Coconut Chocolate Cake

It was my birthday this week and I gave myself the same present I give myself every year. I baked a cake. This year it was a coconut chocolate cake, something I’ve been thinking about making for a while. Something else I have been thinking about is how to incorporate more coconut oil into my cooking. I have found that its subtle flavor adds a pleasant note to anything Asian, like stir-fries and curries. It also makes a good substitution for butter or vegetable oil in baking. Despite long held prejudice by many in the food industry, coconut oil has recently been found to be a superior oil to use in baking and cooking.

Our history with coconut goes back a long way, when we first started visiting Mexico. We once came close to becoming petty criminals when we purchased two coconuts with the tops lopped off, straws inserted, somewhere on a hot plaza in Mexico. As we wandered off, contentedly sucking on the cool, refreshing liquid, we were sternly called back by the vendor and informed that we had only purchased the coconut water, not its meat. We meekly stood in front of her and finished the water while she eyed us suspiciously, then handed the coconuts back to her. She, no doubt, had plans for her coconut meat, either to use in cocadas — coconut macaroons — or to sell it dried and shredded. We had had plans for the meat, too, but she effectively laid them to rest.

Back to my coconut chocolate cake. As it was my birthday and I didn’t want to spend all day in the kitchen, I used a quick chocolate cake recipe found on a can of Hershey’s cocoa some years back. But the recipe was only for inspiration. Sifted whole wheat flour was used instead of white flour, the sugar was halved, coconut oil stood in for vegetable oil, and dry, unsweetened coconut was added. The cake turned out moist, tender and redolent of coconut. There is no such thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to coconut.

Coconut Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup (7 oz./200 g.) organic sugar
  • 1  3/4 cups (7.2 oz./218 g.) sifted whole wheat flour (save the bran for muffins)
  • 1 cup (2.5 oz./70 g.) dried, unsweetened organic coconut
  • 3/4 cup (2.6 oz./73 g.) powdered cocoa
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1  1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 1 cup (.24 ml.) organic milk
  • 1/2 cup (.12 ml.) melted organic coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 cup (.24 ml.) boiling water
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 deg. C.). Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans or one 13×9-inch pan.
  2. Stir together sugar, flour, coconut, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl of standing mixer.
  3. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and beat on medium speed for two minutes. (If beating by hand, beat vigorously for four minutes.)
  4. Stir in boiling water. Batter will be very thin.
  5. Pour into prepared baking pan and bake 30-35 minutes for round pans or 35-40 minutes for 13×9-inch pan until thin knife inserted in center comes out clean. *
  6. Cool on racks for 10  minutes; remove from round pans. Rectangle cake can be left in pan.
  7. When completely cool, dust with powdered sugar.


  • *I under-bake chocolate cake by about five minutes for a very moist center and more intense chocolate flavor. If you under-bake, the knife blade will not be completely clean when the cake is tested for doneness.
  • Some organic ingredients are easy to find in Mexico. Others, like whole wheat flour, are non-existent. Use what is available and what you can afford if you are concerned, like me, about chemicals in our foods.
  • Coconut oil contains no cholesterol, but does have saturated fat. What nutritionists are learning is that not all saturated fat is the same. Some are better than others, and some are actually healthy, such as the lauric acid (saturated fat) in coconut oil. If you buy coconut oil, do not buy any with the letters RBD on the label. This stands for Refined, Bleached and Deodorized. This is nasty stuff, containing chemical residues that were used in processing. RBD oil has no coconut taste or aroma.

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33 thoughts on “Coconut Chocolate Cake

  1. Angie

    Thank you for the info on the coconut oil. Is there a certain brand you buy here in Mexico? I know here in Aguas, the same brands are not always available. I have bought some brands that I am not so sure were pure coconut oil. I do read the labels, but I think labels can sometimes be deceptive.
    Anyway, I have another recipe very close to this called Black Joe cake. The main difference is adding a cup of hot black coffee and no coconut . In either cake, the boiling liquid I am assuming is for the benefit of the cocoa, right?. It would really do no good to whip your butter and sugar as in a regular cake would it? The butter and sugar would be pretty much be melted.
    I love your coconut muffin recipe! I want to try this one.

    1. Hi Angie! So nice to hear from you. Yes, I have a favorite brand of coconut oil. It is the Kirkland brand from Costco. I use both the organic refined, and organic unrefined. The quality and price are both good. They both come in large tubs: 2.48 liters for the unrefined, and 3.79 liters for the refined. I trust Kirkland brands for the quality of all their products.
      Yes, the hot liquid makes the cocoa powder “bloom” to bring out the flavor.
      As this recipe calls for boiling water, then no, you would not want to cream the butter and sugar.
      Your comment caused me to revisit this recipe. I have not thought about it or made it in a long time. It’s almost 9 years since I posted this recipe! So thanks for the reminder. It’s time I made it again.

  2. Mandy

    Nice post. What nutritionists are learning is that not all saturated fat is the same. Some are better than others, and some are actually healthy, such as the lauric acid in coconut oil. If you buy coconut oil, do not buy any with the letters RBD on the label. Thanks a lot for posting this article.

