Put the Lime in the Coconut Cupcakes

From www.LilikoiJoy.com

Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

Makes 18-24 cupcakes depending on size

For the cupcakes:

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 3/4 cups sugar

5 extra large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup coconut milk (you can use all buttermilk as in Ina's original recipe if you can't find coconut milk)

1/2 cup buttermilk (don't be tempted to substitute all coconut milk for the buttermilk - you need a little acid from the buttermilk to work with the baking soda. It's that whole chemical reaction thing...)

7 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut (I pulse them in a mini food processor for a few seconds so they're not so flakey)

1/4 cup rum mixed with 2 T. water (optional) - for brushing onto cupcakes after they're baked

For the lime curd filling:

Use store bought lime curd, or I follow this lime curd recipe from Epicurious (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Lime-Curd-353423)

For the frosting:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 tbsp. lime zest (about 2 limes)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

8 ounces cream cheese, cold (1 block, cut into 6-8 pieces)

5 ounces or so of sweetened, shredded coconut to top cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (do the full 5 minutes, it makes a difference in the texture). With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the coconut milk and buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 17-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake or they will be dry, so check them every couple minutes after 17 minutes since ovens vary widely. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting (see the frosting tips below). In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed, cream together the butter, lime zest, and vanilla extract. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar on low speed, then whip on medium-high for about 3-4 minutes until fluffy. Add the cream cheese a little at a time until fully incorporated. You can add up to a 1/2 cup more sugar to taste at this point if you'd like, but it's not necessary.

Hollow out a spoonful of cake from the top of each cupcake. I use a grapefruit spoon to do that. Brush evenly with rum-water mixture if you'd like, but that's completely optional. Then fill with curd. If you have room, you can top it with part of the cupcake plug that you removed, or you can just frost right over it -either way it's going to taste good. Frost cupcakes using an offset spatula, then roll the tops in flaked coconut to get that ball shape. Next time I'm going to try toasting the coconut first for the top, just to try it!

Cream Cheese Frosting Tips:

Cream cheese frosting can be a little challenging because they tend to get a little runny or too soft, no matter what recipe I try. Here's what I've found to get a more sturdy and fluffy cream cheese frosting:

  • Add the ingredients in a certain order: Rather than beating the butter and cream cheese together like most recipes instruct, you'll basically make a buttercream frosting with just the butter, zest, extract, and sugar together and beat that for 3 minutes until fluffy, then add the cream cheese at the end.  Cream cheese frosting is not like straight buttercream which gets fluffier the more you beat it. The longer you whip the cream cheese, the runnier it tends to get, so just add it at the end until it's fully incorporated. 
  • Start with cold cream cheese. Not super hard, but from the fridge sitting out for a few minutes is fine. Most recipes say to use it at room temperature, but I think that tends to produce a runnier frosting.
  • I have better luck with the block of cream cheese rather than the tub. I think they might whip more air or something to make the tub stuff more spreadable, but it does have a different consistency. At least in my mind it does.