Honey’s Coconut Cupcakes

Tested & Perfected Recipes Cookbook Recipe

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Named for my great-grandmother “Honey,” these old-fashioned coconut cupcakes are tender and super coconut-y.

Coconut Cupcakes on a cake platter.

They say that traits usually skip a generation, but in my case, they skipped two. My great grandmother, who was called “Honey” by everyone who knew her, was a baker and caterer. She baked cakes for the whole city of Buffalo, New York, and was especially well known for her coconut cake. Unfortunately, there was no real recipe left when she passed, only scribbled notes on an old index card from my mom’s green tin recipe box. Once I became the family baker, I took it upon myself to recreate Honey’s famous coconut cake and coconut cupcakes. It was a challenge to get it as “coconut-y” as the original but finally, I nailed it. The trick was adding coconut milk and shredded coconut to both the cake and the frosting.

Black and white picture of a woman standing on a sidewalk next to snow.

Here’s a little video showing how the coconut cupcakes are made. Enjoy!

Coconut Cupcakes Video Tutorial

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Honey's Coconut Cupcakes

Named for my great-grandmother “Honey,” these old-fashioned coconut cupcakes are tender and super coconut-y.

Servings: 24 cupcakes
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes


For the Cupcakes

  • 1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, from 1 lemon
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

For the Frosting

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups sweetened shredded coconut, for topping


For the Cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Lightly spray the top of the pans with a nonstick cooking spray with flour, such as Baker’s Joy or Pam Baking Spray with Flour, just in case the cupcake tops stick to the pan (don’t worry if the spray gets in the liners).
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk and lemon juice. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beaters), beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  5. Turn the speed down to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the coconut milk–lemon juice mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add another one-third of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining coconut milk–lemon juice mixture. Beat in the remaining flour mixture, then scrape down the bowl and beat again until the batter is just combined. Quickly mix in the shredded coconut; do not overmix.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake pans, filling each cup about three-fourths full. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, until the cupcakes are set, lightly golden, and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean (note that one pan may finish baking before the other). Let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Frosting

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beaters), beat the butter and cream cheese until creamy and well combined. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar, and then beat in the vanilla, coconut milk, and salt.
  2. When the cupcakes are completely cooled, use a butter knife or small offset spatula to swirl the frosting lavishly over the top. Sprinkle with the shredded coconut, pressing it gently so it adheres, and serve.
  3. MAKE AHEAD: The cupcakes can be made and frosted up to 1 day ahead of time. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
  4. Note: The frosting ingredients in this recipe have been updated from the first printing of the book, so you'll notice a few minor tweaks. (This is the updated version.)
  5. Note: Adding cornstarch to the flour mimics cake flour, which makes a lighter and more delicate cake.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (24 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 cupcake
  • Calories: 407
  • Fat: 21 g
  • Saturated fat: 14 g
  • Carbohydrates: 53 g
  • Sugar: 41 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 3 g
  • Sodium: 154 mg
  • Cholesterol: 69 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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  • I have spent weeks trying out coconut cupcake recipes. My search has ended here. The taste of this cupcake is yummy and sufficiently coco-nutty, but what is I find most extraordinary about it is the texture. The sponge is light and moist and springy. It sets this cupcake apart from the others I tried and rejected.

    • — Polly on June 14, 2024
    • Reply
  • These were awesome, but I have to ask: why vanilla extract? Why not coconut extract instead?

    • — Jeff Theis on April 6, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Jeff, You could definitely replace the vanilla (or a portion of it) with coconut extract for even more coconut flavor. One reason I don’t call for it here is because it’s not an ingredient most people have on hand. Glad you enjoyed!

      • — Jenn on April 9, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, can I make this in a Bundt pan?

    • — Christina on April 4, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Christina, I have never tried this in a Bundt, but I think it should work; just be sure to grease and flour the pan very well.

      • — Jenn on April 9, 2024
      • Reply
  • My family loves these cupcakes, but our newest member is allergic to eggs. Is there any way to make them without eggs and still get great results?
    Thank you!

    • — Jane on January 16, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Jane, so glad your family likes these! Two of the best substitutes I’ve heard about (I haven’t personally tried either of them) are a combination of water, oil, and baking powder, and carbonated water. Scroll down to the bottom of this article for more information about both. I would assume these would also work with some kind of store-bought egg substitute. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on January 17, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hi! How would these be with your Swiss buttercream frosting? I made macaroons and have extra that I thought could work here. I thought maybe I could re mix with some coconut milk and try it out? Good or bad idea 😝

    • — CU on December 30, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi CU, I’m not sure it will work to add the coconut milk, but I think the SWB will work nicely here.

      • — Jenn on December 31, 2023
      • Reply
  • I made this as a cake for a family birthday. Fabulous! Everyone really loved it. I made one tiny change, adding some grated lemon rind and the small amount of lemon juice left over from the lemon to the icing. Speaking of the icing – Jenn said (in one of the comments about doing this as a cake) to double the icing. I made 1 2/3 times the icing. Way, way too much! Next time, I will make just the single amount, which would be perfect.

