Vanilla Bean-Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting

3.5/4 fork user rating

reviews (177)


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Makes 18


  1. Reduced coconut milk:
    • 2 13-to 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk* (preferably organic)
  2. Cupcakes:
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 1/3 cups sugar
    • 3 large eggs
    • Seeds scraped from 1 split vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup reduced coconut milk (see above), room temperature
  3. Frosting:
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/3 cup reduced coconut milk (see above), room temperature
    • Seeds scraped from 1 split vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted (for garnish)


  1. For reduced coconut milk:
    1. Bring coconut milk to boil in large deep saucepan over medium-high heat (coconut milk will boil up high in pan). Reduce heat to mediumlow; boil until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, stirring occasionally, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat; cool completely. Transfer to small bowl. Cover; chill (coconut milk will settle slightly as it cools). DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.
  2. For cupcakes:
    1. Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line eighteen 1/3-cup muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar; beat on medium-high speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in seeds from vanilla bean and remaining egg. Add half of flour mixture; mix on low speed just until blended. Add 1 cup reduced coconut milk; mix just until blended. Add remaining flour mixture; mix on low speed just until blended. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake cupcakes until tops spring back when gently touched and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes in pans to rack; cool 10 minutes. Carefully remove cupcakes from pans and cool completely on rack.
  3. For frosting:
    1. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, 1/3 cup reduced coconut milk, seeds from vanilla bean, and salt. Beat on medium-low speed until blended, scraping down sides of bowl. Increase to mediumhigh and beat until light and fluffy.
    2. Using pastry bag fitted with large star tip, pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes. (Alternatively, top each cupcake with 2 tablespoons frosting. Using small offset spatula, swirl frosting over top of cupcakes, leaving 1/2-inch plain border.) Sprinkle with coconut. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight containers; chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.
      • Available at many supermarkets and at Indian, Southeast Asian, and Latin markets.

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The cupcakes are fabulous! I'm personally not a fan of normal cake (very picky) but stumbled across this recipe while looking for some new cupcake recipes to try. This are so tasty! I didn't reduce the coconut milk, and the cakes still turned out great. Very moist and not too sweet, with just enough coconut. The frosting was too sweet for me though. I prefer the cupcakes without it.

It is a great recipe. Next time, I will reduce the amount of sugar in the cup cake. I am not really sure if reducing the coconut is necessary. Great recipe!!

Was my first time making these and they were a hit at a work pot-luck! My staff swore they were from a boutique bakery. Received compliments for days. They had the perfect sweetness, moistness, and hints of coconut and vanilla flavors. Made 1/2 topped with coconut and 1/2 without. I followed the recipe almost exactly except I couldn't find unsweetened canned coconut milk, so I used 1 can of low fat cocunut milk and 1 can of regular coconut milk. It did not reduce down after 45 minutes but I am not sure that it mattered. Chilled it overnight. My batter seemed a bit thick, so I added ~1/4c more milk than the recipe stated. I also love vanilla, so I used extract and paste. Can't wait to make these again!!

I never write reviews. Ever. But I HAD to write one for this cupcake. It is incredible! The cupcakes themselves are so light and fluffy and both the cupcake and the frosting have so much coconut flavor. My whole family adored them. Also, I had no problem making a 2/3 batch of this recipe since my cupcake tin only holds 12 cupcakes. Some of the math gets a little tricky (I ended up with an odd fraction of a tablespoon for the sugar), but it was all round numbers for the ingredients that it really matters with (baking powder, eggs etc.). A couple notes that I would make: bake the cupcakes a little longer than the recipe says (I ended up at about 24 minutes) bc they will be wet otherwise. Beat the frosting on high for about 5 minutes as it is much better when it is light and fluffy. Lastly, really don't forget about the toasted coconut topping! Put way more of the coconut on top of the frosting than is shown in the picture; I poured it over the frosted then shook off the excess. The toasted coconut has an amazing crisp texture that really contrasts with the fluffiness of the cupcake and the silky frosting. I wish I could add a picture here.

