Sunday, November 15, 2009

Coconut Coffee Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Coconut Coffee Cupcake with Peanut Butter Buttercream (Cupcake Hero::November)

Just when I thought cupcakes would be scarce around here for a while, the deadline (eek - today!) for November's peanut butter themed Cupcake Hero challenge crept up on me all ninja-like. Talk about squeaking by last-minute. I suppose I’ve always worked better under pressure anyway. So let's get started already!

First things first, you should know that we have a theme song this month: the net-(in)famous and ridiculously silly "It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time!" If you haven't seen the video yet, I (respectfully) demand that you go watch it now.

Coconut Coffee Cupcake with Peanut Butter Buttercream (Cupcake Hero::November)

A PB & J pairing was the first idea to spring to mind when CB announced peanut butter as the theme. Yet as much as I love that childhood classic, the time was ripe for a more sophisticated way to satisfy our PB (and cupcake) cravings. Of course the few days I gave myself to find an idea dragged into weeks. But lo and beyond, while mulling things over during lunch break, I only had to look down for inspiration to smack me in the face. Why not coffee?

Thus this coconut coffee cupcake with peanut butter swiss meringue buttercream frosting (SMBC) was born. I threw some coconut milk into the cake batter to add richness and complexity of taste that enhances without overpowering, like any good supporting actress. The real star here, though, is the peanut butter buttercream. It's silky smooth, not too sweet, and perfect for piping those beautiful swirls (which we all know get the most oohs and aahs).

This frosting was, in a word, amazing, and I can't wrap up this post without thanking Judy of Judy in Her Natural Habitat: The Kitchen for invaluable guidance about making SMBC. If you haven't already, please swing by her blog to see all the impressive creations. Some of my favorite posts of hers are the photo tutorial for making swiss meringue buttercream, her many flavors of SMBC, and especially her homemade cupcake wrappers which look cooler than any I've ever seen for sale. Thanks so much, Judy! And I hope these photos reveal me to be a dedicated student.

Coconut Coffee Cupcake with Peanut Butter Buttercream (Cupcake Hero::November)

Coconut Coffee Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
[Printable Recipe]
Makes 11 to 12 cupcakes

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Recipe below)
Peanut brittle, to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin tin with 12 paper liners. Heat the coconut and dairy milks gently on the stove or in the microwave, then add the instant coffee powder, making sure that it's completely dissolved. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a different larger bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and yolk and mix until combined into the batter. Then add the vanilla and mix again. Finally alternately beat in dry ingredients and milk mixture. Fill cupcake liners until they are about 2/3 full (I like to use my large cookie scoop for this). Bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely. Frost the cupcakes as desired and top each with a small piece of peanut brittle, if desired.

2009.11.14 Coconut Coffee Cupcake with Peanut Butter Buttercream (Cupcake Hero::November) [Collage]

Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Crispy Waffle via Judy in Her Natural Habitat: The Kitchen
Makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes

XIAOLU'S NOTES: I used a natural, dark-roasted peanut butter, so I didn't need much for either color or flavor. But if you use a milder, lighter PB, feel free to add a couple tablespoons more. This technique of combining the meringue with butter was very successful, but I'm curious if dividing the meringue is really necessary. Next time I make SMBC, I'll try the simpler method of adding butter by the tablespoon to the entire meringue to see if the difference is worth the extra steps.

2 egg whites
6 to 8 tablespoons granulated sugar (according to how sweet you like things)
1 teaspoon molasses
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cool room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons peanut butter

Combine the sugar, egg whites, molasses, and cream of tartar in the stainless steel bowl of an electric mixer.

Bring a large pan of water to simmer, making sure that the water is at the same height as the egg whites in your stainless bowl. Set the bowl in the pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (I just whisked by hand and cooked it until the sugar was completely dissolved and the top became foamy). Be careful not to curdle the egg whites, remove from heat if this starts happening.

Remove the bowl to your stand mixer and beat on high speed for at least 3 minutes, until the mixture holds glossy, marshmallow-esque peaks and the bowl is completely cool (Very important - the frosting's consistency will be off otherwise). Remove the meringue to another bowl.

Switch to the paddle attachment and beat half the butter and one-third of the meringue until well combined. Continue to add the remaining two-thirds of the meringue a dollop at a time. The mixture may look scarily curdled at this point; adding the remaining butter a tablespoon at a time and beating well after each addition will smooth things out. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla and peanut butter, and continue beating 1 minute to incorporate the additions and reduce air bubbles.


