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Honey’s Coconut Cupcakes

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

Coconut Cupcakes

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski

I’m so excited to share a special recipe from my new cookbook with you today. (I can’t believe the release is less than two weeks away!) And as a bonus I have a fun video to go along with the recipe that I hope you like.

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. I could never get it quite as “coconut-y” as the original but finally, I nailed it. The trick was adding a coconut milk and shredded coconut to both the cake and the frosting.

Here’s a little video showing how they’re made. You’ll find the recipe below the video. Enjoy!

Honey's Coconut Cupcakes

Named for my great-grandmother “Honey,” these old-fashioned 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
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 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

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-1/2 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

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  • 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, 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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Reviews & Comments

  • The cupcakes turned out great! I have leftover frosting- how long will it last?

    • — Liz on March 7, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Liz, glad you liked the cupcakes! The frosting can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

      • — Jenn on March 7, 2019
      • Reply
  • I made Honey’s Triple Coconut Cupcakes – everyone loved them.
    My daughter has requested this to be her birthday cake…
    How would I make a cake with this recipe?
    PS – I have your cookbook, it is beautiful.

    • — Deirdre on February 20, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Deirdre, So happy you liked the cupcakes! You can definitely make this as a cake. I’d use two 8-in pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. I’d also increase the frosting by 1.5. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on February 21, 2019
      • Reply
  • Could I substitute coconut oil for butter? If so, would it be an equal substitution? Thank you.

    • — Christina on February 8, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Christina, I think an equivalent amount of coconut oil will work for the butter in the cupcakes. (For the most predictable results, I’d stick with the butter for the frosting.) Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on February 8, 2019
      • Reply
  • Tasty but very dense. I followed the cake recipe to the letter, and they rose beautifully. Just wondering if the texture should be more delicate. Cold it be the corn starch or that I used full fat coconut milk with no additives.

    • — Amy on December 16, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Amy, These are rich cupcakes — I wouldn’t describe them as dense but they aren’t delicate either. If you’ve ever made my vanilla buttermilk cupcakes, they are very similar. I don’t think you did anything wrong…full-fat coconut milk is fine and cornstarch actually lightens the cupcakes (I mix it with all-purpose flour to mimic cake flour).

      • — Jenn on December 16, 2018
      • Reply
  • I made these to bring to a friend’s dinner party who loves all things coconut. Their entire family went wild. They are so delicious. The frosting is the best! (The best part is I saved a few of the cupcakes to keep at home for myself 😉 I have made so many recipes from your site as well as your cookbook and have yet to find one we didn’t like. I have started buying your cookbook as gifts, as well. Spreading the love of your recipes!

    • — Mindy Deere on October 8, 2018
    • Reply
    • 💕

      • — Jenn on October 8, 2018
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn!

    I made these cupackes tonight… I have made other cupcake recipes you have and they are all perfect. This one is too! But for some strange reason that I still cannot understand, they collapsed after I took them out of the oven. They are moist and delicious but have a hole in the middle top 🙁

    Is there a reason why this happened? I always double check the steps as I go when I bake and I have never had a collapsed cupcake before :/

    Thank you in advance!


    • — Sara Macmillan on June 30, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Sara, Oh no! This is basically the same recipe as my vanilla buttermilk cupcakes (only instead of buttermilk I use coconut milk + lemon juice). It sounds like the cupcakes may have been undercooked…is it possible your oven temp was a little off? The only other thing that would cause that is not enough flour – is it possible you made a measuring error?

      • — Jenn on June 30, 2018
      • Reply
      • Hi Jenn!

        Yes yes yes! Of course it was me! Your recipes are perfect! I could not doubt your recipe so I spent a few hrs that night thinking what in the world I did wrong! (Besides baking at the same time the twins are yelling :/)

        Well… I realized later that night and after writing this question that I used a whole can of coconut milk instead of 1 CUP of coconut milk :-/ duh! And here I am checking and checking… making sure I am following all the steps… I swore I followed each step to the T!!!

        Anyway! Making them again bc I am that determined! Btw the cupcakes that collapsed taste so good… like some sort of coconut bread… so we are all enjoying them as a snack with coffee… that is how amazing your recipes are LOL even messing them up they are still good!

        Love love from Japan,


        • — Sara Macmillan on July 1, 2018
        • Reply
        • Glad the mystery is solved (and btw, I have made that same mistake!). ☺️

          • — Jenn on July 1, 2018
          • Reply
  • I would make these cupcakes for the frosting alone. I love everything coconut! However, the frosting was a little runny when first made, not sure why! After putting it in the refrigerator for awhile, it was just fine.

    • — Karen on June 14, 2018
    • Reply
  • I made these for a work party, along with chocolate cupcakes, and they were a big hit. I made a ton of cupcakes and varied the flavor combos — kept a bunch as written, but also did chocolate cake with coconut frosting, and coconut cake with chocolate frosting. We couldn’t decide which was our favorite, cause they were all awesome. So, what I’m getting at is, this is a fun recipe to play with and personalize. One change I made was to toast the coconut for the topping — gives good flavor and crunchy texture.

    • — Lauren on May 24, 2018
    • Reply
  • Jenn, could I make these in steps such as making the cupcakes on a Wednesday afternoon to store and then ice them Thursday for a Friday luncheon? These sound wonderful – can’t wait to try! Thank you, Glinda

    • — Glinda Lathan on May 5, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Glinda, These keep very well compared to most cupcakes, but I’d make them one day ahead instead of two for the best results. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 6, 2018
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I am in love with your recipes. I have a few questions before making these cupcakes. Can I omit corn starch if I am using cake flour? And I have unsweetened shredded coconut, so should I need additional sugar for this recipe?