This is my most requested cupcake. I can tell you, because of my own past mistakes, what the problem is with several reviews. When shopping, there are two choices of coconut products...coconut milk and cream of coconut. The cream of coconut is very delicious but very thick. If you tried to reduce cream of coconut to the 1 1/2 cups, it would take you forever. It would also leave you with a product that, when cooled, is so thick that it could almost be spread like frosting. The cupcakes would be dense and unpleasant and you wouldn't be any happier with the frosting. Stick with the reduced coconut milk and this recipe will become a favorite of your friends, too. BTW...I wish I could add a picture here. I left the pan of coconut milk reducing on my stove and went out of the room. Because the bubbles by themselves cannot break the surface tension, they build up underneath the surface. I heard a bang and a splash!! There were gigantic splashes of coconut on my 9' ceiling and a good 6' from my island. Do not leave unattended and stir with a rubber spatula frequently.

Really good, the slightest hint of coconut.

This was so delicious, even though I didn't boil down the coconut milk for the cupcakes. Didn't try the frosting, but seems like buttercream with a coconut variation. Loved the cakes though, I don't even like coconut!

One of my favorite recipes ever! I keep coming back to this one and it is loved by all - even those who claim that they don't like coconut. So light and fluffy. Not too sweet - just right.

Love these! There're more trouble than your typical cupcakes but well worth it. Would definitely make again.

I'be looking for a good cupcake receipe and this is it!!! Have made many for my kids class and birthday parties and everyone has liked them but me, I would not eat one of the cupcakes I made, just too ordinary, with this receipe, I had at least three. I followed the receipe, reducing the coconut milk and it is yummy. The coconut flavor is not overpowering, very mild, so the flavor is perfect for me. I was hesitant at first since I don't care too much for coconut pastries bit decided to make it after reading the reviews. I think that if you want a stronger coconut flavor then don't reduce the coconut milk, me? I turned them into Christmas cupcakes by sprinkling some red and green crystallized sugar. My four kids, ages range from 9 to 17 years old, loved them, even my 9 year old who doesn't like buttercream icing thought this icing was the best!!! Strongly suggest this receipe!!!!

They're nice and light, but this is the second time I've tried this recipe. I tweaked it a bit to get SOME flavor by adding coconut extract and not reducing the coconut milk. I also added a little extra vanilla, but am not getting the full flavor. Is anyone else having this problem?

How you feel about these cupcakes will depend on your expectations. If you want something light, airy, and delicate, these aren't a good choice. If instead you want something that's very flavorful and moist, freezes beautifully (literally no loss in quality), travels well, and works with a number of different kinds of frosting, these are great. I agree with other reviewers that reducing the coconut milk by half isn't necessary or desirable, and suggest reducing by just a bit or choosing a high-fat coconut milk and not reducing at all. I find the frosting tasty but a bit heavy and sweet, so often opt for something lighter (whipped ganache, coconut-flavored whipped cream, etc.).

Made these for my daughter's 1 year birthday and these are really great cupcakes! Not too sweet and a lovely coconut flavor. Per other reviews I made sure that my ingredients were room temp. I also substituted 1/4 cup of butter for coconut oil. I only added 1 cup of sugar to the cupcakes. I simmered the coconut milk for about 45 minutes, but it didn't reduce to the exact amount - I think I ended up with closer to 2 cups. Icing turned out wonderfully - I added more sugar and strawberries, not runny or oily - I think other cooks must have added the butter to the coconut milk when the milk was still warm. I didn't toast the coconut out of laziness and used unsweetened.

Excellent! I found this recipe t be rich and delicious without being 'too moist' as described in other reviews. The coconut flavor is present but subtle. It's worth noting that the recipe calls for canned coconut milk, not to be mistaken for coconut drink (i.e. SO Delicious) or coconut water.

Followed recipe exactly except boiled coconut milk 45 minutes to get it down to 1 1/2 cups. Also added 1/4 cup heavy cream since it actually reduced to 1 1/4. Added the extra cocomut milk to the batter, and added 1/2 more powdered sugar to make it a tad bit stiffer and sweeter. Also reduced vanilla extract to 1tsp and added a 1/2 tsp of organic coconut extract to both batter and icing. Light, moist, and delicious!!

This is the BEST coconut cupcake ever...ever! I always hav great luck with this recipe and people who dislike coconut love these...Yes the coconut milk takes a little longer to what. And I use a good vanilla extract in place of the bean and a drop, and I mean a drop of coconut extract in both the cake and the frosting....To die for. The frosting is sublime. I don't think to is too sweet and I have never had it get oily. I have made it about 20 times...seriously

forgot to rate...not sure how this recipe got 4 forks especially with everyone else's gets 2 from me...

