Monday, February 15, 2010

Some cupcakes...can sing.

My brain turns to mush a bit in the face of the tiny magical confections known as cupcakes. I know they’re poorly done a lot of the time, and can often lead to disappointment. I know they’re trendy.  I know probably even blogging about them is completely passé.  But these cupcakes…these cupcakes…need to have their moment in the spotlight.

Because we can’t stop eating them.  They’re a whole room away from me right now and their siren song is almost deafening.  I’ve already had one today and am desperately trying to justify another.  I made them as an innocent valentine for Seth, and they’re quietly dominating our lives (at least for the last 24 hours):

“Should we watch the Olympics?” 

“Oh snowboard-cross is on?  Sweet.”

“Wait, do you hear that?  Is it…singing?  Coming from the kitchen?”

“AH MAH GAHD LET’S HAVE SOME CUPCAKES!!!! And watch the snowboard-cross.”

So that’s the situation.  And here is the recipe, for extremely luscious vanilla coconut cupcakes with fluffy coconut frosting.  The key is the inclusion of a full fat coconut milk reduction in both the frosting and the cakes.  That extra step makes these a smidge more time consuming than your average cupcake, but I ask you this: can your average cupcake sing?  Didn’t think so.

(Singing) Vanilla Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting
Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit, April 2009

Reduced Coconut Milk:
2 13-14 ounce cans full fat unsweetened coconut milk

2 cups all purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder*
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cups (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup reduced coconut milk, room temperature

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup reduced coconut milk, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 ½ cups sweetened flaked coconut (for garnish)

For reduced coconut milk:
Pour contents of 2 cans of coconut milk (all liquid and solids, it will be separated) into a deep saucepan and whisk until smooth and combined.  Heat to a boil on medium-high, then reduce heat to medium low and boil until reduced to about 1 ½ cups, whisking occasionally, about 25 minutes (watch it because it will bubble over).  Remove from heat and cool completely.  Transfer to a small bowl and chill.  The milk will settle so whisk again before addition to batter and frosting.

For cupcakes:
Position oven racks in center and preheat oven to 350˚.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. 

Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a large bowl until smooth.  Add sugar, then beat on medium-high speed until well-blended, about 2 minutes.  Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping down sides of bowl.  Beat in vanilla and remaining egg.
Add half the flour mixture, mix on low until just blended.  Add 1 cup reduced coconut milk, mix until just blended.  Add remaining flour, mix on low until just blended. 

Divide batter among muffin cups.  Fill any empty cups with a ½ inch of water, for even baking.  Bake cupcakes until tops are springy and a toothpick inserted comes out clean – about 20 minutes.  Cool cupcakes in pans on rack for 10 minutes, then carefully remove cupcakes and cool completely on racks.

For frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat butter in a large bowl until smooth.  Add sugar, 1/3 cup of reduced coconut milk, vanilla, and salt.  Beat on medium-low until blended, scraping down sides of bowl.  Increase to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy (you’ll know, just keep tasting it).

Frost each cupcake according to however you roll – pastry bag, spatula, whatever you like.  Be generous – at least 2 tablespoons per cake.  Garnish with flaked coconut and just try to ignore the siren song, which will begin immediately.

Makes 18 cupcakes.

* Just a note on baking powder – if yours is all pilly and hard and you’ve had it since, oh, 2004, buy yourself a new can.  It’s about $2.49 and makes a huge difference when it does its leavening job correctly.

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