In my food life, I know three things for certain: when life is a question, grilled cheese is the answer, a world without chocolate is a world where I’m angry, and if I spot a coconut dessert, I’m buying two: one for me and one for my mom. We may both be vegetarians, but outside of that, coconut desserts are basically our only common ground in food. A few months ago, I made Macaroon Muffins in the hopes of mom-bonding, but alas, she thought they were misleading in their cupcake-like appearance, not sweet enough, AND too dense. I thought they were perfect…my world was shaken.
I wasn’t about to lose our coconut camaraderie without a fight, so as Mother’s Day approached, I began dreaming up my mom’s ideal coconut recipe. I told her of my plan last week and she responded, “Great!…You’re not going to put anything weird in them, right? I don’t want any avocado in there, no applesauce, no fresh herbs…don’t mess with it.” Admittedly I do have an obsession with kitchen experimentation, but this was not the time or the place. No, this was the time for straightforward dessert perfection in coconut form. With her tastes in mind, I headed into my kitchen, grabbed my staple baking ingredients (nothing more, nothing less), and started my journey to coconut redemption.
Coconut Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Filling
Adapted from Simply Recipes. Makes 20 cupcakes.
- 3/4 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/4 cup of sugar
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup of canned coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/2 cup of sweetened coconut
Adapted from Epicurious.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup reduced coconut milk, room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups sweetened coconut (for topping)
Dark Chocolate Fudge Filling
Adapted from Bon Appetit. This is technically a ganache, but the word ganache gives me the creeps, so we will be referring to it as “filling.”
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Start by reducing the coconut milk for the frosting. This needs to cool COMPLETELY before you can use it, so get it out of the way first. Pour a can of well-shaken coconut milk into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce to medium heat, and let it lightly boil for 20 minutes or so, stirring fairly frequently, until it’s about half it’s original volume. Put in the fridge to chill out until it’s frosting time.
Fluff together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter for a minute or two, add the sugar, and beat until fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Grab another bowl, shake up a can of coconut milk (NOT the milk you just reduced…save that for later), and then combine one cup of it with the vanilla. Gradually alternate adding the coconut milk mixture and the flour mixture to the batter, starting and finishing with the flour.
Fold in the coconut.
Lightly coat muffin liners with cooking spray, and fill them 3/4 of the way with batter. Bake the cupcakes 18-20 minutes, until they pass the toothpick test.
While they’re baking, get your chocolate filling ready. Heat the cream to a light boil, then pour over a bowl of chocolate chips. Let the mixture sit for about a minute, and then whisk until it looks like this…
Use a small knife, angled at about 45-degrees, cut into the top of each cupcake, almost an inch deep, and circle around so you get a cone shape . Slice off the top of that cone shape so you have a little disc to pop right on top of the filling.
Fill each cupcake with a spoonful of the chocolate heaven. The chocolate will firm up as you frost the cupcakes, and you’ll be left with a wonderful fudge center.
Mine may have overflowed a little. I didn’t care.
It’s frosting time! Cream the butter, then add the powdered sugar, 1/3 cup reduced coconut milk (you’ll have some leftover), and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until well combined, and then whip together on high speed until fluffy. Pipe frosting on each cupcake, or spread it on with a knife if you’re lazy (this is a judgement-free place). Cover each cupcake with a generous handful of coconut.
I toasted most of mine in the oven for about 7 minutes at 350-degrees, but you could use regular, un-toasted coconut too. I topped some with just toasted coconut, and some with a mixture of toasted AND regular coconut (overachiever).
Using cake flour really helps keep this cupcake light, and the coconut milk-infused batter and frosting helps that coconut flavor shine. Then, when you bite into the fudge center, you get that dark chocolate/coconut coupling that just brings it all together…that’s the money shot, really.
I can wax poetic all I want, but this post is about my mom’s cupcake experience, so let’s get to the point (finally). As I carried these up to my parent’s house on Sunday, I felt nervous. Not that my mom would care if the cupcakes weren’t up to snuff, I just really wanted to make a dessert specialized to her tastes, since I rarely do that, being the selfish, exploratory baker that I am.
Four hours after an absurdly huge Mother’s Day brunch, my mom and I were able to split a cupcake. I eyed her warily as she brought the fork up to her mouth. My mom, like myself, wears her emotions on her face and in her voice, so when I saw real excitement in her eyes, and heard a sincerely happy murmur through her full mouth, I knew we had a winner.
A big winner. In fact, we froze over half of the cupcakes on Sunday so they wouldn’t go bad before being eaten, and she already had to take some out of the freezer on Tuesday. Sure, my dad’s been eating two at a time, but my mom’s been getting at ’em too.
I may have also eaten one or two while taking photographs. Can you blame me though? This blog post is about my mom and I bonding over our common coconut experience, and bond we did. Bonding is always better over baked goods, isn’t it? Scratch that, let’s be real; everything is better over baked goods.