Thursday, June 2, 2011
Coconut Cupcakes and Vanilla Frosting
Firstly, let me acknowledge the growing coconut theme at Four Figs. I don't know if this is the product of my subliminal desire for tropical warmth as the weather grows colder, or if it's simply that the curling, white shreds of dried coconut sitting in my cupboard look so irresistible.
Last post's coconut bread had a wintry spiciness from the cinnamon. By contrast, this week's coconut cupcakes have a delicate vanilla undertone and look pretty as a picture iced and dipped in shaved coconut, and finally served in silver foil cases. I made this batch to take to a friend's come-and-see-my-renovations afternoon tea and they looked so sophisticated laid out on my silver-edged glass platter. All that was missing was a couple of long flutes of sparkling champagne to go along with them. We got by with some classic gin and tonics though.
This recipe is another beauty from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook. My personal favourite so far has been the Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, but this one is also a lovely addition for something a little less rich and it has such an appealing snow-ball presentation.
The technique for flavouring the batter was really original, and I am dying to try it out in different cakes and breads and see how it goes. You use a food processor to grind shredded coconut into a powder and then fold it into the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt), providing a subtle coconut flavour without the metallic undertone of coconut essence. The moistness comes from the butter and the coconut milk. As for the frosting, I altered Martha's recipe by using coconut milk to flavour and thin out the buttercream, and it turned out pretty well. I am curious to see if these cupcakes could take a cream cheese frosting, or whether they would be overpowered by the sweet-sourness of it. But that is an experiment for another time...
Coconut Cupcakes and Vanilla Frosting
- 1 3/4 cups plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup shredded, dried coconut
- 180 grams butter, unsalted (make sure it's nice and soft at room temperature)
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar (if you use raw sugar that's fine but it will change the colour and make the cupcakes a little nuttier in flavour)
- 2 whole eggs (large) and 2 egg whites (all room temperature)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (don't use essence, it just doesn't taste as good)
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 360 grams butter, unsalted (again you want this to be room temperature)
- 4 cups icing sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut milk
- also keep a little bit of shredded coconut for topping the cupcakes
Let's kick off with the important things - preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius and line two regular muffin tins with cupcake liners (should make between 20-24 cupcakes).
Now, set up your food processor (I have a fab mini-processor that is really useful for things like this) and grind up your shredded coconut into as close to a powder as you can get.
One of the things I love about Martha's cupcake recipes is that you generally don't have to sift your dry ingredients. Instead, you pop your flour, baking powder, ground coconut and salt, and whisk it all together in a bowl. This aerates the flour etc without having to mess about with a sifter.
Next, you focus on the wet ingredients. Set up your stand mixer, or if you don't have one use a electric beater and a nice large bowl, and on a medium-high speed cream the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy. One by one, beat in the whole eggs and then the egg whites and, finally, the vanilla extract. If you are using a stand mixer, you should scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically to ensure it all mixes properly.
Now, on a lower speed, add the flour in three lots, mixing in the coconut milk in between each addition. Don't over mix this, but make sure it's all combined properly too.
Then, fill the cases up to about 2/3rds of the way full and bake. Don't forget to switch your muffin tins around in the oven, so they cook evenly. And remove them after 20 minutes, or a cake skewer comes out clean.
I suggest you remove them fairly quickly from the tins (so they don't continue to cook and get tough) and leave them to cook on wire racks. They should be completely cool when you ice them - you don't want the icing melting right off them. If you're running short of time, pop the wire racks in the fridge to cool them quickly. It's not ideal, but it does the trick.
Next, wash out your mixer beaters and bowl because you're going to use them to mix up your frosting. Plop (and it should plop, if you've let it reach room temperature) your butter into the bowl and whip it until it's gotten thicker, creamier and pale.
Reduce the speed to roughly medium, and add in your icing sugar about 1/2 a cup at a time. You'll need to scrape down the sides of the bowl every so often, and after a couple of additions speed up the beaters to aerate the icing. Don't forget to put it back onto medium when you add in the next half-cup of icing sugar. Finally, add in the vanilla extract and coconut milk and give it one last pulse. It's done! (Just note that, while this keeps in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to 10 days, you do need to let it come to room temperature before you ice any cupcakes with it.)
Finally, using a butter knife or spatula, ice your cupcakes fairly simply. Sprinkle your shredded coconut on a plate and then roll the top of your iced cupcake in the coconut. It's a simple finish, but it looks like an edible snowball, and who doesn't want one of those?