Healthy Vanilla Coconut Cake (Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free) + A Tribute to My Beautiful Mom


This is the story of a very special cake. 


 A cake meticulously tested and frosted with care for the woman who encouraged my creative endeavors from day one. From the moment I could hold a paintbrush to the instant I started my blog back in 2008, she told me that I was talented and more importantly, that if I tried my best, that was enough. Without her support, I might never have grown confident enough to share my recipes and photos with the world.


This cake is a token of my appreciation for the woman who lifted me up with her boundless love, generosity, and unshakeable belief in my abilities. In college, I went through a trying period of personal growth and transformation. Without Mom to talk me through it, it would have been far more difficult to see the light rays peeking through the storm cloud.


This cake is the tastiest sort of thank you note, fit for the woman who taught me that contentment is attained through hard work, loving yourself and others, and finding joy in the small things. Whether it was an impromptu car sing-a-long or bouquet of fresh flowers added to the grocery cart (flowers needed no occasion), my happiest memories don’t stem from exotic trips or lavish gifts, but the mundane moments of daily existence transformed into magical ones. 

Mom loves tea, so I served the cake with this rosy-hued hibiscus tea that complimented the delicate coconut flavor well with its fruitiness. It’s Starbucks Tazo tea in the Passion flavor, and it’s delicious even without sweetener. You find this tea at your local grocery store, or online at the affiliate link above.


Thankfully, the cake worth so many words has a much shorter ingredients list! The batter is a mixture of coconut and almond flour–no fancy gums or exotic flours–along with eggs, coconut milk, vanilla, and sea salt. I added a little gelatin powder (my new favorite gluten-free cake additive) to make the cake a bit more moist, since removing the sugar called for in the original recipe dries out the batter. I also played around with the preparation method. Out of the two mixing methods I tried, grinding the dry ingredients together in the food processor and beating the egg whites separately created the most tender crumb. Following my instructions exactly should yield a perfectly fluffy yet substantial cake with an even texture. If you’d like to substitute ingredients, feel free to experiment and share your results with us in the comments.

I think this cake is a winner. Predictably, Mom does, too. 🙂 

Coconut Cake (Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, Low Carb)

Serves 12
This rich yellow can easily be transformed into a coconut cake worthy of a Southern cookout! Simply fill the layers with my sugar-free sour cream filling and top with my vanilla mascarpone frosting.

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Total Time
1 hr

Total Time
1 hr

For the batter
  1. 1/2 cup melted unsalted organic butter
  2. 2 1/4 cup (235g, 8.4 oz) blanched almond flour, gently packed and leveled
  3. 1/2 cup (64g, 2.2 oz) coconut flour
  4. 3/4 cup homemade stevia blend (140g, 5 oz) OR Truvia
  5. 4 teaspoons baking powder
  6. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  7. 6 eggs
  8. 1/2 cup canned coconut milk (“light” coconut milk is recommended)
  9. 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  10. 1 teaspoon gelatin
For topping
  1. 2-3 cups unsweetened dried coconut
  1. 1 batch Vanilla Mascarpone, recipe here at my Busy Day Cake post
  1. 1 cup sour cream (you can use 1/2 Greek yogurt, 1/2 sour cream, if desired)
  2. 1/4 cup coconut milk
  3. 1/2 cup unsweetened, dried coconut
  1. Prepare 2-8 inch cake pans. Trace a circle of parchment using the bottom of the pan, cut it out, and place it in the pan. Lightly spray around inside of pan with coconut oil cooking spray, or grease it with your finger tips
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius).
  3. In a glass measuring cup or pan, heat butter in microwave or over stove top until melted. Set aside.
  4. To bowl of food processor, add dry ingredients (almond flour, coconut flour, sweetener, baking powder, sea salt) and pulse for 1 minute, or until ingredients start to clump together.
  5. Separate egg whites into a clean bowl while adding the yolks to the food processor. Set aside whites.
  6. Pulse in melted butter, coconut milk, and vanilla in food processor until batter is uniform with no streaks of flour, scraping down sides once.. This could take 20-30 pulses.
  7. Using a mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
  8. Add batter from food processor to egg whites. Beat together just until white streaks are gone.
  9. Scrape batter into prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. If making cupcakes, bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick poked into the top of cupcake comes out clean.
  10. When pans are cool enough to handle, run a knife around the edges of cakes and invert them onto cooling racks.
  11. Cool for 1 hour before frosting and serving.
For Filling
  1. Powder sweetener in a Magic Bullet or food processor to grind it to a fine consistency.
  2. Whisk together sour cream (or Greek yogurt), coconut milk.
  3. Whisk in sweetener for 1 minute until it is dissolved.
  4. Spread filling between cake layers.
For Decoration
  1. Frost top and sides of cake.
  2. Press coconut flakes into sides and sprinkle over the top to coat cake.
Adapted from Make It Paleo 2
Adapted from Make It Paleo 2
Healthy Indulgences