    • — Cindy on September 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • I didn’t want to take the time to make cupcakes so in reading the reviews someone felt the same way and did it as a cake. I tried it, wonderful. My grown children were over for dinner and they all loved it and asked me to make it every time they had dinner.

    • — sidney on May 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made these for Easter, and I am trying to figure out what I did wrong. The cupcakes were dense and a little dry while the frosting was rather runny. I don’t know if I mixed everything too much or if perhaps my baking soda was too old?

    • — Shana on April 14, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Shana, Sorry these didn’t work out for you! Regarding the cupcakes, when baked goods are dense and dry, it’s usually caused by measuring the flour incorrectly. Did you use the spoon and level method to measure the flour? Even a few extra ounces can make a big difference. This article/video explains it nicely. And for the frosting, did you make any adjustments to the ingredients (like margarine instead of butter or reduced fat cream cheese or coconut milk)?

      • — Jenn on April 14, 2023
      • Reply
  • Do these cupcakes freeze well unfrosted?

    • — S.B on April 5, 2023
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on April 5, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn!
    I’m making Honey’s Coconut Cupcakes in a 9 x13 for Easter again this year. It was so fabulous that my family requested it again!
    I can’t remember how long I baked it but I think it was 30-35 minutes. I also can’t remember whether it’s okay to store at room temperature overnight – I’m making it Saturday night.
    Will you advise on bake time and storage?
    Thank you so much.

    • — DJ on April 5, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi DJ, Glad you liked it! Yes, 30 to 35 minutes sounds right. And it can be made and frosted up to 1 day ahead of time and stored, covered, at room temperature.

      • — Jenn on April 5, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thanks for the information! This is seriously the best coconut cake we’ve ever had.
        Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes.

        • — DJ on April 6, 2023
        • Reply
  • I really loved the recipe!
    I decided to make them with white chocolate buttercream instead of the one in the recipe and everything worked together very well. You could still get a taste of the coconut because of the milk and shredded coconut in the sponge!

    • — Katrin on April 1, 2023
    • Reply
  • I love these cupcakes! Will this recipe work as an 8 inch round double layer cake if I just divide the batter between 2 cake pans?

    • — Kelly on March 25, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Kelly, Yes it should work well. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on March 28, 2023
      • Reply
  • I made these yesterday and they are quite delicious. Everything pairs well together – I did toast the coconut for on top of the cupcake. After being refrigerated the cake part of the cupcake did get a bit hard but still tastes delcious.

    • — theresad on January 13, 2023
    • Reply
  • This recipe came out so AAHHHMAZING. So light and moist and flavorful. 10/10. I halved the cake recipe and baked it in a parchment lined loaf pan. I toasted the “garnish” coconut on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 4-5 minutes after I took the cake out to cool. I was worried the coconut milk would make the frosting runny, as another reviewer mentioned, so I stuck to my own basic tried and true cream cheese frosting recipe and omitted the coconut milk. I think toasting the coconut sprinkled on top really helped pull the coconut flavor through. I used TJ’s reduced fat canned coconut milk and unsweetened organic shredded coconut, since it was what I had on hand, and it was fantastic. As a side note to anyone using unsweetened coconut, it has to be the shredded and not the flakes. The flaked pieces would be too hard and thick.

    • — Jena J on December 2, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hello Jen,

    What brand of shredded coconut do you buy or recommend?


    • — Joyce on September 9, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Joyce, I use Baker’s.

      • — Jenn on September 10, 2022
      • Reply
    • Hi Joyce,

      How much cake flour should I use since I have that on hand instead of all purpose flour?


      • — Melanie on February 3, 2023
      • Reply
      • Hi Melanie, I’d replace the cornstarch with additional cake flour, so you’ll need an additional 1/4 cup. Enjoy!

        • — Jenn on February 3, 2023
        • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Like most of the comments on your web-site, I must say that your recipes are NO FAIL, your website is amazingly user friendly & easy to navigate. But I am not able to access the video link for this recipe, it is not hyperlinked or highlighted to open when I scroll over “video tutorial here”! Do you happen to know if there something missing?

    Thanks Jenn for all your wonderful recipes, your website gives me much enjoyment in the kitchen!!

    • — Mary Paul on July 18, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary, Thanks so much for your kind words – so glad you enjoy the recipes and find the site easy to navigate! Immediately under the line that indicates there’s a video, you should see a heading that says Coconut Cupcakes Video Tutorial, and beneath that, a video with an arrow to click on. If you don’t, here’s a link to it. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on July 18, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thanks Jenn, that link just brings me to the recipe page again!! I wonder if it has anything to do with being in Canada and not in the US? N biggie, really, I’d just like to see how you make your recipes in your kitchen!!


