My favorite (and I mean FAVORITE) food in the entire world, hands down, is the Famous Coconut Cake at Grill 23 & Bar in Boston. I look so forward to it every time I go, and I miss it for days afterward.
I cannot hope to replicate that perfection, but these cupcakes are an ode to the greatest dessert that ever was.
First, make the cakes:
1/2 cup shortening, at room temperature
1/2 cup real butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 tsps vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 extra large egg whites (reserve yolks for custard filling!)
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup whole milk plus 1 Tbsp vinegar)
2 1/2 cups cake flour (please use this! Or make it)
1 tsp salt
2 tsps baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line ~18 standard muffin cups. You may need more.
Plot twist: this works in a food processor! (but you can mix by hand or stand mixer if preferred)
Anyway, if you have a large food processor, add the shortening, butter, and sugar, then pulse until smooth. Pour in the egg whites, milk, vanilla, and coconut extract, then blend again.
Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to your processor, then blend on the highest setting until nice and smooth.
Divide among muffin cups, and bake for ~30 minutes, or until springy and just done via toothpick. Cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the custard filling:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks, reserved from cake batter
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp corn or potato starch
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp coconut extract
Heat the milk in a large skillet or saucepan on (very) low, but don’t let it boil. Stir often.
Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, starch, and salt. When the milk is hot, whisk the egg mixture quickly into the pan, then continue whisking constantly over low heat until custard thickens. It took about 10 minutes for me.
Pour the custard into a large, heatproof bowl, then whisk in the butter, vanilla, and coconut extract. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming, and cool completely in the fridge.
Finally, make the frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp coconut extract
1/4 teaspoon salt (or try using salted butter in the first place)
1 1/2 cups sweetened, toasted coconut, divided
Combine everything except the toasted coconut in a large bowl (or your cleaned food processor), and mix until smooth and fluffy.
Stir 1 cup of toasted coconut into the frosting, reserving the rest for garnish. Keep frosting at room temperature until ready to use.
…And put it all together! 😀
It’s time! First, cut or scoop out a little well from the top of each cupcake. Fill each well with chilled custard, and re-cover with cake crumbs if desired.
Spoon a tall dollop of buttercream onto each filled cake, then gently spread around until things look decent.
Sprinkle tops with reserved coconut flakes.