Chocolate & Toasted Coconut Olive Oil Cake [with vegan option]

In a hurry? Click here to JUMP TO RECIPE!

Every year our local radio station puts on an all day music event in the park. To me, it always marks that first day of true spring in Bloomington. It is often times the first Saturday that its warm enough to grill out and enjoy a picnic in the park while listening to some wonderful local and national music. It also usually lines up with being the first Saturday that the outdoor farmer’s market is in full swing.


This year’s event was this past Saturday and the spring fever did not disappoint. I started the day with a walk to the farmer’s market and enjoyed smelling all the budding trees along the way. The sun was out and we welcomed temperatures above anything we’ve felt in 6+ months. I spent the afternoon planting wildflowers and playing around in the kitchen with the sun streaming in (oh what a difference it makes!).

We grilled out for dinner and I whipped up a cake for our guests. Ha, I know – a cake for a grill out? You can tell I’m rusty since a well disciplined griller would have found something that could be made over the hot coals. Unfortunately, it’s still a little early for berries and our citrus bounty has long since disappeared so cake it was! Delicious, moist, chocolatey cake – I must add!


This cake did not turn out as planned. The whole reason I wanted to make a cake to begin with is because I had plans of making hibiscus frosting to smother all over it. I imagined a light pink glaze with speckles of flower throughout the whole thing. However, as I struggled to find dried (or fresh) hibiscus anywhere (other than in tea which had other things added to it), it became clear that this was not the flavor profile I was meant to create. Instead, I went with coconut since coconut flakes are available all year round and have a wonderful warm-weather vibe to them.

I used hibiscus tea for part of the milk in this recipe in hopes that there’d be a touch of floral flavor in the chocolate but it ended up pretty masked by other sweet flavors. Feel free to just use all milk as that is probably what I will do next time since brewing fresh tea was just an extra step without extra added flavor.

Also, half the fat is replaced with mashed fruit (in this case applesauce but you can use mashed bananas as well) for a slightly healthier cake that retains just as much moisture. For the fat I did use, I went with olive oil to give it a nutty aroma. I get the vibe that a lot people are hesitant to bake with olive oil because of its low smoke point but this cake bakes at 350 which is way below any burning point for olive oil. I also love olive oil cakes because they sound very European to me which conjures up thoughts of enjoying a slice as an afternoon snack with tea.

 Chocolate & Toasted Coconut Olive Oil Cake recipe below:


Chocolate & Toasted Coconut Olive Oil Cake [with vegan option]
Adapted from Minimalist Baker
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Author: Shelly Westerhausen
  • 2 cups milk (use nut milk to make vegan) OR 1 cup milk / 1 cup hibiscus tea
  • 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • beans from 1 vanilla pod OR 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose)
  • 1 1/3 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
For the buttercream:
  • 1 cup butter , softened [use vegan butter if making vegan]
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two 8 inch round pans with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper and dust with enough cocoa powder to cover the bottom (but remove any excess).
  2. Add the vinegar and milk to your stand mixer bowl (or mixing can be done by hand if you don't have a mixer) and let sit for 5 minutes. Next, add in the applesauce, hibiscus tea (if using), olive oil, and vanilla extract (or beans) and mix until just combined.
  3. In another bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Turn your mixer to medium-low and slowly pour the dry ingredients in until everything is incorporated. Turn the mixer speed up to high and let run until your batter is evenly smooth and no lumps remain.
  4. Divide the dough between the two prepared pans and let bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in the center. Remove from oven and let cool.
  5. While the oven is still heated, place coconut on a lined baking sheet in a single layer and stick in the already heated oven. Bake for about 10 minutes (stirring every 3-5 minutes to avoid burning) or until most of the flakes have browned (please note that the time will vary depending on how large your flakes are and you should check them frequently since burning coconut flakes is super easy to do).
  6. While everything is cooling, beat together the frosting ingredients.
  7. To assemble, use 1/3 of the frosting for a center layer and the rest to frost the outside of the cake all over. Immediately sprinkle the toasted coconut all over (it'll stick to the frosting perfectly if the frosting hasn't set yet) and you should be able to press the coconut into the sides so that it completely covers the cake.
  8. Serve with ice cream or enjoy on its own!






  • Katie @ Butterlust
    April 14, 2014

    Gorgeous cake!! I’ve had some dried hibiscus sitting in my pantry for a few months now and (even though your idea didn’t work out) you’ve inspired me to bake with it!

  • molly yeh
    April 14, 2014

    GIMME SOME OF THAT SPRING FEVER!! this cake is goooorgeous!

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    April 14, 2014

    This cake is gorgeous! And so yummy sounding!

  • cheri
    April 14, 2014

    What a gorgeous cake you have made, love buttercream frosting and the large flakes of coconut look amazing!

  • Koko
    April 14, 2014

    This is such a beautiful creation! I have had an orange olive cake before and I will keep that recipe forever- the flavour and moistness was unbelievable. I definitely want to do more olive oil baking.

    I’ve just found your site through the Peace Patch. I love it!! Looking forward to keeping up with your posts 🙂


  • Grace
    April 14, 2014

    Afternoon tea or breakfast… I could eat this gorgeous cake all day long. Looks amazing!

  • maria | pink patisserie
    April 15, 2014

    I think coconut cakes are definitely springy. Reminds me of the cakes my mom made each Easter, only I’m sure your’s is way better and much more beautiful.

  • Kathryn
    April 15, 2014

    Oh, this is a wonderful cake. Chocolate and coconut is always so good together and throw in some olive oil? I’m totally sold.

  • Erika
    April 15, 2014

    Such a lovely cake! Give me anything with toasted coconut and I’m happy. 🙂

  • Lindsey (dolly and oatmeal)
    April 17, 2014

    wow, suuuuper in love with this cake, shelly! love the texture that that coconut chips provide!

  • Grace
    April 18, 2014

    Hot dang! I just opened my very short list email and there you were right up top. You’re so awesome! Have a great weekend!

    • Shellywest
      April 19, 2014

      Haha yes! I was very surprised but thrilled as well! 🙂

  • Sini | my blue&white kitchen
    April 18, 2014

    What a gorgeous post! I have a huge crush on these pictures – the blue hue is addictive.

    Happy Easter days,

  • Recipe Of The Week! |
    April 25, 2014

    […] Chocolate & Toasted Coconut Olive Oil Cake [with vegan option] […]

  • Lyndsay // Coco Cake Land
    April 30, 2014

    frig this looks so good. i highly doubt anyone anywhere would object to this cake being brought to ANY gathering, grill-out or not!!

  • The Links | The Good Read Guidebook 16th May | Rebecca Hawkes
    May 16, 2014

    […] There’s an upcoming birthday in this household. This might be a contender in the great birthday cake recipe […]

    May 26, 2014

    […] Sometimes all I want is a cake covered in big flakes of toasted coconut. […]

Leave a Reply

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.