The above recipe was adapted from a beautiful new cookbook called Make It Paleo 2. Bill and Hayley’s gorgeous food styling caught my eye while perusing recipe round-ups (I’m a sucker for eye candy), and I wanted to see more of their work. Their paleo “Wedding Cake” was easily adapted to be low carb and diabetic-friendly, and I see plenty of other recipes with the potential to fit into a keto eating plan. I don’t eat paleo, but can appreciate the attention that the movement has brought to ingredients like almond and coconut flours. 

I hope that this cake will inspire to express your appreciation for a loved one with a healthier treat.


45 Comments on Healthy Vanilla Coconut Cake (Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free) + A Tribute to My Beautiful Mom

  1. Pam
    May 13, 2015 at 10:46 am (8 years ago)

    Wow! I want to eat this right now! I have never enjoyed baking, but have always enjoyed eating! I will definitely give this a try! If I use Swerve instead of Truvia, do I still use 3/4ths a cup? Thanks for posting this beautiful cake!

    • Lauren B.
      May 13, 2015 at 8:37 pm (8 years ago)

      Haha, I like what you said about enjoying eating! That’s why I bake so much. 😉 If you use Swerve, you might need to add a little stevia extract. I’d start add the amount listed in the recipe (works out to be 1 1/2 teaspoons pure stevia powder) if you’re using the Trader Joe’s brand. You could always start with a little less stevia (1 tsp?) and taste the batter to see if it’s sweet enough before baking it. Hope that helps!

  2. Dita MacDonald
    May 15, 2015 at 5:29 am (8 years ago)

    Do you have the nutrition values, specifically the carb and fiber counts for the Beautiful Cake?? Thanks for all your hard work.

    • Lauren B.
      May 19, 2015 at 9:23 am (8 years ago)

      Sure, Dita! Here you go–

      Per 1/14 of a cake (makes a 2 layered cake as the recipe is written), no frosting–
      455 Calories; 42g Fat; 10g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 109mg Cholesterol; 326mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

      Per 1/14 batch of frosting–
      Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 172 Calories; 18g Fat (93.2% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 2g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 62mg Cholesterol; 20mg Sodium.

      There’s usually frosting and filling left over, so take that into account if you are counting calories. I even used fat free greek yogurt in place of the sour cream because I was out of sour cream, and it came out well. You could get away with making 1/2 batch. It’s a very rich cake! If you can eat some oats, my Busy Day Cake is very good in this coconut cake, and is a bit lighter–

      Hope that helps, Dita!

  3. Brenda
    May 20, 2015 at 5:49 pm (8 years ago)

    Lauren, what a beautiful, beautiful tribute to your Mom! Congratulations to you and your family getting to your milestone of college graduation with all the growth it required along the way. (and the cake looks beautiful too!)

    • Lauren B.
      May 25, 2015 at 10:12 pm (8 years ago)

      Brenda, thanks for the kind words! Nice to see you commenting. 🙂 Mom enjoyed the post, too. She teared up a bit!

