Lime and Coconut Cupcakes (Gluten Free)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This recipe was one of many firsts for me. This was my first time working with coconut flour. It was also my second, third, and fourth. It was also my first time baking gluten free.


Coconut flour is made from dried coconut meat. As a result, it is very fragrant and flavorful. It is also very absorbent. It generally cannot be substituted one for one of wheat-based flour. The package I used recommends replacing only 20% of the amount of flour called for in the recipe with coconut flour plus using an equivalent amount of additional liquid.


In my first attempt, I started out with good intentions. I used honey as a sweetener instead of sugar, and I used coconut oil with some coconut milk to complement the coconut flavor. Even following the package instructions, I had to increase the amount of liquid in the recipe for the texture of the batter to be what it should (it was resembling that of dough rather than batter before I added more liquid).

That batch went in the trash. The baked cupcake tops looked like those of muffins and they tasted like coconut scones. For the second batch, I was scrambling around for more liquid ingredients and settled on orange juice (I was out of everything else). Instead of coconut cupcakes, they were orange-flavored cupcakes that were too dense. And my frosting had melted into goop at the same time. It was time to call it a day.


It was after the first two batches when I threw up my hands and made my Shrimp Fra Diavolo (because I was feeling rather devilish, and this was going to be our dinner anyway so I figured why not photograph it). But I couldn't let the cupcakes rest. So I made them again. On the second day, I decided if I was going to experiment anyway (I had let go of any expectations at that point), I would only use coconut flour and make these cupcakes gluten free.

I've heard that as a beginning gluten free baker, I should be prepared to throw out a few batches. It took two more tweaks to get the recipe I was completely satisfied with. The third time, I added more eggs, I used canola oil instead of coconut oil and I used about half a cup of coconut milk. The result was really tasty coconut muffins. They were still a bit dry and didn't rise as much as I expected, but they made a fantastic breakfast. For my fourth batch, I doubled the amounts of coconut milk as well as the baking powder, and the final result was perfect. The cakes were springy, fluffy, moist, delicious and full of coconut flavor. And complemented perfectly by the lime and cream cheese frosting.


Lessons: If you are replacing wheat flour with coconut flour, use about half the amount of coconut flour as the amount of wheat flour the recipe calls for. Use plenty of eggs (2 eggs per every 1/4 to 1/3 cup of coconut flour, depending on the remaining ingredients) for the cakes to rise properly and have a nice, cakey texture. In addition, use plenty of other liquids. In this recipe for 1/2 cup of coconut flour, the amount of liquid ingredients (consisting of canola oil, coconut milk, and honey, excluding the eggs) was 1 1/2 cups. With the eggs (assuming 1 large beaten egg = 1/4 cup), the total amount of liquid ingredients measured 2 1/2 cups.

Here is the final recipe.

Coconut Cupcakes (Gluten Free)
(Makes 12 cupcakes)

1/2 cup (70 g) coconut flour
1 tsp double-acting gluten free baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup (60 ml) honey
1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil
1 cup (237 ml) coconut milk

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF/177ºC. Line a 12-muffin pan with fluted liners.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, vanilla, and honey, until well-blended, about 1 minute. Add oil and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add flour and coconut milk in batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until the mixture is even and there are no lumps.
3. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups. Bake 25-30 minutes, until cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in a center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in pan slightly then remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Lime and Cream Cheese Frosting
(Frosts 12 cupcakes)

8 oz (227 g) cream cheese
1 1/2 cup (180 g) confectioner's sugar
1 tsp lime zest
2 tsp lime juice

In a mixer bowl, beat cream cheese until softened slightly. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until well-blended, about 2 minutes. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes or cover and refrigerate until needed.


  1. GF baking is very new to me too, and I sometimes get frustrated. Can the coconut flour be made by processing dried large flakes you think? It´ll be my only choice and I will try it definitely. Great that you made so many batches before getting it right! Great for us I mean, jaja!

  2. Paula, you can make homemade coconut flour. You can make it from a whole coconut or from coconut flakes. With the flakes you have to soak them in water first, then process them, strain through a mesh and then dry the pulp in the oven. Here is a tutorial.

  3. Kat, these cupcakes are so beautiful! I have never tried coconut flour in baking. Do they taste the same like dried coconut shreds? Love the sexy rose frosting.

  4. Angie, thank you! And yes, the cupcakes have a notable coconut flavor (I guess similar if they had the shreds in them). The flour itself is so fragrant!

  5. Gluten-free baking is quite a journey, isn't it! I've thrown out many a batch of dough/crust/muffins myself. These look just perfect, so well done! I love coconut and lime together, so these are right up my ally. :)

  6. I've never worked with coconut flour either, but now I'm intrigued! Glad you finally worked through your frustration and came up with such amazing-sounding cupcakes. :)

  7. How do you get the cupcake liners to look so great? Do you remove then and put them in new cups. They look fabulous!!

  8. Love the stylish cupcake cases; the frosting looks amazing, too. Gluten-free baking is trial and error but so satisfying when you get it right!

  9. They sound really tropical and exotic - lovely!

  10. they look lovely, darling, I especially love your little paper cups with damask patterns, so posh and elegant :)
    And I love how you sprinkled them with grated lime zest.
    We don't have coconut milk not coconut flour in my country, only dried grated coconut.

  11. noshingwiththenolands: Thanks! I've run into the faded color problem before. These liners come lined with foil so that the color doesn't fade. They are by Reynolds, "Baked for You StayBrite." Here is a link for them.

    Dezmond: that's actually all you need to make both coconut milk and coconut flour! If you soak the dried grated coconut (unsweetened) in water, then process and strain it, the liquid you get is coconut milk, the solid, once dried in the oven is coconut flour. I gave a link in my response to Paula's comment above on how to do it. So you can make these too! :)

  12. So there is in fact a coconut flour? It probably sounds ironic that I was born from a coconut country but I haven't heard of coconut flour. Maybe it's because in Philippines we never used flour from this. We mainly use coconut juice for drinking, coconut milk for cooking, coconut meat for cooking and candies...etc.

    There was a mini cupcake I used to buy from my school canteen. The name is macaroons. They are made from coconut fine flakes and it was one of my favorite snack.

    I don't know if macaroons can be made from other ingredients, I just know that those macaroon I was eating are coconut macaroons.

    (Oh, I am missing them now...a lot in fact :(

  13. Just gorgeous!! Love the flavor combo - have bookmarked to try soon! Thanks for sharing the reward of all your experimentation :-)

  14. These look absolutely scrumptious! Thanks for the recipe, girl! ;)
    xo TJ

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  16. These are the BEST cupcakes I've ever made! I used a basic vegan vanilla buttercream recipe with fresh lime juice and zest. Everyone was raving about them! I was wondering though, have you tried a chocolate version of these cupcakes?
    Thank you for this amazing recipe!!

  17. Hi Marissa, I'm so glad you liked the recipe! I have not yet experimented with a chocolate version but it sounds like a great idea for the future!



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