Jamaican Grater Cake is a sweet coconut treat, made with fresh grated coconut and spiced with a touch of ginger for a fun and festive treat. Its vibrant pink and white contrast make it perfect for parties but is also easy to whip up for a casual snack at home. Made with just 3 very basic ingredients this Caribbean island sweet candy-like snack is one every coconut lover will deeply enjoy!
Jamaican Coconut Grater Cake
One bite into a delicious piece of grater cake and I’m transported back to my childhood. This sweet, simple treat is soft, chewy, with a subtle most perfect hint of ginger flavour. It’s one of my favourite ways to use and enjoy fresh coconut.
Visit the island and you’ll find Jamaican grater cake for sale on the roadside. But if you live elsewhere, it’s not as easy to come by. Luckily, making it homemade is a breeze. Satisfy your sweet tooth with the best grater cake recipe!
Here’s Why You’ll Love this Grater Cake Recipe
- Easy to Make – with just a few staple ingredients, this recipe is simple, with straightforward instructions that will have you snacking in less than one hour.
- Family Friendly – kids and adults alike love this coconut snack.
- Perfect for Parties – is it truly a celebration if there’s no grater cake? Make this stunning dessert for birthdays, picnics, and special get togethers. It’s bound to be a crowd pleaser!
What is Grater Cake?
Grater cake, also known as sugar cake or pink on top, is a traditional Jamaican dessert. Although it is referred to as a cake, it is in fact, not a cake. Grater cake is a candy made of shredded coconut, sugar and ginger.
Its name derives from the grating process used to shred the coconut. Traditionally it has a white base and a pink top.
It’s traditionally served at parties, outdoor sporting events and gatherings of all sorts.
Jamaican Grate Cake History
Jamaican grate cake used to be referred to as grate brute. Back then they used “wet” sugar (a raw, unrefined sugar known as Muscovado sugar) instead of white sugar.
Is Coconut a Fruit or a Nut?
Although “nut” is in the name, and the flesh is contained within a hard shell, coconut is not a nut. Coconut is a fruit. It is classified as a drupe (stone fruit), in the same family as peaches and pears.
What is Jamaican Coconut?
Coconut is a staple food in Jamaican cuisine. The trees are plentiful and provide nourishment in plenty of foods and beverages. Jamaica produces about 90 million coconuts annually. That’s why it’s used so often in Jamaican dishes.
However, coconuts are not native to Jamaica. Rather, they were introduced to the island by Spanish settlers in the 1500s. Today, Jamaican coconut trees are in abundance and are sometimes referred to as the “Tree of Life,” given their many purposes.
- Large Saucepan – to cook the coconut mixture in.
- Wooden Spoon – to stir the ingredients together.
- Box Grater – use to shred the fresh coconut.
- Square Baking Pan or casserole dish – this contains the cooked coconut mixture as it cools and solidifies.
Grater Cake Ingredients and Ingredient Notes
- Fresh Grated Coconut – tightly packed (approx. 2 coconuts).
- Granulated White Sugar – use this of course for sweetness but it also makes the candy chewy.
- Water – this adds moisture to the coconut mixture and helps the ingredients stick together.
- Ginger – for a warm, spiced flavour, add this Jamaican spice staple. We are using chunks of ginger so do not grate it.
- Pink Food Colouring – apply to cooked coconut to add colour.
How to Make Grater Cake
Grease a square baking pan or casserole dish with butter and set aside. Then, break open coconuts, remove coconut meat from the shell with a knife, peel off the brown skin (optional, but recommended), then wash and grate coconut flesh using the small side of a box grater.
In a saucepan, add water, sugar and whole pieces of ginger, place over medium heat until sugar melts and the liquid is reduced (do not let the sugar caramelizes and change colour – it will be a hint of yellow from the ginger).
Stir in shredded coconut to the syrup and lower the heat to medium-low, stirring frequently.
Keep mixture on heat until the liquid dries up, and the mixture starts coming off the sides/bottom of the pan and is sticky enough to hold together.
Remove from heat and transfer 3/4 of the mixture to prepared pan or dish and press down with the back of a spoon. Then to remaining mixture add a few drops of pink food colouring and mix until evenly coloured.
Place pink coconut mixture on top of the first white coconut mixture, press down with the back of a spoon, and allow to cool. Cut with a sharp knife into squares and enjoy!
Recipe Substitutions and Tips
- Coconut – if you don’t have access to fresh coconut, you can use dry coconut or unsweetened pre-shredded coconut although this is not traditional, it can work.
- Sugar – instead of white granulated sugar, try brown sugar. Note that using brown sugar results in a chewier grater cake as well as a darker hue.
- Salt – a little salt goes a long way. It enhances the other flavours and really makes the taste pop.
- Food Colouring – you can use food colouring gel as an alternative. And it doesn’t have to be pink either. Try different colours like red or green.
- Flavour – not a fan of ginger? Replace it with either vanilla, mint, or almond essence.
- More Add-Ins – for depth of flavour and more texture, you can try adding chopped nuts, shredded carrots or additional spices like cinnamon.
Recipe Notes and Tips for Success
- The finer grated the coconut, the easier they’ll stick together. To avoid them falling apart, make sure the shredded coconut is not too large.
- Continuously stir the coconut mixture in order to avoid burning it.
- If using pre-shredded coconut, use unsweetened so you can control the sweetness of the grater cakes.
- Ensure the coconut mixture has thickened (fully absorbed the water) before trying to establish the base of the dessert. If it’s thin and wet, it won’t be sturdy.
- The mixture is ready when it has thickened to the consistency of caramel or molasses.
- Let the grater cake cool completely before slicing it.
Can I Make this Ahead of Time?
Yes. Make this up to 3 days in advance and store at room temperature until you are ready to serve.
Store leftover grater cakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Grater cake originated in Jamaica.
It takes about 30 minutes to completely dry.
The pink top is sweetened shredded coconut dyed pink.
Interested in more Jamaican Recipes? Check These Out!
- Roast Breadfruit
- Jamaican Easter Bun
- Jamaican Bammy
- Jamaican Sweet Potato Pudding
- Jamaican Banana Fritters
- Jamaican Black Cake
- Cornmeal Pudding
- How to Soak Fruit for Christmas Cake
- Large Saucepan
- Wooden Spoon
- Box Grater
- Square Baking Pan or casserole dish
- 2 cups Fresh Grated Coconut tightly packed (approx. 2 coconuts)
- 3 cups Granulated White Sugar
- 1/2 cup Water
- 1 2-inch pc. Ginger
- 3-4 drops Pink Food Colouring
- Grease a square baking pan or casserole dish with butter and set aside. Then, break open coconuts, remove coconut meat from the shell with a knife, peel off the brown skin (optional, but recommended), then wash and grate coconut flesh using the small side of a box grater.
- In a saucepan, add water, sugar and whole pieces of ginger, place over medium heat until sugar melts and the liquid is reduced (do not let the sugar caramelizes and change colour – it will be a hint of yellow from the ginger).
- Stir in shredded coconut to the syrup and lower the heat to medium-low, stirring frequently. Keep mixture on heat until the liquid dries up, and the mixture starts coming off the sides/bottom of the pan and is sticky enough to hold together.
- Remove from heat and transfer 3/4 of the mixture to prepared pan or dish and press down with the back of a spoon. Then to remaining mixture add a few drops of pink food colouring and mix until evenly coloured. Place pink coconut mixture on top of the first white coconut mixture, press down with the back of a spoon, and allow to cool. Cut with a sharp knife into squares and enjoy!
Note, the nutritional information is calculated using a nutrition facts calculator. It is a rough estimate and can vary based on products used.