  4. song
    June 7, 2015 at 8:05 am (8 years ago)

    hello, this looks brilliant, what do I do with the gelatin? I don’t see where this is added

    • Wendy
      August 25, 2015 at 5:26 pm (8 years ago)

      I need direction on when to add the gelatin and how much sweetener should be in the filling. My filling was soupy. Would the amount of sweetener take care of that?

      I made the crunchy chocolate bars and they are fabulous. I’m addicted. I have a lot of erythitol now. can you tell me how to substitute that for the stevia in the cake? Stevia tastes bitter to me and I don’t like using it.

      • Samantha Cox
        May 7, 2016 at 1:57 pm (7 years ago)

        I have the same question about the gelatin. I put it in the cake. I hope that was the right thing to do. Should it have gone in the filling?

        • Lauren B.
          June 29, 2016 at 10:36 am (7 years ago)

          It is supposed to go in the. 🙂 How did it turn out for you, Samantha?

        • Lauren B.
          June 29, 2016 at 6:03 pm (7 years ago)

          The gelatin does go into the cake. Fixed the recipe. 🙂 How did it turn out for you, Samantha?

          • Samantha Cox
            June 30, 2016 at 6:29 am (7 years ago)

            Hi Lauren!

            It was fabulous! My daughter and I made it for Mother’s Day and the entire family enjoyed it all week long!

            Thank you!

          • Liz
            April 2, 2017 at 5:57 am (6 years ago)

            Hi Lauren – I am afraid the version of the recipe I am looking at still does not say when to add gelatin – i have assumed to the dry ingredients, but it is not listed with others

  5. Lala
    June 13, 2015 at 2:22 pm (8 years ago)

    hey how much sweetener should be in the filling? i don’t see it on the recipes

  6. Whitney
    August 21, 2015 at 2:20 am (8 years ago)

    This cake, like everything else you make, looks delicious! And as a mother I’m touched that you made it for her.

    I was reading back through the blog, and excited to see that you were going to release some new pamphlets of recipes. Did that ever happen?

    Good luck at med school and in all your endeavors!

    -A True Fan

  7. Jessica
    March 1, 2016 at 6:52 am (7 years ago)

    Could I make this cake with a butter/non dairy substitute (coconut manna or oil, perhaps?)

    • Celia
      March 29, 2016 at 6:33 am (7 years ago)

      I did use coconut shortening and had no problem. The cupcakes tasted really good

  8. Celia
    March 29, 2016 at 6:31 am (7 years ago)

    How much batter do you put into each pan? I followed the recipe word by word and it felt like I didn’t have enough to batter for both 8 inch pans. Thanks for your help.

  9. Melissa
    April 9, 2016 at 2:30 am (7 years ago)

    This looks amazing! I’m allergic to almonds. Is there a good substitute for almond flour?

  10. Anonymous
    April 25, 2016 at 4:01 am (7 years ago)

    I really want to make this cake but I’m confused about the ingredients to make the filling. What is home made stevie and how much do you use for the filling? Thank you Doreen

    • Lauren B.
      June 29, 2016 at 6:12 pm (7 years ago)

      Hi! The homemade stevia is just a blend of erythritol + stevia that I make up myself. You could also use Truvia. 🙂 I use 1/8 teaspoon Stevia Select stevia powder for every 2 Tablespoons of erythritol. Mixing those 2 creates a homemade Truvia that I call “Homemade Sweetener Blend.” It is cheaper than buying Truvia, though. Does that make sense?

      Here’s the erythritol I buy:

      Here’s the stevia I buy:

  11. Samantha Cox
    May 7, 2016 at 1:55 pm (7 years ago)

    Hi Lauren. I’m also confused about the filling. It says to add sweetener but an amount is not given in the instructions. I’m assuming the 3/4 cup stevia/truvia is for the cake not the filling. Can you please help me out? I’ve already baked the cakes and hoping to make the filing now. I’m making this for mom for Mother’s Day like you! Thank you!

    p.s. If anyone else knows this answer and could help out it would be very much appreciated.

