If you or your family are a fan of coconut, then this no-bake coconut layer cake recipe is sure to be a hit. Layered with sweet cookies, a perfect creamy filling, and just enough coconut to make your mouth water, this is that one easy recipe you will make over and over again.
No-Bake Coconut Layer Cake
A coconut layer cake is a delicious dessert that can be made in many different ways. While you may automatically think of a traditionally baked layer cake, this is definitely not that. Using simple ingredients and refrigeration, you can build a dessert that slices like a cake, tastes like a cake, and never requires you to turn on the oven to bake.
If coconut cake is your favorite, you can however make this traditional coconut cake with coconut cream cheese frosting instead. While it is delicious, it takes a good bit more time and of course, requires baking. Or, you can make a homemade coconut cream pie complete with homemade meringue if you really want to impress the coconut lovers at your dinner table.
Can I Make Variations of This No-Bake Layer Cake?
The best part of this recipe is that it is very easy to add your own spin with textures and flavors. While you will want to follow the basics of a pudding mixture, cookie, and layering, you can adjust this to suit the different flavors you prefer or have on hand. Some ideas for making this a bit different are below.
- Toast the coconut before topping the cake.
- Stir in or add a layer of chopped walnuts or pecans between cookies and pudding layers or on top of the finished product.
- Use different flavors of pudding to create new cake flavors. Pistachio, chocolate, butterscotch, lemon, or cheesecake are all excellent choices.
- Add layers of blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, or raspberries throughout the cake.
- Replace the vanilla pudding mix with coconut pudding mix.
- Top with dollops of homemade whipped cream.
Can I substitute regular sugar for vanilla sugar?
While you could substitute regular granulated sugar for vanilla sugar, the rich vanilla flavor really makes this recipe something special. Vanilla sugar is made of sugar and vanilla beans, or sugar mixed with vanilla extract. It can be easily made at home with sugar and vanilla beans, and although vanilla beans can be pricey, you only need one bean per 2 cups of sugar.
If you don't want to be bothered with making vanilla sugar, you can replace it in the recipe with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. It will give the same general flavor and shouldn't affect the setting up of the pudding mixture at all.
What Cookies Should I Use for the Layers?
This version uses a classic digestive biscuit. Since this is not as commonplace in the United States, you will likely want to try a different option for your coconut cake. Below are some great ideas that work excellently as the cookie layer in this no-bake recipe.
- Graham crackers
- Vanilla wafers
- Sugar cookies
- Shortbread cookies
- Coconut macaroons
Can This No Bake Coconut Cake Be Frozen in Advance?
You can definitely freeze this if you wish. While it is best when made fresh, you can wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to one month.
Since this is such a simple and fast recipe to make, it is typically best to just prepare when you are wanting to serve. However, if you should decide to make it ahead of time, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week making it easy to prepare in advance without freezing.
What Size Dish Should I Make This Cake In?
Since you are not baking, this could be layered in any container you have or the baking dish you prefer. It works wonderfully in a traditional 9"x13" baking dish with three layers. However, if you prefer to use a trifle bowl or just layer in a refrigerator storage container with a lid, you can also do that.
There is no right or wrong way to layer this, so use what you have on hand. Just remember that if placed into a bowl or trifle dish, you won't be able to slice into squares like a traditional baking dish. It serves wonderfully when scooped out like a pudding, so don't let that worry you!
- Vanilla pudding mix
- Cornstarch (or potato flour)
- Granulated sugar
- Digestive biscuits (or graham crackers)
- Unsalted butter
- Shredded coconut flakes
- Vanilla sugar or vanilla extract
Handy Kitchen Tools
- Mixing bowls
- Heavy bottom saucepan
- Wooden spoon
- Rubber spatula
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Handheld mixer
- 9"x13" dish or trifle bowl
How to Make a No-Bake Coconut Layer Cake
In a small bowl, add 1 cup milk and the packet of dry vanilla pudding mix.
