A small batch of creamy, decadent coconut cupcakes that care crammed with coconut flavor! We're using coconut oil, canned coconut milk and toasted coconut flakes for maximum flavor in such a small bite. This recipe makes 4 cupcakes, but you can double or triple it to make more.
It might not seem like the right time of year for coconut cupcakes, but we have a tradition in the South of coconut cake for Christmas. I'm not quite sure if it's because the long, cold days of winter mean hardly any fruits are in season, so coconut seems like a great choice. Or, if a tropical escape to the islands with coconuts and pineapple becomes very enticing during the cold winter makes us crave coconut desserts. Either way, coconut is common in cold months.
Furthermore, every December, Southern Living magazine has a white cake with coconut on the cover. I look forward every year to how they decorate the cake. Making a giant 3 layer cake is always such a big task, so I'm happy to make this recipe for a small batch of coconut cupcakes. The recipe makes 4 cupcakes, but you can double or triple it to serve more. In our family, we often have a dessert buffet table at holiday events, so small batches of a few different types of desserts suits us nicely.
How do these coconut cupcakes taste?
I really want to talk about this, because the texture of these cupcakes is unique. They are not light and super fluffy like a cake mix cupcake. I find light and fluffy cupcakes boring and too airy. However, these cupcakes are not super dense like poundcake, either. They fall somewhere in the middle, and they're perfect. The structure of the cake holds the pieces of coconut flakes, so that it's evenly distributed in the cupcake and doesn't sink to the bottom. Their texture is like a cake that is sturdy enough to hold filling. It's like a slice of coconut cake that you can hold in your hand.
- Oil. For these coconut cupcakes, you can use a neutral, flavorless oil, such as canola, vegetable or grapeseed. Or, you can also use virgin coconut oil, for extra coconut flavor. If you use coconut oil, be sure to melt it in the microwave.
- Granulated Sugar.
- Egg. One whole large egg.
- Canned Coconut Milk. The best canned coconut milk to use is regular, not light. Before opening the can, shake it very well to distribute the fat before measuring two tablespoons of coconut milk for the cupcakes and one tablespoon for the frosting. To use up the rest of the coconut milk, make my coconut muffins. If you want a cold treat, try my dairy free coconut milk ice cream.
- Vanilla Extract.
- Coconut Extract. If you don't have coconut extract, just use almond extract in its place.
- All-Purpose Flour.
- Baking Powder.
- Baking Soda. We just need a small pinch of baking soda, technically 1/16th of a teaspoon.
- Sweetened Coconut Flakes. Sweet coconut flakes give the best flavor, but you can use desiccated (unsweetened) coconut flakes, as well.
- Cream Cheese.
- Powdered Sugar.
How to make coconut cupcakes:
- First, gather all the ingredients needed for the cupcakes only: oil, sugar, salt, egg, coconut milk, extracts, flour, baking powder and baking soda. Place 4 cupcake liners in 4 spots in a muffin pan, and preheat the oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a medium bowl, combine the oil and sugar, and beat with an electric mixer until well-combined.
- Next, add the egg, coconut milk, vanilla and coconut extracts, and beat for 15 seconds.
- Once everything is very well-mixed, sprinkle the flour, baking powder, baking soda on top. Mix it in, but be careful not to over-mix or you'll make tough cupcakes.
- Finally, add the untoasted coconut flakes and stir in. For this coconut cupcakes recipe, I prefer untested coconut in the cupcake (so that it stays soft and sweet), and toasted coconut on top for garnish for crunch.
- Mix the batter until homogenous.
- Now, divide the batter between the 4 cupcake liners. The batter will come almost all the way up to the top--it's okay! They won't overflow while baking.
- Bake the cupcakes for 23-25 minutes, testing with a toothpick before removing them from the oven. The toothpick should come out clean with only moist crumbs clinging to it.
- Let the cupcakes cool in the pan. Gather the ingredients to make the coconut cream cheese frosting: the softened cream cheese, butter, coconut milk, coconut extract, and powdered sugar. Have the coconut flakes on the side--we will toast them soon.
- Add all ingredients to a bowl, and then beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add additional coconut milk if it seems too thick.
- Once everything is light and fluffy, set it aside. If you like cream cheese frosting, try my strawberry cream cheese frosting.