  12. Maye
    May 22, 2016 at 5:11 am (7 years ago)

    Hi! I would LOVE to make this cake! I just have one question, do you add the 2-3 cups of unsweetened dried coconut to the cake batter or is this just for decorating the cake?

    • Libby
      June 22, 2016 at 10:14 am (7 years ago)

      Did you use it in the cake batter? I am making this cake now and confused! Please help!

    • Lauren B.
      June 29, 2016 at 10:38 am (7 years ago)

      Hi, Maye! Sorry for the delay. Was in school till the end of May. The coconut gets pressed into the frosting. I updated the recipe to clarify. 🙂

  13. Libby
    June 22, 2016 at 10:16 am (7 years ago)

    Can anyone tell me of the coconut goes in the cake batter or just on top for decoration? Also, what about the geletin? Has anyone made this cake… How has it come out??

    • Lauren B.
      June 29, 2016 at 6:13 pm (7 years ago)

      Libby, the coconut is pressed into the sides for decoration. It does not go in the cake batter. Updated the post to clarify. 🙂 Thank you for your question!

  14. Marnie Searchwell
    July 22, 2016 at 10:09 pm (7 years ago)

    I tried this recipe this week – gorgeous! How much sweetener do you use in the filling? It’s not in the ingredients list. Also, the recipe still doesn’t say where to add the gelatine – I just added mine to the dry ingredients before whizzing them in the food processor. We have a xylitol sweetener here in the UK called Total Sweet – I’m going to try that instead of the Truvia next time

  15. Alma
    January 26, 2017 at 5:40 am (6 years ago)

    I made this cake last night for my sisters birthday. Came out so good. I was just confused on one thing, what powder sweeter went into the filling? Because in the ingredients list I didn’t see anything like that for the filling. 🙂

  16. Anonymous
    January 26, 2017 at 7:39 am (6 years ago)

    I’m trying to make this cake right now but the filling is coming out soupy and I don’t know why. Also, how much “sugar” do we add to the filling?

  17. Anonymous
    April 2, 2017 at 5:17 am (6 years ago)

    Hi. I made this last night and after reading some of the comments I was very excited about the end result. Sadly, I can’t agree with most of you guys. My cake barely tasted like coconut and it felt like the sourness of the sour cream and the cheese were the predominant flavors. I added as much sweetener as I could but there was a point where it wasn’t making any difference so I just continued and hoped for the best. Anyone else have this issue of a sour-y cake?

  18. Jess
    April 2, 2017 at 5:19 am (6 years ago)

    Hi. I made this last night and after reading some of the comments I was very excited about the end result. Sadly, I can’t agree with most of you guys. My cake barely tasted like coconut and it felt like the sourness of the sour cream and the cheese were the predominant flavors. I added as much sweetener as I could but there was a point where it wasn’t making any difference so I just continued and hoped for the best. Anyone else have this issue of a sour-y cake?

  19. Kristen
    April 16, 2017 at 6:31 am (6 years ago)

    I made this cake for Easter, but did not make filling as the sweetener amount is never listed in the ingredients! I have ready through all the comments and several people have asked, but it is never answered. How much sweetener goes into filling???

    • Anonymous
      December 31, 2017 at 6:25 am (5 years ago)

      I know, this is driving me crazy! It keeps getting asked and no one will answer it!

  20. indrani sen
    April 25, 2017 at 7:28 pm (6 years ago)

    I will definitely prepare this cake for my friend who is diabetic.If almond flour is not available can I use regular flour..Is almond diabetes friendly?

  21. April
    May 10, 2017 at 4:35 pm (6 years ago)

    Is there an option for you to offer a print button?

