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Light and fluffy coconut cupcakes are topped with a coconut-lime buttercream for one incredibly flavorful treat. No one would ever guess these cupcakes started off with a cake mix!

Close up of a coconut cupcake on a platter with other cupcakes.

I love coconut.

I know not everyone feels the same way. A lot of people are a big ol’ nope when it comes to coconut. And that’s ok!

But those of us that like it tend to be all-in on it, whether it’s in the form of coconut cream bars, coconut macaroons, impossible coconut pie, or coconut cheesecake.

So if that’s you, I know you’ll love these coconut cupcakes, packed with coconut flavor from the tender cupcake to the coconut-lime buttercream frosting.

And the best part? They’re totally easy to make with a cake mix!

Cake plate filled with coconut cupcakes topped with coconut-lime buttercream.

MY FAVORITE COCONUT CUPCAKES 

This coconut cupcake recipe is one of those that came about when I was trying to use up some random ingredients in my pantry one day.

I had a cake mix, some instant pudding mix, and a can of coconut milk. I knew I could make some magic happen with that! 

The cupcake base is made simple with my favorite doctored cake mix recipe

I don’t mind making cupcakes from scratch, like my funfetti cupcakes or my cherry cheesecake cupcakes. But sometimes you just wanna go simple and start with a cake mix, ya know?

The frosting for these coconut cupcakes is really where this recipe shines, though. I took my classic buttercream frosting recipe and made it even more amazing with coconut milk and some lime zest.

The flavors are summer-y and will make you feel like you’re vacationing on a beach, even if it’s cold and dreary where you are. 

Coconut cupcake batter in a white mixing bowl.

HOW TO MAKE COCONUT CUPCAKES WITH CAKE MIX

Dressing up cake mixes is one of my all-time favorite tricks. It’s great for beginner bakers or anyone who wants a bit of a shortcut but still wants a delicious cupcake in the end.

Making the cupcakes

To make these coconut cupcakes, you’ll need:

  • 1 (15.25 ounce) box French Vanilla cake mix 
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package instant coconut cream pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 (13 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk; divided use – Make sure you use canned coconut milk, not the coconut milk found in cartons in the refrigerated section
  • ⅔ cup sweetened shredded coconut
Coconut cupcake batter divided into lined cupcake wells, ready to go in the oven.

This recipe makes 24 cupcakes, so line 24 cupcake wells with paper liners.

With a mixer, beat together the cake mix and pudding mix with the sour cream, vegetable oil, eggs, and ½ cup (equal to 4 ounces) of the coconut milk. Beat this for about 2 minutes.

Once the batter is well combined, fold in the shredded coconut. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake pans. 

Bake the cupcakes for 18-22 minutes. You’ll know they’re done with the tops spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick or taster inserted into the center comes out clean. 

Let the cupcakes cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely. Make sure they are fully cooled before you frost them.

Coconut-lime frosting ingredients next to coconut cupcakes on a wire cooling rack.

Making the coconut-lime frosting

While the cupcakes are baking, take the rest of the coconut milk (there should be 9 ounces left) and add it to a saucepan over medium heat. 

Bring the coconut milk to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low and let the milk reduce for about 20 minutes. Let the milk cool, then chill for about an hour – this entire process will thicken the coconut milk a bit.

Once the coconut milk has chilled and the coconut cupcakes are cool, make the frosting.

Coconut-lime frosting in a white mixing bowl.

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat softened butter with the reduced and cooled coconut milk for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is well combined. Add some lime zest, vanilla, and a bit of coconut extract.

Slowly add the powdered sugar while the mixer is on low speed. Once all of the sugar is added, give the frosting a taste to check the flavor and texture. You can add more powdered sugar for a thicker frosting or a bit of whole milk or cream for a thinner texture. 

To finish the frosting, turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and beat for another 3-4 minutes, until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and garnish as desired with some shredded coconut and/or additional lime zest.

Several coconut cupcakes arranged on a white platter.

STORAGE TIPS

You can store the finished cupcakes, covered, at room temperature for up to a day or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If your house is warm, I definitely recommend keeping them in the fridge to prevent the frosting from getting too soft.

Let the cupcakes come back to room temperature before serving.

If you want to make the cupcakes ahead of time and freeze them, freeze the cupcakes and frosting separately.

Unwrapped coconut cupcake on a white plate. More cupcakes are visible in the background.

Place the cooled cupcakes in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag. Place the frosting in a separate airtight container. Freeze for up to a month.

Let the frosting thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Let the cupcakes thaw at room temperature for a couple of hours. Bring the frosting to room temperature, then beat it with your mixer for a couple of minutes to revive the texture.

Now you can frost the coconut cupcakes and serve as you normally would!

Two coconut cupcakes on a white plate. One of the cupcakes is unwrapped and cut in half.
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Coconut Cupcakes

By: Jamie
4.54 from 15 ratings
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Cooling/Chilling Time: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Easy-to-make coconut cupcakes start with a cake mix and end with a luscious coconut-lime buttercream frosting.

