Sunday, September 27, 2020

Piña Colada Cupcakes

It has been a while since my last post (more than a month!).  I’m guessing that no one is surprised by this.  I think life has been pretty crazy for everyone this year.  The main reason I mention it is that I want to assure people who have been reading my blog for a long time that I’m still here…and I’m not planning on going anywhere.  I just haven’t been able to get to my blog as much as I had wanted to this year. 

As is the case with so many in my profession, a lot of my normal avenues of work have disappeared.  One would think that this would give me more time for the blog.  But in order to stay afloat I have found myself pivoting…and reinventing…and creating work where ever and however I can.  All of this takes up a lot of mental energy that I might normally devote to my blog.

As unfortunate as all of this has been, good things have been coming out of it.  Many of you know that one of the first things I did in the early days of the pandemic was to start teaching online classes through an olive oil/kitchen store called Olive Tree.  I have continued with these classes and will be doing more through the fall and holidays.  They are low-key, fun and interactive.  If you like online classes, you should check them out.

In July I started preparing curbside pick up dinners through Olive Tree.  We have aimed for simple, seasonal and accessible menus. It has been a pleasure to cook for people again and these meals will also continue for the foreseeable future.

Today I am sharing the recipe for the dessert I served as part of my September dinner.  The dinner fell on the last weekend of summer and I wanted it to have a beach vacation kind of feel to it.  I thought the dessert was perfect for the occasion:  Piña Colada Cupcakes (it’s hard to get more beach vacation than a Piña Colada!)

I was going to use the recipe that we use occasionally in my friend Nancy’s bakeshop to make miniature cupcakes.  It is a nice reliable recipe that hits all the right Piña Colada notes:  pineapple…coconut…Malibu rum…and a rich and creamy finish courtesy of fluffy cream cheese frosting.  But when I made them in my giant cupcake liners they didn’t turn out right.  They were kind of damp and heavy.  For whatever reason, cake recipes that work in one pan size sometimes don’t work in another (this can be due to a needed adjustment in the quantity of leavener to account for the different pan size…although, in this case, I think it might have been my oven…which I am still getting used to…).  However, it doesn’t happen often enough to prepare me for the pan of cake pucks that I pulled out of the oven.  To make matters worse, the dinner was only about a week and a half away…and the menu had been published.  I had to come up with something pretty quickly. 

I looked around a bit on line for a likely recipe, but none of those that I saw had all the flavor components of the original recipe that I liked so much (most didn’t include Malibu).  I was also not really in the mood to try a bunch of recipes from unknown and untried sources.  In the end I decided to take one of my tried and true sour cream cake formulas and alter it to include the flavors I wanted.  I chose a sour cream cake base because sour cream has almost as high of a fat content as coconut milk and I thought that by subbing coconut milk for some of the sour cream…and then reducing the fat by using Malibu and pineapple juice to make up the rest of the “liquid”…that I would have a recipe that performed in basically the same manner as the sour cream cake. 

And in just one try, it did.  My insty Piña Colada Cupcake recipe had everything I had originally planned on—the flavors of a Piña Colada in a rich, moist, fine-grained miniature cake.  Crowned with a generous swirl of Malibu spiked cream cheese frosting and a shower of toasted coconut, they were the perfect conclusion to a South of the Border menu. 

So if you are still not ready for summer to end…  Or you didn’t get to take your summer vacation this year….  You should whip up a batch of these cupcakes.  You’ll have a miniature summer vacation on a plate.  And since these cupcakes freeze beautifully (with or without the frosting), you can make a batch to enjoy some now…and load the rest into the freezer…providing a stash of tropical dessert vacations to be enjoyed during the cold and dark months ahead.

Piña Colada Cupcakes

200 g. (1 3/4 c.) all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
121 g. (1/2 c.) coconut milk
28 g. (2 T.) Malibu rum
56 g. (1/4 c.) pineapple juice (from can of crushed pineapple)
90 g. (1/2 c.) very well drained crushed pineapple (see note)
75 g. (3/4 c.) sweetened coconut
114 g. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
200 g. (1 c.) sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 t. vanilla
Cream Cheese Frosting
Toasted Coconut 

Line a 12 cup standard muffin tin with 10 tulip style muffin liners, leaving the center 2 muffin cups empty. (In my limited experience with the tulip liners, if you try to bake 12 large cupcakes in a standard muffin pan, the ones in the center will not bake at the same rate as the ones on the edge).  Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl.  Whisk to blend.  In a measuring cup, combine the coconut milk, Malibu and pineapple juice.   In another bowl, combine the crushed pineapple and coconut, fluffing until the coconut and pineapple are uniformly combined. 

Cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes using a stand mixer).  Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla. 

Fold in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the liquids in two additions.  Add the pineapple and coconut when the final mixture of dry ingredients is almost fully incorporated, 

continuing to mix just until the batter is homogenous.

Using a large ice cream scoop, divide the batter among the muffin liners.  (Each cupcake should weigh 95 grams.)

Transfer to the preheated oven and bake until golden and springy and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean—about 22 to 25 minutes.

Cool the cupcakes completely before topping with 50 grams of cream cheese frosting each.  Garnish with a little toasted coconut.  Makes 10 large cupcakes.


  • Drain the crushed pineapple well: Place the contents of the can of pineapple in a sieve and us a rubber spatula or ladle to squeeze out most of the juice. A 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple in juice (not heavy syrup) will yield 8 oz. of well-drained/squeezed pineapple (about 1 1/4 c.) and 12 oz. of juice (1 1/2 c.).
  • I used “Tulip” style muffin liners in the 4 oz. size for these cupcakes. At this size the recipe produces 10 cupcakes. I assume you could make them in standard size muffin liners, but you will obviously need to use less batter per muffin (60 to 65 g)…which will make 15 to 16 cupcakes.
  • Use full fat coconut milk. I don’t know how the recipe would perform with the low fat version. 

Cream Cheese Frosting

6 oz./1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 lb. (3 cups) powdered sugar
1/2 T. Malibu
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature and cut into 8 cubes

Place the butter, powdered sugar and Malibu in a mixing bowl.  Using the paddle attachment, mix on the lowest setting until the powdered sugar is mostly absorbed.  Increase the speed to high and beat for 2 or 3 minutes, or until very light and fluffy.  Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Beat again on high, adding the cream cheese with the machine running.  Beat just until the cream cheese has been smoothly absorbed. (Overbeating cream cheese frosting can cause it to become too soft.)  Makes enough frosting to generously frost 12 large cupcakes.

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