We have lots of ground to cover today, so let’s jump right in.
Coconut + caramel + chocolate. Power trio! Today we’re making soft and fluffy coconut cupcakes that are filled with caramel (salted or unsalted, your preference) and topped with milk chocolate frosting and toasted coconut. And more caramel, if you desire. (Don’t you?) They’re overloaded and dreamy, undoubtedly rich and satisfying. Consider these a Samoas Girl Scout cookie in cupcake form. An Easter basket of candy inside a cupcake wrapper.
I added coconut 4 different ways, each majorly important to the final taste and texture.
Here are the coconut changes I made:
Half coconut oil + half butter. (1/4 cup each) Make sure the coconut oil is SOLID and cream it with the butter. This creamed fat will be the base of your coconut cupcakes.
Canned coconut milk instead of whole milk. What a difference in flavor and texture! I used reduced fat and loved the results. Full fat works just as well. Give the can a good shake before using. Refrigerated coconut milk is more like a beverage and canned is more like a cooking and baking ingredient. I recommend canned for these coconut cupcakes.
Coconut extract. Only 1 teaspoon does the trick to really get this coconut party started! The cupcakes were lacking a majority of their coconut flavor without it.
Sweetened shredded coconut. You can hardly taste the texture in the baked cupcakes as it breaks down and absorbs the moisture. But the flavor is all there!
The coconut ingredients you’ll need are right here:
One thing to note: the coconut oil caused the cupcake wrappers to slightly separate from the cupcakes as they cooled. This certainly isn’t a problem and it’s not like the wrappers were actually falling off– they were just separating from the baked cupcakes on the sides. Again, this is because of the coconut oil in the cupcakes. And don’t worry! The cupcakes do NOT taste oily.
I’m not sure if it’s the creamed coconut oil, coconut milk, sour cream, egg whites, or the cake flour– or the combination of it all, but these coconut cupcakes are even fluffier and more moist than the original vanilla version. Probably the first cupcake I’ve ever made from scratch that literally melts in your mouth. They are so light!
And one more thing… the coconut cupcake batter will be slightly lumpy from the shredded coconut.
And always remember this!
Fill your cupcake liners only 2/3 full. Less is more. 2/3 full isn’t a lot. In fact, you might even question yourself and be tempted to add more. Don’t give into the pressure! Don’t overfill those liners or you could end up with (1) mushroom looking oddballs, (2) cupcakes with crisp edges, (3) overflowed cupcakes, (4) cupcakes that sink, and the disappointing list goes on. Quite the opposite of the soft and fluffy cupcake goal.
And now, the best part of all. Honestly, if I had to choose favorites in these chocolate caramel coconut cupcakes, it would be the salted caramel filling. You probably already know the filling we’ll use. It’s this salted caramel recipe! The same one used on these brownies, on this bundt cake, in this Snickers tart, and somuchmore. The caramel filling becomes thicker after a few hours, but will never turn super hard. (Unless you overcook it!) You have total control over the salt in the caramel, so feel free to reduce the salt if you prefer a sweet caramel as the filling.
We’ll fill the cupcakes the lazy way. Aka carve a hole, spoon the filling in, and place the carved piece back on top. The cupcakes are about 1.5 inches tall, so you’ll want to carve a 1 inch deep section of cupcake out. This can be roughly 1 inch, a little less is perfectly fine. The section of cupcake you remove will be the shape of a cone (see this post). I slice off a little of the narrow end of the cone because it won’t fit back on top with all the caramel inside. Does this make sense?
And now for the no-frills chocolate frosting. Butter, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, milk (or cream), and a pinch of salt. I’m sure you have each ingredient in your kitchen right now. Takes about 5 minutes to whip together and even less time to frost the cupcakes. I used my trusty Wilton #12 round piping tip. Place the tip directly on top of the cupcake, apply pressure, and slowly lift up. No swirling. Just pipe and lift. I’ll create a video for how I do that in the next couple of weeks, I promise!
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature2
3 and 1/2 cups (420g) confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup (45g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream or milk
optional: toasted coconut for topping
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 3-4 liners - this recipe makes about 15-16 cupcakes. Set aside.
Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and solid coconut oil together on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites, vanilla extract, and coconut extract. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the coconut milk and shredded coconut until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no large lumps stuck at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick with a few lumps of shredded coconut.
Pour/spoon the batter into the liners - fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan to cool completely.
Fill the cupcakes: Using a sharp knife, cut a circle/hole into the center of the cooled cupcake to create a little pocket about 1 inch deep. This piece you removed will be the shape of a cone. Set it aside. Place about 1 teaspoon of caramel inside the cupcake-- or however much will fit. Slice off the pointy end of the "cone" piece of cupcake you removed so that it can fit on top of the filling. Repeat with all cupcakes.
Make the frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy - about 2 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, salt, heavy cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick.
Make ahead tip: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
If you cannot get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. This equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
See #2 in the written post about the canned coconut milk. For best flavor and texture, avoid using the refrigerated kind. Canned is best. It's usually in the international food section of any regular grocery store.
If you prefer a sweet caramel filling as opposed to salted caramel, feel free to reduce the salt in the caramel recipe to 1/4 teaspoon. The caramel needs to cool for 30 minutes before using as the filling, so I usually make it when the cupcakes are cooling.