Easy coconut cupcakes made with a white cake mix, vanilla pudding, shredded coconut, and fluffy cream cheese coconut frosting are a perfect tropical sweet treat all year long.
I first made this recipe as an adaptation from Picky Palate’s recipe for Coconut Cream Cupcakes. They’re perfect for coconut lovers: light, moist, and fluffy with a nutty, tropical flavor.
Even though this recipe is made with a shortcut (boxed cake mix and pudding mix), it actually makes some of the moistest, tender and flavorful cupcakes I’ve had. And the icing on the cake (literally) is an easy whipped coconut cream cheese frosting. Add in toasted coconut for texture and an extra flavor boost–you’ll be so glad you did.
Update: I’ve updated this post with new helpful tips and step-by-step photos to help you make these delicious coconut cupcakes even more easily. Enjoy!
How to Make Coconut Cupcakes with Easy Homemade Frosting
This easy cupcake recipe is a short-cut, thanks to boxed white or coconut cake mix and vanilla pudding mix. Together, these two secret ingredients make dense, moist cupcakes that taste far from a short-cut.
The other secret ingredient in this easy cupcake recipe is banana strawberry nectar. You can usually find this in the juice aisle of the grocery store.
Tip: If you can’t find coconut cake mix, substitute with white cake mix and add 1 teaspoon of coconut extract to the batter.
Before you start making the cake, make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature so cupcakes bake up evenly. Then, it’s easy to whip up the cupcake batter in one mixing bowl. Just be sure to fold the coconut flakes in after the batter is fully blended.
This cupcake batter is a little thicker than a traditional cake mix batter. When it’s all mixed, divide the batter between lined cupcake wells. Only fill them ¾ of the way full, the batter will rise in the oven.
I like to use a scoop to quickly and easily portion out the batter into the cupcake pan.
Homemade Coconut Frosting
While the cupcakes bake and cool, you can make this simple frosting. Again, make sure your ingredients are at room temperature. If the butter or cream cheese is too cold, your frosting can come out lumpy, rather than fluffy and smooth.
Toasted coconut adds texture, warm golden color, and extra coconut flavor to the frosting. Be sure to watch your toasting coconut flakes constantly and stir the entire time. They will be slow to start browning, but once they start, browning can happen very quickly. Keep the flakes moving to prevent burning.
Remember that the coconut must be completely cooled adding it to the frosting, or it will melt your frosting. As it cools and crisps on the plate, move it around here and there to release any heat trapped underneath.
Note that this frosting is not stiff. The cream cheese gives it a softer, creamier texture. And the added coconut gives it enough texture that this frosting will not hold its shape if piped.
However, you can use a piping bag to easily manage the frosting and ensure each cupcake gets an even amount. Cut the opening a bit larger than usual so the coconut doesn’t get stuck.. Alternatively, you can frost your cupcakes with a knife or an offset spatula.
Reminder: don’t forget to save about ½ cup of toasted coconut to sprinkle on top of the cupcakes.
Serving and Storage
Coconut cupcakes are best served at room temperature so the frosting melts with each bite.
Store leftovers in an airtight container on the counter for up to three days.
More Cupcake Recipes
While you have those muffin tins out, why not try one of these sweet treats next?
- Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes taste like your favorite childhood ice cream baked into a zesty, creamy cake.
- Boston Cream Cupcakes are a favorite for St. Patrick’s Day, but they’re just as tasty the rest of the year!
- Vanilla Almond Cupcakes from Two Peas and Their Pod are perfectly sweet, fluffy, and nutty.
Easy Coconut Cupcakes
- 1 16.25- ounce box Coconut or White Cake Mix
- 1 2.4- ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix
- 1 11.5- ounce can Strawberry or Strawberry Banana Nectar Fruit Juice
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 1 teaspoon of coconut extract if using white cake mix
- 4 tablespoons softened butter divided
- 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut toasted and cooled
- 8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoons milk
- CupcakesPreheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 12 cup muffin pans with paper liners or grease cups well.
- In a large mixing bowl, add cake mix, pudding mix, fruit juice, oil, and eggs. Beat on medium speed until well blended about 2 minutes. Stir in coconut.
- Divide the cupcake batter evenly between cups filling them about ⅔ full. (I used a medium cookie scoop which makes it easier to fill the cups.)
- Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cupcake springs back. Let cool completely before frosting.
- FrostingPlace cream cheese and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a mixing bowl. Beat until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk until smooth. Stir in 1 ½ cups toasted coconut into frosting. Frost cupcakes and sprinkle remaining toasted coconut over the tops of frosted cupcakes.
- Toasting Coconut Stovetop method: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add coconut and stir and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool and crisp up.
- Oven method: omit the butter and spread coconut on a parchment/Silpat lined baking sheet in a thin layer. Bake at 350° for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and watching closely to avoid burning. Let cool before adding to the frosting.