This weekend I died and went to heaven. At least, I think it was heaven. It sort of smelled like coconut. Come to think of it… it even tasted like coconut. You know what, I think that I might have just mistaken my kitchen this past weekend for heaven. Never mind me.
So here’s the thing about coconut. As a kid, I never had the desire to try coconut (along with a lot of other similarly ‘weird’ foods) and did my best to avoid it all together. Well, at the ripe old age of six, I decided to put my fears aside and try coconut in the form of Samoas (otherwise known as Caramel deLites) Girl Scout cookies. It took a second cookie to help me make up my mind, but I finally decided that coconut was something that I could warm up to (as long as chocolate and caramel continued to be invited to the party too). Well, as my fortune would have it, I was struck with a bug that day and became violently ill no less than ten minutes after finishing my second cookie. I had the distinct displeasure of seeing all of the cookies come right back up and I just knew, I knew, that it had to have been the coconut that made me sick. And thus ended my brief affair with coconut.
It would take another fifteen years for me to give coconut another chance. When I finally did give it another go, I believe it was in the form of a coconut mojito. And even though it might not be quite fair since anything would be delicious with the word mojito following it, I found that I very much enjoyed the coconut flavor. And that is where my relationship with coconut stands today. Coconut flavoring? Best friends. A match made in heaven. The peanut butter to my jelly. Coconut flakes? We’re more like frenemies. I’m friendly to its face, but I’ll never forgive it for making me sick all those years ago.
But enough with the negativity. Let’s get to the cupcakes. I really wasn’t intending to make any sweets for Easter, even though I kept the idea of these sweet bird nest cupcakes (coconut flakes, and all) in the back of my mind just in case. But of course when I stumbled upon these sweet pink baking cups mixed in between all the other holiday items on the store shelf, I just couldn’t resist buying them. Just in case I got the urge to bake.
Well, the urge hit this past weekend. Hard. Just in time for Easter, too. I had it in my head that I absolutely must find a way to combine coconut and lemon together because nothing would scream SPRING IS HERE like those two flavors combined. I spent some time brainstorming before deciding that I would adapt this recipe for Aloha cake to my needs. I originally thought I was going to make a lemon frosting, but after trying the cupcake on its own, it was pretty much decided for me that it needed the coconut frosting more.
Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Filling
for the coconut cupcakes (recipe adapted from here):
- 1 box of white cake mix + ingredients called out on mix
- 3 teaspoons of coconut extract
for the lemon filling:
- 1 package of Lemon instant pudding or
- 1 package of Vanilla instant pudding + 2 tsp lemon extract
for the coconut frosting (recipe adapted from here):
- 1 stick (8-Tbsp) of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1/3 cup skim milk
- 2 teaspoons of coconut extract
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Prepare the cake mix according to the box directions and mix in the coconut extract. Pour the mixture into a lined muffin tin and back 20-25 minutes (follow the guidance on the box for cooking times). While the cupcakes bake, prepare the filling by making the instant pudding (stir in lemon extract at the end if using the vanilla instant pudding). Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, use a small knife to cut a cone shape out of the cupcake. Slice the tip off of the cones. Spoon the filling into the cupcakes, and replace the base of the cone back onto the cupcake (see below for an example). To make the frosting, beat the butter with 1 cup confectioners’ sugar. While continuing to beat mixture, slowly add in the remaining confectioners’ sugar. Add in the skim milk and coconut extract last and continue to beat mixture for an additional minute. Frost cupcakes and decorate with lemon zest if desired. Yields 20-24 cupcakes.
I feel like I always say this every time I try a new dessert, but I swear, these cupcakes are my all-time favorite sweet item! They are so perfectly fluffy and moist with just the right amount of sweetness so that it’s not too rich tasting. When Mister E tried one, he died and joined me in my coconut bliss heaven. He claimed that the cupcakes were too good for me to give out the recipe to anyone, and that I should just sell the cupcakes instead. I decided not to tell him how easy these were to make and just went ahead and let him think that I made them from scratch. No need to give out all my secrets, right?