    • — Diana Benito on May 5, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Diana, So happy you like the recipes! That will probably work but you’ll need to replace the cornstarch with more cake flour. I’d love to know how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on May 5, 2018
      • Reply
  • I want to point out this recipe in your cookbook states to use only 1 TBS of unsweetened coconut milk for frosting, which explains why my frosting was not getting the consistency I wanted. I even increased it to 2 tablespoons but it turned out very dry and overly sweet. You probably want to correct this in future prints. I will try it out with 1/4 cup and only 3 cups of sugar and think it will come out great. The cupcakes were fantastic!

    • — Nancy A on April 28, 2018
    • Reply
    • I also had a question, on the can of unsweetened coconut milk, since I sm not using full can, should I shake first or only use the creamed portion of it. I used onky cream portion and the cupcakes cane out super moist and yummy but would like to know for future recipes. Thanks!

      • — Nancy A on April 28, 2018
      • Reply
      • Hi Nancy, I always shake it first. Sometimes, it’s so solidified I have to remove it from the can and use a whisk. Although if you had good results, I guess either way is fine. 🙂

        • — Jenn on April 28, 2018
        • Reply
    • Hi Nancy, Yes you are correct – this is the one recipe in the book with a mistake (or at least the only one that I’ve caught!). I was so upset when I discovered it…I posted the correct recipe on the site with a note about the changes in hopes that my readers would see it. I am SO sorry!! The frosting should have 6 oz of cream cheese and 1/4 cup coconut milk. It was corrected in the second printing. Hope you were still able to enjoy them. ❤️

      • — Jenn on April 28, 2018
      • Reply
  • Made these today – just licking the frosting off my lips actually 🙂 They are truly outstanding. So moist and not as sweet as I was thinking they might be. They are perfect. Thank you for a great recipe.

    • — Donna on April 18, 2018
    • Reply
  • Can these be made as mini cupcakes (using a mini cupcake tin)? Would there need to be any alterations or would the recipe be fine as is? Thanks!

    • — Sara on April 16, 2018
    • Reply
    • I think that’d be fine, Sara – you’ll just need to reduce the baking time. I’d start checking around 8 to 10 min.

      • — Jenn on April 16, 2018
      • Reply
      • Thank you so much for the quick reply! These will be perfect for a teacher appreciation week dessert bar! 🙂

        • — Sara on April 16, 2018
        • Reply
  • Jenn,

    Shame on me for not reading the previous questions! You have already provided all the info I need for a cake. Thanks !


    • — Gary on April 13, 2018
    • Reply
    • No worries! Please lmk how it turns out if you try it, Gary. 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 13, 2018
      • Reply
  • I was planning to make these; then I noticed 41 grams of sugar/cupcake. Wow! By how much could the sugar be reduced and still retain a good tasting coconut cupcake?

    • — Pearl on April 12, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Pearl, you could cut the sugar in the batter back to 1 3/4 cups. For the frosting, you could probably get away with using about 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar (you’ll very likely need less coconut milk for the frosting if you’re using less sugar, just play with the amounts until you get the right consistency). (You can also put less frosting on each cupcake. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on April 13, 2018
      • Reply
  • Thank you for that great story about “ Honey”. And the step by step video. I WILL be making these cupcakes!!

    • — Sharron Biccum on April 12, 2018
    • Reply
  • Question: Would the batter for Honey’s Triple Coconut Cupcakes be successful as a layer cake, 8 or 9 ” or other measurement? If so, would you suggest doubling the frosting recipe? Thanks so much. I love your weekly emails and eagerly wait to receive your book.
    Michele Hendrickson

    • — Michele Hendrickson on April 12, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Michele, I think you could bake this batter in two 9-inch cake pans (spray them with baker’s joy, line the bottoms of the pans w/parchment, then spray them again). You’ll likely need to increase the frosting by 1.5x. I’d love to know how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on April 12, 2018
      • Reply
  • “1 can of coconut milk” doesn’t tell us much. Stores carry cans of coconut milk in various sizes, right?
    It would be helpful to specify HOW MUCH (i.e., a useable measurement in ml, oz, etc.) coconut milk to use, rather than a vague mention of how many containers of unknown size to use.

    • — HC on April 12, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi HC, the recipe specifies that you’ll need 1 cup/8 fluid ounces of unsweetened coconut milk for the cupcakes and 1/4 cup/2 fluid ounces of it for the frosting. Hope that clarifies and that you enjoy the cupcakes if you make them!

      • — Jenn on April 12, 2018
      • Reply
  • If I don’t want cupcakes, but prefer a cake, what are your suggestions for type of cake pan, pan prep and timing???
    This looks yummy!

    • — Ruth Shuster on April 12, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Ruth, I think you could bake this batter in two 9-inch cake pans (be sure to spray them with Baker’s Joy or Pam with Flour, line the bottoms with parchment rounds, then spray again). I thinking you’ll probably need to increase the frosting by 1.5x. Hope that helps, and I’d love to know how it turns out if you try it.

      • — Jenn on April 12, 2018
      • Reply
  • I have leftover sweetened coconut flakes from another recipe and was looking for something to make with it. This is perfect!! Making it this weekend!!

    • — Andreza Eberwein on April 12, 2018
    • Reply
  • I love these so much!! Everyone in my family is a big coconut fan so they always freak out over them. I had the honor of testing these for your cookbook and have made them several times. Sometimes, I will lightly toast the coconut that I sprinkle on top to add a bit of contrast if I have time. A+ recipe that is delicious and reliable! Thank you!

    • — Caroline Yaun on April 12, 2018
    • Reply

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