Pumpkin Coconut Cake is the best way to cross over from summer into fall. The tropical sweet flavors of coconut are such a nice balance to the earthy richness of pumpkin. This cake is also incredibly moist given the entire pumpkin cake is soaked in cream of coconut and sweetened condensed milk. And what better way to top this delightful treat than with cream cheese icing? Pumpkin and cream cheese were born to be together.
Sidebar, when the f*ck did the world become so absolutely pumpkin crazy?! I believe it all started with the lineup of pumpkin spice drinks that flood coffee cafes like Starbucks in the fall, but these days it seems like the start of the pumpkin spice craze comes earlier and earlier. I personally don’t crave pumpkin until the first cold front arrives and the temperatures dip below 80 degrees. That finally happened this week in Oklahoma City so here I am jumping on the pumpkin bandwagon!
The idea for this cake is a more fall-friendly twist on a coconut cake my mom makes quite often that everyone loves. The main difference between her version and this one is the incorporation of pumpkin into the cake.
My mom’s recipe starts with a white cake mix and is topped with whipped cream, but in this recipe, I use a pumpkin cake made from scratch and top it off with cream cheese icing. I do take a nod from the original recipe and lighten up my cream cheese icing with whipped cream to ensure the cake maintains the cloud-like texture of the original. It literally melts in your mouth.
Pumpkin cakes can sometimes be a bit heavy or bready, no surprise given the dense texture of pumpkin puree. I wanted to be sure that this cake came out light and fluffy so that it would soak up all the delicious, silky coconut cream. To achieve the desired result, I folded whipped egg white into the final mix. It’s an extra step that is well worth it for pillow-like pumpkin cake.
And lordy, don’t even get me started on this cream cheese icing. I gave myself a wee bit of tummy ache taste testing this frosting. The things I do for the sake of delicious recipes! LOL! This icing has all the tangy notes of cream cheese but is a bit lighter than standard buttercream icing since I use whipped cream instead of butter to smooth out the frosting. I wrote the recipe for this icing for this particular cake, but I know it’s a recipe I will certainly use on many other cakes in the future.
Chris isn’t even a fan of pumpkin, and he loved this recipe. In fact, when I was brainstorming about the idea, he was quite annoyed that I would mess up the original beloved recipe with the addition of pumpkin. His reaction was something like, “Ewww, why pumpkin?” I totally got the last f*cking laugh when he tried it, and he had to admit just how delicious it was!
To pretty the cake up, I topped the cream cheese icing with toasted coconut, but if you’re in a rush untoasted is just fine. If you’re serving right away, the toasted coconut adds a lovely crunch to the recipe, but the texture will soften pretty quickly after adding to the top of the icing. It’s still super tasty so don’t fret!
I also put cute little Brach’s Mellowcreme Pumpkins on the top for decoration. Feel free to exclude these, but we always had them around the house so they remind me of my childhood, and they’re just so damn cute.
This recipe offers all the satisfying familiarity of pumpkin cake but with a new and exciting twist! I hope you’ll make it part of one your fall family gatherings. If you do, please let me know what you think in the comments section below!
Pumpkin Coconut Cake
- 2 1/4 C flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
- 1 C butter, or 2 sticks
- 3 eggs + 2 egg whites
- 1/2 C maple syrup
- 1 C sugar
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 15 oz can cream of coconut
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/2 C powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 C heavy cream
- 2 C sweetened shredded coconut
- Brach’s Mellowcreme Pumpkins optional
To make cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9×13 baking pan with baking spray.
- Cream 1 C of butter and 1 C of sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes or until pale in color and fluffy in texture. Add the maple syrup very slowly with mixer on low speed. Once all the maple has been incorporated, add the 3 whole eggs one at a time, waiting until each is thoroughly combined before add the next. Reserve the two egg whites for later in the recipe.
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and turn the mixer back on low. Add the can of pumpkin puree and increase speed to medium. Mix for about 30 seconds or until well combined. The texture will start to look a little curdled with the addition of pumpkin. Don’t worry!
- With the mixer on, add baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla. Turn mixer off once all the ingredients are combined.
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again and add the flour. Turn mixer to low and mix just until combined. You do not want to overmix at this point, or you’ll end up with a tough cake.
- In a separate small mixing bowl, separate the remaining two eggs, keeping only the whites. Whip the egg whites on high until they reach stiff peaks. You should be able to turn over the bowl without the egg whites moving. Gently the fold egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. You want to be careful to not deflate the egg whites, but you’re not done folding until you no longer see any white flecks of egg white.
- Once thoroughly combined, pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- While cake cools very briefly, mix together the sweetened condensed milk and cream of coconut in a liquid measuring cup for easy pouring. Using a butter knife, gently poke holes all over the cake without completely demolishing it. I like using a butter knife instead of toothpick or skewer to allow for the cream to easily soak into the cake. You’ll need to add slowly and use a small spatula to move the excess that will collect around the edges of the pan back to the center of the cake for even soaking.
- Once all the cream is soaked into the cake, set the cake aside to cool completely at room temperature or in the fridge if you’re pressed for time.
To toast coconut
- Spread the coconut evenly across a sheet pan. Cook for 15-20 minute at 350 degrees, stirring every 5 minutes. Watch it closely the last 5 minutes as it can quickly burn. Allow to cool completely before garnishing cake.
To make icing
- Add cream cheese to a stand mixer or large mixing bowl and whip on high for 1 minute. Turn off the mixer and add powdered sugar and vanilla. Whip for another minute or until light and fluffy. Turn mixer off and add the heavy cream. Turn the mixer first on low to combine and then increase speed to high until the cream turns into whipped cream. This usually takes about 2 more minutes.
- Spread the icing evenly over the cooled cake. Garnish with the toasted coconut and Brach’s Mellowcreme Pumpkins. I like 1 pumpkin in the center of every slice. Keep refrigerated after cutting.