Whisk or beat until it is completely incorporated. Set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour 3 cups of milk and bring to a simmer over low heat. You do not want it to boil or scald, just get hot.
Pour the pudding mixture into the warm milk, whisking to combine.
Add in the cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla sugar or extract.
Cook over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened.
Remove from heat, and set aside to cool for at least 1 hour.
In a large bowl, beat the butter for 1 minute to soften.
Pour in the pudding a little at a time, until the mixture is completely incorporated with the butter.
Once the butter and pudding are combined, add in the coconut and stir to combine completely.
In the 9"x13" dish or trifle bowl, begin layering the mixture by placing a layer of biscuits or cookies into the bottom.
Add ⅓ of the pudding layer over the cookies, and spread evenly.
Repeat this process with cookies, then pudding for a total of 3 layers.
Once layered, sprinkle additional coconut flakes over the top.
Chill until ready to serve.
Slice and top with a dollop of whipped cream!
More No-Bake Dessert Recipes
No-bake desserts are a favorite of mine since they don't require heating up the house in the hot summer months. Whether you want a cake, pie, or something yummy like a pudding, I have great ideas below that are sure to suit your needs and be show-stoppers when shared with friends and family. Make sure to bookmark, pin, or print these recipes to make soon!
- No-Bake Banana Pudding Recipe
- Fluffy No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Recipe
- No-Bake Strawberry Icebox Cake Recipe
- Chocolate Espresso Panna Cotta Recipe
- No-Churn Chocolate Banana Nice Cream Recipe
- The Best Ever Chocolate Mousse Recipe
- 4 cups milk (1 liter)
- 1 (3.4 oz) package vanilla pudding mix dry (74g)
- 2 tbsp cornstarch (or potato flour)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (150 g)
- 10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened (200 g)
- 2 ¼ cup shredded coconut flakes (200 g)
- 1 tsp vanilla sugar or vanilla extract
- In a small bowl, add 1 cup milk and the packet of dry vanilla pudding mix. Whisk or beat until it is completely incorporated. Set aside.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour 3 cups of milk and bring to a simmer over low heat. You do not want it to boil or scald, just get hot.
- Pour the pudding mixture into the warm milk, whisking to combine.
- Add in the cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla sugar or extract.
- Cook over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened.
- Remove from heat, and set aside to cool for at least 1 hour.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter for 1 minute to soften.
- Pour in the pudding a little at a time, until the mixture is completely incorporated with the butter.
- Once the butter and pudding are combined, add in the coconut and stir to combine completely.
- In the 9"x13" dish or trifle bowl, begin layering the mixture by placing a layer of biscuits or cookies in the bottom.
- Add ⅓ of the pudding layer over the cookies, and spread evenly.
- Repeat this process with cookies, then pudding for a total of 3 layers.
- Once layered, sprinkle additional coconut flakes over the top.
- Chill until ready to serve.
Toast the coconut for 5 minutes at 375°F before sprinkling on top for a little different texture and richer flavor.
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Hamilton Beach 6-Speed Electric Hand Mixer, Beaters and Whisk, with Snap-On Storage Case, White
Silicone Spatula 4-piece Set,Heat-Resistant Spatulas,Non-stick Rubber Spatulas with Stainless Steel Core
OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Wooden Spoon Set
Ouddy 3 Pack Stainless Steel Whisks 8"+10"+12", Wire Whisk Set Wisk Kitchen Tool Kitchen whisks for Cooking, Blending, Whisking, Beating, Stirring
Xiteliy Ceramic Bakeware Set Baking Dish Lasagna Pans Casserole Dish Square Brownie Pan with Double Handle (2, Light Blue)
Royalty Art European Trifle Bowl with Pedestal, Round Dessert Display Stand for Laying Cakes, Pastries or Baked Goods, Modern Design with Crystal-Clear Borosilicate Glass, X Quart
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 286Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 208mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 2gSugar: 26gProtein: 3g