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.

Small batch of coconut cupcakes on table.

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.

Up close of coconut cupcake decorated with coconut flakes.

Ingredients:

  • 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.
  • Butter.
  • Powdered Sugar.

How to make coconut cupcakes:

  1. 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. 
    Coconut cupcakes ingredients on table.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the oil and sugar, and beat with an electric mixer until well-combined.
    Oil and sugar, mixed together in a bowl.
  3. Next, add the egg, coconut milk, vanilla and coconut extracts, and beat for 15 seconds.
    Egg, coconut milk and vanilla extract in bowl.
  4. 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.
    Flour on cupcake batter in bowl.
  5. 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.
    Adding coconut flakes to coconut cupcakes batter.
  6. Mix the batter until homogenous.
    Coconut cupcake batter in clear bowl.
  7. 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.
    Raw coconut cupcake batter in muffin pan.
  8. 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.
    Cooked coconut cupcakes in pan.
  9. 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.
    Coconut cream cheese frosting ingredients.
  10. 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.
    Coconut cream cheese frosting in bowl.
  11. Once everything is light and fluffy, set it aside. If you like cream cheese frosting, try my strawberry cream cheese frosting.
    Smooth and creamy cream cheese frosting.
  12. 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.
    Toasting coconut flakes in a skillet.
  13. Frost the cupcakes, and decorate with toasted coconut flakes.

Two frosted coconut cupcakes with milk in the background.

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.

Yield: 4

Coconut Cupcakes

Up close of coconut cupcake decorated with coconut flakes.

Yields 4 coconut cupcakes with coconut cream cheese frosting.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes

Ingredients

FOR THE CUPCAKES:

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted*
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract**
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/16 teaspoon baking soda (a pinch)
  • 1/2 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
  • 1/8 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Place 4 cupcake liners along the outside edge of a muffin tin. Gather ingredients for making the cupcakes. Ingredients for coconut cupcakes on table.
  2. 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. Oil and sugar, mixed together in a bowl.
  3. Add the egg, coconut milk, vanilla and coconut extracts and beat another 15 seconds. Egg, coconut milk and vanilla extract in bowl.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and baking soda on top of the mixture and beat just until combined—do not overmix. Flour over cupcake batter in bowl.
  5. Finally, stir in the flaked coconut. Coconut flakes in batter in bowl.
  6. 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. Raw coconut cupcake batter in muffin pan.
  7. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for a few minutes, and then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Cooked coconut cupcakes in pan.
  8. Ensure all frosting ingredients (cream cheese, butter, coconut milk, extract, and powdered sugar) are at room temperature. Ingredients for coconut cream cheese frosting. .
  9. Beat together all frosting ingredients until light and fluffy. Smooth and creamy cream cheese frosting.
  10. Toast the coconut in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove when golden brown and use to garnish the cupcakes. Toasting coconut in skillet.

Notes

*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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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 478Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 83mgSodium: 258mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 2gSugar: 36gProtein: 4g

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