Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes - Handle the Heat

Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes

February 22nd, 2022
5 from 12 votes
5 from 12 votes

Easy Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes are ultra tender and moist chocolate cupcakes topped with homemade coconut buttercream frosting and toasted coconut!

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Chocolate and coconut is such a fantastic combo!
Texture: The cupcakes are crazy tender, moist, and rich while the creamy frosting is perfectly balanced by the hint of crunch in the toasted coconut.
Ease: Easy peasy!
Pros: Fun spring recipe for whenever the “Mounds” craving hits.
Cons: None.
Would I make this again? Definitely!

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I talk often — and admittedly think even more often — about chocolate flavor pairings.

My go to is usually chocolate with MORE CHOCOLATE.

But sometimes you need to switch it up. I realized recently that I tend to enjoy coconut more in savory dishes than sweet.

I thought these Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes would be a perfect simple recipe to work on.

My goal was to use coconut in as many forms as possible so it would be able to match the intensity of the chocolate flavor.

You’ll see there’s coconut oil, coconut milk, coconut extract, and shredded coconut. Each of those ingredients (save the extract) offer not only a lovely coconut flavor but also a crucial texture component!

Chocolate coconut cupcake on a plate with a bite taken out

How to Make Homemade Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes

Why combine chocolate, cocoa, and boiling water?

Not only does this melt the chocolate, but the boiling water helps to ‘bloom’ the cocoa powder. Meaning it helps it to release its flavor compounds for a richer chocolate experience!

Do I have to use Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder?

For best results, I find Dutch-Process Cocoa Powder creates more moist and tender cupcakes with a deeper color. Dutch-process tends to have more fat content and is less starchy than most grocery store natural cocoa powder products. Basically, you’re less likely to have dry cupcakes when using Dutch-process.

However, because I understand not everyone can easily find Dutch-process, especially these days, here’s how you can swap in Natural Cocoa Powder:

Use the same amount of natural unsweetened cocoa powder in place of the Dutch-Process and omit the vinegar.

If you’re curious about the differences between Dutch-Process vs. Natural Cocoa powder, check out this article.

comparison of dutch process vs natural cocoa powder

How to bake with coconut oil:

For this recipe, virgin coconut oil not only adds a rich texture but an extra hit of coconut flavor. Since the oil needs to be melted to incorporate into the batter, I find it easiest to measure melted. You can simply pop your glass container of coconut oil in the microwave without the metal lid and nuke until the top layer melts enough for the recipe.

By the way, I also have a great Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and a Coconut Oil Brownie recipe if you’re out of butter!

What if I don’t have coconut oil?
While coconut oil is best, you can use vegetable or canola oil instead. Just make sure it’s fresh and has no off aroma.

How to bake with coconut milk:

Be sure to use canned full-fat coconut milk for best results. Anything else will create cupcakes that are less rich and more dry.

Since canned coconut milk tends to separate, vigorously shake the can before opening. If it’s still very separated, whisk until somewhat smooth before adding into the batter. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it’ll all blend together eventually. You just want to make sure you’re getting a good amount of both the fat solids and liquid, not too much of just one.

How to Make the Coconut Buttercream:

Mixing bowl of coconut buttercream frosting for cupcakes
Make sure your butter is completely softened to room temperature. In a stand mixer, combine the butter and sifted powdered sugar on low speed until well blended and then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the salt, coconut extract, and coconut milk, and beat on medium for 1 minute, adding more cream if needed or more powdered sugar to thicken. Add the coconut extract to taste. You can always add more, but you can’t take away!

Help! I don’t have any butter or I need to make this dairy free.

The chocolate cupcake base is actually butter free and dairy free if you use DF chocolate. So you could pair it with whipped coconut cream in place of the coconut buttercream for a totally dairy-free treat. May be especially helpful if you are low on butter during these crazy times.

Can this recipe be made into a cake?

Almost any cupcake recipe can be turned into cake. Check out my full guide on how to convert cupcakes into cake (and vice versa!).

How to Make Cupcakes Ahead of Time

Room temperature:
Store unfrosted in an airtight container at a cool room temperature (about 67°F) for up to 2 days. Airtight plastic or glass containers work better than resealable bags to prevent the tops from getting all sticky.

Store frosted cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 8 hours at room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 2 days. Let come to room temperature before serving.

