I talk often — and admittedly think even more often — about chocolate flavor pairings.
My go to is usually chocolate with MORE CHOCOLATE.
But sometimes you need to switch it up. I realized recently that I tend to enjoy coconut more in savory dishes than sweet.
With Easter just around the corner I thought these Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes would be a perfect simple recipe to work on.
My goal was to use coconut in as many forms as possible so it would be able to match the intensity of the chocolate flavor.
Top with chocolate Easter candies and you have an adorable festive dessert with a surprisingly small amount of effort or artistic skill required.
How to Make Homemade Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes
Why combine chocolate, cocoa, and boiling water?
Not only does this melt the chocolate, but the boiling water helps to ‘bloom’ the cocoa powder. Meaning it helps it to release its flavor compounds for a richer chocolate experience!
Do I have to use Dutch Process Cocoa Powder?
For best results, I find Dutch Process Cocoa Powder creates more moist and tender cupcakes with a deeper color. Dutch process tends to have more fat content and is less starchy than most grocery store natural cocoa powder products. Basically, you’re less likely to have dry cupcakes when using Dutch process.
However, because I understand not everyone can easily find Dutch process, especially these days, here’s how you can swap in Natural Cocoa Powder:
Use the same amount of natural unsweetened cocoa powder in place of the Dutch Process and omit the vinegar.
How to bake with coconut oil:
For this recipe, virgin coconut oil not only adds a rich texture but an extra hit of coconut flavor. Since the oil needs to be melted to incorporate into the batter, I find it easiest to measure melted. You can simply pop your glass container of coconut oil in the microwave without the metal lid and nuke until the top layer melts enough for the recipe.
By the way, I also have a great Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and a Coconut Oil Brownie recipe if you’re out of butter!
What if I don’t have coconut oil?
While coconut oil is best, you can use vegetable or canola oil instead. Just make sure it’s fresh and has no off aroma.
How to bake with coconut milk:
Be sure to use canned full fat coconut milk for best results. Anything else will create cupcakes that are less rich and more dry.
Since canned coconut milk tends to separate, vigorously shake the can before opening. If it’s still very separated, whisk until somewhat smooth before adding into the batter. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’ll all blend together eventually. You just want to make sure you’re getting a good amount of both the fat solids and liquid, not too much of just one.
How to Make the Coconut Buttercream:
Make sure your butter is completely softened to room temperature. In a stand mixer, combine the butter and sifted powdered sugar on low speed until well blended and then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the salt, coconut extract, and coconut milk and beat on medium for 1 minute, adding more cream if needed or more powdered sugar to thicken. Add the coconut extract to taste. You can always add more, but you can’t take away!
Help! I don’t have any butter or I need to make this dairy free.
The chocolate cupcake base is actually butter free and dairy free if you use DF chocolate. So you could pair it with whipped coconut cream in place of the coconut buttercream for a totally dairy free treat. May be especially helpful if you are low on butter during these crazy times.
How to Make Cupcakes Ahead of Time
Store unfrosted in an airtight container at a cool room temperature for up to 2 days. Airtight plastic or glass containers work better than ziptop bags to prevent the tops from getting all sticky.
Store frosted cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 8 hours at room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 2 days. Let come to room temperature before serving.
If storing unfrosted cupcakes for longer, wrap cupcakes individually in plastic wrap (this prevents freezer burn and taste transference). Place cupcakes inside a freezer bag on a shelf in your freezer where they won’t get smashed. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Unwrap the cupcakes and allow to defrost at room temperature for about 1 to 2 hours.
Freeze the buttercream in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight and re-whip in the stand mixer until light and fluffy again. Add a tablespoon or 2 of powdered sugar if it needs to thicken.
Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.