Friday, May 8, 2015

Coconut Cupcakes

Last weekend I celebrated my 35th birthday. Every year, I get excited for my birthday. I am not too concerned (yet) about my age so I look forward to my birthday. It's nice to be spoiled and wished 'Happy Birthday' by everyone. It's also a great excuse for me to bake myself some cupcakes. Each year I choose exactly the kind I want. I don't worry if John or the kids don't like the flavor. They're MY birthday cupcakes, after all.

This year, my cupcake flavor of choice was coconut. In the fall, I was reminded of how much I like coconut when I had a slice of coconut icebox cake at Five Loaves CafĂ© in Charleston, SC. If you ever get a chance to eat there, do it. Everything my friend and I had was awesome and it has a real cute atmosphere.

Upon returning from my trip, I started looking for a coconut cake recipe. Most of them were just a white cake with coconut sprinkled on the frosting. Blah! Finally, I found a recipe in an old Cooks Illustrated I had been hanging on to. The recipe is actually for a layer cake, but I wanted to try translating it into a cupcake. You can find the original recipe here, but I altered it slightly, and halved the recipe to make a smaller batch of filled cupcakes. I definitely want to make the original layer cake at some point, but I don't need a whole coconut cake sitting around my house.

Coconut Cupcakes
3 egg whites + 1/2 egg yolk (separate eggs, reserve one yolk and spoon half of yolk into bowl)
1/4 C. + 2 Tbsp. cream of coconut (shake can and stir very well)
2 Tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coconut extract
1 1/8 C. sifted cake flour
1/2 C. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/8 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool

Buttercream Frosting:
2 egg whites
1/2 sugar
Dash salt
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, each stick cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
2 Tbsp. cream of coconut
1/2 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For cupcakes: Heat oven to 325. Put 12 cupcake liners in a muffin tin. Beat egg whites and yolk in a glass measuring cup with fork to combine. Add cream of coconut, water, vanilla, and coconut extract and beat with fork until thoroughly combined.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. mix on lowest speed to combine, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on lowest speed, add butter 1 piece at a time, then beat until mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. With mixer running, add 1/2 cup of the liquid. Increase speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With mixer still running, add remaining liquid in steady stream (this should take about 8 seconds). Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then beat at medium high speed to combine, about 15 seconds. (Batter will be thick.)
Fill cupcake liners 1/2 to 2/3 full using a ice cream scoop. Tap pan on counter to level off cupcakes and release air bubbles. Bake until deep golden brown, cupcakes begin to pull away from sides of pan, and toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes from tin and cool completely on wire rack.

For frosting: Combine whites, sugar and salt in bowl of stand mixer; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 1/2 inches of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly until mixture is opaque and warm to the touch and registers about 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.
Transfer bowl to mixer and beat whites on high speed with whisk attachment until barely warm (about 80 degrees) and white are glossy and sticky, about 7 minutes. Reduce speed to medium high and beat in butter 1 piece at a time. Beat in cream of coconut, coconut and vanilla extracts. Stop mixer and scrape bottom and sides of bowl. Continue to beat at medium high speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Cut center of cupcake out using an apple corer (don't go all the way to the bottom of the cupcake). Fill space with frosting. Pipe frosting onto tops of cupcakes and top with shredded coconut.

If you're interested, you can check out my past birthday cupcakes:
-Vanilla Chai Cupcake
-Key Lime Cupcake