To celebrate my brother's girlfriend getting a JET placement I wanted to make her and her family some congrats cupcakes. The plan was originally to make matcha cupcakes, but I wasn't sure how much they like green tea flavoured baking (people seem to wither love it or hate it) so I decided to try a different, but equally asian flavour combination: lychees and coconut - with a coconut cupcake base and a lychee swiss meringue buttercream frosting.
Last time I made coconut cupcakes, I used Ina Garten's recipe. Everyone on cyberspace seemed to rave about the recipe. However, my wee batch ended up dense and dry. Since that experience I've been on the look out for a good coconut cupcake recipe, one that's fluffy and moist with a strong coconutty flavour. That's not asking for too much right??
To find this elusive recipe, I turned to my old friend Google. Cyber-food-sleuthing is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. Basically, it always goes a little something like this:
Stage 1: The Food Crush
I stumble across a dish or baking product that I fall in love with either because I've tried it and it's awesome or heaps of people have raved about it on the interweb. It's usually some sort of dish from a restaurant or bakery or a commercial product product of some sort.
Stage 2: The Food Mystery
The recipe for said product is usually not right on hand. A mystery. A food mystery. And when I get a whiff of a food mystery, I go at it like a bloodhound, scouring the corners of the internet, not happy till I've found the perfect recipe, an exact replica of a well loved food/dish/baked treat.
Stage 3: The Food Trials
My internet scouring usually turns up a number of viable recipe contenders. I collect these, bookmark them, rank them in order of most likely to be THE recipe and then start the process of trial and error. Make the recipe, discover that is not the recipe and try the next recipe and so on. No, I'm not OCD...
I have had one notable success: my ginger kisses and have a dozen or so other food mysteries in the pipeline at various stages: apricot and chocolate cookie times, salty sweet brownie, garlic steamed prawns, chinese bakery style sponge cake, the list goes on.
In my hunt for the perfect coconut cupcake recipe I found two viable contenders: Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook's Coconut Marshmallow Clouds and Martha Stewart's Coconut Cupcakes. My Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook is my cupcake bible. I have made some darn good cupcakes from this cute as a button book. The Coconut Marshmallow Clouds, which consist of a coconut cupcake with a pink marshmallow frosting, looked promising. Martha's coconut cupcake recipe also had good reviews. The two recipes were remarkably similar so I went with the Crabapple recipe.
For the frosting, I decided to go with a lychee swiss meringue buttercream. I'd used the recipe before, for a rose scented SMBC, and found that it held delicate flavours quite well. I didn't have a stand mixer this time (I had borrowed one last time) and so made the SMBC by hand. BIG mistake. I literally had to hold the beater up for half an hour. It was horrendous. Do not try that at home kids! I really gotta get me a stand mixer.
The end product was yum, really coconutty, but less than perfect. So coconutty though that the lychee flavour was a bit overwhelmed by the it. The cupcake, while fluffy was a little dry. I think next time I'll ditch the lychee SMBC and ditch the desiccated coconut in the cupcake recipe.
Lychee & Coconut Cupcakes
from Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook
makes 24 cupcakes
3/4 cup shredded coconut
2 1/3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
3 egg whites
200g unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups caster sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 cup coconut milk
Preheat the oven to 170oC. Line two 12 hole muffin tins. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Using a food processor, process the coconut till very fine (around 3-4 minutes) and then add to the sifted ingredients. Mix to combine.
In a separate bowl, combine eggs and egg whites. In a third bowl, cream butter for 1 minute. Add the caster sugar a third at a time, beating for 2 minutes after each addition. When all the sugar is added, beat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is really fluffy.
Add the eggs a quarter at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Add vanilla and beat well.
Add a third of the flour mixture, and beat on low till just combined. Add half the coconut milk and beat to just combined. Repeat until all the flour is added. Be careful not to over mix.
Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full and bake for 18 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Remove from tins immediately and cool on wire rack. Frost when completely cool.
Lychee Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
450g unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
1/4 cup lychee puree (about 12 lychees + a little syrup, pureed and strained)
In a bowl over a simmering pot of water, beat egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar until it reaches 160oF.
Take off the heat and beat on high until glossy stiff peaks
Add butter a couple of cubes at a time while beating on medium. The mixture may look curdled for a bit - don't panic, just keep adding butter a little bit at a time and the mixture will come together...have faith!
When all the butter has been incorporated and the mixture is silky smooth, add the lychee puree. and beat well to combine.
Pipe onto cupcakes with a piping bag and round nozzle.