Coconut Chocolate Cake Recipe

It was Maxence’s birthday last week, and one of the things we did to mark the occasion — in addition to one glorious meal at Les Ambassadeurs — was to invite friends to join us and celebrate at a small cocktail bar that recently opened in our neighborhood, on an improbable little street we’d hardly ever noticed before. Maybe it didn’t even exist.

Moist with a fluffy crumb, this cake has a lovely and deep chocolate flavor, delectably tickled by little specks of toasted coconut.

The bar is trendy yet cosy, with a cushy banquette and plenty of stools to sit on, artwork on the walls (of course no one will settle for just being a bar anymore, they have to be a bar-cum-art gallery) and a long mirror to check your makeup in. And just as importantly, the music is soft enough you don’t need lipreading skills to communicate, and the drinks menu features classics and a few bartender specials, at prices that won’t have you file under Chapter 11.

A grand time was had by all, and around midnight, when we had slowly but surely taken over the place, I whipped out the box of coconut chocolate cake I had brought. I learned on previous occasions that attempting to cut a round cake in thirty slices on some small and sticky corner of a bar whilst holding up your end of an animated conversation, is tricky at best. And contrary to popular belief, the Champagne really doesn’t help. So this time, I baked the cake in a square pan and cut it in small servings just before we left: all I had to do then was pass the box around for everyone to take a piece.

This cake is a variation on the Gâteau au Chocolat Aérien, using less sugar, substituting fromage blanc (or plain yogurt) for some of the butter, and coconut flakes for part of the flour. Moist with a fluffy crumb, it has a lovely and light chocolate flavor, delectably tickled by the little specks of toasted coconut.

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Coconut Chocolate Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Serves 8.

Coconut Chocolate Cake Recipe


  • 75 grams (1 cup) unsweetened grated coconut
  • 200 grams (1 cup) sugar
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened
  • 125 grams (1/2 cup) plain yogurt or fromage blanc
  • 4 organic eggs
  • 150 grams (1 1/4 cups) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, diluted in 4 tablespoons hot water


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 25-cm (10-inch) cake pan with parchment paper. I used a square 23-cm (9-inch) baking dish for easier sharing.
  2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and sprinkle the coconut flakes over it. Put into the oven for 8 minutes or until golden, stirring halfway through. Remove from the oven (leave the heat on) and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl or in a food processor, combine the sugar and butter. Mix until white and fluffy. Add in the fromage blanc and the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition. Add in the cocoa powder mixture and mix again.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder, salt, and coconut flakes. Add the flour mixture into the batter, and mix until just combined. Try not to overmix.
  5. Pour the batter into the cake pan, level the surface with a spoon, and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back to the touch, and a knife inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Don't bake it to death, otherwise it won't be as moist inside. Let rest on the counter for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  • Joan

    “Maybe it didn’t even exist.”

    Clotilde, yet another example of the WHY I love your blog so much…you somehow or other take US to such places:-)

    the daily joy of your alphabet play…rather like a cyberspace gift each day…think of all those enjoying opening their presents!

    birthday wishes from Australia to Maxence..

  • Your papounet

    I was overwhelmed myself by this remark… A truly SF observation. Lots of stories around the theme of this little street, or better, this little shop that no one can see, except a few privileged (or not so privileged, when it’s a horror story) can see. I suspect this bar falls in this category.
    Clotilde, this post was wonderfully evocative, thank you.

  • Shanti

    I agree with Joan–I love your site, Clotilde! I have been lurking on it for many, many months, but I have yet to post.

    Not to be a downer, but I’m posting now because I find it rather discouraging to see “the person formerly identified as Anneliese” now enjoying the anonymity of the internet to “identity hop” from one comment section to the next and leave transparently snide remarks. I’m not sure why this person is so hostile towards France (or, perhaps, France-US relations), but please don’t let this deter you from realizing what a fantastic blog you have!!

