How to Make Coconut Cake Like a Real Southerner

Who doesn't love a fabulous coconut cake? We talked to the queen of coconut cakes for tips to make your favorite recipe better than ever.

When it comes to cakes, the South seems to do it right—look at all these amazing Southern cake recipes! A favorite among all these classic desserts, though, has to be the coconut cake. There are plenty of variations on this decadent coconut dessert, but to really make a coconut cake sing, we talked to an expert: Sally Good, head baker at Queen of Tarts Bakery in Lubbock, Texas.

The Queen of Coconut Cake

Sally has a lifelong obsession with coconut cake. In 1968, she won a swan-shaped coconut cake at a school fair. “I fell head-over-heels in love,” she said of that cake. Later, she made it a personal goal to make a cake that lived up to that original.

In 2007, she developed the recipe that would become Queen of Tarts’ signature bake. “The result was a three-layer cake that was uber-moist and a little on the heavy side—our version weighs over 10 pounds!” she said. Queen of Tarts’ coconut cake is filled with coconut at every stage: in the cake batter, the syrup, the frosting and the topping. Served up with lemon sauce, this cake is the talk of the Texas High Plains and beyond.

What makes this cake so special? Sally filled us in on how any coconut cake can be given some Queen of Tarts flair.

How to Make the Best Coconut Cake

via Queen of Tarts

While Sally won’t give away her top-secret recipe (we don’t blame her!), she does have a few tips that’ll take any coconut cake to the next level of delicious.

  • Use buttermilk: Sally recommends using buttermilk in your cake recipe. Buttermilk adds a richness of flavor and it helps produce more tender cakes. Don’t have any on hand? Here’s how to make buttermilk at home.
  • Don’t forget a syrup: Moist cake is good cake. To ensure that your cake is as scrumptious as possible, Sally recommends brushing each layer with a syrup—either coconut or almond. Here’s how to make simple syrup at home—just add a bit of almond extract or cream of coconut to add flavor.
  • Add cream of coconut throughout: Sally’s coconut cake is known for its big coconut flavor. She achieves this by adding cream of coconut at every step. “Replace some of the oil or butter in your cake recipe with cream of coconut, add some of the liquid cream of coconut to an almond-flavored syrup for brushing over the layers and, finally, use some of the hardened cream of coconut to your cream cheese frosting,” she recommends.
  • Top with two kinds of coconut: Many cakes are just finished with a simple coating of sweetened, shredded coconut, but Sally recommends you don’t stop at just one kind. “I use two kinds of coconut tossed together for the topping: frozen, unsweetened and toasted flaked coconut, sweetened.” Toasting the coconut is key to adding more flavor.

All of Sally’s tips ensure that your cake will be positively decadent and packed full of tasty coconut flavor.

If you have a can of coconut milk, our coconut milk recipes are sure to be a hit!

Use These Tips with Our Coconut Cake Recipes
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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.