Coconut cream pie, for me, is one of those desserts that always elicit the most nostalgic childhood memories. As a young kid, it was always the dessert I gravitated towards before I discovered more gourmet options like crème brulee and bread pudding and became a bonafide dessert snob.
Now, as an adult those “other” options have sort of lost their luster and I find myself pining over a coconut cream pie more often than any other dessert. Unfortunately for me, the restaurant which served my go-to coconut cream pie as a kid, the only one I’d even consider inhaling, closed a little under ten years ago, so I’m not able to actually recreate the original scene of the crime and pretend I’m a kid again.
Fortunately for me, the pie lives on at local grocery stores around the Kansas City metro area, so while I can’t replicate the exact order of events and memories, I can still enjoy the exact same pie in the comfort of my home.
It’s a blessing and curse all at the same time.
I’ve toyed around with completely different versions of the tried and true coconut cream pie, because trying to replicate the recipe myself would just land me in severe disappointment. I’ll never be able to duplicate the perfectly flaky, buttery crust, or tint the garnish of coconut a perfectly pink hue, and I’ll never ever be able to imitate the most light as air, sweet whipped cream topping.
So I don’t try.
I’ve been craving coconut cream pie and moist cupcakes almost daily for the last couple of weeks, so I decided that combining the two cravings was the logical next step.
Logic paid off, because Coconut Cream Pie Cupcakes are my new favorite dessert.
Light as air almond and vanilla flavored cupcakes are hollowed out and stuffed with a rich coconut cream custard, piped with a sweet whipped cream and mascarpone topping and then sprinkled with extra coconut. What results just may be the most perfect dessert hybrid known to man.
I will not lie to you. This recipe is intense. There are steps. It takes time. And patience. And a little bit of skill. But if you follow the directions precisely, you shouldn’t have a problem.
We begin with a simple cupcake recipe, an adaptation of this cupcake, which is an adaptation of a classic Martha Stewart recipe. Of course, butter and sugar make up the base of the cake, but vanilla almond milk, a whole vanilla bean and almond extract transform the coconut-based flavor into something completely different – in a good way. I really wanted to keep the cupcake itself free of coconut flavor so we could have the same “layers” of flavor as a classic coconut cream pie – the crust, the filling and the whipped cream topping.
Two egg yolks give the batter richness, while four whipped eggs whites offer the cake a super light texture. Again, whipping up the egg yolks may seem like a task, but it makes a world of difference in the final product.
The filling couldn’t be simpler – coconut milk, sugar and one egg yolk are heated up until slightly thickened and then combined with a cornstarch slurry which is just a mixture of cornstarch and almond milk. The cornstarch helps to thicken the custard so we don’t have to add more eggs. Once the mixture is thickened, a half-cup of coconut is stirred in and then set aside to chill.
I get rather impatient when I’m required to chill things, so I transferred the mixture to another smaller bowl and stuck it in the freezer to speed up the process. I just stirred it every five minutes or so until it was cool.
The last layer is a mixture of heavy cream and mascarpone. I was going to go with a whipped cream topping, but I don’t find them to be sturdy enough to actually pipe onto a cupcake. Softened mascarpone cheese adds a little bit of richness, but also allows the piping to keep its shape.
A sprinkle of coconut finishes the cupcake off.
I like to chill them for ten minutes or so after making them, just to let the custard and “frosting” set, but if you’re making them a day in advance, just fill the cupcakes before, store them in an airtight container and then pipe them the day off. Make sure you let the cakes set out for ten minutes or so before serving so the cake warms up a bit.
Just try to say no to these….
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds removed
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 egg yolks
- ¾ cup vanilla unsweetened almond milk (I use Trader Joe's)
- 4 egg whites
- 1 -14 ounce can coconut milk
- 1 egg yolk
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ¼ cup almond milk
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- ½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ⅔ cup mascarpone
- 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with liners
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. In the bottom of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until smooth. Add in vanilla bean and almond extract. Beat until combined. Add egg yolks, bean until combined.
- Turn the mixer to low. Working in batches, add ⅓ of the flour mixture, followed by ⅓ of the milk. Repeat until combined completely. Scrap down the sides and bottom of the bowl, mix one more time to incorporate.
- In another bowl, using a hand held mixer, whip up egg whites until medium peas form. Fold mixture into batter, make sure to not deflate the egg whites.
- Fill muffin tins ¾ full. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until the edges are just slightly golden brown. Work in two batches. Let cool.
- In a medium sauce pan, whisk together coconut milk, sugar and egg yolk. Turn the heat on medium and using a wooden spoon, heat mixture until it is slightly thickened and the sugar has dissolved, about five minutes.
- In another small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and almond milk. Whisk into hot coconut milk mixture. Simmer until thickened, about five minutes.
- Once thickened, add coconut. Let cool completely. If you need to speed the process up, place in another bowl and chill in the freezer for 20 minutes or so.
- In a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment add cold cream. Turn the mixer on medium high and whip until medium peaks form.
- Add mascarpone, whip until combined. Be sure to not over mix. With the mixer on low, add powdered sugar and mix just until combined.
- Use a cupcake corer to remove the center of each cupcake
- Transfer coconut custard to a ziplock baggie. Cut the tip off and pipe filling into center of cupcakes.
- Transfer whipped cream to a large ziplock or pastry bag, cut the tip off and pipe whipped cream mixture onto cupcakes.
- Garnish with coconut.
- Chill for 20 minutes before serving.