Coconut Experiment #58


This could be the fifty-eighth recipe featuring coconut, though its precedence on these pages is far less established.  Prior to this, there have been fleeting glimpses – one or two (maybe),  but you’re here for the first time an entire entry is devoted to coconut.  Not only that, in cupcakes no less!

Of  course, credit where it’s due – the idea appeared originally in that wonderful collection of Cambodian cuisine, Khmer Krom Recipes, which inspired the entry a couple weeks ago too.  This time, the primary idea was a Cambodian Coconut Pound Cake, which I adapted to create cupcakes instead.

Admittedly, Cambodia seems an unusual source, to say the least, for a pound cake recipe, until I remembered the country had been part of French Indochina for over a century, giving the two countries ample opportunity to influence one another’s cuisines.  Think of how the neighboring Vietnamese took the oh-so-French baguette, filled it with all sorts of local Vietnamese delicacies, and created banh mi, one of their sterling trademarks.

You can bet Cambodians had a similar inspiration when they first experienced pound cake.  “This is pretty good, sure, but wouldn’t it be even better if we added the coconuts that grow everywhere around here?”  Why yes, it would be.  With butter (thanks, France) and coconut milk (great idea, Cambodia), these cupcakes more than meet their moistness quota.  Whether or not they’re fat-free is a discussion for another day, but these are cupcakes, so portions are small.

Because the batter was used to make not pound cake, but cupcakes instead, I needed to find a suitable frosting.  Fortunately, bake happy offers a promising butter cream recipe.  Their version goes with dulce de leche cupcakes (which may appear on some future date – who am I, Freddie Foreshadowing?), but the base recipe creates a wonderfully lustrous frosting, so I tweaked it to go with coconut cupcakes.  What’s often paired with coconut?  Well, chocolate comes to mind, and pineapple makes another combination.  Therefore, the picture above includes two frostings, details of which may be found in the recipe below.

*****

Num Tirk Doung (*1)

(Cambodian Coconut Pound Cake)

  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (*2)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk (*3)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut (*4)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, mix the butter and sugar until creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until everything is well blended.  Add the baking powder, salt, vanilla and coconut milk (*5) and mix well.  Add the flour and coconut flakes and blend thoroughly.

Pour about 1/4 cup each of the batter into cupcake liners. (*6)  Bake for about 25 minutes, until just beginning to turn golden-brown.

NOTES:

1 – As mentioned, this recipe is adapted for cupcakes, so I omitted the instructions for flouring a cake pan, and I adjusted the cooking time downward considerably.

2 – This works out to one stick of butter.

3 – Go with the “lite” coconut milk, if you can find it.  It still imparts plenty of flavor, but you save quite a bit of fat.  After all, the butter already provides ample richness.

4 – First secret tip – before adding the coconut flakes, toast them in a pan until they just turn light brown.  This gives their flavor a nice boost.

5 – Second secret tip – also add the zest of one lime to the batter while folding in the other ingredients.  This contributes a subtle zing that really enhances the coconut’s creaminess.

6 – Third (and final) secret tip – before putting in the cupcakes to bake, sprinkle a pinch of coconut flakes on each one.  You won’t need to toast them ahead of time either, as the oven will do that for you.

*****

Cupcake Frosting (*1)

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese (*2)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

In a mixer bowl, combine the butter, cream cheese and vanilla until blended.  Reduce the speed to low and add the sugar, a little at a time to avoid a mess.  After the sugar is incorporated, increase the speed gradually to high and mix for a few minutes more, until the frosting is fluffy.  Pipe over cupcakes.

NOTES

1 – My modifications – to create chocolate frosting I made a chocolate ganache by melting together half a bag of chocolate chips and 4 tablespoons of heavy cream.  Fold in the ganache before adding the sugar.

For the pineapple variety, instead of the chocolate add 1/4 cup fresh pineapple juice and 1/4 cup finely chopped pineapple.    Because pineapple + coconut = piña colada, I added splash of rum too.  Of course.  With the added liquid I should’ve increased the dry ingredients slightly, and the next time I will.  Profit from my mistake.

2 – This works out to half a bar, at least of the Philadelphia brand.  Because I made two different frostings I ended up using a whole bar of the cream cheese.

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