Orange Coconut Cake / Robert E. Lee Cake

General Robert E. Lee Cake has a tart filling with a sweet Orange Frosting!
General Robert E. Lee Cake has a tart filling with a sweet orange frosting!

My sister and brother-in-law gave me one of the best presents one Christmas, Southern Living’s Southern Heritage Cakes Cookbook (Oxmoor House, Birmingham, AL, 1983). There I discovered the General Robert E. Lee cake that this tasty orange coconut cake is based on.

I love this cake! The tart filling with the light cake and icing is perfect with a steaming hot cup of coffee. It’s one of my favorite desserts, and it’s certainly addicting. I think you are going to love it!!

5 Things People May Not Know about Robert E. Lee

1. Lee was offered by Lincoln the role of Commander of the Union Army, while also offered the command of the Southern States.  Upon his home state Virginia’s secession, Lee resigned the position of General in the Union Army. He stated, “Though opposed to secession and a depreciating war, I could take no part in the invasion of the Southern States.”

2. Winston Churchill quoted, “Lee was the very noblest American who had ever lived and one of the greatest commanders known to the annals of war.”

3. After the war, Robert E. Lee made it his mission to teach Southerners how to accept defeat and become a productive part of the United States. Lee said to the Southerners, “Make your sons Americans.”

4. Robert E. Lee’s final words before his death were, “Strike the Tent!” This is a military phrase meaning to pack up and move on.

5. Lee could have made lots of money after the war from the prestige his name represented. Instead, he accepted the position of President of Washington and Lee College. Lee felt that knowledge and character would be instrumental in bringing the war’stricken South back to recovery.

One Bonus: Robert E. Lee considered slavery an evil!!!

Robert E. Lee Trivia…Robert E. Lee’s citizenship was purposely lost and he did not become a citizen of the US until over a hundred years after his death, in 1975.

Now to the Orange Coconut Cake!!

I can’t wait for you to try this amazing cake. I’ve changed the original recipe a bit, but the same great flavors are all there!! This Southern Living Heritage Cake Cookbook is one of my favorites.

This cake is one of the most refreshing Southern Cakes I have ever had. It's my husband's new favorite!! That means a winner.
This orange coconut cake is one of the most refreshing Southern cakes I have ever had. It’s my husband’s new favorite!! That means a winner.

What makes this Cake special?

This orange coconut, aka General Lee cake is full of fresh ingredients. Fresh oranges, lemons, and coconut make this cake truly amazing. This cake is covered in an orange icing with coconut shredded on top.

This cake is airy, light, and packed with amazing flavor and a super delicious lemon filling made with egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

The orange frosting is made with orange zest, oranges, powdered sugar, lemons, and topped with coconut flakes. You’ll be loved for sure if you show up anywhere with this cake.

General Robert E. Lee Cake

Robert E. Lee Cake on crystal dish with black background

General Robert E. Lee Cake

5 from 1 vote


For Cake

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 16 eggs separated and at room temperature
  • cups sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Pinch of Kosher Salt

Lemon Filling

  • Orange Frosting
  • 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • Lemon Jelly Filling
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup cold butter

Orange Frosting

  • 2/3 cup butter softened
  • 8 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange zest
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup sweetened coconut flakes


For the Cake

  • Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, cream of tartar, and baking powder.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat egg yolks until lemon colored and thick. Add sugar slowly until incorporated. Pour half the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture and beat well, then repeat with the rest of the flour mixture beating well. Gently stir in lemon zest and lemon juice.
  • In a large bowl, combine room temperature egg whites and salt. Beat at high speed until soft peaks form. Fold 1/4 egg white mixture into the flour mixture until just incorporated. Continue adding the egg white mixture to the flour mixture in fourths until all is incorporated.
  • Grease and flour 4 9-inch round cake-pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for at least 10 minutes then remove to a cooling rack. When the layers are cool, cut the layers horizontally to make 8 layers.
  • On a cake stand, add a cake layer and spread lemon filling over the top and continue to add the cake layers. Chill cake in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the refrigerator and spread Orange Frosting over the top and sides of cake. Gently sprinkle coconut on the top of the frosted cake.

Lemon Filling

  • In a double boiler, combine the egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest and juice. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Stir constantly for about 20 minutes or until mixture thickens.
  • Add butter one pat at a time and incorporate into the lemon mixture. Cool filling completely before spreading on cake layers.

Orange Frosting

  • In a medium-sized bowl, cream softened butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, orange zest, and juices and beat until smooth. Stir in coconut. Spread the frosting over the entire cake.
If you like this recipe, please give it a star rating to help other cooks find it!
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Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was!

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  1. Donna B Oliphint says:

    Please look over the directions for the cake again. When do you add the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture?

    1. Thanks Donna! I think it is corrected. Let me know if you have any further questions!! I hope you love the cake!

  2. 5 stars
    I’m not sure why I’ve never heard of this wonderful cake. I’m gonna have to get myself acquainted with it soon. Absolutely scrumptious looking.

    1. I hope you will like it!! Let me know what you think.

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