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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.
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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  1. How long should I bake if I put all the batter in one pan? Is 350F still a good temp?

    1. Crystal, I haven’t tried this recipe baking the batter all in one pan. Yes, 350F is still a good temperature. It will likely need to bake quite a bit longer, so I would start checking for doneness around the 1 hour mark, and then periodically after that. Also, if the top starts to burn before the inside is cooked, you may want to place a piece of foil over the top. I hope this helps. Let me know how it turns out!

  2. I made this for my son’s birthday cake. It was amazing, in so many way, the taste and the texture. He is a semi-pro athelete who is health conscious and loves tropical fruit. I used less sugar, more coconut, and substituted coconut oil for butter. He said was the best dessert he ever had!

  3. Lia Negrete says:

    I just baked this cake and wow !!!! Amazing. I just had a Bunch of Papaya from the day before and needed something to make with it. I had to share this recipe with my family and promised them I would have to make it for them. This is a recipe keeper! I can’t wait to make it again and again!
    Thank you for this recipe!

  4. Nancy Kingsriter says:

    I doubled the recipe as I had a large papaya and made a beautiful bundt cake. So pretty and so good.
    We don’t grow papayas in Minnesota, but this one was given to me! I would do it again.
    Thanks for this recipe.

  5. meenakshi chengappa says:


  6. Joy Evans says:

    I have papaya growing in the yard that I am always trying to use. Didn’t have all of the ingredients. So substituted coconut milk for coconut water and 1 T. rum for flavoring. Also, love coconut and added the entire 7 oz. bag. I was too lazy to harvest a coconut from the yard. Baked in small loaf pans so I could share. They rose and the tops were beautiful. Neighbors are ready for next batch. Thank you!

  7. Angélica says:

    Making this in 2019, looks great!

    Cheers from Brazil!

  8. 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.

  9. I love papaya and coconut and this cake combination is wonderful.

    1. This was fabulous. Thank you so much. 🙏🏻 I replaced the coconut water with regular full cream cows milk and shared the batter between two round 21x3cm cake tins. Cooked for 35mins on 350F worked a treat, rose beautifully and didn’t need the glaze as it was quite sweet enough.

  10. It’s rustic, not unsightly!!!! :D And sounds delicious!

  11. 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.

  12. This cake looks and sounds so unique. The way to describe it has me dying to make it. Bookmarked!

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

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. It’s the flavor that counts, Faith. Going to make this for my papaya-loving daughter when next she comes.

  17. 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

  18. Can yo substitute mango?

    1. Marci, I haven’t tried it with mango, but I think it would work. Let me know if you give it a try!

  19. That looks really dense and delicious Faith! I bet one or two bites with a cup of tea is the perfect way to relax mid-afternoon!

  20. Sounds like a great tropical pick me up for the wintertime!

  21. Ooooh Faith. This looks amazing! I love dense moist cakes like this and your flavors are a pure kiss of summer on a cold winter’s day.

  22. The glaze looks really yum! I really do enjoy papaya so what a fab twist for a cake. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your hubby x

  23. Hey, the ugliest food is usually the most delicious, right? :) This cake sounds like the perfect blast of summer sun in the middle of winter!

  24. Actually, this cake is quite beautiful to me and I love, love the combination of flavors. I’ve made pineapple tea cakes before but I really like the coconut infusion here. It won’t be long before I make this. :)

  25. Urban Wife says:

    I can just taste how delicious it is! I can’t wait to give this a whirl.

  26. 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.

  27. Looks are overrated! You throw tropical fflavors in a baked good and I’m IN!

    1. I had a 12 oz bag of frozen papaya hanging out in my freezer with no purpose in mind. This tropical cake was the best use for it! I used coconut milk and 2 Tbs of real rum. 1 cup sweetener was plenty and I used half monkfruit and half cane sugar. So delicious.

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