If there's one ingredient I associate with baking in the spring, it's coconut. I'm not sure why the two are linked in my mind, but when the days begin getting longer and everything starts to bloom, I always find myself craving it. I've been bookmarking possible recipes for weeks now, and I finally remembered to add the coconut milk and shredded coconut to the grocery list before my last trip. I used to find myself at the store 3 or 4 times a week picking up things I'd forgotten on the weekend, and I really didn't think much of it, but I stopped doing that about 6 months ago, and am amazed at the time and money I save. It forces me to be a lot more thoughtful when working on my list, that's for sure!
Though I think coconut works well in combination with a lot of other flavors, most of the time I'd really rather let it be the star, which it absolutely is in this recipe. The cupcake base is a white cake (just egg whites, no yolks) that's flavored with both coconut milk and shredded coconut. When baked, the cupcakes have a really tight crumb but they're fluffy and moist and full of coconut flavor, which only gets more intense if you let them sit overnight. They're topped with a rich Swiss meringue buttercream that also gets a punch of coconut flavor from coconut milk. I adore coconut milk, it makes everything it touches 100x better! These are the best cupcakes I've made in quite a while, and if you're a coconut fan, they're a must try. Searching for a last minute Easter dessert? I think they'd be perfect :)
Just a quick note: this was originally a recipe for a layer cake, so if you'd rather go that route, use two 8-inch cake pans, and increase the baking time (start checking around 35 minutes). Also, the recipe scales well if you'd rather not have over 20 cupcakes sitting around tempting you :) I did 1/3 of the recipe and wound up with 7 cupcakes - I recommend going with the ingredient weights rather than volume if you're going to scale back.
White Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Swiss Meringue Buttercream
from Flour by Joanne Chang
2 1/4 cups (270 g) cake flour
1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 large egg whites
1 cup (240 g) coconut milk
1 cup (120 g) sweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup (160 g) coconut milk
To make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two muffin pans with paper liners.
Sift the cake flour into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar, baking powder, and salt then mix on low briefly to combine. Cut the butter into 2-inch pieces and, with the mixer on low, add the pieces a few at a time until you've add all of them. Beat on low until the mixture looks like coarse crumbles, about 1 minute.
Whisk the egg whites, coconut milk, coconut, and vanilla extract together in a large measuring cup. Add half of the coconut milk mixture to the mixer bowl, and beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute, or until well combined. Add the remaining coconut milk mixture, beating until the batter has a uniform consistency and is light and fluffy, about 30 seconds.
Divide the batter among the liners, filling each about 2/3-3/4 full. Bake for 18 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let the cupcakes cool for a few minutes then remove them to the racks and allow them to cool completely.
To make the frosting: Add the sugar and egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. Set over a pan of simmering water and heat, whisking almost constantly, until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar has dissolved. You can test it by rubbing a bit of the mixture between your fingertips - it shouldn't feel grainy. This will take about 6-8 minutes.
Attach the bowl to your stand mixer which is fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium high speed until the mixture is a fluffy meringue and is cool to the touch, about 6-8 minutes. Cut the butter into 2-inch pieces, and, with the mixer on low, add a few pieces at a time until they've all been added. Increase the speed to medium high and continue beating until the butter is incorporated and the frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Don't worry if it looks curdled, just keep beating and it will come together.
Add the vanilla extract, salt and coconut milk to the frosting and beat on medium-high speed until the coconut milk is incorporated and the mixture is once again fluffy and smooth. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip. Pipe some frosting onto each cupcake (you should have enough for a good-sized mound if you like a lot :) ). Store the cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Makes 21-24 cupcakes