Tropical Papaya-Coconut Cake

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Oh boy is this cake good – a little too good to just have chilling in my fridge on a random weekday. Despite how delicious it is, this cake is actually quite unsightly; it doesn’t rise much and the top is craggy. But as far as looks go, not to worry because all will be well; a craggy top is nothing a little glaze can’t fix.


Isn’t that flowered plate pretty? It was a gift from Brandy of Nutmeg Nanny – thanks, Brandy!

This cake is moist and dense, with an almost chewy quality. Texture-wise, it’s sort of like a cross between bread and cake. Oddly enough (because there’s no cheese in it), this cake reminds me of a cheese pastry in both flavor and texture. It’s softly aromatic and really lovely accompanied with tea. It’s perfectly sweet on its own so a light glaze is topping enough, and you could even skip the glaze if you want (that is, if you don’t mind the craggy top, lol).

If you’re looking to bring a little (simulated) warmth to a chilly winter’s day, this tropical-flavored cake is the way to go.


Tropical Papaya-Coconut Cake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 12 servings
  • Cooking spray
  • 2½ cups (315 g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (40 g) unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup (115 g) butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups (300 g) sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon rum extract (optional)
  • 2½ cups (375 g) cubed papaya (fresh or frozen; thawed if frozen)
  • ½ cup (125 ml) coconut water
  • 1 cup (115 g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 teaspoons water
  • 1 tablespoon flaked coconut, for topping (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F; line 3 (8½ inch by 4½ inch) loaf pans with parchment paper and lightly spray the insides with cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together the flour, coconut, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl, and then beat in the eggs until light and fluffy. Stir in the vanilla and rum extracts. Puree the papaya and coconut water in a blender or food processor, and stir the puree into the wet ingredients.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, adding ⅓ at a time, being careful not to over-mix.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean, about 45 to 55 minutes.
  6. Cool 10 minutes in the pans, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  7. Once the cakes are cooled, whisk together all ingredients for the glaze.
  8. Pour the glaze on top of the cakes and spread it evenly across. Sprinkle the flaked coconut on top, if using.
  9. Let the glaze set before cutting and serving; store refrigerated after the first day.
Baking in a Different Sized Pan: I imagine this batter could also be baked into cupcakes or larger loaves; however, if you decide to try it, be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

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  1. says

    This cake looks delicious – I love tropical flavours in the winter. I’ve only ever tried papaya as a yoghurt flavour, so I’d love to try this.

  2. says

    I don’t actually go for puffy ‘pretty’ cakes. I like ones that look moist and full of flavour rather than air. But, I do think this looks pretty, moist AND full of flavour, so full marks to you, Faith! Really love the idea of using papaya in a cake – never tried that before. I wish you could send me a slice ;D

  3. says

    this looks like a breath of fresh Caribbean air. I just made a grapefruit-olive oil cake which keeps me here in the North East. Perhaps I should have thought about this before I made the cake.

  4. says

    I find that some of the best tasting food comes out looking unappealing on photograph but I do think this cake looks phenomenal! We’re our own worst critics ;) I’ve never baked with papaya and I bet this has a very unique flavor!

  5. says

    glaze and coconut flakes to the rescue! this sounds delicious, faith–i could care less about appearances, especially when coconut is involved.

  6. says

    Hi Faith i’m not really a papaya fan though it’s so cheap here in peru. The cake looks really moist and with coconut i guess tropical as well.
    Sounds a great recipe to try.

  7. Grace says

    I made this cake 2 weeks ago, n it was really nice, soft, moist and dense. It wasn’t even enough for my house. I want to make it again this week. I used freshly grated coconut as I live in the village.

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