    And, as I missed my chance several days ago, I want to add one thing in response to Anneliese’s comments: I’m offended by the very notion that Clotilde is “writing for an American market.” Clotilde is writing a blog on the internet, which is perhaps the most international market available. She has happily informed us that one of the reasons for writing the blog is to share both her passion for food and her love of French food. The disclaimer is loud and clear in her introduction to the site, and there is nothing forcing anyone to read this material. I am sure, in fact, that there are countless blogs that apply to food in the US, if that is what you prefer. It’s the beauty of the internet!

  • Looks delicious comme habitude, Clothilde. I suppose one could leave out the coconut w/out any detrimental effects…do you think using one of the elite brands of cocoa would make a noticable difference in taste? Oh & thanks again for the Les Ambassadeurs link. Brunch there looks out of this world & possibly affordable as a one time extravagance.

  • anneliese

    Shanti, I suggest you get a thicker skin. You are “offended” that I suggested Clotilde chose to write for the US market? How insane is that. If she is a smart marketer (and I have no doubt she is), this is exactly what she should do. The references are for us, Americans, the measurements are in US units. There is nothing wrong with it. She has a book deal from a US publisher. This is nothing short of great!
    I just detest how people in the US blindly follow anything French in particular and anything European, thinking it is so much better. It is not. And a blind following, being a trendoid, leads not to a broadening of one’s culture (gastronomical or otherwise) but to its destruction.


  • Adele

    Bonne anniversaire to Maxence!

  • Joan, Papa and Shanti – Thanks for the kind words about my writing, it means a lot to me!

    Carol – The quality of the cocoa powder will no doubt affect the taste, so I suggest using the best you can find/afford. You can certainly omit the coconut, but then you should make up for it by adding 1/2 cup flour.

    Anneliese – You may note that I give both metric and imperial measures because I write for an international readership. And I think you’ve made your point by now, so let’s not debate it to death please.

    Adele and Joan – On Maxence’s behalf, thank you for the birthday wishes!

  • nbm

    Is that sweetened or unsweetened cocoa powder? (I still haven’t gotten around to making your yogurt cake, as I planned in November.)

  • i think cocoa powder, when used as in ingredient, is always unsweetened unless otherwise stated. just like butter defaults to salted.

    this cake looks wonderfully moist and delicious – i absolutely must try this for myself.

  • i’ve made the yogurt cake several times using local strawberry yogurt with fruit bits. most of my family and friends loved it – the younger and yogurt-eating bunch. more traditional tongues couldn’t quite place it, though. i guess it’s one of those, you either love it or hate it. no in-betweens. the plain yogurt didn’t sell so well, though. =P

  • This sounds quite tasty, kind of like a cake version of a Mounds bar.

  • Maria

    I have a bag of sweetened coconut sitting around. In an expansive mood, I had optimistically bought it to use as “snow” on Christmas cookies, which due to time restraints got a sprinkling of colored sugar instead. My question: could I use a little less sugar in the cake and put in the sweetened coconut instead? Thoughts? Suggestions? I love this site So beautifully produced as well as informative. I too, have had the yogurt cake recipe on my counter, but am yet to bake it.
    Maria in Los Angeles

  • I was looking at coconut cake recipes just today. I tried out a Martha Stewart coconut cake just for fun about six months ago, which is really so incredibly amazing, I think its star ingredient might be noteworthy here– unsweetened coconut milk (or sweetened coconut cream, reducing the amount of sugar). She also uses the shredded coconut in the recipe, but I love the taste that the coconut milk (as opposed to extract) gives the recipe. Has anyone ever tried a chocolate cake using coconut milk? Does it work with the cocoa?

    OK, please don’t peg me for a MS fan, but I was craving that childhood coconut cake, and her recipe was the only one I found in my heap of cookbooks that didn’t use buttermilk (which I couldn’t locate on short notice), and it turned out to be the best cake I’ve made all year!! (Surprisingly, coconut cake isn’t a staple in every cake book!)


