Recipe :: Vanilla Bean Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting

Sep 26, 2012 by

I just wanted to post this recipe really quick before I forget to do so.

I made these cupcakes for an autumn BBQ on Sunday, because I know my small friend Calliope (daughter of the hosts) is sweet on coconut.  There are lots of vegan coconut cupcake recipes out there, because if you use coconut oil and/or coconut milk, you don’t need any animal products.  My recipe is mostly vegan except for one egg; I just don’t really trust baked goods that don’t have at least one egg holding everything together.

To my delight, I found that there are several special features that make the frosting on these cupcakes ideal for a party or gathering.

First, if you make the frosting with coconut oil instead of butter (which I recommend), the icing will stay pretty for a long time when left out; coconut oil is solid at room temperature and it won’t go melting.  Secondly, even though there are those who swear it’s a dish-ruiner, coconut doesn’t really have a very strong taste of its own.  That makes it an ideal flavor to combine with others for fun experiments.  I added a few drops of rosewater (and pink organic food coloring) to my frosting below, because I am positively septuagenarian when it comes to how deeply I love floral food.  You could also add in a few drops of almond extract (and use almond milk instead of coconut milk), orange extract, strawberry extract, etc, to kick the frosting up a notch.  You could even add a little dusting of cocoa powder.  Anything that would pair well with coconut is fair game.

Note: This recipe only makes about 15 or 16 regular-sized cupcakes.  Double it if you want more, or make a bunch of mini ones.

And these cupcakes did pass muster, if you’re wondering.  They are Calliope-approved.


Vanilla Bean Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting




  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • 1/3 cup shortening (mixed into the flour, not melted)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg


  • 1 cup unrefined coconut oil (should be solid at room temperature)
    • OR 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 1 ½  teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 to 5 tablespoons coconut milk or almond milk
  • 2 cups shredded coconut for garnish (optional: toasted)
  • 2-3 drops of any additional flavorings you might like to try  (optional)



  • Preheat oven to 350˚ and line or grease cupcake tray.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add in the shortening by hand.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together coconut milk, vanilla, and egg.
  • Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined.  Do not overmix.
  • Fill cupcake tins two-thirds full with batter.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake come out clean.
  • Remove cupcakes from the oven and cool completely before frosting.


  • Beat the coconut oil until mostly smooth with a handheld or stand mixer.  It’s okay if there are a few small lumps of coconut left in there.
  • With the mixer running on low, add in powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and 1 tbsp coconut or almond milk as needed until the frosting reaches a spreadable consistency.  Don’t worry if you don’t use all the milk – it might not be necessary.  I only needed two.  Check after each tbsp to see where you are, consistency-wise.
  • Add in a few drops of any optional flavorings — almond extract, rosewater, orange extract, etc.
  • Beat on high for 2 more minutes until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.

Toasting the Coconut

(best to do right after the cupcakes come out of the oven)

  • Turn the oven down to 300˚.
  • Spread a thin layer of coconut flakes in a baking dish (do not grease).
  • Put the baking dish in the oven for 20 or so minutes, being sure to stir the coconut once to twice during that time.  Remove when the majority of the coconut is toasted a light golden brown.  Be sure to keep an eye on this — coconut burns easily.


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