Coconut Lemon Pineapple Ombre Cake

That’s a mouthful, for sure. A delicious, citrus-y, sugary mouthful.

pineapple coconut ombre cake yellow

This might be the prettiest cake I’ve made so far, in celebration of my favorite Erin’s birthday.  Which was ages ago. Sorry I’ve been behind in posting! I’ve built up so many pictures and recipes waiting for me to find time to share them with you all… oops. Grad school makes balancing life sort of tricky. Especially when I decided to add a new hobby to my repertoire: rock climbing. Super fun stuff – some of my favorite people out here are fantastic climbers and got my does-it-involve-running?-because-I-don’t-run self hooked. But with school having started again, it means I’m constantly grinding myself into the ground attempting to balance classes, research, preparation for a conference (we leave Monday and I have to finish my poster still… apparently last minute stress is a major part of grad school), preparation for a research trip to Berkeley (WAHOO! research-funded trip to my undergrad stomping grounds), and other lab commitments with sanity-saving activities like sleeping, grocery shopping, hanging out with friends, spending time with the boy, and partaking in hobbies like dancing, rock climbing, and baking. I guess that’s what it means to be human, right? We’re all doing our best to load our schedules up and then complain about having no time!

how to decorate a coconut cake

So instead of complaining, I’ll give you this cake. Good trade, yes?

yellow ombre coconut pineapple lemon cake yellow swirled frosting

This cake was so much fun to make, putting both my cake decorating supplies and skills to the test. And it’s YELLOW!! Right there, its beauty was a done deal.

yellow ombre cake layers

See those layers? Yeah. They’re ombre. Like the frosting. It’s cool, I’m basically a professional. Please don’t judge me; I’m aware I took a lot of pictures. But it’s the first I’ve attempted something this complex, so forgive me: I’ve got a case of parental pride.

layer cake ombre yellow pineapple lemon coconut

I should probably give my Facebook password to my best friend now, so when I have kids someday, she can disable my account before I become a crazy parent who post pictures of their child’s face. And their child eating. And smiling. And crying. And running around. And drawing pictures. And reading books. And generally being adorable and precious and magical. Because I could be one of those parents; you’ve seen what I did with this cake. Consider yourself warned.

how to decorate ombre coconut cake

This cake comes from all over the place. I started with this recipe on by PanNan as my “base” recipe, and changed it up with insight from my own baking experiences as well as other recipes on and I found a nice, stiff cream cheese recipe on by Trixyinaz that was perfect for piping. Google “ombre cake” if you want to be amazed by the most beautiful cakes ever – those photos were my inspiration.



1 (15-16 ounce) can crushed pineapple in juice, undrained (divided use)

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

3 cups sugar

5 eggs

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

3 cups cake flour, sifted

1 tsp. lemon extract

1 tsp. vanilla extract


2 large egg yolks

(crushed pineapple + juice from above)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

5 tsp. cornstarch


1 cup butter, softened

½ cup vegetable shortening

1 lb cream cheese, softened

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

3 ½ lbs sifted powdered sugar

½ tsp. salt

Food gel coloring

3-4 ounces shredded coconut


1. Grease three 9″ round cake pans, and line bottoms with parchment paper. Great the top of the parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Separate the crushed pineapple and juice, saving both.

3. In a large bowl, beat butter at medium speed with a mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

5. Combine ¾-cup pineapple juice with the sour cream (it won’t mix well, don’t worry). Add juice mixture to butter mixture, alternating with the flour mixture. Beat at low speed until just-blended after each addition. Stir in extracts.

6. Pour 1/3 of batter into each of the prepared cake pans. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. (I’ll admit I can’t remember how long this took; watch closely starting at 20 minutes!)

7. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.

8. Make the filling while the cake cools. Stir together egg yolks, sugar, ½-cup pineapple juice, all the pineapple, and cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until thick and beginning to bubble, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely.

9. When both the cakes and filling are cool, make the frosting. Cream the butter, shortening, cream cheese, and vanilla extract. Gradually add confectioner’s sugar and salt. Beat on low speed until creamy.

10. Stack cake layers, spreading ¾-to-1 cup pineapple filling between each layer. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese frosting on sides and top of cake. Spread shredded coconut on the top, leaving a ½” border around the edge of the cake. Pipe a border of frosting around the top edge. Blend in a tiny bit of yellow (or any color) gel coloring and pipe swirls around the top third of the sides. Blend in some more gel coloring and pipe a second layer of swirls. Blend in even more gel coloring and pipe the remaining layer of swirls. As you go, fill in gaps with little star-shaped frosting piping.

TIP for piping: use a big star-shaped piping tip. Start in the middle of a rose and swirl around it about 1.5-2 times. Stop squeezing when you’re done and gently pull the tip away. Repeat! To make the little stars, switch to a smaller star piping tip and squeeze just enough to fill the gaps, then stop squeezing and pull away. It gets easier with practice, I promise!


yellow ombre swirled frosting flowers cake

Ahh I just love a yellow cake, so happy!

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