If you live and breathe coconut, you cannot miss out on this. It's full of pure coconut flavour and the buttercream has the silkiest texture ever, making it seem like you're eating a light and airy coconut custard, which is, I must add, is absolutely free of artificial coconut extract. Not that extract is horrendous but there is a major difference between using fresh coconut milk and coconut extract. The extra fuss is worth it, trust me.
Indeed, the buttercream is a swiss meringue one but don't start thinking of alternative frosting recipes yet! I did and nearly decided to just make a coconut pastry cream and I'm so glad I didn't.
I've always had a bit of trouble with swiss meringue buttercream- I would spend hours in frustration trying to get the curdled mixture to come together- but this time I didn't! No it is definitely not the recipe. I think it has partly to do with using cold-ish chunks of butter instead of room temperature ones. But then again, I live in a temperate climate so the temperature your butter should be at for best results could differ. Whatever it is, I'm so glad I didn't have to spend precious hours sweating (figuratively! Literally would be pretty gross.) over the buttercream. And if this is the trick to get all my swiss meringue buttercreams to work, I think I'll be seeing a lot of it in the future.
The cupcakes themselves don't pale in comparison. The batter is too, made with coconut milk and there is just the right amount of shredded coconut folded into it such that the coconut flavour is amped up while not making the cupcake seem dry. The only drawback is that the cupcakes have to be refrigerated once frosted and these being butter-based cupcakes, they become hard when cold. For the best texture and flavour, you really should eat the cupcakes at room temperature but that would mean sacrificing the ice-cream-like consistency of the buttercream that can only be experienced while cold.
Next stop: layer cakes! Oh how I miss thee.
White Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting
recipe adapted from the Flour bakery cookbook
For the cupcakes:
2 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
6 large egg whites
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
For the frosting:
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 large egg whites
3 sticks butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup coconut milk
Preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Add the butter and beat until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.
Combine the egg whites, coconut milk and shredded coconut together. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into this mixture and whisk to disperse the seeds. You can save the pod for others uses like making vanilla sugar.
Add about half the coconut milk mixture to the flour mixture and beat until combined. Add the rest of the mixture and beat until the batter is well mixed, light and fluffy.
Divide batter amongst cupcake liners and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out mostly clean, with moist crumbs attached.
Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting: Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in a heatproof bowl and place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Heat until the mixture is hot to touch, whisking occasionally, and the sugar has melted.
Remove from heat and pour the mixture into the bowl of the stand mixer. Whip on high speed until the mixture becomes a light, white meringue and is cool to touch, 6 to 8 minutes. Turn down the speed to low and add the butter, a few chunks at a time. Increase speed to medium and mix for 4 to 5 minutes or until the butter is thoroughly incorporated and the frosting is smooth and glossy. It will look curdled at some point but just whipping it and it will come together eventually.
Add the vanilla extract, salt and coconut milk and whip for another 1 to 2 minutes to incorporate. The frosting should be smooth. Use immediately or refrigerate for a while if too soft to work with.