Just finished making the cupcakes and adhered to the recipe closely. The cupcakes are very sweet, and very dense and took a bit longer than 20 mins in my oven. The reduced coconut milk took more like 35 mins but I think it would have taken the 25 to 30 the recipe said if I had kept it at a fast simmer. I love coconut cake but wouldn't use this recipe again..other reviewers are so right. TOO SWEET and too moist. The Shoebox coconut cake is a great recipe - I'll probably use that in the future if I want coconut cupcakes.

the frosting was too did not get "fluffy" or whatev.

and i meant to rate it a 4 forks, whoops

This was delicious! The coconut flavor is pronounced just enough! I didn't used vanilla beans so they weren't super vanilla-y but they are superb just the same. Vey rich, but amazing! Definitely worth the little extra work with the coconut milk (and I wouldn't even call it work, just watching it to make sure it doesn't burn)

I already reviewed this recipe but I thought I should add a suggestion. I have made this recipe a couple of different ways with different results. If you follow the recipe's directions and boil the coconut for 25-30 minutes you will not find it reduces to the extent that the writer describes - in fact you must boil it for closer to an hour to reduce it this much. However I recommend against reducing it down to what is recommended because the cupcakes turn out quite heavy if you do this. Instead boil for the suggested 25-30 minutes, use 1/3 of a cup in your icing and the remainder in your batter (of course that will be more than the recipe indicates. The result is much lighter and doesn't impact the flavour significantly. I'm quite surprised to see someone describe the icing as oily - I think you must have made a mistake. Perhaps you did not cool your coconut milk enough and it melted your butter a bit. The icing is sooo good and while they do not have a strong coconut flavour, they are delicious - almost like an old fashioned sugar cookie in taste.

This frosting is horrid. Horrid. Yes, I used quality butter. It's sickeningly sweet/oily tasting. I hate when people say that, it's a cupcake it's supposed to be sweet, but this is another double sugared peeps. The cake is fine, but more vanilla than coconut. Overall disappointed.

Here is a different recipe for a wonderful frosting that i think is perfect for anyone who doesnt like overly sweet or greasy heavy frosting. Start by putting a medium bowl and your whisks in the freezer to get cold. This makes whipping cream easier and faster. You will need 8oz of cream cheese, softened or not, mine was not. 1/4c of powdered sugar. I used a quarter of a vanilla bean but you may use as much as you like. A small splash of vanilla extract as well, maybe a quarter tsp. 1c of heavy whipping cream. 1tbsp of coconut milk. And a handful of toasted coconut or as much as you desire. Firstly whip the cream. If you mix the cream cheese first your cream wont whip. It wont take long maybe 3 minutes or so. Then set aside in the fridge. Next whip the cream cheese until smooth, in a large bowl. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Next add the vanilla beans and splash of vanilla extract and the coconut milk. Mix well and throw in your coconut flakes. Lastly take your whip cream out and fold it into your cream cheese mixture. I put the final mixture in the fridge for just a few minutes to firm up a bit and frosted my cupcakes. Enjoy! This mix is also really good in crepes the next day! Its so light and fluffy and creamy! Absolutely delicious! I cant wait to try other variations of it. Maybe crepes with this mix and some mini chocolate chips! Mmmmmm!

This is a delicious recipe! Thank you for sharing it! I think this recipe will be staying with me for a long time. My children enjoyed the cupcakes even without the frosting. I made quite a few changes to the recipe which i think would save time for everyone. First i did not reduce the coconut milk and it wasn't room temp. I used original so delicious coconut milk (1cup as directed). In place of butter i used coconut oil and it made the cupcakes very moist and gave them more coconut flavor. I used a half of a vanilla bean and added a splash of vanilla extract also. That seemed to be perfect for me. I filled the liners almost all the way to the top, maybe just a small quarter of the way to the top and i got 15 cupcakes from the batter. The cupcakes were perfect!! Now for the frosting i did something totally different. Im not a fan of butter or any type of grease in my frosting so i made a cream cheese and whipped cream version. It is so light and airy and adhered well to my cupcakes although it was a bit watery. As it sat on my cupcakes overnight it became soft and more together.