The best make ahead dessert ever! This old fashioned 3 Day Coconut Cake starts with a cake mix but you’d never know. It’s lightly sweet and delicious.
A few weeks ago I was attempting a 5 day sugar fast. I still needed to work, which for me means making desserts. I decided to make a coconut cake because they don’t tempt me. I don’t love coconut. I thought it would be no problem to resist the cake.
Enter this 3 Day Coconut Cake. I made it on Monday and Wednesday night after I photographed it, my husband, son and I stood around the cake plate and devoured it. This cake is AMAZING and here’s why.
Why you’ll love this cake:
- Starts with a box cake mix.
- Has a sweet & tangy fresh coconut filling in between the 4 layers.
- Easy Cool Whip frosting.
- Perfect for making in advance. The flavors blend over the 3 days it sits.
- Light and fresh!
Where did 3 Day Coconut Cake Originate?
This coconut cake is vintage. How vintage? I’m not quite sure. It is in several of my old church cookbooks that date back into the 70’s. Usually those recipes came from newspaper clippings or the back of cake mix boxes. I’m not sure who created this cake, but I thank whoever did because now I have a new favorite.
What is frozen coconut?
I’ll be honest. Before this cake recipe I had no idea what frozen coconut was or that it existed. I searched Kroger and Meijer with no luck, but Walmart came through for me. I found this Birds Eye brand frozen fresh coconut by the frozen fruit. It comes in 6 ounce packages which is perfect for this cake. This is the exact product you want for this recipe. Don’t use the dry, shredded coconut you find in the baking aisle. It won’t turn out the same!
Tips for Making 3 Day Coconut Cake
- Start with a box cake mix. Could you make a homemade cake? Sure. But I don’t find it is necessary because you are adding so much flavor to the cake. Make the cake, allow the cake to cool, then slice each layer in half so that you end up with 4 layers.
- This cake is unique in that it has a milky, sour cream filling that soaks into every bite of the cake. Very similar to a tres leches cake! You’ll combine one cup of sour cream, one cup of sugar and 6 ounces of frozen coconut that is cold, but mostly thawed. This mixture will be fairly runny, but don’t worry about that. It’s what you want!
- You’ll put about 1/2-2/3 cup of this sour cream filling on each layer (cake, filling, cake, filling, cake filling, cake, topping). When I first started assembling the cake, I was afraid all the sour cream mix would just run off. But it didn’t. It soaked in nicely and I had no mess. I ended up with about 1/2 cup of the sour cream mix leftover. Fold this into the Cool Whip for frosting the outside.
- You can decorate the outside with more fresh coconut if you’d like. Or you can even toast pre-shredded dry coconut and it would make the cake look so pretty.
Does the cake really have to sit for 3 days?
Yes. It will have the best flavor as the coconut filling soaks into the cake over 72 hours. It’s edible before 3 days and will be good, but practice your patience and know that good things come to those who wait. It’s worth it!
How to Store This Cake
Store this cake in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
3 Day Coconut Cake
For the cake:
- 1 box white cake mix (15.25 ounces)
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
For the Filling:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup sour cream
- 6 ounces frozen fresh coconut thawed
For the frosting:
- 1/2 cup reserved filling mix
- 8 ounces Cool Whip thawed
- Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit. Grease with shortening, then dust with flour 2 8” round cake pans.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the cake mix, milk, eggs and vegetable oil. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Divide the batter equally between the two prepared cake pans.
- Bake for 25-27 minutes or until the center of the cake bounces back when you touch it.
- Allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn them out on a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cakes are cooling, prepare the filling. In a medium bowl, combine the sour cream, sugar and thawed coconut. Mix well. Place this into the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the cake.
- To assemble the cake, cut each cake into two layers. You should now have four layers.
- Place one cake layer down on a cake plate, cut side up.
- Scoop 1/2-2/3 cup of the coconut filling into the center of the cake. Spread to the edges carefully so that it does not run over.
- Place another cake layer on top and then spread another 1/2-2/3 cup filling on top.
- Repeat with another cake layer and more filling.
- Then place the last cake layer on top.
- In a bowl, fold together any remaining sour cream filling (we had about 1/2 cup left over) with the 8 ounces of Cool Whip.
- Use this Cool Whip mixture to frost the outside and top of the cake.
- Store in the refrigerator for 3 days before serving. This allows the cake to develop the best flavor.