delighted that the frosting is a part of your celebration. Enjoy!

      Amy x

  • Olivia says:

    I made this cake as is and it was a complete hit! I was wanting to try it again but wanted to see if it could be modified to create a chocolate coconut icing – Is it possible to add coco powder to the frosting to create a chocolate frosting? Or will there need to be adjustments to the liquid measurements? Any insight would be amazing – thanks!! 🙂

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