These sweet little coconut cupcakes will be the perfect addition to your Easter celebration. They have a combination of sweetened and unsweetened coconut, both toasted and untoasted, are are topped off with a swirl of cream cheese icing and a coconut crunch.
There’s something about spring and the spring holidays that makes my brain fill with coconut. Whether it’s coconut macaroons for Passover, or an Easter basket-shaped cake topped with tinted green coconut grass, coconut represents springtime to me. My dad’s birthday arrives in late spring and when I was growing up, coconut figured prominently into his birthday celebration too.
My dad’s birthday meant he got his favorite cake…classic white cake layered with glossy seven-minute icing and handfuls of sweetened white coconut. This cake always looked so special and celebratory, like a pretty, shiny, white cloud. It is one of the very first cakes I ever attempted to bake, both as a kid and then again as an adult.
Way, way back in the day when we were required to take Home Ec and Woodshed in middle school, sewing and baking were a big part of Home Ec. I remember sewing (and I use that term loosely), a purple and white striped tote bag that was so poorly constructed that the only thing I could tote around without fear of it falling out of the bottom might be cotton balls. Thankfully the baking part was a little more successful.
After the sewing portion of the course was complete, we were tasked with baking and decorating a cake. I remember it being around Easter so of course I chose to make a bunny-shaped cake. A bunny cake covered with shredded white coconut.
Well, it wasn’t the best cake I’ve ever baked, but it may be one of the cakes I am most proud of. It was too dry, the icing too runny and the ears majorly lopsided, but much to my surprise, it actually resembled like a bunny. And thanks to that coconut covering, it looked semi-okay. Not bad for a novice.
I don’t think I attempted another coconut cake until post-culinary school and my dad’s birthday rolled around again. This time I channeled my inner Martha and took it up a notch. I remember a toasted coconut cream filling, moist cake layers and the classic seven-minute icing and sprinkling of sweetened coconut over the top. While much better than my 7th grade bunny, it was still not quite right. I over-filled and over-iced, so the cake was both a challenge to cut and a bit cloying after a couple bites.
Well, today you reap the reward of my coconut cake trials and tribulations, though it is cupcakes instead of a layer cake. I’ve settled on a combination of sweetened and unsweetened coconut, both toasted and untoasted. I’ve also skipped the seven-minute icing and replaced it with cream cheese icing. This is actually because my coconut-loving son (apparently there’s a familial coconut gene) prefers cream cheese icing and asked me to give it a go. Well, the kid’s got taste and ding ding ding I think we’ve got ourselves a winner.
These pretty little cupcakes are just right for Easter and extra adorable garnished with a bright, fondant flower or candy speckled egg. They are definitely easier than a layer cake and perfectly portable if you’re not hosting and tasked with dessert. So, let’s give spring a big coconuty welcome shall we? And just in case you need one more recipe…check out this coconut rice pudding with coconut caramel brittle. I’m thinking that brittle could pull double duty as a cupcake garnish….just sayin.
- Coconut Cupcakes
- 3 cups cake flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 8 oz unsalted butter 2 sticks, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 egg whites room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 2½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup toasted sweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- Cream Cheese Icing
- 16 oz cream cheese softened
- 8 oz unsalted butter 2 sticks, softened
- 2 lbs confectioners sugar
- 4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups flaked or shredded unsweetened coconut toasted
- 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut toasted
- *optional fondant flowers for decoration
Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 - 12 cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Beat the butter with an electric mixture on high. Gradually add in sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 mins.
Add the egg whites and beat until well blended, about 2 mins, then add in the sour cream and beat until combined.
Add in one third of the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
Add one half of the milk, mix until combined. Continue with the flour, milk and finish with the flour. Don't overmix.
Stir in the vanilla, toasted coconut and unsweetened coconut.
Fill each lined cup using an ice cream scoop and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Rotate the pans once while baking.
Cool the cupcakes in the pans for about 5 minutes, then remove them from the pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.
Cream Cheese Icing: Beat the butter and cream cheese together. Slowly add in the confectioners sugar and beat until fluffy.
Mix in the vanilla.
Assemble the Cupcakes: Fill a piping bag fitted with a large round tip about ⅔ full with icing. Pipe icing in concentric circles on top of the cupcake, creating a slight peak. Sprinkle a handful of the coconut over the top.
Repeat with the remaining cupcakes, refilling the piping bag as needed.
Garnish with fondant flowers if desired.