Chocolate Caramel Coconut Cupcakes

These chocolate caramel coconut cupcakes come together with soft coconut cupcakes, homemade caramel filling, and creamy milk chocolate frosting. Each bite will remind you of a Girl Scout Samoas/Caramel DeLites cookie. The combination of coconut, chocolate, and caramel is an indulgent triple threat that’s sure to satisfy most cupcake cravings!

chocolate caramel coconut cupcakes on a wood slice serving board with a bite out of one showing the caramel filling

Tell Me About These Chocolate Caramel Coconut Cupcakes

  • Texture: These coconut cupcakes are fluffy and moist. They’re probably the first cupcake we’ve ever made from scratch that completely melts in your mouth. Thanks to the cake flour, egg whites, and canned coconut milk– they are just so light!
  • Flavor: We took our favorite vanilla cupcakes and infused them with coconut flavor using coconut oil, coconut extract, canned unsweetened coconut milk, and sweetened shredded coconut. Of course we also have all the caramel hiding inside and the mountain of chocolate buttercream on top. Certainly a lot of flavor packed in 1 cupcake!
  • Ease: We categorize these chocolate caramel coconut cupcakes as an intermediate baking recipe  just because there’s a couple extra steps including making the caramel and filling the cupcakes. And though the frosting tastes exceptionally creamy as if you worked on it for hours, the process of making it is basic and no-frills. (By the way, here’s a post dedicated just to our chocolate buttercream).

overhead image of chocolate caramel coconut cupcakes on a wood slice serving board

Can We Use This Vanilla Cupcake Recipe in Other Places?

As mentioned above, today’s coconut cupcakes are adapted from our vanilla cupcakes base. It’s a well-loved and popular cupcake recipe on the site– and one my team and I turn to often! You can see that we turned the vanilla cupcakes into many other flavors including pistachio cupcakes, white chocolate strawberry cupcakes, chai latte cupcakes, and mimosa cupcakes.


Key Ingredients in Chocolate Caramel Coconut Cupcakes

  • Cake flour: The cupcakes are guaranteed soft and fluffy if you start with cake flour.
  • Half coconut oil + half butter: Make sure the coconut oil is SOLID and at room temperature so it can cream properly with the butter. This creamed fat will be the base of your coconut cupcakes. To ensure you have a little coconut flavor, look for unrefined coconut oil (not refined).
  • Canned coconut milk instead of whole milk: You can use full fat or reduced fat coconut milk, but make sure it’s from a can. Refrigerated coconut milk is more like a beverage and canned is more like a cooking and baking ingredient. (It’s what we use in this coconut cake, too.) Give the can a good shake before using because the solid coconut cream separates from the liquid. If it’s still separated, pour it all out into a bowl and whisk until combined, then measure what you need for the batter.
  • Coconut extract: Only 1 teaspoon does the trick to really get this coconut party started! Though you could leave it out if desired, the cupcakes lack 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!

ingredients for coconut cupcakes

2 images of coconut cupcake batter in a glass stand mixer bowl and batter in a cupcake pan

Recipe Testing: What Works & What Doesn’t

  1. Less is more: Fill the cupcake liners only 2/3 full with batter. 2/3 full isn’t a lot. In fact, you might even question yourself and be tempted to add more, but don’t give into the pressure! You could end up with (1) overflowed cupcake “mushroom” tops, (2) cupcakes with crisp edges, (3) cupcakes that sink, and the disappointing list could go on. It’s all quite the opposite of the soft and fluffy cupcake goal we’re after.
  2. Caramel: Here’s the salted caramel recipe you need for the filling. Give the caramel 30 minutes to cool and thicken before filling the cupcakes. Feel free to reduce the salt to 1/2 teaspoon for sweet caramel or keep it as salted caramel. (We prefer the cupcakes with salted caramel.)
  3. Filling the cupcakes with caramel: There are a few ways to fill cupcakes, but I always prefer this easy way– carve a hole down into the baked & cooled cupcake, spoon the filling in, and place the carved piece back on top. The cupcakes are about 1 and ½ 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). We 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? This is exactly how we fill our sugar plum fairy cupcakes and peanut butter & jelly cupcakes, too.
  4. Use a knife or a simple piping tip: Though you can definitely swirl the frosting on the filled cupcakes with a knife, we used our trusty Wilton #12 round piping tip. Place the tip directly on top of the cupcake, apply pressure, and slowly lift up. There’s no swirling for this style– just pipe and lift. You can watch how this is done in my piping tips video.
  5. Lumps are okay: The coconut cupcake batter will be slightly lumpy from the shredded coconut.

