Coconut Cupcakes with Pandan Frosting

During my undergrad, I didn’t live in the dorms. First off, I started taking classes as a high school student, so naturally I lived with my parents. By the time I would have moved in as a “real” student, I was a Junior. I was at a different course level, all my friends were upperclassmen, and I hadn’t heard many good stories about the dorms anyway.

Oh, and living at home was cheap.

There have been times, though, that I wished I would have had the “dorm experience”. Not the tiny rooms, the smells, or the drunk people down the hall. What I felt I missed out on was having friends one door away, friendships that often lasted through college and beyond. There’s something to be said about proximity helping relationships form in their early stages.

But I didn’t stay in the dorms. I commuted, and then, when I got married, I still commuted. But when I got married, my Official Taste Tester and I purchased an multi-unit building. We started out with tenants that were strangers, actively avoiding having tenants that were our friends, worried about how it would affect our relationship.

Last year that all changed. Our friend, who had lived with Official Taste Tester before and was very responsible, was looking for an apartment and our empty unit fit the bill (he was later joined by his wife; we are close friends with both of them). Then, my cousin moved into another unit that opened up. I found myself getting the “dorm experience”, but with more privacy, fewer smells, and much better food.

One of the great things about our friends living upstairs is that we like to share food. We will leave treats for each other in a common space, passing baked goods back and forth.

A few days ago, we had brunch with these same friends and they served green pancakes. Yes, green pancakes. The secret ingredients were pandan, a flavoring used widely in southeast asian cooking (our friend likened it to Vanilla), and coconut milk. The pancakes were amazing, and even better, I went back downstairs with a bottle of pandan, and plans to make cupcakes using a common pandan-and-coconut pairing.

The Official Taste Tester doesn’t like overwhelming coconut (nor do some of his coworkers, who helped finish off the batch of cupcakes.) I created these cupcakes to be dense and moist, with a sweet but mild coconutty flavor. The star, however, is the green buttercream frosting with pandan and more coconut. Even those who were hesitant about the coconut polished off the cupcakes without a problem.

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Coconut Cupcakes with Pandan Frosting

Cupcakes
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 50g coconut milk powder (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 1/4 cup flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 18 muffin cups with cupcake papers.

This was my first time really working with coconut oil. For those of you who haven’t used it before, coconut oil is solid at room temperature. Very solid. As in, if you try creaming it with the sugar it won’t work.

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The way to get around this is to microwave the coconut oil for a short time (around 30 seconds for me) until it is soft and somewhat melted. If it gets too hot, allow it to cool for a few minutes. Then beat it with the sugar on medium high speed until well combined.

Add the eggs, water, and coconut powder and beat together on medium speed until combined.

Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla and beat until combined, then beat on high for 3 minutes. If the mixture is slightly lumpy, don’t worry about it.

Divide the batter among the cupcake cups (they will be 2/3 to 4/5 full). Bake for 20-22 minutes. The tops will not brown, but the bases will. Cool the cupcakes on cooling racks.

While the cupcakes are cooling, whip together your favorite buttercream recipe (may I suggest this one, without the lemon) but add 1 tsp coconut milk powder and a few drops of pandan instead of vanilla. I used 1/2 cup of butter, a little more than 1/2 lb of powdered sugar, and about a tablespoon of milk, along with the coconut milk powder and pandan. I tend to do buttercream by flavor and consistency, but I promise a future post to describe the process better. Your buttercream should be nice and green.

Once the cupcakes are cool, frost them with the pandan buttercream.

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