Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake

Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake

You need this Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake in your life! It’s:

  • moist and fluffy
  • sweet and creamy
  • wonderfully coconutty!

Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake

Fun fact: my mum made me a coconut cake for my very first birthday. I imagine it was fluffy, rich and creamy and sweetly coconut-flavoured. This version here is just like that, except it also happens to be vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar free! Magical, right?

Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake

I used my go-to sponge cake recipe for this cake. I love this recipe as it comes together easily in one bowl, doesn’t require any weird ingredients, and is versatile, too. Although I normally say you can use any type of milk, as this is a coconut cake, I’d definitely recommend using coconut milk for this one. And by coconut milk I mean the type you get in a carton, rather than the type you get in a tin. 

Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake

You can also add coconut extract if you like, but I didn’t find it necessary. Plus, not many other recipes require coconut extract, so I didn’t want to buy it just for this cake only for it to never be used again. Instead, I used subtly fragrant vanilla and zippy lemon juice. Lemon juice also adds acidity, which reacts nicely with the alkali bicarbonate of soda to make the sponge fluffy.

Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake

For the frosting, I went with coconut whipped cream. If you’ve never tried this, you must! It’s wonderfully fluffy and just as rich and creamy as real whipped cream. If it’s your first time making it, make sure you read my recipe properly for tips and tricks for how to make this work.

Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake

Once you’ve got the sponge and the frosting done, all you need to do is put everything together and drown the whole thing in heaps of desiccated coconut.

You can use toasted coconut instead if you prefer, although if going down this route I’d definitely recommend using a frying pan on a low heat rather than the oven to toast your coconut. That way, you can stir it very regularly and make sure it doesn’t burn, which the oven seems to do really quickly without me realising. 

Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake

Whilst this cake can definitely be enjoyed all your round, it’s especially appropriate for this time of year as it can look wonderfully festive if you top it with some cute Christmas decorations! 

Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake

I hope you’ll love this Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake! For more cakes, check out my:

Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut CakeIf you try out this recipe or anything else from my blog, I’d really love to hear any feedback! Please give it a rating, leave a comment, or tag a photo #rhiansrecipes on Instagram! Thank you.

Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
50 mins

This Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake is moist and fluffy, sweet and creamy and wonderfully coconutty!

Course: Dessert
Servings: 8
Calories: 493 kcal
For the cake:
  • 8 tablespoons coconut oil (or sub olive or vegetable oil)
  • 200 ml (4/5 cup) coconut milk from a carton
  • Juice of 1 lemon*
  • 8 tablespoons maple syrup (or sub any other sweetener)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 150 g (1 1/4 cup) ground almonds
  • 150 g (1 1/4 cup) gluten-free flour (or sub plain flour if not gluten-free)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons baking power (ensure gluten-free if necessary)
  • 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
For the cream:
  • 400 g (14oz) tin coconut milk**
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup (or sub any other sweetener)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
To decorate:
  • 6 tablespoons desiccated coconut
For the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees (350 degrees)
  2. Place the coconut oil in a large bowl and melt over a saucepan of boiling water or in the microwave (skip this step if using any other oil)
  3. Once melted, add the milk to the same bowl along with the lemon juice, maple syrup, vanilla, salt and ground almonds
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
  5. Mix well, adding a tiny splash more milk if it's looking too dry
  6. Transfer mixture between two small greased baking tins lined with baking paper (I used two 7inch/18cm baking tins)

  7. Bake in oven for around 15 minutes until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean
  8. Once out the oven, immediately remove cakes from baking tins and transfer onto a wire rack to cool
For the frosting:
  1. You'll need to keep your tin of coconut milk in the fridge overnight for the rich creamy bit to separate from the watery bit at the bottom. Make sure it is full fat coconut milk, otherwise this separation won't happen and you won't be able to make this cream!
  2. Open the tin upside down - the coconut cream will be at the bottom and you can just pour off the watery liquid (save this for adding to soups or smoothies)
  3. Place the thick, creamy part into a bowl
  4. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract
  5. Use an electric whisk (or a manual one and a lot of elbow grease) to whip up the coconut cream until light and fluffy
To decorate:
  1. Once the sponges have cooled completely, place one sponge on a large plate or cake stand, and cover with just less than half of the frosting
  2. Place other sponge on top and use remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake
  3. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the desiccated coconut
  4. Best when fresh, but keeps well covered in the fridge for up to a few days
Recipe Notes

*The lemon juice is crucial as its acidity needs to react with the alkali bicarbonate of soda to make the sponge fluffy. If you don't want to use lemon juice, substitute with 1 tablespoon vinegar instead

**You can alternatively use 200g (7oz) thick coconut yogurt

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7 thoughts on “Gluten-Free Vegan Coconut Cake

    1. Some readers have told me they’ve used ground walnuts, ground sunflower seeds or ground pumpkin seeds when making this sponge and have said it’s worked out well. I hope that helps!

    1. Hi! So sorry I forgot to add this to the instructions – I used two 7 inch tins, but 9 inch ones would work too I’m sure – they may need less time in the oven though! Hope that helps.

  1. Hi we followed your recipte verbatim and our cake did not bake fully either! It was about half baked and not fluffy. It was uncooked and the consistency of wet sand. It fell apart and crumbled when removing from pan.

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