  3. Alison

    Such a great article which the cake turned out moist, tender and redolent of coconut. there is no such thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to coconut. Thanks for sharing this article.

  4. I read your recipe and now it is in the oven. Let’s see how it will turn out, hope it is as good as it smells. For some miracle I had coconut oil at home and I’ve never used it before.

    Thanks for sharing! It was so hard to find a coconut chocolate cake without lots of fat things.

  5. Vicki in GA

    Lovely recipe – I’ve been craving coconut for weeks.

    Happy belated Birthday, my dear sweet friend in Mexico.

  6. Happy Belated Birthday amiga! I am trying to catch up with all your great posts! Your cake sounds scrumptious! I cracked open my first coconut this weekend and am laughing reading your story about the vendor who wanted her coconut back. Its hard work opening up a coconut.

  7. Feliz cumpleanos! I do hope that someday our paths cross in person. As you know by now, we’re nuts for coconut in our house. Although the husband won’t touch the dried, shredded version. We have a gallon size container. Yep, that’ right.

    Also, FYI, coconut oil is therapeutically known to cool the body – so if you’re somewhere hot, it should help relieve some of the heat.

    1. Thank you, Andrea. It would be nice to meet someday.
      I wish my experience with coconut oil was the same as yours, but I find that it makes me feel warmer. Because of this, I eat more in the winter than I do in the summer. Perhaps we react differently to it.

  8. Happy Birthday, what a nice gift to yourself. I have my jar of coconut oil sitting next to my olive oil too. I also use it in my skin care routine, even a light touch in my hair. I love it. I also heard how stable it was and how it has a longer shelf life. I do like coming here, and seeing all your great coconut recipes, and get more ideas to use the coconut oil in. Can’t wait to try the cake, it looks fantastic, nice and moist. Perfect with the powdered sugar topping.

    Now the pottery I know nothing about, except that I love to look at it. I am interested in regional pottery from my travels, but don’t know much else about it. So that would be fun to learn more.

    1. I use coconut oil on my skin and hair, also, even making a great body lotion, using coconut oil as one of the ingredients.
      I will have to plan a trip to Guadalajara to learn more about El Palomar ceramics — this seems to have generated a bit of interest.

  9. Happy Bday!! A perfect way to celebrate with this sweet cake, I love using coconut oil and love that you switched the flour to wheat..a perfect bday cake!! I hope your week is wonderful!


  10. Darlene

    Happy Birthday Kathleen,
    Your Coconut Chocolate Cake looks scrumptious, moist and delicious. What no candles?
    Your El Palomar Vase is truly beautiful. Maybe you could deviate and give us an extensive history lesson on this special Mexican pottery,with many photographs, of course.
    Many happy returns,

    1. After our conversation about El Palomar ceramics, it occurred to me that this could be an interesting topic for the blog. But it will have to wait until our next trip to Guadalajara, and that doesn’t happen very often. Maybe when my friend Lorin next visits, we’ll go. This photo is of her vase, taken in her beach house, where I spent my birthday.
      No, no candles — too many now! :)

  11. Mmmmm….coconut oil. I learned of this through Jillian Michael’s cookbook believe it or not. Quickly fell in love. I cannot wait to try your cake here. It looks delicious! That fact that you used whole wheat flour for your baked deliciousness is awesome. Hope you enjoyed every bite!

    And Happy, Happy Birthday!!

    1. I use whole wheat flour for most of my baking. White flour contributes nothing taste-wise, and almost nothing nutritionally. Fresh, whole wheat flour has a sweet, nutty taste and more nutrients.
      Thank you for your birthday wishes.

  12. Lorin

    Yet again, Happy Birthday! Nice to recognize backgrounds in the photos. Will try this yummy looking and sounding recipe soon.

    1. I hope you make it — you will love it.
      After an extensive conversation this week with a friend about El Palomar ceramics from Tonola, Jalisco, I could not resist taking a photo of your lovely El Palomar vase.
      And thank you for your birthday greetings and another great day at the beach.

  13. Hi Kathleen,

    I’m curious to know how practical it is to cook with coconut oil. A friend of mine who is a holistic doctor (and specializes in nutrition) says that it has a very short shelf life, so it’s not easy to obtain the fresh stuff in some parts of the world (e.g. Washington, DC). Wondering if you have any thoughts about this.

    Cake looks just gorgeous! A feliz cumpleaños to you!


    1. To the contrary, coconut oil is one of the most stable oils you can buy and does not turn rancid easily. I have kept it at room temperature for a year, and it was still fresh. It will stay fresher longer if kept away from light.

      From Wikipedia:
      Coconut oil is very heat stable so it makes an excellent cooking and frying oil. It has a smoke point of about 360 °F (180 °C). Because of its stability, it is slow to oxidize and thus resistant to rancidity, lasting up to two years due to high saturated fat content.

      You can usually find it at any natural food store. And gracias for the birthday wish.

  14. Maria

    Happy Birthday!!!
    Thank you for taking the time and energy to share all your insights about cooking here in Mexico. I just returned to PV last year to live (lived here as a child). So happy that I found the Asian grocery,,,fish sauce! Cooking lots of Asian things – Fresh spring rolls w/shrimp…Yum!

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