Coconut Cupcakes

It’s that time of year again…..blossoms are blooming, the tendrils of green leaves have sprouted on all the trees, and the grass (whatever small patches I have the opportunity to experience in New York City) seems to have shot up six inches suddenly. People begin to reemerge from winter hibernation, and you seem to get an invite to a party or BBQ every week. So what to bring the host/hostess on such occasions?? I have a couple of dessert recipes in my “arsenal,” which I can whip up quickly, simply because I’ve made them so many times, and honestly, they’re not complicated to make at all. Of course, deliciousness is a major factor. Your arsenal needs at least three recipes which are easy, quick, and deliciously crowd pleasing. (I mean, who doesn’t want to be congratulated a few times when the other guests sample your party contribution?!?!)

I give you: the coconut cupcake.  Simple, yet scrumdiddlyumptious! Ok, unless you detest coconut. These baby cakes have been a favorite of my son since he was about two-years-old. Plus, there’s just something about that sprinkling of coconut atop each cupcake, which brings you back to your childhood. At least for me. I usually add significantly less sugar to the cream cheese frosting, but feel free to add as much as you like. If you prefer, you could always substitute with a butter cream frosting. You may also substitute some coconut oil for a percentage of the butter called for in the recipe, which intensifies the coconut flavor.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened (or 1 stick butter; 1/4 c. coconut oil)
1 c. sugar
3 lg. eggs
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. buttermilk
3 oz. shredded coconut, plus more for topping

12 cupcake liners

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. (If you’re using the dry powder form of buttermilk, include it in with your dry ingredients and then add the water at the end.) In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter (and possibly oil) and sugar. Begin incorporating the two ingredients, then add the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. Alternating between the buttermilk and dry ingredients, add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until everything is incorporated together. Add the 3 oz. of dried coconut. Place the cupcake liners into the baking tray, and spoon the batter about 3/4 to the top of each cupcake mold. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cupcakes have a lovely golden hue around their edges.

Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for about 8-10 minutes. Then place the cupcakes on a cooling rack. Ice the cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting, and sprinkle each cupcake with a bit of dried coconut. Health food, or organic food stores most likely will carry a brand of dried, unsweetened coconut, such as, Let’s Do….Organic, a brand which I have used numerous times and recommend.

Cream Cheese Icing: 

1 pkg. cream cheese (don’t bother with the low-fat stuff.; it won’t have the proper consistency), room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1 3/4 c. confectioners’ sugar (I tend to only use about 1 cup; add it in slowly, and keep tasting)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter. Add the extracts and some of the sugar. Begin to beat the ingredients with a hand mixer. Continue to add more sugar until you’ve attained the sweetness you prefer.

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