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The most decadent, moist, and easy Coconut Cream Poke Cake makes a perfect dessert for Easter, Christmas, or any other special occasion! Best of all, this simple coconut cream cake starts with a cake mix and doesn’t require any fancy layers or stacking. Prep it ahead for a festive, fancy, and delicious sweet treat!

A slice of coconut cream cake, frosted with a vanilla coconut icing on a blue plate with a silver fork slicing off a bite.
Table of Contents
  1. What is Coconut Cream Poke Cake?
  2. Semi-Homemade Coconut Cream Poke Cake Ingredients
  3. How to Make Coconut Cream Cake
  4. Preparation and Storage Tips for Coconut Cream Poke Cake
  5. Coconut Poke Cake Recipe Tips & Variations
  6. More Easy Cake Recipes:
  7. Coconut Cream Poke Cake Recipe

classic Southern coconut cake has been my favorite dessert for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, the time-consuming treat wasn’t something that I indulged in regularly because it just seemed too daunting and complicated to make from scratch. Instead, I created the ultimate semi-homemade coconut cake recipe that takes advantage of some store-bought shortcuts. It’s perfect for coconut lovers and those of us who want to enjoy a delicious dessert without spending all day in the kitchen! 

Dare I say, this Coconut Cream Poke Cake is the best cake I’ve ever eaten?! Yep…better than the traditional layer cake, this sheet cake is so moist (thanks to cream of coconut and sweetened condensed milk), you get rich, buttery coconut flavor in every bite…and not a dry crumb in sight!

What is Coconut Cream Poke Cake?

This easy coconut cream poke cake is a yellow sheet cake that is soaked with cream of coconut and sweetened condensed milk for a moist, rich, and creamy cake that is quite similar to a tres leches cake. The decadent coconut cream seeps into the warm cake through small holes poked in the surface — usually with the handle of a wooden spoon or the tines of a fork. Then we top this dense cake with a light, fluffy Cool Whip frosting and sprinkle another dusting of sweetened coconut. It’s so easy to prepare with the help of a boxed cake mix, and you can make it well in advance of your celebration to avoid any last-minute stress.

Two slices of coconut cream cake served on blue and white plates with silver forks.

Semi-Homemade Coconut Cream Poke Cake Ingredients

Below is an overview of the simple ingredients you’ll need for this easy coconut poke cake recipe. As always, the complete ingredients and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post. Here’s what you’ll need… 

  • Box of Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix (or sub with another brand): an easy way to make a delicious coconut cream poke cake semi-homemade with minimal effort!
  • Eggs, Vegetable Oil, & Water: three ingredients needed to make the basic box of cake mix.
  • Sweetened condensed milk: the base of the coconut cream mixture.
  • Cream of coconut: adds the perfect touch of coconut flavor to the sweet filling.
  • Cool Whip: the perfect light and fluffy topping for the coconut cream cake.
  • Sweetened flaked coconut: adds more coconut flavor. You can swap for or mix sweetened coconut flakes with toasted coconut flakes for a little crunch.
Ingredients for a semi-homemade coconut cake - sweetened coconut flakes, yellow cake mix, eggs, and vegetable oil - laid out on a marble countertop/
Coconut cake batter in a metal cake pan, sitting on a marble counter.

How to Make Coconut Cream Cake

Making this simple, semi-homemade coconut cream poke cake could not be any easier! Using a store-bought box mix means less time in the kitchen and more time to enjoy this coconut lover’s dream cake! 

  • Mix the boxed cake mix according to the package directions. 
  • Fold the flaked coconut into the cake batter. 
  • Transfer the batter to a prepared 9 x 13-inch baking dish
  • Bake the coconut cream cake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the edges are golden brown).
  • Whisk together the cream of coconut and the sweetened condensed milk until combined.
  • Poke holes in the warm cake using the end of a wooden spoon or fork.
  • Pour the coconut cream filling over the top of the cake and spread it out with a spatula.
  • Top the cake with a layer of Cool Whip and a sprinkle of shredded sweetened coconut flakes.
  • Chill until ready to serve!

Preparing the Sweet Coconut Cream Cake Filling

The creamy filling is what sets this cake apart from the rest of the coconut cakes you may have tried in the past! 

To prepare the filling for the cake, simply whisk together the cream of coconut and the sweetened condensed milk until combined.

While the cake is still warm, use a fork to poke holes all over the top of the cake. Then slowly pour the milk mixture over the cake, using a spatula to spread it into the holes. It looks like a lot of liquid, but trust me — the cake will absorb all of that creamy filling as it sits! 

Can I use coconut cream instead of cream of coconut?

A can of Sweetened condensed milk and a can of cream of coconut sit on a marble countertop.

Don’t confuse cream of coconut with coconut milk or coconut cream. You do not want to use coconut milk or coconut cream in this recipe. Coconut milk has the liquid consistency of cow’s milk and is made from simmering one part shredded coconut in one part water. Coconut cream (not cream of coconut) is very thick and unsweetened, often used to thicken savory recipes like curries. 

Cream of coconut is rich, thick, and sweet — similar to sweetened condensed milk. It’s made with coconut milk, sugar, and other thickening agents. Find a can of cream of coconut in the Hispanic foods or Asian food section of the grocery store. It’s often used in Latin desserts, piña coladas, and other creamy drinks, or in ice cream.