    (COCONUT really is a hard word to type correctly if you’re going fast…the possibility for an ugly error is grand!!! kind of like a tongue twister…for the fingers)

  • This looks very nice. I love coconut and chocolate together.
    I actually just posted a chocolate-beetroot brownie recipe today ( yes you heard it, Beets and chocolate!), for a Slashfood event!
    When you say unsweetened coconut flakes, you mean just plain shredded coconut right?



  • Beautiful, my dear. This looks gorgeous, as always. And how pragmatic of you to slice it up into squares, to forestall the Champagne problem!

    Ignore all silly remarks. We love you.

    And the best and happiest of birthdays to Maxence!

  • Kathryn

    Hi Clothilde – I love your blog! Thanks for all the wonderful ideas, culinary and otherwise. I just have a quick question about the cake. When I use yogurt or sour cream for baking in the States, I usually add baking soda (instead or in addition to baking powder) because the acid in yogurt chemically interacts with the base properties of soda. Is there a distinction between baking powder and bking soda in France, or is the “poudre de levure chimique” both at once?

  • nbm – It’s unsweetened cocoa powder! I’ve updated the recipe.

    Maria – You could certainly use sweetened coconut flakes, though I’m not entirely sure by how much you should reduce the sugar — maybe by 1/4 cup?

    Kg – Using coconut milk sounds really interesting! I’ve never tried it in combination with cocoa powder, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work…

    Bea – Yes, unsweetened coconut flakes is just dried grated coconut.

    Kathryn – Good point. It’s true that this is usually done in US baking recipes, but very seldom in France, even though our baking powder is the same thing in France and in the US I believe. It’s possible that our yogurts are less acidic, though. If I were to use baking soda, I think I would use 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda.

  • Clotilde, your wonderful writing is the 1st thing I look at each day. The NYTimes is now relagated to #14…The vivid descriptions & memories, and the lusicous photographs, all very inspiring really. Regarding cocoa-Bea mentions 75% cocoa in her Beet cake recipe…I thought cocoa might be 100%. I got some MAison Du..& some Michel Cluizel & neither one says the % content or tastes very different? The mysteries of Chocolate…

  • Thanks Clothilde.

    Carolg, I saw your note about cocoa. What I meant in mentioning 75% is how much cocoa the dark chocolate I used should have. If you have Maison du chocolat or Cluizel, dark chocolate, it should be mentioned. I am not talking about powdered cocoa alone. Makes sense. Check Michel,Cluizel website, in English

    Under Products/High Cocoa Contents, you can see the range of cocoa % the dark chocolate has.

    Examples: Noir de Cacao 72%, Grand Noir 85%
    These are darker chocolate as opposed to Grand Lait 45% (Milk Chocolate)

    Hope this helps decipher the mysteries of chocolate :-)

  • yasmine tannir

    chere clotilde,

    1st of all, thank you so much for your wonderful contribuation to our lives
    second, i need your help.. i tried to bake the gateau aerien a couple of weeks ago, and i ended up with a very dry cake. was it simply because of overbaking, although i tested it with a skewer?
    did anybody have the same problem or am i the problem :( ?

    merci beaucoups d’avance!

  • Hi Kathryn,

    I always check when I have quick technical questions like yours. Using the search function on the site you can find where she explains the difference in soda vs. powder (I’ve copied the link below). Whatever you do though, make sure you use the correct proportions– Baking soda is four times more powerful than baking powder!!

    Wow…I hope that link wraps…

    Here’s the excerpt which I think might help:

    Exceptions: With some recipes that have acidic ingredients, the use of baking powder is preferred instead of the customary baking soda. It is used in the recipe because it enhances flavor or retains the “tang” of an acidic ingredient, such as buttermilk.

    Clotilde, I hope it was ok for me to post this answer!!


  • Clotilde~ I have been intrigued lately with the idea of using coconut as flour (I must bake & cook gluten-free, and coconut is one alternative to wheat flour I haven’t tried).

