Not to be all “hashtag blessed” about this, but there are some pretty amazing things going on in the lives of so many people I love right now. This past spring, my best friend from law school got engaged. Then, in a whirlwind 10-day period two months ago, my roommate’s boyfriend popped the question, my best friend from undergrad called me with news about a very sparkly surprise she received from her now-fiancé, and my sweet friend Jessica (who also just so also happens to be my amazing boss and mentor) told me she’s having a baby! I know this is super sentimental, but life was just bursting with joy at that point in time; it really forced you to just stop for a hot second and reflect on how good God really is (and to savor it, because things aren’t always this amazing). There was just so much good news going around and so much celebrating to be done. And, well, by now y’all know what that means. You guessed it (or at least you should have): baking.
When Jessica mentioned a few weeks ago that she’d scheduled her appointment to find out the sex of the baby, my immediate reaction was, not surprisingly, “gender reveal cupcakes!” Gender reveal parties have become sort of a thing the past couple years. If you’re not familiar with the concept, they’re little get-togethers where couples find a creative way to announce to friends and family whether they’re expecting a baby boy or a baby girl. This is often done with things like a balloon release, “boy” or “girl” scratch-off tickets, or confetti push-pops. By far the most popular method, though, is cutting into a cake (or cupcake!) to reveal either pink or blue filling. Maybe these parties are another great way to celebrate a highly anticipated new addition, or maybe they’re total overkill – verdict is still out. Whatever they are, though, this was an excuse to try my hand at my first batch of gender reveal cupcakes.
Jess was initially resistant to the idea (she was a tally in the “total overkill” column) and didn’t want to make a fuss about the whole thing, but with a little coaxing and reassurance that we all were so eager and excited to hear and celebrate the news, she eventually gave in (#win!). We spread the word that we were doing a little gender reveal at work that coming Monday, and the office Big Board of Bets started getting some action with everyone making their predictions. Once I finally got the news from Jessica that Sunday, I got right to work on the cupcakes.
Since the filling in gender reveal cupcakes should take center stage, I needed to find an all-white cake and frosting combination. The mommy-to-be loved the idea of white chocolate, so I decided on a white coconut cake with a heavenly-sounding white chocolate whipped cream frosting. To make the filling stand out in both flavor and color, I set my sights on a coconut cream filling that I could easily tint pink or blue. Since these blank canvas cupcakes would also obviously need some festive gender reveal flare, I ordered some sparkly pink and blue “boy?” and “girl?” toppers from Etsy. The decorating would be clean and simple, but I was excited to see how these turned out.
First up was the filling. Before I even get into it, I’ll just say I blame Martha Stewart for the coconut cream-induced headaches that plagued me throughout that day (because it was her recipe, and clearly it couldn’t have been my fault). Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m very much still learning as I cross into uncharted territory with new recipes, and, while it’s ultimately a positive thing, this lesson on the heels of last week’s unfortunate-looking buttermilk cupcakes was one that I probably could’ve done without. While the coconut cream I set out to make in the morning ultimately did work out, it wasn’t without a few (ok, several) moments of doubt and an entire batch of an alternative “Plan B” recipe making its way down the drain of my kitchen sink.
I got up early before Zengo Sunday morning to tackle the coconut cream, since it needed to set for at least 6 hours in the fridge before filling the cupcakes. Everything seemed relatively straight forward – I finely chopped the coconut in a food processor, and then prepared all the other ingredients in a saucepan and put it over heat as directed. Looking back, I was probably a little scarred from the whole glaze incident and may have kept the heat a little lower than I should’ve, which would’ve kept the sugar from truly dissolving as quickly as it otherwise might have prior to adding the cornstarch mixture. Whether that was the culprit I’m honestly not 100% sure, but the mixture just did not thicken as quickly as the recipe indicated it would. I kept on pushing through (i.e. winging it), though, and kept the mixture on the heat, watching it constantly to ensure that it didn’t burn. Eventually, it did thicken – although with a consistency unlike anything I had pictured and with a distinct yellow color that completely crushed any hopes I had of tinting it. I removed it from the heat and went ahead and added the coconut. Feeling pretty defeated and resolved to the fact that I’d have to stop at the grocery store on the way home from Zengo to get ingredients for a different coconut cream filling that would be pure white and easily tinted pink or blue, I put Coconut Cream Concoction #1 in the fridge to set just in case it ended up tasting good enough to salvage as filling for any extra cupcakes I might end up with. To be honest, though, I had all but written it off as garbage disposal fodder as I left for Zengo.
When I got home, I baked the white coconut cupcakes, which came out of the oven looking pretty and smelling divine. No spillover disasters this week! Then I moved on to whip up pure-white Coconut Cream Concoction #2. That recipe basically consisted of coconut milk beaten to a whipped cream consistency. Well, it just didn’t “whip” and flat-out refused to get to the point where it would form stiff peaks. What it did not refuse to do, however, was splatter all over my kitchen cabinets and wood floors. Fail. Down the drain it went. Now all I could do was pray that somehow Coconut Cream Concoction #1 would 1) reach the appropriate consistency and turn out as the recipe intended; and 2) miraculously rid itself of that awkward yellow hue it was currently donning. Yeah, I knew there were better chances of the Gators mounting a comeback and winning the national championship this year (sigh). I took a deep breath and retrieved the mixture from the fridge, and put a beater to it as called for in the recipe. Low and behold, it started turning white, AND the consistency turned much more icing-like! I will warn you, though, to stop beating the mixture when it reaches that icing-like consistency you’re looking for. Continuing to mix it past that point may result in the icing “breaking,” and losing that smooth, creamy consistency. As you can probably guess, my coconut cream did “break,” but since I was just using it as a cupcake filling and it would taste just the same, I wasn’t too concerned. Definitely something to be aware of though!
