September 17, 2012

Tropical Paradise Cupcakes

Pineapple pound cake cupcakes with pineapple glaze and coconut-pineapple cream cheese frosting.

Tropical enough? Grab a pina colada to tide you over until these cupcakes are done. I baked these for our annual retreat at work, where we planned to have a cupcake competition. I immediately dubbed the competition "Cupcake Wars" (because I obviously am glued to the show on the Food Network) and it was GAME ON.

I immediately knew I wanted to do a pineapple pound cake with cream cheese frosting.... because it's warm and beautiful out, and what's better than a vacation-inspired, zingy and invigorating cupcake flavor? Plus, the thought of a "work retreat" made me think of being far far away on a remote island. That inspired this cupcake-wars-like cupcake display that I made for my cupcakes to lounge in:

 My favorite Philly bakery, Brown Betty Dessert Boutique, makes an incredible pineapple pound cake cupcake that made me fall in love with this flavor years ago. I never before knew that a cupcake could be refreshing, tart, and sweet all at the same time.

There's also something magical about cream cheese frosting. It transforms this juicy, bright cupcake and takes it to a seriously decadent level...

What's that you say? Used up all of your vacation time this summer? No worries here on cupcake island. All you'll need now is a little toasted coconut; colored umbrella and swimsuit are optional.

Tropical Paradise Cupcakes: Makes 18 cupcakes

Pineapple Pound Cake
1.5 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 6-oz. container of vanilla lowfat yogurt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or lowfat milk with 1+1/2+1/8 teaspoons white vinegar stirred in and left for 5 minutes)
1.5 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 20-oz. can crushed pineapple, drained, with the liquid pressed out very well through a strainer and reserved, Crushed pineapple processed for a few seconds in the food processor

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut on a baking sheet and toast, stirring every few minutes, until golden-brown. Set aside. Put cupcake liners in cupcake tin.
Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on high speed until fluffy. Then add each egg, one at a time, mixing after each addition. 
Stir together the yogurt and buttermilk (or sour milk). In another bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Then add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar and beat on low. Add 1/2 of the yogurt mixture and gently mix again. Add the flour, beat, then the yogurt, beat, and end with the flour mixture, stirring in each stage until just combined. Do not overmix!
Now fold in 1 cup of the toasted coconut and the crushed pineapple (1/2 cup extra will be used to decorate cupcakes). Fill each cupcake tin about 2/3 of the way full, then bang the cupcake tin flat against the counter a few times to release air bubbles and smooth top. Bake approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 
Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove each cupcake to cool completely on a wire rack. Meanwhile, prepare frosting and glaze as directed below:
Coconut-Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting
1 stick butter, room temp
8oz. cream cheese, room temp
4 cups powdered sugar
2 T. lemon zest
2 t. pineapple juice (from reserve, above)
2 t. coconut milk (or 1 t. coconut extract)

With electric mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese until completely incorporated. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beat on high until smooth and incorporated. Add lemon zest, pineapple juice, coconut, and beat again until fully mixed. Refrigerate 20 minutes to stiffen slightly before using to decorate.

Pineapple Glaze:
1 T cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Reserved pineapple juice from 20 oz. can, above
2 t. butter

Add cornstarch and granulated sugar to a small saucepan and stir. Place over high heat and all pineapple juice, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a low boil and cook five minutes or until thick and reduced, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat, add the butter, and stir until butter melts. Keep at room temperature or refrigerated. 

Cupcake assembly: Use a toothpick to poke almost all the way through each cupcake from the top down a number of times. This will create tiny "channels" for your pineapple glaze. Pour 1 teaspoon pineapple glaze over each cupcake and spread across top. Allow it to seep in for a few minutes. Pipe frosting atop each cupcake, then garnish with toasted coconut. Top with a piece of candied pineapple. Keep extras refrigerated, remove 15 minutes before serving.

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