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Coconut Cake with a Cake Mix: A Recipe to Save the Day

Preview: Coconut cake with a cake mix features a triple hit of coconut with coconut milk, cream of coconut, and shaved coconut. A good drenching with cream of coconut makes this cake moist and flavorful.

Have you ever remembered you were supposed to bake something for the office party or a school function at 10:00 the night before just as you were ready to crawl into bed? Hopefully, I’m not the only one.

one piece of coconut cake made with a cake mix, drenched with cream of coconut and covered with frozen whipped topping.
Easy Coconut Poke Cake

Recipe Inspiration

Most of the time, I’m too proud (unfortunately) to run by the store and grab something in a hard plastic container, so I keep a few tricks in my pantry. I got this Easy Coconut Cake recipe from Amie, one of my favorite co-workers.  The coconut freaks at my job, including me, go crazy when she brings this cake.

Here’s what you need:

Stocking up on a few staples is helpful to produce this kind of last-minute magic. For this coconut cream poke cake, I make sure to keep the following in my cabinet: 

  • a white cake mix
  • coconut milk
  • cream of coconut
  • shaved coconut
  • frozen whipped topping

All of these ingredients can be stored for months in the pantry, or the freezer. It’s my kind of recipe as I would rather do a hundred push-ups than make a midnight run to the grocery store.

(I detest push-ups!)

Baking tips for Coconut Cake with a cake mix:

I don’t know the origin of Amie’s recipe. However, I made a few changes.


Substitute coconut milk for water in the cake mix

Coconut milk makes the cake taste more decadent and less like a cake mix. However, if you don’t have coconut, you can certainly use water, instead.

I don’t use a cake mix very often, but my attempts to make this cake from scratch were unsatisfactory. The light and airy texture of a cake mix will soak up the cream of coconut better than any of my own recipes.


Heat (slightly) the cream of coconut before pouring over the warm cake

In my opinion, heating the cream of coconut helps the cake to absorb it readily. It also makes it easier to stir the cream of coconut before you pour it.


Are coconut milk and cream of coconut interchangeable?

While we’re on the topic, coconut milk and cream of coconut are radically different and are not interchangeable. The cream of coconut is VERY sweet. Coconut milk is not.


Sprinkled shaved coconut instead of shredded coconut on top.

Shredded coconut will still be delicious if you can’t find shaved coconut flakes.

Amie's Triple Coconut Cake--large flaked coconut


How to poke holes in the cake

I used a k-bob stick to make the holes.  Amie uses the handle of a wooden spoon for maximum absorption. You could also use a fork or a chopstick.

Amie's Triple Coconut Cake--spreading topping on cake
Frost the chilled cake with thawed whipped topping before sprinkling flaked icing on top.
This easy coconut cake has shredded coconut on top, not the shaved coconut.

More posts for cake-bakers and coconut-lovers

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    Yield: 12 servings

    Coconut Cake with a Cake Mix

    Coconut Cake with a Cake Mix

    A travel-worthy cake for coconut lovers.

    Prep Time 10 minutes
    Cook Time 25 minutes
    Total Time 35 minutes


    • 1 Betty Crocker white cake mix
    • 1-1/4 cup coconut milk
    • 1 15-ounce can cream of coconut
    • 8-ounce container of whipped topping
    • 1 cup flaked coconut


    1. Prepare cake mix according to directions on the box, substituting coconut milk for water in the mix. Bake in a 9 x 13 pan. Amie and I both thought the cake was done at least 5 minutes before the box directions predicted. Over bake and the crust will be too dry to absorb the cream of coconut.
    2. While the cake is still warm, poke holes all over the cake with a skewer, a toothpick, a chopstick, or even a fork.
    3. Warm cream of coconut for 1-1/2 minutes on HIGH in the microwave and pour over the cake. Chill for several hours or overnight.
    4. Frost with 1 container of thawed, whipped topping (i.e. Cool Whip). Sprinkle flaked coconut on top. Keep refrigerated.

    Nutrition Information:



    Serving Size:


    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 320Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 78mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 1gSugar: 13gProtein: 3g

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    Paula Sluder

    Wednesday 6th of March 2019

    This is the BEST CAKE I have ever had or made ! We have a new favorite cake everyone loved it . I can't believe how easy it is to make and how great it taste . Thank you !


    Wednesday 6th of March 2019

    Fantastic Paula! Glad to hear it.

    Coco in the Kitchen

    Wednesday 4th of May 2016

    This might be the coconut cake recipe I've been looking for. I'm making it tonight!!!


    Friday 6th of May 2016

    Hope you liked it!


    Thursday 9th of April 2015

    i love your recipe unfortunately i did have cream of coconut so i made 2 round cakes made 4 layers, added coconut extract to the cake mix. then for the frosting i combined whipped cream cheese frosting and cool whip with 2 tsps of coconut extract it was a big hit thank you

    Brian S

    Friday 7th of February 2014

    I made this cake for my wife's birthday. We both love coconut. I made two layers of cake from the single cake mix so the bottom of each layer was perfectly drenched with the cream of coconut with a thin layer of home-made whipped cream between them, on the sides and on top, as well. Topped it off with sweetened coconut shavings. She said it was the best cake she ever had. ...even beat her mother's cakes, but she can't tell her. Very easy to make, my first, in fact.


    Monday 5th of August 2013

    Hi! Lovely recipe. Love to try it. Though was wondering, can the cake be removed from the baking tray and than pour cream of coconut. Would that work. Want to try this for a birthday cake


    Wednesday 7th of August 2013

    I don't think it's quite as good as a layer cake. But maybe you'll have better luck than I did.