Now, this frosting. I can’t. No exaggeration, this stuff was so light and cloud-like that it tasted like angels made it. Ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s definitely close. With a white chocolate and cream cheese mixture providing just the right amount of flavor and stability, and freshly whipped cream carefully folded in, it is the most perfect frosting when you want something that is light and complementary without being overpowering. Since this is a whipped cream frosting, it is not quite as stable for intricate piping or holding a garnish, but it was just fine for the simple swirl swag I was going for. Its subtle but present flavor and light, fluffy texture were the perfect pairing for these white coconut cupcakes. Seriously – angels.
Once Coconut Cream Concoction #1 was resurrected and the icing was ready to go, I grabbed my gel coloring and set out to tint the filling the perfect “baby boy” shade of blue. I cored and and filled the cupcakes, piped on the frosting, and added the sparkly toppers. Voilà! These gender reveal cupcakes were ready to spread the news. The next afternoon, that’s exactly what they did. Coworkers and the office Big Board of Bets all met for the big reveal and, on Jess and Todd’s count, everyone bit into the cupcakes to discover… IT’S A BOY! Lots of squealing, laughter, and jokes for Baby Boy Johnson ensued. Gender reveal success, brought to you by Coconut White Chocolate Cupcakes. Oh and since I know you’re wondering, Coconut Cream Concoction #1 received rave reviews, and yes everyone agreed that the frosting tasted like it was made by angels.
This baby is due December 27th, and I honestly can’t wait to love on that little boy. Until then, I have been given the go ahead to shower the mommy-to-be with all of my confectionary creations, with strict orders to cease all said baking deliveries promptly upon the baby’s delivery. Given that pre-preggo Jess always preemptively warned me to stay away from her with any and all treats I may have concocted, it’s obviously much more fun this way. Plus, my secret plan is to have that baby loving me and addicted to my baking before he even makes it out of the womb. Selfish, or genius? Verdict’s still out on that one too.
Coconut White Chocolate Cupcakes
White Coconut Cupcakes (from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures)
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 large egg whites
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Coconut Cream Filling (adapted from Martha Stewart)
2 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ½ cups shredded sweetened coconut
White Chocolate Whipped Cream Icing (from Natasha’s Kitchen)
1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened at room temp
1 cup powdered sugar
4 oz white chocolate, melted & cooled slightly (either a bar or chips will work)
1 ½ cups cold heavy whipping cream
1. First, prep your coconut cream. You’ll want to do this either the night before or at least 6 hours prior to baking. To start, place coconut in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coconut is finely chopped. Set aside while you prepare the cream mixture. Place cream, sugar, and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together cornstarch, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon water. Add to cream mixture, bring to a boil, and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute. Note that this process took me longer, but that could have been because of my error! Remove cream mixture from heat and stir in chopped coconut until well combined. Transfer to a large baking dish and let cool. Cover the filling with plastic wrap and chill overnight (6 hours did the trick for me).
2. Now onto these cupcakes. Preheat oven to 350 F and line two muffin pans with liners. Sift the cake flour into a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix on low briefly to combine. Cut the butter into 2-inch pieces and, with the mixer on low, add the pieces a few at a time until you’ve add all of them. Beat on low until the mixture looks like coarse crumbles, which should take about 1 minute.
Whisk the egg whites, coconut milk, coconut, and vanilla extract together in a large measuring cup. Add half of the coconut milk mixture to the mixer bowl, and beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute, or until well combined. Add the remaining coconut milk mixture, beating until the batter has a uniform consistency and is light and fluffy, about 30 seconds. Divide the batter among the liners, filling each about 2/3-3/4 full. Bake for 18 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pans for 5 minutes or so, then remove them to the racks and allow them to cool completely.
3. Now put on your angel wings and prepare this heavenly frosting. Beat together an 8-oz package of cream cheese with 1 cup powdered sugar (starting on low so you aren’t covered in a cloud of powdered sugar). and beating until well blended and creamy – no clumps! Melt 4 oz of white chocolate bar in a microwave in 20-second increments until melted and smooth, stirring between each 20-second set. Doing a little at a time is the key here, as white chocolate will overheat and “burn” easily and lose its consistency. Once chocolate is no longer hot but still liquid, blend it into your cream cheese mixture on high speed until well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream (make sure it’s cold!) until stiff peaks form. This should take about 1 minute on high speed. Don’t overbeat the cream or it will turn buttery and will be difficult to blend! Fold whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until well incorporated and smooth. This will seem like it may take forever, but just continue to gently fold the two mixtures until they’re fully incorporated. This maintains the light, fluffy texture – it’ll get there, I promise! Keep cool in the fridge until you’re ready to frost the cupcakes.
4. Now we’re ready to assemble. When you’re ready to fill the cupcakes, remove the coconut cream mixture from the fridge and place in a medium bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth and creamy. The recipe says this should take 4 to 5 minutes, but it only took me 2! Remember to stop beating once the consistency is smooth and creamy to avoid “breaking” the icing. You don’t want to overbeat here! If you happen to be using these for a gender reveal, tint the filling to your color of choice.
Using a paring knife, core the cupcakes and reserve each of the tops. Place filling in a pastry bag (I just used a plastic bag with the tip cut off since this was just for filling!) and add to each cored cupcake, replacing each cupcake top when finished. Next, place your frosting in a pastry bag fitted with your piping tip of choice, and pipe frosting onto cupcakes as desired.
5. Serve and enjoy!