Luau Love: Coconut Layer Cake Recipe

When Mr. Luz and I were planning the menu for his birthday party, our criteria ended up as follows:

1. Fire & meat, but also crisp, clean summer flavors.
3. Unique dishes that are more exotic than your typical BBQ fare.
4. Mass quantities of boozy goodness can be incorporated into the menu.
5. Kiddie pool.

I quickly made the smoked pork, pineapple, and rum connection and we ended up with a Hawaiian Luau theme. I like to think that it was the food (rather than the cooler full of rum punch) that so intoxicated our guests that we were inspired to barhop in full luau gear after dinner. **At this time I'd like to give a shoutout to H street watering hole, The Pug, and the bartender who loaded the jukebox with the Beach Boys in our honor.***

I planned on making traditional Hawaiian foods, but I was limited by missing ingredients, budget, and my desire to cater to the tastes of our 16 guests. Instead, I got creative and made some yummy, Hawaiian-inspired dishes in my own slow-simmered style, and I think we ended up with an unconventional menu that was smoky, Summery, boozy, and....kiddie pool friendly?

For Mr. Luz's birthday cake, I modified a store bought white cake mix to make an easy sponge cake, then I layered it with with homemade Haupia (how-pee-uh) pudding but cheated again with a Cool Whip topping. It was an elegant, tropical, light little cake--just sweet enough because the richer cake and pudding is paired with an airy Cool Whip "icing."

Maybe it'll help you reconcile with the store bought cake mix to know that I slow-cooked 16 lbs. of pork and made potato salad & pineapple salsa for 20 while I was baking this first-ever birthday cake?

NOTE: The pudding layer didn't add a distinct icing layer, as much as it created a moist texture and a coconut-infused sponge cake. If you prefer to have a distinct layer between your cakes, I would slice each layer hoagie-bun style, and use the pudding to put the two pieces back together before assembling the entire cake with a Cool Whip layer in between.

Hawaiian Layer Cake with Haupia Coconut Pudding (modified from

Layer Cake: (make 2)
1 box White Cake Mix
1/3 Cup Pineapple Juice
1/3 Cup Water
2 egg whites

Haupia Filling:
2 Cups Coconut Milk
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
3 Tbsp Cornstarch
1/2 Cup Water
1 tsp Vanilla

2 Cups Cool Whip topping or a stiff gelatin-based whipped topping recipe
1 Cup Toasted Coconut

Cake Instructions:

Add the cake ingredients to box of cake mix. Beat for 2 minutes, and pour into a greased an 9 inch round cake pan. Bake according to the directions on the cake box. Cool cake.

Haupia Filling Instructions:

Over low heat, heat coconut milk in a sauce pan. Do not boil. In a small bowl, add the water to the corn starch, sugar, and salt. Stir into hot coconut milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thick and pudding-like. Stir in vanilla, and cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Assembling the Cake:

Spread chilled haupia pudding on the bottom (flatest) layer of the cake, reserving 1/2 cup of the pudding. Top with the top layer, and spread Cool Whip on the top layer. If you have the patience, carefully spread the Cool Whip over the bottom layer, being careful not to streak the Cool Whip with the pudding. Otherwise, spread the bottom layer with the remaining haupia pudding, letting some pudding pool around the bottom of the cake. Top with toasted coconut, and refrigerate until 1 hour before serving.


  1. yumm i would like a piece of that cake please. and i'll dogsit for you too.

  2. Awww, Fwaf would LOVE you, Christina! And if you're ever back in the D.C./Baltimore/Annapolis area I would be happy to bake you cakes, but it's more likely that I will feed you gallons of gumbo until you feel utterly appreciated and...well, full! Also, I JUST NOW got your profile pic. Smooooth. I think we should maybe be FB friends.