  1. Yummy cupcake entry, and the frosting does look incredible. Swirled perfectly.

  2. Delicious looking cupcakes :) - that is also an interesting way of making SMBC, I usually just add bits of butter to the egg white mixture until fully incorporated.

  3. I love the interesting flavors you've got in these cupcakes. And ooooh, that frosting... mmmm. We are big fans of the Peanut Butter Jelly song at our house. My 2 y/o spits it out almost every day when I ask her what she wants for lunch. Before long, we're singing and dancing, acting like fools. Glad there are no hidden cameras in my house. :)

  4. This roundup and I are going to be close friends. By which I mean I will stare at it, salivating, for many hours to come.

    I love your idea for combining all of these flavors and that frosting looks absolutely amazing. Nothing says heaven to me like peanut butter...

  5. Love the idea of the unique frosting. It looks absolutely beautiful!

  6. OMG these are absolutely AMAZING!!! =) Just breathtakingly beautiful! You did such a wonderful job!

    Your SMB turned out perfectly! I love that you were able to get such beautiful and delicate swirls. It means you have definitely mastered it! Way to rock out! hehe.

    I'm so glad that you liked the buttercream! Wasn't it everything that I described it to be? hehe. people think I like to be overly dramatic, but the SMB really is in a whole different league than everything else. =)

    Thanks so much for the shout-out. lol. made me blush. hehe. Glad I could help! =)

  7. Oh yum!
    I take 10 of these delivered by morning please. :)

  8. Michelle & El - Thanks for your sweet comments!

    Alicia - I agree the method you describe is the more common one. I wonder if the one used here allows for a more gradual emulsification of the butter? Maybe Judy can help me figure it out.

    Tammy - Your house sounds like such a fun place! I think we all need a little silly fun to keep us young at heart :).

    Joanne - You crack me up with that image. But it sounds like you love PB as much as my bf. This frosting is more subtle than the one I used on banana cupcakes in Sept. but both are great ways to feed the PB monster within hehe.

    Judy - It means a lot to me that you think I did it right =D. It was definitely as delicious as you said and I think PB flavor brought it to another level. You (and your blog) definitely deserve all the attention it gets.

    Zen - I'll get right on that batch for ya =p. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Ur cuppy cakes rock as usual-wow,love the flavours and would love to have that swirl atop my cuppy too-u get it right every time and have an absolutely lovely blog too!!!!

  10. Xiaolu,

    Your cupcakes are pretty darn stunning. I need to start my own file just for your recipes.


  11. I replied to your question on the same post (about photography) - I hope it helps.

  12. Coffee and peanut butter, I am sold!! Gorgeous pictures as always!

  13. oh your cupcakes are so adorable..its no wonder that you won! these coffee cakes look really moist inside.mmmmmm...tq for the recipe :))

  14. Oh my, you guys are making me blush. Thanks!!

  15. Gorgeous! I love the sound of a coconut coffee cupcake. And that icing looks perfect. Going to check out the tutorial!

  16. Butter and Coffee indeed a perfect blend for cupcake. I can recommend it to prepare this in incoming holiday season.

  17. Thanks for the comments everyone!

  18. Hi, I'm not sure what went wrong , but my icing is super runny. I had to toss it out. On the up side the cupcakes are really good. The icing was going well until I had started to add to peanut butter and meringue.:(

    1. Hi there! I'm really sorry this didn't work out for you. SMBC does have a reputation for being finicky and the addition of the meringue almost always causes the frosting to get super runny for a while. Once you add all the components, you have to beat the heck out of it (for up to 10 minutes sometimes) and it will suddenly get much more solid during the beating. If you still have it, I recommend you try to beat it again at the highest speed possible and for a long time. If not, I hope you will try SMBC again in the future as it's a very useful frosting option to have. Thanks for trying the recipe and I'm glad you enjoyed the cake portion at least.

    2. Also here is a useful photo step-by-step tutorial for making SMBC frosting from my friend's blog: You can see that it turns gloppy then gets super firm again. Another thing to pay attention to is that your meringue is COMPLETELY cooled before you add it or it will melt the butter and the mix will not even thicken up when it otherwise would (and should).


I love hearing from you all! Please leave me a message if you have questions, advice, or just to let me know you stopped by. Your feedback is always very much appreciated. Thanks! <3 Xiaolu