Coconut vanilla bean cupcakes with coconut buttercream

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I love me some coconut. I love adding some into a chocolate cake, or using coconut milk in savory dishes or to make salad dressings. There’s just something so refreshing and bright about it. This was my first 100% coconut dessert and I’d been excited about trying it for weeks. Thanksgiving seemed like as good a time as any to bake my very first batch of cupcakes since it wouldn’t just be the two of us (well, OK, pretty much just ME) eating them all for days on end. I LOVED these cupcakes. They were perfectly coconut-scented without being overly sweet (the buttercream was very sweet, but I added a touch of lemon juice to calm it down a bit). Reduced coconut milk in the cake batter and the frosting added just enough flavor while the toasted coconut flakes stuck on the finished product were nutty and delicious.

The texture of these cupcakes was perfect as well. Thick and dense with just a slight crumb. They kept very well for about a week in tupperware containers in the fridge. As part of my overly ambitious Thanksgiving plans, I’d hoped to add a drizzle of salted caramel to the cupcakes for that extra something. I unfortunately didn’t have time to turn out the caramel and had to abandon this idea at the last minute. Don’t try these if you don’t love coconut, but if you do, these should definitely be on your list. Spice them up a little with salted caramel, add some toasted hazelnuts on top or maybe even a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache between the cupcakes and the frosting… Yum…

Coconut cupcakes with coconut buttercream
Recipe from Bon Appétit

Ingredients (makes 18 cupcakes):
20 oz. coconut milk (for the reduced coconut milk needed below)

2 C flour
2 1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3/4 C butter
1 1/3 C sugar
3 eggs
1 vanilla bean
1 C reduced coconut milk

1 C butter, softened
2 C powdered sugar
1/3 C reduced coconut milk
1/8 t salt
Lemon juice (optional, to cut the sweetness)

1 C coconut flakes, toasted

Make the reduced coconut milk first. Bring it to a boil in a large saucepan and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the coconut milk until it’s reduced by about half (you should have just over 1 C), which should take about 30-40 minutes. Let cool and set aside.

Now for the cupcakes! Preheat your oven to 350°. Prepare your cupcake pans by lining them with paper liners or spraying with cooking spray. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Beat the butter for 3-4 minutes until it’s smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for another couple of minutes until well combined. Add your eggs next, one at a time, mixing in between additions. Add the vanilla bean with the last egg and blend. Now you’re ready for the dry ingredients! Add half of the flour, salt and baking powder mixture to the batter and beat until just combined. Mix in 1 cup of the reduced coconut milk and once the mixture is smooth, add the remaining flour and mix until just combined. Spread the batter evenly between the muffin cups (they should be about 3/4 of the way full, maybe slightly more). Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes until the tops are springy and a knife comes out clean. Let them cool (removing from the cupcake pan after 10 minutes) completely before frosting.

Now, for the frosting! Again, beat the butter until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add the sugar, 1/3 C reduced coconut milk and salt. Beat on medium-low speed until everything is incorporated, then increase the speed and beat until it becomes frosting! Taste and adjust with lemon juice if you find it too sweet for your taste. Add more powdered sugar (up to 1/2 C more) if the frosting isn’t stiff enough.

Once the cupcakes are cool, top with frosting using a pastry bag or a spoon for a more rustic look like I did. Feel free to embellish, but don’t forget to roll the frosted cupcakes in the toasted coconut (just heat the flakes in a hot pan, stirring and shaking often, for about 2-3 minutes until they’re golden brown and fragrant). Eat right away, or store in a tupperware container in the fridge until ready to eat. Take them out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before serving.

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