The Best Coconut Cupcakes on Earth

You know a recipe is worth your while when it’s published in the Wall Street Journal. This is because the Journal is the only newspaper worth reading, unless you’re one of those fools who enjoys being inundated with politically biased (and often incorrect) and mediocre writing á la the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other comparable publications. The quality of the Journal extends far beyond eloquent writing; it also delivers with rich content from reliable sources. Case and point: these cupcakes.

My mother first made the layered cake version of this recipe about a year ago for my birthday. She is not only my culinary arts role model, but my partner in crime as far as all things coconut go as well. The cake turned out so tremendously well that even those in the family who typically turn their noses up at coconut found it to die for.

The original recipe was conceived of by Carrie Cash, Johnny Cash’s mother. Like the Virgin Mary, Carrie Cash bore the fruits of something so great that divine intervention seems like the only explanation. No, I’m not talking about her legendary son (though I’m by no means discrediting him– he was one of the greatest gifts ever given to music)– I’m talking about something that’s still relevant amongst foodies everywhere: her famous coconut cake recipe. The last name  “Cash” has, over time, become synonymous with words like “southern,” “country,” and “influential.” Thus, you can rest assure that there’s at least a pinch of southern, a tablespoon of country, and a sprinkling of influential mixed into these cupcakes.

As any kitchen princess in training will from time to time experience, my first attempt at turning this recipe into cupcakes flopped. Well, they didn’t flop, per se, but they didn’t quite hit the high note I’d expected after so many bites of the cake my mom made. The cupcakes were too dense for their own good. There’s a fine line between rich and just too much, and they tilted just a little too far in the “just too much” direction. The original recipe calls for poking holes in the cake and pouring in a mixture of sweetened condensed milk and sweetened coconut milk… on my second try, I left the condensed milk out, replaced the coconut milk with cream of coconut, and cut back on the amount of pineapple it originally called for. The little cuppies turned out MUCH better!

The Best Coconut Cupcakes on Earth

The Best Coconut Cupcakes on Earth

The Best Coconut Cupcakes on Earth

Like a tropical getaway… but not bikini-friendly.

The Best Coconut Cupcakes on Earth

The Best Coconut Cupcakes on Earth

The Best Coconut Cupcakes on Earth

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 19 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 3 dozen cupcakes

The Best Coconut Cupcakes on Earth


    For the cupcakes:
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2/3 cup cream of coconut (I used Coco Lopez brand-- saunter down the liquor mixers aisle to locate)
  • For the frosting:
  • 8 oz (1 block) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tablespoons cream of coconut
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and fill cupcake pan with liners
  2. Place butter and sugar in a mixer and beat until fluffy
  3. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated
  4. Pour flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a separate bowl and stir until combined
  5. Gradually add dry ingredients and milk to batter, mixing as you add
  6. Finally, add shredded coconut and pineapple, mix on low
  7. Pour batter into cupcake liners and place pan in oven
  8. Bake for 17-19 minutes, or until tops are lightly golden brown
  9. Remove cupcakes from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack
  10. While cupcakes are still warm, use a fork to poke a few sets of holes in the top of each cupcake, then drizzle a little cream of coconut on top of each so that the cream of coconut is absorbed into the cake via the fork holes (be sure to gently scrape off excess)
  11. Mix cream cheese, butter, sugar, vanilla and cream of coconut in a mixer until light
  12. Slowly incorporate shredded coconut until mixed (but don't overmix!)
  13. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and top with an additional sprinkle of shredded coconut!


    • says

      Me too! It’s… like, my absolute ultimate weakness. Pass on chocolate, pass on gourmet cheese, pass on blueberry pancakes… give me coconut ANYTHING. Even the ever-so-dangerous Caribou Lou.

  1. says

    Hi, I have a question, can you please specify the size of the eggs you used?and for the pineapple if I don’t have it, do you have like any other suggestion for subs?? thanks!!

    • Kailley @ Kailley's Kitchen says

      I used large eggs in this recipe! As far as substitutions for the pineapple might go– you may want to try apple sauce. I honestly have never subbed out the pineapple, as I believe it’s an important ingredient that adds subtle depth of flavor, so I really would recommend getting your hands on it if possible. I hope this helps!

  2. Beth says

    I bought all the ingredients and plan on making these this evening for work tomorrow. How did you handle the dense issue from your first batch?

  3. Catherine says

    I made these! Delish! I only put 1 cup of the icing sugar in frosting and it was really good. I couldn’t find the cream of coconut so used plain coconut milk, also fine. Thanks for the recipe!

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