Coconut Pecan Cake Recipe: A Slice of Tropical Paradise

Have you ever heard of Dolester Miles? She won the James Beard award for Outstanding Pastry Chef 2018.

This is what brought her to my attention. She is in her 60’s, living in Alabama, making traditional Southern desserts.

I thought this was the most refreshing, well-deserved winner of this category. She doesn’t do crazy, outlandish desserts, she makes the classics and does it amazingly well.

While I love modern desserts that are immaculate works of art and flavor combinations that you’ve never heard, it’s nice for someone else to get recognized.

She was recognized for her incredible life’s work, something she never even sought out.

How To Make Coconut Pecan Cake?

If you’re in search of a heavenly dessert that combines the delightful flavors of coconut and pecans, then you’re in for a treat.

This Coconut Pecan Cake recipe is a celebration of all things tropical and nutty, making it the perfect indulgence for special occasions or when you simply crave something extraordinary.

So, grab your apron, preheat your oven to 350°F, and let’s dive into the creation of this sumptuous delight.

For the Cake:

To start, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut (93g)
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecan halves
  • 2 cups sugar (400g), divided
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (281g)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (170g), softened
  • 1/4 cup cream of coconut (59ml)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk (265ml)


  1. Begin by preheating your oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and grease and flour the parchment paper.
  2. Make the cake batter:
    1. In a food processor, finely grind the sweetened, shredded coconut and set it aside.
    1. In the same food processor, pulse the toasted pecans with 2 tablespoons of sugar until finely ground.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the ground coconut and pecan-sugar mixture.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, cream of coconut, and the remaining 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  5. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the coconut extract. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the coconut milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  6. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, smooth the tops with a spatula, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cakes are golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove them from the pans and let them cool completely.

For the Filling:

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the luscious coconut filling:

  • 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (177ml)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (56g)
  • 1 tablespoon cream of coconut
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (93g)
  • Place the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the sweetened condensed milk, butter, and cream of coconut.
  • Cook over medium-low heat for 4 minutes, stirring constantly until hot. Whisk one-third of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks.
  • Transfer the egg mixture back to the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture.
  • Whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the consistency is similar to pudding, about 4 minutes. Stir in the shredded coconut and allow it to cool completely.

For the Simple Syrup:

Prepare a simple syrup to add a touch of moisture to your cake layers:

  • 1/2 cup water (118ml)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (100g)

In a saucepan, heat the sugar and 1/2 cup water, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.

For the Icing:

The cake wouldn’t be complete without a luscious icing:

  • 1 cup heavy cream (236ml)
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (31g)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 2 cups toasted sweetened coconut (186g)

Whip the cream with confectioners’ sugar and coconut extract until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream on the top and sides of the cake, then sprinkle it with the toasted coconut. Refrigerate until it’s ready to be served.


It’s time to assemble this masterpiece:

  1. Cut each cake layer horizontally in half to create four layers.
  2. Build your layer cake in a cake pan: Place one layer in the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan, moisten the top with some of the simple syrup, and spread a thin, even layer of the coconut filling.
  3. Repeat these steps to create two more layers of cake and filling, then place the final layer on top.
  4. Refrigerate the cake for about an hour to set.
  5. To unmold, run a spatula around the edges of the chilled cake, invert a cake plate over the top, and flip the cake over onto the plate. Coat it with toasted sweetened coconut, and voila!

This Coconut Pecan Cake is an absolute delight for your taste buds, a tropical escape in every bite. Whether it’s a special occasion or just a day when you crave something extraordinary, this cake will transport you to a paradise of flavor.

So, savor each slice and share this delightful recipe with your loved ones. Enjoy your slice of tropical bliss!

Recipe by Dolester Miles, found on the James Beard website.

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