    This recipe looks scrumptious, and I think it would translate happily to gluten free. Thank you for this lovely post.


  • Yasmine – Sorry your cake turned out dry! How long did you bake it for, and what size pan did you use? Also, do you have an oven thermometer? From what I’ve experienced, different ovens have widely different ideas of what a certain temperature is — maybe your oven runs a little hotter than it says?

  • Love the idea of using fromage blanc as a substitute for some of the butter- in conjunction with baking powder it should give a really nice light crumb. Have you ever seen buttermilk here (in Paris?)

  • i love your blog! although i try to stay away from baking as much as possible this chocolate cake looks too delicious. I want to give it a go but had a quick question.

    the cake pan doesn’t have to be greased and floured? i’m just terrified that my cake will be stuck in the pan (and also i am very unfamiliar with baking).


  • Kim

    Miss Clotilde – you are going to be the death of me, or at least my waistline! I’ll be making this for the group of boys coming to visit my wonderful man tomorrow. Thanks!

  • Ahh … two of my very favourite things … chocolate and coconut!

    Merci, Clothilde!

  • This cake looks so moist, soft and yummy! How do you do it? Even after 12 years in Frace, an old American bakery-addict, I can’t get this kind of gorgeous cake in my French kitchen. got any words of wisdom?

  • is it 1 stick of butter or 100 grams? 1 stick of butter is 1/2 cup or 8 tbls. There are 4 sticks in 1lb or 454 grams. so its actually 113.5grams of butter, if we;re supposed to be exact in baking.

  • Jennifer

    This looks delicious! I am enjoying reading about your book as it comes together, and I think your blog is the most educational one I read. Thank you for enlightening me so often! By the way, I wrote to NPR to say how much I enjoy your kitchen window segments, and the person who wrote back said, “We love Clotilde, too!”

  • Ms. Glaze – When a recipe calls for buttermilk, I use fermented milk instead (also called kefir), which can be found in French grocery stores next to the bottles of fresh milk.

    Yoony – Your cake pan should be lined with parchment paper (as written in the recipe) for easy unmolding.

    Anne – Were you using French or American recipes? It’s true that French butter and flour are different from their American counterparts, so you won’t get the same results with the exact same recipe on either side of the Atlantic…

    Randi – You’re right, 100g butter is closer to one stick minus one tablespoon. I’ve corrected it in the recipe for precision’s sake, but the 13g wouldn’t really make much difference in this cake. And if you’re using American butter, one stick might even be better, because it has less butterfat than the European-style butter I use.

  • Ali

    Wow i tried the recepie its great!

  • gmp

    I have been checking your blog every now and again since I first heard about it – maybe 8 months ago. I love it.
    This is the first recipe I tried – easy and it came out great. Impressed my new beau.
    Made 2 changes – used vanilla yogurt and divided batter two 8 in round cake pans and baked at 350F for about 20 minutes. Fabulous!
    I have directed everyone who has asked for the recipe (that is, everyone who tried the cake and LOVED it) to your website and have sung its praises. Keep it up and I look forward to your cookbook!

  • Thank you Clotilde! I loved the coconut flavour to this very moist chocolate cake. I made it not once but twice, the second time accompanying it with a strawberry coulis (stolen from your strawberry panna cotta recipe). A lovely combination. Merci bien!!

    On another note, I’ve been slowly devouring your blog since discovering it last October. I’ve tried very hard to draw it out as long as possible but I’m afraid I’ve finished reading it now and always wait anxiously for your next post.

    You are a wonderful write and I am looking forward to your book! Thank you again, with warm regards from a reader in Tokyo.

  • ilgattopardo

    dear clotilde
    I have been following your blog for some time now.
    I am Portuguese, 27 years old and also very found of cooking, although I am not in your league…
    Congratulations on your wonderful blog, your marvellous recipes and great sense of humour.
    This recipe in particular came quite in handy. My uncle brought me a bag of dry tropical fruit from South Africa and I had no idea of how to put the coconut flakes to good use.
    Thank you thank you!!

