Pina Colada Cupcakes

Sometimes the next best thing to actually being on vacation is enjoying foods that immediately transport you back, at least in your mind, to a getaway you’ve taken in the past. Especially on a Monday morning…am I right?

When we’re trying to escape reality, Shane and I are all about tropical destinations. Many of the trips we’ve taken together have involved sitting on a white sand beach staring out into an endless sea of crystal clear blue water – always with a drink in hand. For him, generally either a beer or the occasional margarita, and for me, something fruity and frozen. Pina coladas are very high on the list, but if you can believe it I’ve never made them at home. I fear once I start, it’s a habit I wouldn’t be able to quit :) Pina colada cupcakes though? Now that’s another story. They’re easy to transport, and I never have trouble finding someone to take a few cupcakes off my hands!

Pina Colada Cupcakes

I bought a new-to-me ingredient to make these cupcakes: cream of coconut, which is not to be confused with coconut milk (Deb explains the difference in the intro note to her recipe here). They don’t sell liquor in grocery stores here, but if they do by you, that’s where I’d look first. In my store, I found the cream of coconut in the small section with the premade drink mixes. And if all else fails and you can’t find any, Deb offers an alternative using coconut milk and extra sugar.

Pina Colada Cupcakes

The cream of coconut is used in both the cupcakes and the frosting, and though the cupcake batter was intensely coconut flavored, I found the cupcakes less so. It was there, but definitely more subtle. Coconut extract would probably amp up the flavor a bit more if you really want the coconut to shine. The cupcakes are moist, but with a tight, dense crumb. Oh, and a word of warning – these cupcakes rise a ton, so beware overfilling the wells. I topped mine with a sweet coconut cream cheese frosting, but if that’s not your thing, I think this coconut Swiss meringue buttercream would be perfect too! Garnished with a cherry and a little umbrella, the cupcakes definitely reminded me of the drinks I’ve enjoyed on those Caribbean beaches, and for now that’ll just have to do :)

Pina Colada Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
cupcakes adapted from Smitten Kitchen, frosting adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2003

{Note: if you don’t pile frosting a mile-high on your cupcakes like me, you could probably get away with making 1/2 – 3/4 of the frosting recipe. Also, you can substitute dark rum for the coconut rum in the cupcakes if you prefer.}

Cupcakes
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup (55 g) light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons coconut rum
1 cup cream of coconut
1/2 cup (72 g) finely chopped fresh pineapple

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
2 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 cup cream of coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the rum and then the cream of coconut – the batter will probably look curdled, but don’t worry, it’ll come together in the next step. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in two additions, beating until just incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the pineapple.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared liners, filling each only about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the pan to a wire rack and let the cupcakes cool for a few minutes before removing them to the rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, beating until well combined, then add the cream of coconut and vanilla extract. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a tip. Pipe frosting into a swirl on each cupcake. Garnish with a maraschino cherry, pineapple wedge or umbrella, if desired :)

Makes about 15 cupcakes