        • — Mary Paul on July 21, 2022
        • Reply
        • That’s so strange! It shouldn’t have anything to do with where you live. I would suggest going onto the blog using a different internet browser and trying to print from there. Oftentimes, those annoying glitches can be resolved by using a different browser. Please let me know if I can help in any other way!

          • — Jenn on July 23, 2022
          • Reply
      • Yes, I have the exact same problem on all Jenn’s recipe pages for some reason – clearly see Grandma Honey’s pic (love the hat btw!), and see the heading for video, but just blank space after no links, so thank you for this Jenn! Perhaps the way around this just go to video page and search for recipes there? Just made your key lime pie for third time btw…again, hubby said it was nothing short of a miracle – thank you for being in my life and my kitchen; what a saviour you’ve been throughout the years!

        • — Pam on March 24, 2023
        • Reply
        • Hi Pam, Do you by chance have an ad blocker on your computer? That can cause the videos to not show up (they have ads). So glad you’re having success with the recipes! 💕

          • — Jenn on March 24, 2023
          • Reply
    • Hi Mary. I have the same issue when using my computer. When I use my iphone for some reason, the videos are always there and work! Try that!

      • — Sharon Benedict on March 23, 2023
      • Reply
  • Made these almost exactly as written with the exception of unsweetened coconut and they came out great (still plenty sweet in my opinion). Definitely a keeper!

    • — Stephanie on June 18, 2022
    • Reply
  • I followed the directions exactly as written and they came out super yummy! Thank you!

  • These are Amazing!!!! I added pineapple because pineapple is delicious. So yummy!

  • Can I freeze the cupcakes without the frosting?

  • Jenn,
    I made your “Honey’s Coconut Cupcakes” into a 13 x 9 sheet cake for Easter. It was a HUGE hit! My family said it was the best coconut cake they’ve ever had – and we’ve had a lot of coconut cakes!

    I chose your recipe because:
    1. Every recipe of yours I’ve ever made has been very successful. Your detailed directions and tips are always appreciated.
    2. Your story about Honey was really sweet.
    3. I liked the idea of including coconut milk and coconut in both the cake and the frosting.

    I shared your story of Honey with my family as we devoured the cake. Her story made it feel extra special! Everyone requested a piece to take home.

    Thank you, Jenn, for sharing your tested and perfected recipes! Very grateful.

  • Outstanding cupcakes. The sponge hits an 11 on a scale of 10 — on both flavor and texture. So glad I added this recipe to my Easter menu. Can’t wait to serve them!

  • Just made these today for my sister’s birthday ( she loves coconut) I followed the recipe to the letter and most of the cupcakes came out fine and a few of them sunk. Not sure why, but they still tasted amazing. Thank you for a great recipe.

  • This is the best cupcake I’ve ever tasted or made. It is soo delicious! I made them for my son’s 2nd birthday party and everyone absolutely loved them. I halved the recipe and everything turned out wonderfully. Yum yum yummy! Thanks for such a great recipe.

  • Easy recipe. Very light and tasty cupcakes with enough coconut flavor but not overpowering.

  • I am a bit confused about the coconut milk. Your response to one reader who asked if she could use refrigerated coconut milk says: “Unfortunately canned and refrigerated coconut milk are not interchangeable here. Sorry!”

    I have a box (or carton) of coconut milk that is stored at room temperature, with the instruction to refrigerate after opening for a maximum of 3 days. The content of the box is 99.95% coconut milk and Polysorbate 60.

    Advice, please.

    • Hi Linda, typically cartons of coconut milk contain a lot more water than the canned version but if yours says that it’s 99% coconut milk it may be fine to use but I can’t say for sure as I haven’t tried it myself.. Please LMK how the cupcakes turn out if you try it!

      • Hi Jenn. The cupcakes were excellent – light and fluffy, so the carton of coconut milk worked. For the icing, I substituted more butter for the cream cheese as was recommended, but found the icing to be too buttery. The bonus was that I piped icing for the first time and this made for a very impressive presentation.

  • I made this for a new year’s Party with a Hawaiian theme. It was a hit! So moist so delicious. The only thing I would comment on is the consistency of the icing. It was a bit runny. Definitely making it again!

    • — Jaishree Santhirasegaran
    • Reply
  • I’m wondering if I can make 6-inch cakes instead of cupcakes? Thanks!

    • Hi Lisa, that should work. I’m not sure how many it will make or what the baking time will be so keep a close eye on them while they’re in the oven. Please LMK how they turn out!

  • Omg these are absolutely delicious! I made a chocolate frosting for half of the cupcakes and wow! These cupcakes were so light, moist, and airy…absolutely perfect and definitely not skimpy on coconut flavor. I will definitely make these time and time again.

  • Hi, Making this for a bridal shower can i make it one day ahead?

    • Sure, one day ahead will work, but I wouldn’t push it beyond that. Hope everyone enjoys! 🙂

  • Hi I would like to make just twelve of these can I just halve the recipe?

    • Sure Anya, that’s fine. Enjoy!

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