  • emily

    Hi Clotilde,

    I baked this last night for my boyfriend’s birthday, and everyone loved it! Just a few things to report: I was unable to find unsweetened coconut (after trying two [American] stores), so I used a cup of sweetened flakes and kept the full cup of sugar in–and received no complaints of it being overly sweet. Also, I used the full stick of butter and everything seems fine. My only mishap was with toasting the coconut–turns out my oven *burns* coconut after 8 minutes. Fortunately I had an extra cup and figured out that it takes about 6 minutes to toast–the flakes were still white when I pulled them out, but they crisped up nicely after about 5 minutes at room temp. Just something people may want to keep an eye out for . . .

    Thank you for a fabulous recipe! I think he finally has an “official” birthday cake now. =)

  • I usually dry roast my grated coconut (I cook a lot of curries and they add a nice texture to some of them) on a non-stick frying pan. It’s easier to control the roasting, just remember to stir the flakes around once in a while.
    Otherwise, a friend of mine told me she’s going to make your choco-coco cake so i came by to take a look and i think I’m going to try it too, it looks great! Could I just know if I could replace the cocoa powder with a block of dark baking chocolate? Thanks.

  • Want my address so you can send me one?

  • Tess

    Hi Clotilde!
    I often visit your site, sometimes for inspiration, sometimes for a smile. I miss France terribly and love the way you have the recipe names in French (once the franglais gets in your head it’s there to stay!) Thank you for sharing your passion with the world!

  • Katy

    Being one of those in the American market who is o-so-grateful that your blog reaches us for whatever reason (get a grip, Anneliese), I’d like to share a Martha Stewart suggestion for buttermilk: add a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of milk and let it sit for 5 minutes … and – voila! – buttermilk! I’ve never tried it, but I Googled the tip and found it other places so perhaps it works.

  • Mister choc

    Hi Clotilde, I saw you on TV last week or the week before and got on to your blog last Friday. I made this recipe yesterday. The people at work loved it. It was very moist and light. I thought however that the centre of it tasted a bit eggy while the edges tasted just right. No on else spotted this so that was okay. I find this with a lot of cakes I make, must just be me.

  • TD

    Hi Clotilde –
    Can I use frozen grated coconut for this cake recipe? I was thinking of defrosting a block of coconut and then roasting in the oven. Do you think that would work?

    • I’m pretty sure you can use any form of grated coconut here — fresh or dried, roasted or not. Let me know how it turns out!

  • I was looking for a coconut based chocolate cake and this is by far one of the easiest recipes that I’ve seen. This sounds wonderfully indulgent and I’ll make it for my 9 year old who loves chocolate and coconut. I’ve previously made chocolate coconut balls using condensed milk which he really loved.

  • Meghan Mathieson

    I made a friend’s wedding cake with different flavours for the different layers. For the cake trial, I made a half batch of five different cakes into mini cupcakes (so our entire sports team could vote). One of the trial cakes was this chocolate coconut. Everyone loved the flavour, but commented that the flakes of coconut were so unexpected. So when making the wedding cake layer, I ran the toasted coconut through the food processor to make a smooth paste before mixing it in. The cake was a big hit (the other layers were red velvet and gluten-free chocolate quinoa).

    • What a lucky friend you have, Meghan! Best wishes of happiness for the couple.

  • Anna

    Clotilde, I am making this for Valentine’s Day today – not very traditional, I know. The cake is in the oven and I am looking forward to taking a bite!

    • I hope this made for a lovely Valentine’s Day treat! Will you report back with your thoughts?

  • Hello Guys! What a great gluten free coconut Chocolate cake recipe being shared with us. I just spend my weekend to make cookies. Great making experience I have taken. Thank you for a fabulous recipe!

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