Coconut Dream Cupcakes

If you’re looking for some easy add in’s to spruce up simple white vanilla cupcakes to awesome cupcakes, look no further. These little delights have a light coconut flavor that’s not to sweet or overpowering, but just right. Coconut Dream Cupcakes, frosted here with homemade Italian Meringue buttercream (which I’ll talk more about in a separate post), were a commission for a wedding shower with an ocean theme, and it was so fun to create these for my friends!  In this post, I’m focusing on the cupcakes themselves, so feel free to use whatever frosting suits your fancy.

I talk quite often about how picky I am when it comes to cupcakes because the overly-sweet frosting is not really my thing, although the phrase ‘overly-sweet’ is something you’ll rarely ever hear me say. Still, I can easily find myself eating 3 or more of these chocolate cupcakes, peanut butter cupcakes, or coconut cupcakes. Don’t get me wrong, they are still sweet, but in totally good and addictive way.

Not all coconut cupcakes have great coconut flavor, so to make sure these ones do, I use both coconut cream and shredded coconut in the batter, as well as top the frosting with additional shredded coconut. The photos don’t really do justice to the amount of coconut I usually add since it’s not uncommon for me to cover the frosting in it. With that said, you can add as much or as little as you like.

This recipe is great because it starts with a box of white cake mix and you just mix in a few extra ingredients to create amazing little cakes. Every storebought cake mix I’ve seen requires three home additions; eggs, oil and water. In this recipe for Coconut Dream Cupcakes, we’re going to use egg whites, oil, sour cream and ‘cream of coconut’ which is not coconut milk, but fairly similar, for our wet ingredients. If you can’t find it I imagine sweetened coconut milk would do in a pinch. Then to add even more great coconut flavor, we’ll fold in some (not toasted) unsweetened shredded coconut to our batter. I also added a toasted coconut flavor concentrate I picked up at my local craft store, but this is an optional ingredient. I like using it because it adds more dimensions to the coconut flavor, so it’s not a ‘one note’ coconut flavor.


  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup 2% milk


  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, 1/3 cup sugar and coconut extract until smooth.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.
  3. Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon batter into each prepared cup. Drop cream cheese mixture by scant tablespoonfuls into center of each cupcake. Cover with remaining batter, about 1 scant tablespoon each.
  4. Bake 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake portion comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.
  5. For frosting, in a small bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, water and vanilla until blended. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Frost cupcakes; sprinkle with coconut. Refrigerate leftovers.