  22. MrsJamesBallinger
    May 10, 2017 at 11:53 pm (6 years ago)

    Hi! In the recipe for the filling, it says to grind the sweetener…only there’s no measurement for sweetener in the ingredients list. How much? This looks fabulous! My hubby and I follow a LCHF diet and our anniversary is Monday. Coconut cake is one of his faves — Might just have to give this a whirl!!

  23. Holly
    May 13, 2017 at 7:52 am (6 years ago)

    I was wondering how much sweetener to use in the filling??

  24. Fran Colvin
    May 7, 2018 at 9:20 am (5 years ago)

    How many carbs in the whole cake?

  25. Renee
    July 21, 2018 at 5:22 am (5 years ago)

    Each layer of the cake looks nice and plump. I just made it and it didn’t even cover the whole bottom of the cake pan. I even tapped it on the counter a few times. Is it a pretty thin cake and the pictures make each layer look bigger?

  26. Amanda
    February 27, 2019 at 4:39 am (4 years ago)

    It’s a lovely and welcoming modern cafe. The owners seem to have focussed on coffee, teas and cake

  27. Kristina
    November 13, 2019 at 2:57 pm (3 years ago)

    I tried the cake recipe and made some adjustments according to the challenges in the comments.
    I didn’t have 8 inch pans, but mine measured 10 inches.
    The cake batter needs to be doubled (even for using 8 inch pans). The first batch I made only filled a very small portion of one of my trays (it was only about 3/4 of an inch high after being baked..not tall layers like the photo had shown in recipe).
    I tried making the batter mixture again the next day and doubled the batch (made 2 more 10 inch pans), so my cake would be then 3 layers high.
    I froze each layer separately while I waited for my home made cheese to be done (24 hrs). I have 2 small kids to watch, so I only had so much time each day to work on this. I casually made the cake through 3 days of intermittent work(the cake being frozen helped me move and pile the layers on top of each other without breaking it and it also helped while the icing was applied. Nothing would then melt).
    The other comment was that the filling was too runny. To counteract that… I added 1 pkg of gelatin blended fine (1 tbsp it will set 2 cups of liquid)
    There were questions about the amount of sugar to put in the filling itself. I also wanted a cake that was only mildly sweet.
    I was afraid that if there was too much Splenda that it would have a fake bitter taste…so I added a little real white sugar blended fine (6 tsp) into the filling. I also added 2tsp of Splenda blended fine into the filling. I added a 1/2c of whipped cream to the filling.
    The cake is very filling. There are so many eggs and all the fat from the coconut milk and whipped cream would be filling and heavy too. Don’t expect a fluffy light cake. This cake reminds me of a pound cake in texture/heaviness. My husband said the cake taste reminded him of pancake batter….I enjoyed the cake, but he was right. There was a slight bitterness…slight. It could’ve been too much Baking powder or possibly the fake taste of the Splenda. I don’t know. My husband was probably expecting a fluffy extra sweet cake, so he wasn’t a fan…plus, he was sick his taste buds could’ve also been off.
    With my 3 layer cake I could’ve used slightly more filling and slightly more icing. My filling layers weren’t large..probably about 1-2 cm and my icing was about the same..I would’ve liked the icing on the tops and sides to be a bit thicker on than what I got…just because my cake was so big. Although, it did the job.
    Hope this helps a bit.

  28. Dianne
    April 14, 2020 at 9:51 am (3 years ago)

    I made this recipe. Gelatin is listed in the list of ingredients for the batter, however, is not listed in the instructions, therefore, could not determine where / how to add…. Filling: unsweetened dried coconut listed as an ingredient, however, not listed in the instructions. Also for filling instructions, powdered sweetener listed but not listed in the list of ingredients for the filling. Revision for a complete recipe is recommended. This is why make cake was incomplete. Many expensive ingredients wasted.

  29. Robinson
    June 18, 2020 at 6:38 am (3 years ago)

    If you add the egg whites to the food processor it combines quicker

  30. hpwOcfzqrbpjQcy
    October 28, 2021 at 7:56 am (1 year ago)

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