When I was 21 I did a short (but amazing) semester abroad in the French West Indies. Oddly enough, considering we were living in paradise, my dear friend Carrie and I found ourselves slightly homesick at times. There is something comforting about seeing a familiar item when you’re far from home, and for us it was an Almond Joy bar. Never a candy I’d been interested in, suddenly I HAD to have it. It was epic, memorable, and began my love affair with all things chocolate/coconut.
Cupcakes are easier to make than a cake, and seem to inspire universal excitement. These cupcakes have sticky coconut as the “icing” (if you need your icing, layer the coconut on top of some plain buttercream), and a gooey, silky bittersweet chocolate glaze. Fun enough for little ones but fancy enough for adults, these are more creative than your run-of-the-mill cupcakes and would be perfect for a spring/summer barbeque.
Some baking instruction: You never know when you will learn something new!
Eggs: always use large unless the recipe specifies otherwise. Bring eggs to room temperature before baking (unless you need to separate the whites and yolks, as this works best with cold eggs). Why add eggs one at a time? It leads to a more uniform and cohesive batter.
Flour: Always use all purpose, unbleached, unless recipe specifies otherwise. Stir up your flour and then dip your 1 c. dry measuring cup into the flour. Scoop gently (NO PACKING DOWN FLOUR), and then level off with the flat edge of a butter knife.
Butter: Always use unsalted butter for baking so you can control the amount of salt used. Different butter manufacturers use varying amounts of salt so there is no way to know how salty your butter is. If you only have salted, maybe scale back on the amount of salt in the recipe by 1/8 of a tsp. For butter to be “softened“, let it sit out for at least 30 minutes (or several hours in a cool kitchen). This DOES matter, as softened butter will “whip up” as you beat it, incorporating air into the batter. Ever have dense, flat cupcakes? This could be why.
Wet ingredients should always be measured in a cup specifically made for liquid ingredients. Put the measuring cup on a flat surface and check amount at eye level. Likewise, dry ingredients should always be measured in dry measuring cups.
Loosely packed just means what it says – don’t pack down ingredients. Heaping means what it says as well; fill but don’t level off.
A pinch is a pinch; literally pinch the ingredient between your thumb and pointer finger.
I’m bossy. Happy cupcaking!
Almond Joy Cupcakes
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 c. sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. buttermilk
2 c. loosely packed sweetened (flaked or shredded) coconut
1 c. whole 0r 2% milk
2 c. sweetened coconut (shredded or flaked)
1 tbsp. powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 (heaping) c. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. whole milk
Optional garnish – Almondictive Bits from Trader Joe’s (or chocolate covered almonds)
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cream butter and sugar by beating with electric mixer at medium-high speed for five minutes or until light in color and fluffy.
3. Add eggs and beat, one at a time. Add extracts with last egg.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
5. Add dry mixture alternately with buttermilk (beating each addition to combine), starting and ending with dries. It will go dry, wet, dry, wet, dry.
6. Fold coconut into batter by hand, using a rubber spatula.
7. Line muffin tin with paper or foil liners and fill each muffin hole 2/3 of the way full with batter.
8. Bake for 25-35 minutes; check at 25 and then every few minutes until cupcakes are lightly brown and no longer soft in the top center.
9. Let cool completely on wire rack.
10. To make coconut topping, combine milk, coconut, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt in a saucepan over high heat. When mixture begins to bubble, lower heat to medium low and let simmer for about 7 minutes – stirring occasionally – until liquid mostly disappears and mixture appears sticky.
11. Spread coconut mixture evenly over cooled cupcakes.
12. To make chocolate glaze, heat chocolate chips, corn syrup and butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave in 15 second increments, stirring each time, until smooth. Add milk and stir to combine (heat for a final 15 seconds if milk does not combine smoothly).
13. Scrape chocolate into a ziplock bag and snip a small corner of the plastic bag. Squeeze glaze through the hole onto the coconut in a zigzig pattern (or any pattern you like). Top with chocolate covered almond.
*Cupcakes are okay at room temperature for several hours, but if serving them the next day then refrigerate. Bring to room temp. before serving.