overhead image of coconut cupcakes with the center removed and filled with salted caramel sauce

chocolate caramel coconut cupcakes on a wood slice serving board

a bite out of a chocolate caramel coconut cupcake showing the caramel filling in the center

More Coconut Recipes You’ll Love

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chocolate caramel coconut cupcakes on a wood slice serving board with a bite out of one showing the caramel filling

Chocolate Caramel Coconut Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 15-16 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Chocolate caramel coconut cupcakes with salted caramel filling, milk chocolate frosting, and fluffy coconut cupcakes.


Ingredients

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (55g) unrefined coconut oil, solid (not melted or liquid)
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canned coconut milk, at room temperature*
  • 3/4 cup (60g) sweetened shredded coconut
  • salted caramel for filling, cooled for 30 minutes*
  • chocolate buttercream frosting for topping
  • optional: toasted coconut for topping

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Prepare frosting and frost cooled cupcakes. I used the Wilton #12 round piping tip. Top with any leftover caramel and toasted coconut, if desired.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: 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.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | 5-qt Tilt Head Glass Measuring BowlKitchenAid Hand Mixer | Cupcake PanCupcake Liners | Icing Bags | #12 Decorating Tip
  3. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, use this homemade cake flour substitute. 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.
  4. Coconut Milk: 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.
  5. Caramel: 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.
  6. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: coconut cupcakes, cupcakes, chocolate caramel cupcakes

You’ll also love my apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting!

apple spice cupcakes with salted caramel frosting, a drizzle of salted caramel, and a slice of granny smith apple on top

29 Comments

  1. Sally, if I don’t use the coconut extract will the cupcakes still be coconut-y? I have all the ingredients except for coconut extract and I’m not a fan of artificial flavourings anyway.

    1. Slightly coconut-y, yes. 🙂

  2. I love coconut and always make a coconut cake for Easter. Do you think that if I put this batter in a 9-inch round at 350F until it is tested with a knife (I know it will take longer) it would work as a cake? Since they look so light and fluffy I wasn’t sure if it would hold up as a cake! Excited to try this recipe and especially the coconut cake base 🙂 yummmm!

    1. A cake will work! There will be way too much batter for a single layer 9-inch cake and not quite enough for a double layer. So I suggest filling the cake pan halfway with batter and using the leftover for cupcakes. I’m unsure of the bake time for the cake.

  3. Hey Sally! How imperative is it to do half butter, half coconut oil? I have coconut extract paste….. Can I just use all butter and use extra extract instead of buying a whole thing of coconut oil for a mere 1/4 cup? Your expertise is appreciated 🙂

    1. You can use all butter. Extra extract is a great idea!

  4. Ooh this looks so tempting. Any tips if I want to convert this to a cake ? I want to make birthday cake for my coconut loving spouse and this sounds so perfect (unfortunately he is not a fan of lemon or any citric flavour). It would be awesome if i could convert it to his bday cake.

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Prachi! I would make this white layer cake (based off of this cupcake base) and use coconut milk instead of regular milk, and half coconut oil/butter like I do in these cupcakes. You can use this chocolate frosting to frost and drizzle with salted caramel.

  5. Mary Czarnecki says:

    Hi Sally! I CANNOT wait to make this AWESOME cupcakes! Quick question though. I just want to make sure the caramel sauce will be thick enough (but not hard) to fill the cupcakes. I don’t want it to run out of the cupcakes when someone bites into it. I’ve had problems with other caramel sauces that did run. Thanks for your time!

