(photo credit: David Luttrell)
When asked to make a dessert for a birthday party this weekend, I was immediately struck with a craving for coconut cupcakes (or, well, coconut in general). I suppose I could have called up the bakery we used for the wedding--the unparalleled Magpie's here in Knoxville--but I was also thinking about some other delectable cupcakes I have had, the recipe coming from Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame. Since I had the recipe in my hot little hands, and was already daydreaming about the incredible icing, I decided that the cupcakes were a go for the weekend.
The recipe is pretty simple, and is made even easier with a good, sturdy stand mixer. I like to set my butter out the night before baking, so it is nice and soft the next morning.
from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
.5 teaspoon baking powder
.25 teaspoon baking soda
.25 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
.75 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
.75 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
.75 teaspoon pure almond extract
.5 cup buttermilk
1 7-ounce package flaked sweetened coconut, divided
Cream cheese icing (recipe to follow)
Line muffin cups with paper baking cups, and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar and butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Turn the mixer speed to low, and add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium high 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and almond extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat again briefly.
Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately to the butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined. Fold in only 1 1/3 cups of the coconut.
Use an ice cream scoop to fill each muffin cup almost full with batter. Bake in a 325-degree oven for 22 to 28 minutes on the center rack, until the cupcake tops are golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
If you bake 2 pans at once, switch them out (put the bottom pan on the top and the top on the bottom) halfway through cooking so they brown evenly.
Allow the cupcakes to cool completely, and then top them with cream cheese icing. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days. If you want to freeze these, store them unfrosted in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 6 weeks. To serve unfrosted cupcakes that have been frozen, allow to thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour before serving, then ice and serve them. Makes about 16 cupcakes.
Cream Cheese Icing
Do not consider skipping the sifting of the powdered sugar or you will have unattractive white lumps in your icing.
2 3-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
.5 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
.5 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
.25 teaspoon pure almond extract
2.5 cups sifted powdered sugar
In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract and almond extract until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually beat in as much of the remaining sugar as needed to reach a comfortable spreading consistency.
Spread each cooled cupcake with the cream cheese icing and then top with the remaining coconut. An easy way to do this is to turn each iced cupcake upside-down and press gently into the coconut to make it adhere. The strawberry garnish was a whim for the photo, wholly unecessary. I will tell you, though, that the icing is postivitely luscious spread on fresh strawberries. Not that I did this. Over the sink with knife in hand. No sir.