Ingredients

For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 package French Vanilla cake mix 15.25 ounces
  • 1 package instant coconut cream pudding mix 3.4 ounces
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs lightly beaten
  • 13 ounces unsweetened coconut milk 1 can; divided use (see notes below)
  • cup sweetened shredded coconut

For the Frosting:

  • remaining 9 ounces of coconut milk
  • 2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
  • zest of 2 medium limes
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 ½ pounds confectioners’ sugar about 5 ¾ cups

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pan with paper liners or spray wells with non-stick cooking spray.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mix, sour cream, oil, eggs and 1/2 cup (4 ounces) coconut milk. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined. Fold in the shredded coconut.
  • Using a large cookie scoop, distribute the batter between 24 muffin wells; about 3 tablespoons of batter per well.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool inside muffin tins for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove cupcakes from muffin tins and allow to fully cool on a wire rack. Prepare the frosting.

For the Frosting

  • While the cupcakes bake, place the remaining coconut milk into a medium saucepan with high sides. Over medium heat, bring the coconut milk to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down to medium-low heat and reduce the coconut milk for about 20 minutes. Turn the burner off and allow the coconut milk to cool completely. Cover and chill (about an hour); this will cause the coconut milk to thicken up a bit.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and the reduced and cooled coconut milk on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes. Add in the lime zest, vanilla, and coconut extract and mix to combine.
  • Turn the mixer down to low speed and gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar until it is completely incorporated. Turn off the mixer and check the buttercream for taste and texture. Turn the mixer back up to medium-high speed and beat the mixture for about 3-4 minutes or until light and fluffy.
  • Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and if desired, garnish with a dusting of shredded coconut or additional lime zest.

Video

Notes

If you ran out of powdered sugar for the frosting, learn how to make powdered sugar for a simple-to-use substitute.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupcake, Calories: 369kcal, Carbohydrates: 52g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 74mg, Sodium: 199mg, Potassium: 90mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 572IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 69mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

4.54 from 15 votes (15 ratings without comment)

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135 Comments

  1. StaSea S says:

    Omg, I made a similar version of these yesterday for my dad’s 75th birthday party and they were a hit. I even put some coconut in the batter and also toasted the coconut to put on top. I used store brought frosting because making frosting isn’t my thing. Actually I’m good at taking box cake mix and making it what I want it to be. But anyway I use the cream cheese frosting and that was perfect.

    I see you have a lot of recipes with box cake mix so your blog will be my go to for ideas. Thank you for letting it be know that you can make a box cake mix your own you just have to know what you’re going for.

    1. Jamie says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, StaSea! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Happy Baking!
      -Jamie

  2. Sherry Kirkland says:

    First, I must say, these are the BEST cupcakes I’ve ever had.   This is my go-to recipe now.   I want to make this into a four stake wedding cake.   any conversion ideas on how much I will need in ingedients.  I know it will be a lot, but definitely worth it.  Thanks for any help 

    1. Jamie says:

      Sherry-
      I have never made a wedding cake in my life, so I have no idea where to even begin. I hope it works out for you though!
      -Jamie

  3. Brenda says:

    I’m going to try these again…my first batch sunk in the middles! Boo. I’ve read through previous posts to figure out what I need to do differently. Hoping my next batch is successful as I have a wedding order for 100 coconut cupcakes (and 300 more of other flavors)!

    1. Jamie says:

      Let me know how it goes, Brenda!

  4. Jean S says:

    I made these cupcakes for a neighborhood cookout this weekend. Followed the directions, my only deviation was to toast the coconut that I used to sprinkle on top. These were awesome!!!! My neighbors raved about them, and days later were begging for more.

    1. Jamie says:

      I’m so glad everyone liked them, Jean!

  5. Kindra says:

    For the coconut pudding, is that instant pudding or cook pudding mix?

    1. Jamie says:

      Hi, Kindra! It’s instant pudding. I hope you enjoy them!

  6. Regal says:

    That’s it!! Reducing the oven temperature did it!! Only one layer raised slightly lower than the other which is a HUGE improvement over my other attempts I happily leveled it and as always it was a hit this past weekend!!

     

    1. Jamie says:

      I’m so happy that it turned out, Regal! Take care!

  7. Regal says:

    I absolutely love this recipe!! My family requests it at almost every function. They bake perfectly as cupcakes but when I bake them as a double layer 8 or 9 inch cake they fall and become extremely misshapen :( Any ideas why? I’ve tried making them into cakes three times already with the same result.

    1. Jamie says:

      Hi, Regal! I’m so sorry to hear that the cake deflated. Are the cake pans dark? The temperature in the recipe might be too high for the cake; try reducing it about 25 degrees. Also make sure you don’t open the oven door while baking, which could lead to deflated cake. Please let me know if I can answer any thing else. I’m really glad you enjoy the cupcakes!

  8. LHS says:

    I have had my eyes on this recipe for a year now. I finally had the chance to make these yesterday. They came out delicious. They raised fine, they are moist and the flavors are subtle. I made a cream cheese frosting to go with them and since the frosting was a little thick I experimented adding some of the coconut milk to it and a little bit of coconut flavoring and a few squirts of lime…. And voila. The consistency was great and went amazingly well with the cupcake. To garnish them I sprinkled toasted coconut on top for that nutty flavor and crunchy texture. They tasted and looked gourmet.

  9. Brenda says:

    I had the same issue as some of your other reviewers with the cupcakes sinking. They rose beautifully in the oven and then sunk after cooling. I’ve found the same problem though with every cupcake recipe I’ve ever used that has sour cream in the recipe.

  10. taimee says:

    For the pudding part, is it instant pudding or the cook type?

    1. Jamie says:

      Taimee-
      Instant pudding will work in this recipe. Thanks for visiting.

      -Jamie