    1. This caramel isn’t thin– it’s thick and chewy, but not hard 🙂

  6. Ok, so I’ve never commented on a blog before, but I just had to tell you that I just made 3 dozen of these little lovelies.  Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING about them is perfection —   From the texture of the cupcake (I was skeptical about that coconut in there but it works!) to the most AMAZING caramel you’ve ever put in your mouth — Absolute bliss!  I can’t wait to take them to our bible study group and share with our friends!

    Really, just wanted to say, “You really hit this one out of the park, Sally — Great Job!  Amazing!”

    By the way, I was overzealous with the caramel making and have about a cup of it left — I’m now scouring your site for other recipes that use this caramel.  There may be another scrumptious treat in the very near future for us!  Yay!

  7. Hi Sally!! I have made these cupcakes before and absolutely loved them! I want to make them again in cake form, would the coconut cupcake recipe be enough for three 6 inch cake pans? Any idea how long to bake them? Then I was thinking I would fill with the chocolate buttercream and then in the middle of the cake make the buttercream a bit thinner and put salted caramel in it. Do you think that would work? Thank you, I am so excited to make this!!

    1. Hi Sydney! I think that’s an AWESOME idea. This batter fits perfectly in 3 6-inch cake pans. The bake time is about 18-20 minutes. Make sure you line the cake pans with parchment and grease– exactly as I do here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2018/05/29/6-inch-funfetti-cake/

      Would love to know how your cake turns out!

  8. I very much want to make these cupcakes, but I live in Spain and they don’t sell sour cream here 🙁
    I’ve read else where that you an substitute sour cream with Greek yogurt. Would that work for this recipe?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Sarah! Yes, you can use plain yogurt (Greek style or regular) instead of sour cream.

  9. These are SO delicious! Cupcake was soft and moist, all the flavors work so well together -they taste just like a samoa Girl Scout cookie… I filled each cupcake with caramel and drizzled it over the chocolate frosting, then sprinkled toasted shredded coconut on top. INCREDIBLE!
    And thank you so much for a caramel recipe that doesn’t require a candy thermometer. I was nervous to make caramel for the first time but it worked out great! I added half the salt for the caramel, but other than that did everything in each recipe as stated.

  10. Hi there ! I am making these tomorrow and I have two questions – can I use light coconut milk instead of regular and is it a big deal if my coconut oil is naturally refined as opposed to unrefined?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Amy! Happy to help.

      1) Canned light coconut milk is OK.
      2) I mention unrefined because it has more coconut flavor, but, keeping that in mind, you can use refined if it’s easier. 🙂

  11. Hi Sally! I really want to make these coconut cupcakes, but I was wondering whether I could substitute butter for the coconut oil? Would it be a 1:1 substitution if I can do that? Thanks! 🙂

    1. Yes, you may use room temperature butter in place of the coconut oil.

  12. This recipe is worth your time and taste buds. Each layer compliments the other and is so delicious!

  13. Hi,

    I am planning to try this recipe tomorrow. I was just wondering if I could substitute the sour cream for buttermilk?

    Thanks!
    Eloise

    1. Hi Eloise, if using buttermilk, it’s best to replace the sour cream AND milk (in this case, coconut milk) with buttermilk.

  14. If I just wanted to do the coconut cupcakes without the caramel filling, what would a good frosting or topping be?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alyssa, you can simply leave out the caramel filling and use the chocolate buttercream frosting. The toasted coconut and salted caramel drizzle are also optional. Enjoy!

  15. Eden Watson says:

    Can’t wait to make these! Do you think it would work if I used premade salted caramel sauce, like for ice cream?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Eden! It’s hard to say as the consistency of the caramel may be different – if it’s too thin it could seep into the cupcake too much. But let us know if you give it a try!

  16. I just finished these and the cake and frosting turned out great. However, the caramel has turned hard as a rock in the cupcake. We have to pull it out while eating because it can’t even be chewed. I made two batches because the first one burnt and the second has a nice light color. Is there a way to make the Carmel so that it stays soft?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joshua, this caramel should be soft and chewy, not hard. If it’s too hard, it may have been over-cooked again. Try cooking lower and slower next time. And make sure to use a thick bottomed pan. Hope you’ll give it another try!

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