Coconut cream cake filling, made with sweetened condensed milk and cream of coconut, mixed together in a glass measuring cup with a small whisk.

Light & Fluffy Coconut Cream Cake Frosting

Two containers of sugar free cool whip stacked on top of each other, next to a measuring cup filled with sweetened coconut flakes.

I considered topping this delicious coconut poke cake with a traditional cream cheese frosting that you’ll typically find on Southern layer cakes; however, I think this particular cake is best with a simple light and fluffy Cool Whip frosting. The whipped topping is a nice not-too-sweet, not-too-heavy contrast to balance out the rich, dense cake. 

With a final touch of coconut on top, it’s dessert perfection!

A single slice of coconut cream cake served on a blue and white plate with a silver fork.

Preparation and Storage Tips for Coconut Cream Poke Cake

This dessert can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. It just gets better as it chills! Coconut cream cake needs to be refrigerated, and leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

The coconut poke cake can be frozen before adding the frosting on top. Simply cover tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze for up to 3 months. I do not recommend freezing leftover coconut cream poke cake, since the texture of the whipped topping will be off when thawed.

Two slices of coconut cream cake served on plates with forks, next to a cake pan.

Coconut Poke Cake Recipe Tips & Variations

  • Make sure to keep the cake refrigerated before and after serving.
  • For a golden, deeper flavor, you can toast (and cool) the shredded coconut before adding it to the top of the cake.
  • While it will have a slightly different taste, you can substitute a boxed white cake mix for the yellow cake mix.
  • Add a teaspoon of coconut extract to the cake batter for extra coconut flavor.
  • Any variety of Cool Whip (or other whipped topping will work here) — sugar-free, lite, or regular. Just make sure that you use 2 small containers or 1 large container to equal about 16 ounces.
  • Mix a box of coconut-flavored instant pudding into the Cool Whip for a coconut cream pudding topping.
  • If you want a more homemade taste, make a homemade whipped cream. Whip together heavy whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until you can form stiff peaks. 
Two slices of coconut cream cake served on blue plates. A fork holds a bite of cake, resting on the edge of the plate.

More Easy Cake Recipes:

Fork digging into a slice of easy moist coconut cream cake

Coconut Cream Poke Cake

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Chilling Time 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 40 minutes
Servings 16 slices
Calories 440.3 kcal
The most decadent coconut cream poke cake! A semi-homemade vanilla cake topped with a light and sweet coconut cream frosting. The perfect special occasion cake in a pinch!

Ingredients
  

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 1 15.25 oz. box yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 15 oz. can cream of coconut (such as Goya or Coco Lopez brand)
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

FOR THE FROSTING:

  • 16 ounces frozen whipped topping (such as Cool Whip), thawed
  • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Instructions

FOR THE CAKE:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, eggs, oil, and water. Beat for 2 minutes on high speed, and then gently fold in the coconut. Pour batter into a prepared dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the cream of coconut with sweetened condensed milk and whisk until smooth.
  • While the cake is still warm, use a fork to poke holes all over the top. Slowly pour the condensed milk mixture over top, gently spread it with a spatula, and allow it to soak into the cake. This looks like a lot of liquid, but it will gradually absorb into the cake — just go slowly. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack — it will continue to soak up the liquid as it sits.
  • Once the cake is completely cool, prepare the frosting.

FOR THE FROSTING:

  • Spread whipped topping over cake. Sprinkle with coconut.
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Notes

  • Make sure to keep the cake refrigerated before and after serving.
  • For a golden, deeper flavor, you can toast (and cool) the shredded coconut before adding it to the top of the cake.
  • While it will have a slightly different taste, you can substitute a boxed white cake mix for the yellow cake mix.
  • Add a teaspoon of coconut extract to the cake batter for extra coconut flavor.
  • Any variety of Cool Whip (or other whipped topping will work here) — sugar-free, lite, or regular. Just make sure that you use 2 small containers or 1 large container to equal about 16 ounces.
  • Mix a box of coconut-flavored instant pudding into the Cool Whip for a coconut cream pudding topping.
  • If you want a more homemade taste, make a homemade whipped cream. Whip together heavy whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until you can form stiff peaks. 
  •  

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 440.3kcalCarbohydrates: 62.3gProtein: 5.9gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 10.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.5gMonounsaturated Fat: 1.8gCholesterol: 41.4mgSodium: 267.7mgPotassium: 39.3mgFiber: 1.2gSugar: 40.8g
Keyword: coconut cake recipe, coconut cream cake, coconut poke cake
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thanks Blair! We had a similar cake for our wedding and have always tried to recreate it. This is the closest one we have tried and will now become our special occasion go-to cake. Mystery solved….thanks!!

  2. I have been looking for this recipe for years. I’m not a baker, but got this simple recipe many years ago when my children was small, 25 years ago. The only difference is I used a double boiler to cook the congence milk & coconut, don’t remember using whip topping, I like your way better. Thank you for posting, Carol ♥️

    1. That’s wonderful, Carol! I’m so glad that you found this recipe again. It’s one of my favorite cakes, so it makes me happy that you’ll be able to enjoy it again, too!