Jamaican Coconut Cake Recipe
This Jamaican coconut cake recipe is delicious, moist and so easy to make. Also known as toto cake in Jamaica, different Caribbean islands have their own version of this coconut cake recipe with different names and slightly different ingredients.
Caribbean cakes tend to be quite simple, but filled with delicious Caribbean spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and all spice (pimento). As this cake is so easy to make, it's perfect to whip up for an event or family gathering.
Coconuts & the Caribbean
Just the mention of the Caribbean brings to mind swaying coconut palm trees 🌴
Coconut palms are such a staple of the Caribbean lanscape. My Jamaican grandmother always tells me stories of how she climbed up coconut palm trees to pick coconuts when she was a little girl.
Coconuts were first introduced to the Caribbean region by the Spanish, and other European colonizers at the beginning of the 16th century. Coconut palms grow beautifully in tropical climates, like in the Caribbean. They like climates with rainy, warm winters and humid, hot and rainy summers.
You may have noticed that in the last few years, demand for coconut products has increased. Particularly coconut oil, coconut milk and coconut water. The amazing thing about coconut palms is that every bit of the coconut palm and coconuts can be used.
The products of coconut palms can be used for a variety of uses. See below for some of the many uses of coconut products:
Used in cooking, coconut oil is thought to be one of the best fats for high-heat cooking. Coconut oil is also used for dentail hygiene, in a technique known as oil pulling. In beauty, coconut oil is also used as a body oil thought to help relieve skin irritation and moisturise the skin. It is also commonly used in haircare.
A versatile ingredient used in making curries, soups, smoothies, desserts and as a daily-free alternative to regular milk. Some people also use coconut milk in their beauty routine, as a hair mask or even in the bath!
Enjoyed as a refreshing and hydrating drink straight from the coconut in the Caribbean. Coconut water can also be bought by the carton and is enjoyed as a drink on its own, or used in fruit smoothies and cocktails.
Coconut 'meat' is the white flesh inside the coconut. It can be used fresh or dried and is used in a variety of recipes. We'll be using desiccated coconut in this recipe which is easily accessible from most supermarkets.
The coconut shell is the strongest part of the fruit, between the white flesh and coconut husk. It is used to make bowls that you can serve food in, or use as a plant pot or other decorative uses. It is also often used in tropical crafts.
Coconut Palm Leaves
Palm leaves can be used as animal feed, and when dried, can be used to make rope, bags, rugs, brushes as well as a roofing material.
Is coconut a fruit?
Coconuts are notoriously hard to categorise. They are sweet and are usually eaten like fruits, however they also have a hard outer shell like nuts.
According to the Library of Congress, coconuts are classified as a 'fibrous one-seeded drupe'. Drupes are defined as fruits that have an inner seed, flesh and is surrounded by a hard shell. Other examples include peaches, plums and nectarines. So based on this, a coconut would be considered a fruit, although there's still more speculation about this! You can read more by following the links in the sources and further reading section at the bottom of this post.
Jamaican Coconut Cake Recipe
- 200g butter
- 300g demerara sugar
- 1.5 tsp vanilla extract (note 1)
- 3 eggs
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 350g plain flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 0.5 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1 tbsp ground all spice (pimento)
- 300ml milk (note 2)
- 200g desicated coconut
- 2 tbsp honey (note 3)
How to make Jamaican coconut cake
Preheat your oven to gas mark 3 (160°C/140°C fan). Prepare a 21cm x 21cm baking tin by greasing with a little butter and lining with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer for 2 minutes or until light, pale and creamy. Then add in your vanilla extract and eggs. Whisk this all together until light and fluffy.
In a seperate bowl, sift and mix together the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, cinammon, ginger, nutmeg and all spice.
Slowly fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just combined.
Gradually pour in the milk, gently stir in until combined, then stir in the desicated coconut leaving around 20g.
Pour the cake mixture into your prepared baking tin then sprinkle the remaining coconut on top. Put in the oven and bake for around 60 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Once baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for around 15 minutes then turn onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
(1) For a different flavour, you can switch out vanilla extract for almond extract. Some people even add a dash of rum for extra flavour, so you can also experiment with that!
(2) I used almond milk in this recipe but you can also use skimmed milk, coconut milk for extra coconut flaavvour or experiment with your prefered dairy-free milk.
(3) Optional ingredient. Honey is just used at the end to drizzle a sweet and delicious glaze on top of the cake but you can skip this step.