- Let's toast coconut flakes for topping the cupcakes! There's nothing better than crisp coconut flakes on top of coconut cupcakes, don't skip this step! Place the coconut flakes in a skillet, and turn the heat to medium. Stir this mixture CONSTANTLY, and keep an eye on it. Turn off the heat when flakes start to brown, and continue to stir until it's evenly brown. The coconut will continue to toast and brown, even after the heat is off. Let the coconut flakes cool before using.
- Frost the cupcakes, and decorate with toasted coconut flakes.
How to decorate coconut cupcakes:
You can absolutely pipe this coconut cream cheese frosting on top and sprinkle coconut flakes on top. However, this frosting is so rich, that I think it looks lovely spread on top with a butter knife and barely dripping down the sides.
Can you freeze coconut cupcakes?
You can make the cupcakes ahead of time and freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Move them to the fridge overnight before you want to serve them, and leave them out at room temperature for a few hours before frosting them. You can also make the coconut cream cheese frosting ahead of time, scrape into a plastic bag, and freeze for two months. Defrost it overnight in the fridge, re-whip it with an electric mixer and frost the cupcakes with it. Do not freeze already frosted cupcakes--freeze them separately.
Yields 4 coconut cupcakes with coconut cream cheese frosting.
FOR THE CUPCAKES:
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted*
- pinch of salt
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ teaspoon coconut extract**
- ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon flour
- ⅛ teaspoon baking powder
- 1/16 teaspoon baking soda (a pinch)
- ½ cup packed (1.75 ounces) sweetened flaked coconut
FOR THE FROSTING:
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut milk
- ⅛ teaspoon coconut extract
- 6 tablespoons powdered sugar (more or less to taste)
- ½ cup sweetened flaked coconut
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Place 4 cupcake liners along the outside edge of a muffin tin. Gather ingredients for making the cupcakes.
- In a medium bowl, beat the oil, sugar and salt together with an electric mixer for at least 4 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add the egg, coconut milk, vanilla and coconut extracts and beat another 15 seconds.
- Add the flour, baking powder and baking soda on top of the mixture and beat just until combined—do not overmix.
- Finally, stir in the flaked coconut.
- Divide the batter between the cupcake liners (it will come almost to the top). Bake for 23-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for a few minutes, and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Ensure all frosting ingredients (cream cheese, butter, coconut milk, extract, and powdered sugar) are at room temperature. .
- Beat together all frosting ingredients until light and fluffy.
- Toast the coconut in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove when golden brown and use to garnish the cupcakes.
*Oil: For these coconut cupcakes, you can use a neutral, flavorless oil, such as canola, vegetable or grapeseed. Or, you can also use virgin coconut oil, for extra coconut flavor. If you use coconut oil, be sure to melt it in the microwave.
Canned Coconut Milk: The best canned coconut milk to use is regular, not light. Before opening the can, shake it very well to distribute the fat before measuring two tablespoons of coconut milk for the cupcakes and one tablespoon for the frosting.
**Coconut Extract: If you don't have coconut extract, just use almond extract in its place.
Sweetened Coconut Flakes. Sweet coconut flakes give the best flavor, but you can use desiccated (unsweetened) coconut flakes, as well.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 478Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 83mgSodium: 258mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 2gSugar: 36gProtein: 4g
I made these cupcakes today, for my mother's upcoming 70th birthday. We both love coconut. I doubled the recipe, which made about 24 mini muffins. (I am making a variety of bite-sized desserts.) These turned out beautifully. The cupcakes came out of the non-stick mini trays, with cooking spray, with no problem. They are a really good flavor (don't omit the almond extract!). And, the icing with toasted coconut is great too. Thank you for a wonderful recipe, and clear instructions!
christina B. says
I know this is an old recipe, but I have some questions: Can you use pure vegetable oil instead of canola? When it says unsweetened coconut milk is that canned milk? I just made them and I hope they turned out okay, since I didn't have almond extract( I think that would have made a difference!) But at least this is a small scale recipe, I can try again!
Christina Lane says
Hi Christina! Yes, vegetable oil is fine, and yes canned coconut milk. You did it right! Hooray! Hope you love them :)
Mary Alice Worrell says
Can they be made into a cake? What size pan? Thanks. Mary Alice
Thanks for the recipe! I actually turned these into keto cupcakes using King Arthur’s keto flour and swerve sugar substitute. They’re amazing!!
I would love to try this recipe - could you share the metric measures for this please. I would prefer to have gram measures just to be sure to make only 6 cupcakes