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I talk often — and admittedly think even more often — about chocolate flavor pairings.
My go to is usually chocolate with MORE CHOCOLATE.
But sometimes you need to switch it up. I realized recently that I tend to enjoy coconut more in savory dishes than sweet.
I thought these Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes would be a perfect simple recipe to work on.
My goal was to use coconut in as many forms as possible so it would be able to match the intensity of the chocolate flavor.
You’ll see there’s coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut extract, and shredded coconut. Each of those ingredients (save the extract) offer not only a lovely coconut flavor but also a crucial texture component!
How to Make Homemade Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes
Why combine chocolate, cocoa, and boiling water?
Not only does this melt the chocolate, but the boiling water helps to ‘bloom’ the cocoa powder. Meaning it helps it to release its flavor compounds for a richer chocolate experience!
Do I have to use Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder?
For best results, I find Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder creates more moist and tender cupcakes with a deeper color. Dutch-process tends to have more fat content and is less starchy than most grocery store natural cocoa powder products. Basically, you’re less likely to have dry cupcakes when using Dutch-process.
However, because I understand not everyone can easily find Dutch-process, especially these days, here’s how you can swap in Natural Cocoa Powder:
Use the same amount of natural unsweetened cocoa powder in place of the Dutch-Process and omit the vinegar.
If you’re curious about the differences between Dutch-Process vs. Natural Cocoa powder, check out this article.
How to bake with coconut oil:
For this recipe, virgin coconut oil not only adds a rich texture but an extra hit of coconut flavor. Since the oil needs to be melted to incorporate into the batter, I find it easiest to measure melted. You can simply pop your glass container of coconut oil in the microwave without the metal lid and nuke until the top layer melts enough for the recipe.
What if I don’t have coconut oil?
While coconut oil is best, you can use vegetable or canola oil instead. Just make sure it’s fresh and has no off aroma.
How to bake with coconut milk:
Be sure to use canned full-fat coconut milk for best results. Anything else will create cupcakes that are less rich and more dry.
Since canned coconut milk tends to separate, vigorously shake the can before opening. If it’s still very separated, whisk until somewhat smooth before adding into the batter. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’ll all blend together eventually. You just want to make sure you’re getting a good amount of both the fat solids and liquid, not too much of just one.
How to Make the Coconut Buttercream:
Make sure your butter is completely softened to room temperature. In a stand mixer, combine the butter and sifted powdered sugar on low speed until well blended and then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the salt, coconut extract, and coconut milk, and beat on medium for 1 minute, adding more cream if needed or more powdered sugar to thicken. Add the coconut extract to taste. You can always add more, but you can’t take away!
Help! I don’t have any butter or I need to make this dairy free.
The chocolate cupcake base is actually butter free and dairy free if you use DF chocolate. So you could pair it with whipped coconut cream in place of the coconut buttercream for a totally dairy-free treat. May be especially helpful if you are low on butter during these crazy times.
Can this recipe be made into a cake?
Almost any cupcake recipe can be turned into cake. Check out my full guide on how to convert cupcakes into cake (and vice versa!).
How to Make Cupcakes Ahead of Time
Store unfrosted in an airtight container at a cool room temperature (about 67°F) for up to 2 days. Airtight plastic or glass containers work better than resealable bags to prevent the tops from getting all sticky.
Store frosted cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 8 hours at room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 2 days. Let come to room temperature before serving.
If storing unfrosted cupcakes for longer, wrap cupcakes individually in plastic wrap (this prevents freezer burn and taste transference). Place cupcakes inside a freezer bag on a shelf in your freezer where they won’t get smashed, or in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Unwrap the cupcakes and allow to defrost at room temperature for about 1 to 2 hours. I don’t recommend defrosting in the fridge overnight in plastic as it tends to create a more sticky top where the frosting slides off.
Freeze the buttercream in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight and re-whip in the stand mixer until light and fluffy again. Add a tablespoon or 2 of powdered sugar if it needs to thicken.
More Cupcake Recipes You’ll Love:
- The Best Chocolate Cupcakes
- Ultimate Nutella Cupcakes
- Mint Chocolate Cupcakes
- Chocolate Blackout Cupcakes
- Red Velvet Cupcakes
For the chocolate cupcakes:
- 5 ounces (142 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup (28 grams) Dutch-process cocoa
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup full-fat canned coconut milk, shaken well or whisked until somewhat smooth
- 1/4 cup melted virgin coconut oil
- 2 large eggs plus one egg yolk, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the coconut buttercream:
- 3 cups (375 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
- 8 ounces (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 2 tablespoons full-fat canned coconut milk
For the toppings:
- 1 cup (85 grams) shredded sweetened coconut
Make the cupcakes:
- In a medium heatproof bowl, add the chocolate and cocoa powder. Pour hot water over mixture. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk mixture gently until thick and smooth, then set aside to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with liners.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda.
- Whisk the coconut milk, coconut oil, eggs, egg yolk, vinegar, and vanilla into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until smooth, being careful not to overmix.
- Using a spring-loaded scoop, divide the batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake until cupcakes are set and firm to the touch, about 17 to 20 minutes.
- Let cupcakes cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely, about 1 hour. Cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.
Make the frosting:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the salt, coconut extract, and coconut milk and beat on medium for 1 minute, adding more cream if needed or more powdered sugar to thicken.
Toast the coconut:
- Place the coconut in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Stirring constantly, toast until golden brown. Remove and let cool.
- Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting onto each cupcake. Sprinkle with the cooled toasted coconut. Serve or store for 1 day at room temperature or up to 2 days covered in the fridge.
Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.