These rich cupcakes are packed with coconut flavor and aroma from coconut milk, coconut extract, and sweetened flaked coconut. When using canned coconut milk, be sure to shake the can several times before opening it. This will combine the rich, white coconut cream that rises to the top of the can with the thinner coconut milk. Full-fat coconut milk contains more coconut cream than the reduced-fat kind, but both types can be used in this recipe—although we prefer using full-fat for maximum flavor. These Toasted Coconut-Pecan Cupcakes are made with eggs that are beaten separately, a small extra step that makes the cake more light and tender. When making the batter, fold in the whipped egg whites as gently as possible so the batter does not deflate. Toasted coconut has a deep, caramelized flavor and crisp (rather than chewy) texture. The easiest way to toast coconut is in the oven. Spread flaked coconut evenly on a baking sheet and place in a 325˚ oven for three to five minutes, or until the coconut turns golden and just begins to brown. Watch the coconut carefully once you put it in the oven—it doesn’t take long for it to overbrown, and even burn. Remove the tray from the oven and transfer the coconut to a plate to cool. (If it cools on the hot sheet pan, it will continue to cook and possibly overbrown.) The luscious Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting is flavored with flaked coconut, for sweetness and added texture. Pecans and coconut are a classic Southern combination and we love the toasty sweetness the nuts add to these cupcakes. Toast them well for the most flavor and sprinkle them on top of the creamy frosting for a deliciously crunchy finishing touch.
1 cup salted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup well-shaken canned coconut milk
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1 1/3 cups finely chopped toasted pecans, divided
Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (16-oz.) pkg. powdered sugar, sifted
1 (7-oz.) pkg. sweetened flaked coconut
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter with a heavy-duty stand mixer on medium speed until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating just until blended. Add extracts; beat until blended.
Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; add to butter mixture alternately with coconut milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in coconut and 1 cup of the pecans.
Beat egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form; fold one-third of egg whites into batter. Gently fold in remaining beaten egg whites just until combined. Place 30 paper baking cups in 3 (12-cup) muffin pans; spoon batter into cups, filling two-thirds full.
Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in centers comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks; cool completely, 30 minutes.
Prepare the Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened, and 1/2 cup salted butter, softened, with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy; add 3 Tbsp. whole milk and 1 tsp. vanilla extract, beating well. Gradually add 1 (16-oz.) pkg. powdered sugar, sifted, beating until smooth. Stir in 1 (7-oz.) pkg. sweetened flaked coconut.
Spread Coconut-Cream Cheese Frosting onto cupcakes, and sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup toasted pecans.