Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tropical Coconut-Pineapple Cupcakes

I recently taught a cupcake birthday party for a girl who wanted a Hawaiian theme, so I had to come up with some simple fondant tropical designs that even 'tweens could do.

The girl wanted chocolate cupcakes and vanilla frosting, but when I practiced them at home, I wanted something more 'tropical.' Not being a huge fan of coconut (really, it's a texture thing), I decided that using coconut milk in the cupcakes, and pineapple in the icing might be just the right combination for me.

What You Need:
1 box white cake mix
1 can coconut milk (I opted against "light")
6 eggs (divided)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter (softened)
1 sm. can crushed pineapple, drained
*Yield: Approx. 2 dozen cupcakes or 1 dozen standard cupcakes and 2 dozen mini-cupcakes

Prepare the Cupcakes:

Start by whisking 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks in the bowl of the mixer. (Reserve the 2 egg whites for your icing.)
* Because I knew I was making the pineapple icing, I used 2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks for the cake. If you're not making the icing using egg whites, then by all means, use 3 whole eggs.

Add cake mix and entire can (13.5 oz.) of coconut milk. Be sure you shake the coconut milk really well before opening it. Mix on low for about 30 seconds, then scrape down the bowl. Mix on medium for 1-2 minutes.

Divide into prepared cupcake pans (or cake pan, whatever you want!).

Bake in a 350-degree oven. I bake standard cupcakes 18-20 minutes, and mini cupcakes 12-15 minutes.
Cool on a cooling grid before decorating.

Prepare the Icing:
(Click the link for my complete tutorial on making this kind of icing, called Swiss Meringue Buttercream. There are a few tricks you can do to help make it come together better and more reliably.)
While the cupcakes bake and cool, make your icing. Begin by draining the crushed pineapple.
*Note: I had a few issues with the pineapple chunks while piping the icing on the cupcakes, even though it was "crushed" pineapple. I'm wondering if there's a way that you stick the pineapple in a blender if you can further "crush" it? I intend to try this next time. If you do it, let me know!

Next, combine 4 egg whites (2 reserved from cake and 2 more) and 1 cup of sugar in your mixer bowl. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk the mixture continuously until a candy thermometer reaches 160 degrees.
*You want to cook the eggs to 160-degrees in order to kill any possible salmonella bacteria. And you want to constantly whisk them or they could scramble-- not what we're looking for in icing!

When the egg whites come to 160 degrees, remove them from the heat and let them cool for 4-5 minutes. Then, using a whisk attachment, whisk them until stiff peaks form. This usually takes about 4-5 more minutes on  the highest speed of my stand mixer.

Switch to the paddle attachment (if you have one) and add in the 3 sticks of butter (cut into about 2 Tbsp. chunks), the 1 tsp. vanilla and the strained pineapple.

Continue to whip on the highest speed until the mixture comes together (it looks soupy at first, then curdled, then comes together to look like icing). This is usually another 2-4 minutes on high.

I then put the icing into three icing bag bullets (which I apparently didn't photograph) to use to pipe the icing onto the cupcakes. Using a Tip #1M, pipe swirls of icing on top of the cupcakes. (Click the link to see my complete tutorial on how to make an icing swirl on a cupcake.)

You can see that these swirls are a little wonky. That is because of the chunks of pineapple. When one would get stuck, I'd have to work to get it out of there, and that would make it rather uneven. But they taste SO yummy. You could also just spread the icing on the cupcakes with a spatula or knife. I'm kind of in love with cupcake swirls, so that's why mine will always be swirled.

Click the link to see how to make the beach-themed decorations for these cupcakes.

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  1. I have a question: Do you use salted or unsalted butter for this recipe? you did not specify, but the picture seems to have unsalted.

    please let me know asap. thanks.

    1. As a general rule, I always use unsalted.
      If you only have salted, though, I bet that would be fine. But if you're heading to the store, grab unsalted. That way you always have control over how much salt goes in.
      - Beki

  2. also, the ingredients list calls for 2cups butter.....yet I only see you use 3 sticks (=1 1/2cups) in the icing. Do you use the 4th stick of butter somewhere else and I'm just missing it? or why the discrepancy?

    1. At second look-through, I must have decided that the coconut milk had enough oil, and left out that stick of butter. I am so sorry. I hope I didn't mess you up. I will correct this right now!!
      Thanks for catching it, and again, sorry!
      - Beki

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