Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Curd
Full disclosure: This post was very close to having a massive FAIL tagged on to the end of the title. It was Mother’s Day weekend and I had just spent an embarrassingly long amount of time preparing what I hoped would be a new favorite sweet for my mom since there are few things she loves more than a good coconut cake and anything flavored with citrus.
The first time I made lemon curd for a tart a few years back I was terrified, having read accounts of scrambled, runny or broken curds sitting on stove tops across the world. Likely due to my nervousness and therefore neurotic whisking, my first curd was beautiful, smooth and perfectly tart. Now cocky about my curd abilities, I approached this weekend’s curd casually, following the measurements exactly, but paying less than vigilant attention to time spent over the heat.
After what seemed like “long enough” and getting sick of stirring (an impatient baker is a dangerous thing!) I removed the curd mixture from the heat though I knew it should probably cook and thicken a bit more. When I went to fill my cooled cupcakes I found a runny, underdeveloped and therefore unusable curd. Tired and moaning about my ruined blog post I was ready to just slap some icing on the plain old cupcakes and call it a day.
Never one to pass up anything with a healthy does of lemon juice as a featured ingredient, Mom swooped in with a spoon to taste my delicious failure and was determined to transform my lemons into lemon curd. I looked on dubiously as she threw the mixture back over the heat and added a tiny bit of (shhh!) cornstarch to help it all along. And low and behold, what emerged a few minutes later was not a textbook perfect curd, but a perfectly delicious and thick enough concoction to stuff inside my waiting cupcakes.
Ladies and gentleman, some things never change – no matter what you think you know, always trust your mother. Among the many things I admire about my mom, her resilient nature sits permanently at the top of that list. Maybe it comes from losing her own mother at such a young age or starting her life over at 40 years old with two kids in tow, but the woman has mastered the comeback.
My Mother’s Day lemon curd may not have been my finest curd moment, but Mom swept in, as she’s known to do, picked up the pieces and together we served up a pretty fabulous save.
This recipe was inspired by a wonderful coconut cupcake recipe featured in The Washington Post last year. I find coconut cake and cupcakes to be a bit too sweet and rich for my taste buds, so adding a citrus element breaks up that sweetness nicely. I prefer toasting my coconut before sprinkling on top of the icing because I think it brings out the coconut flavor and adds a wonderful textural and visual component as well.
For the lemon curd
5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
Zest from 4 lemons
1/3 cup lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
1 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled
Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. Remove to a clean container and cover by laying a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd. Allow curd to cool or store in refrigerator. Curd will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
For the cupcakes
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream (do not use low-fat or nonfat)
1 cup lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut
For the frosting
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
5 tablespoons (1/2 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons coconut milk (can sub. heavy cream)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
5 1/2 cups unsifted confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 cups lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut
For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg on a sheet of wax or parchment paper.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or a hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add half of the sugar and beat for 1 minute; add the remaining sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed until fully incorporated each time, then add the vanilla extract. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Reduce the speed to low. Alternately add the sifted flour mixture in 3 additions and the sour cream in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the sifted mixture. The batter will be smooth and moderately thick. Add the coconut, beating on low until incorporated.
Divide the batter among the cupcake liners, filling them slightly more than half-full. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the cupcakes have risen and completely set. A wooden toothpick inserted in the center of a baked cupcake will withdraw with a few moist crumbs attached.
Cool the cupcakes in the pans on wire cooling racks for 15 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to the wire racks to cool completely.
Fill a plastic pastry bag fitted with a medium-sized round tip with the cooled lemon curd. Gently poke the pastry bag tip into the center top of the cupcakes and fill with a small amount of curd. If needed, wipe off any excess curd from the tops with a clean paper towel.
For the frosting: Spread the coconut out in one layer on a sheet pan and place in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes, just until lightly golden. Note: Watch the toasting coconut, shaking the pan every few minutes, to prevent burning.
Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or a hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium speed for 1 minute, until creamy and well incorporated. Add the vanilla extract, coconut milk and nutmeg; beat to combine, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. Reduce the speed to low; add the confectioners’ sugar in 3 additions, beating between additions until thoroughly combined.
Use a flexible palette or butter knife spread the frosting as thickly as possible on top of the cooled cupcakes, creating a generous 1- to 2-inch cap on top. Sprinkle the frosted surfaces of the cupcakes with the toasted coconut.