From church socials and neighborhood parties to holidays like Christmas and Easter, coconut cake is a Southern mainstay. Providing comfort and delight whenever it appears, coconut cake’s ethereal flakes and towering layers are never overlooked on a dessert table, or on a dessert menu, for that matter. Want to find the perfect slice? Check out some of our picks for the best coconut cake around the South.
The Blackbird – Asheville, North Carolina
The modern minimalist atmosphere of The Blackbird in downtown Asheville is warmed by locally made, hand-crafted furniture and décor, like pecan-wood tables and blown- glass light fixtures. Luckily, as much craft goes into the menu as the surroundings, especially when it comes to their coconut cake. Their old-world recipe creates a three-layer cream cake, filled with coconut custard and covered in cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut. Can’t finish the whole slice? Don’t worry: the leftovers are great for breakfast the next day!
47 Biltmore Ave.
Wren Bistro & Bar – Beaufort, South Carolina
The coconut cake at Wren Bistro & Bar is tried and true—owner Anne Sergent was raised on it. The cake has made an easy transition from family staple to customer favorite. At Wren, you’ll find yellow cake layers topped with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting and toasted coconut flakes. Perfectly moist, but not too dense, the coconut cake has been a top seller since they opened. Anne likes to keep it simple and keep the flavor of the cake pure. Located in an old Coca-Cola factory, this Southern-inspired bistro always has coconut cake on the menu, but the cakes are freshest on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays when they bake them.
210 Carteret St.
Chez Fonfon – Birmingham, Alabama
Bathed in warm lighting and the quiet hum of conversation and clinking wine glasses, this French bistro is settled in the bustling Five Points area of Birmingham. At Chez Fonfon the dessert list is curated by pastry chef Dolester Miles, and the Coconut Pecan Cake is a perennial favorite. (Find the recipe on page 86.) This masterpiece features four layers that are brushed with simple syrup, layered with coconut custard, and frosted with whipped cream and toasted coconut. The moist, decadent cake is always on the menu, and they’ve learned not to vary the recipe— customers demand the perfection of the original.
2007 11th Ave. S
Cake Café & Bakery – New Orleans, Louisiana
This New Orleans hotspot bakes a down-home cake like your grandmother used to make. Featuring coconut milk instead of regular milk, the cake’s subtle flavor lingers on your palate. Cake Café offers their coconut cake in 6-,9-, and 10-inch sizes as well as cupcakes. This simple cake is the classic fulfillment of the cherished dessert, full of love and flavor. Located in the Marigny, the second oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, the Cake Café is a community bakery, bringing people together over desserts. If you stop by, leave your laptop at home—they’ve found the lack of internet access brings their community closer together. And, being off the regular tourist track, this is the perfect place to get to know the locals.
2440 Chartres St.
Adele’s – Nashville, Tennessee
Located in the Gulch, just one of the Nashville neighborhoods experiencing a restaurant boom, Adele’s has that Nashvillian way of taking an old tire store and turning it into the place to be. We think this is due in part to their Southern Coconut Cake, a dessert that’s compounded in coconut flavor. Pastry chef Betsy Johnson is responsible for the cake’s flavor profile, tweaking her basic recipe into the rich, pudding-like treat it is today. With three layers of cake soaked in coconut milk, a reduced coconut milk icing, and coconut extract, this cake does not shy away from its name. Served with lime sorbet and fresh lime zest to cut the richness, this dessert balances a Southern background with tropical flare. Though the cake was initially intended to be on the menu only a short time, it has quickly become a mainstay.
1210 McGavock St.
Brick Street Café – Greenville, South Carolina
Delve into this renovated west-end downtown Greenville café with all of your senses. Sarah Wilson, owner of the Brick Street Café and its music-shop neighbor, views the café as an artistic endeavor. Her coconut cake recipe was handed down from an old Southern neighbor, and she has never deviated from the original. This homey, comfort- food cake is made from wholesome ingredients, with which the bakers are generous. The café is known for the size of its slices, and the bakers maintain a philosophy of wanting to give customers “just a little bit more.” With the coconut cake going for a mere $4.95 a slice, customers wonder how Sarah stays in business, to which she replies, “Just eat the cake.” Don’t miss the portrait of Becky, the recipe-sharing neighbor, hanging in the bakery—watching to make sure each coconut cake is made just right.
315 Augusta St.
Honey Bee Bakery – Oxford, Mississippi
At Oxford’s Honey Bee Bakery, Christmastime calls for a special bakery menu, including an upgraded coconut cake. Their recipe for this traditional cake calls for an old-fashioned method of making your own coconut milk by shredding fresh coconut and soaking it in water or milk. It is then added to the cake mixture where the traditional recipe calls for regular milk. The remaining shredded coconut is drained, toasted, and used to top their Italian meringue buttercream icing. When you stop by to pick up your Christmas coconut cake, do some shopping, too—with pieces from local artists decorating the walls and mugs and creamers created by local potters, Honey Bee Bakery loves to help
new artists get their start. Originally a potter by trade herself, owner and baker, Shannon Adams, says she now shapes baked goods instead of clay.
2305 Jackson Ave. W
Canoe – Atlanta, Georgia
Canoe’s pastry chef, Sarah Koob, creates a moist, textured coconut
cake that is not overly sweet, but shines with a clean coconut flavor. Three layers of cake are divided by toasted coconut and a rich coconut buttercream, while the outside of the cake is kept a pristine white. While the coconut cake is not on their menu every day, their takes on the classic dessert with seasonal variations, like the addition of passion fruit and pineapple, are worth the wait. Tucked away on the bank of the Chattahoochee River, Canoe is a tranquil spot that’s the perfect setting for this perfect dessert.
4199 Paces Ferry Rd. SE
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint – Nolensville, Tennessee
Pat Martin, owner of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, credits his mother, Pam “Kitty” Martin, with the finest coconut cake recipe around. The only sheet cake on our list, this recipe deviates heavily in other areas as well. After the cake is baked, a fork is used to pierce the top multiple times, which allows the coconut milk and condensed milk mixture to soak deeply into the cake. (To many, this type of dessert is known as a “poke cake.”) After being covered with Cool Whip, it’s topped with thawed frozen shredded coconut (the Martin family swears by frozen coconut from El Salvador, specifically). Customers buy the decadent cake by the slice and by the pan, and the restaurant often runs out by lunchtime. Made only on Saturdays, this coconut cake is in great demand, so get there early!
7238 Nolensville Rd.