In terms of texture and flavour, dried coconut can't touch the fresh stuff, but separating the meat from the shell can be a bit of a struggle. Luckily, just a quick overnight stay in the freezer can help the tough stuff pop right off.
Image by Paul Esson via Flickr.
The above video breaks it down fully, but all you need to do is place the drupe in the freezer overnight, then crack it along the equator with the dull side of a cleaver. Scrape out the frozen coconut water -- I recommend saving it -- and simply pop the shell off. (It's almost startling how easy it comes off.) You are now free to use the coconut meat however you see fit. (I would probably make a fresh coconut cake, but that's just me.)
How to Crack a Coconut [America's Test Kitchen]