If storing unfrosted cupcakes for longer, wrap cupcakes individually in plastic wrap (this prevents freezer burn and taste transference). Place cupcakes inside a freezer bag on a shelf in your freezer where they won’t get smashed, or in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Unwrap the cupcakes and allow to defrost at room temperature for about 1 to 2 hours. I don’t recommend defrosting in the fridge overnight in plastic as it tends to create a more sticky top where the frosting slides off.

Freeze the buttercream in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight and re-whip in the stand mixer until light and fluffy again. Add a tablespoon or 2 of powdered sugar if it needs to thicken.

More Chocolate Cupcake Recipes

5 from 12 votes

How to make
Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Easy Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes are ultra tender and moist chocolate cupcakes topped with homemade coconut buttercream frosting and toasted coconut!


For the chocolate cupcakes:

  • 5 ounces (142 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (28 grams) Dutch-process cocoa
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup full-fat canned coconut milk, shaken well or whisked until somewhat smooth
  • 1/4 cup melted virgin coconut oil
  • 2 large eggs plus one egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the coconut buttercream:

  • 3 cups (375 grams) powdered sugar, sifted
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 2 tablespoons full-fat canned coconut milk

For the toppings:

  • 1 cup (85 grams) shredded sweetened coconut


Make the cupcakes:

  1. In a medium heatproof bowl, add the chocolate and cocoa powder. Pour hot water over mixture. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk mixture gently until thick and smooth, then set aside to cool completely.

  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with liners.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda.
  4. Whisk the coconut milk, coconut oil, eggs, egg yolk, vinegar, and vanilla into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in the flour mixture until smooth, being careful not to overmix.
  5. Using a spring-loaded scoop, divide the batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake until cupcakes are set and firm to the touch, about 17 to 20 minutes.
  6. Let cupcakes cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely, about 1 hour. Cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.

Make the frosting:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the salt, coconut extract, and coconut milk and beat on medium for 1 minute, adding more cream if needed or more powdered sugar to thicken.

Toast the coconut:

  1. Place the coconut in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Stirring constantly, toast until golden brown. Remove and let cool.

To assemble:

  1. Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting onto each cupcake. Sprinkle with the cooled toasted coconut. Serve or store for 1 day at room temperature or up to 2 days covered in the fridge.

Course : Dessert
Cuisine : American
Keyword : chocolate coconut cupcakes

Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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Recipe Rating

  1. #
    Carla — May 29, 2023 at 9:55 am

    Another great recipe from Handle the Heat! These came out amazing. They had the perfect amount of coconut flavor (the coconut was not too overpowering, despite all of the coconut ingredients, but you could still taste the coconut – it wasn’t lost in the chocolate). I used Cadbury Eggs for the top. Yum! I’ll be making this every Easter.

  2. #
    Blossom — April 18, 2022 at 8:37 am

    I made these yesterday for Easter dessert. I thought I had a can of coconut milk in the cupboard, but it was coconut cream. They still turned out amazing with the cream instead of milk.

    The cake was moist and the frosting perfect, not too sweet.

    There was enough frosting to put a nice mound on each cupcake, without a lot leftover – some cupcake frosting recipes make entirely too much.

    The cupcakes baked up tall too!

    This receipe is a keeper!

  3. #
    Olia — March 20, 2022 at 5:27 pm

    I was surprised how lovely the cake was, but I did modify it a little. I think most of the coconut flavorings taste terrible and fake/overdone- I really wanted coconut buttercream, but so far I haven’t found a recipe that has the flavor and not the essence.

    I also wanted to fill the cupcakes with marzipan. This cake is wonderful, but VERY light (think, slightly denser than angel food, but without the resistance of angel food- it’s super soft). It won’t hold up to any sort of heavy/thick filling. Perhaps the densest filling I’d use is whipping cream or perhaps soft, fluffy meringue. I’ll have to hunt down a denser chocolate cake recipe for this use in future. I almost feel like buttercream is a bit too heavy for the lightness of this cake. Fortunately, the chocolate flavor is rich and so the strength of the flavor matches the buttercream, if not the texture.

    • #
      Emily — March 21, 2022 at 2:52 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this recipe, Olia! I think our Best Chocolate Cupcakes recipe might be just what you’re looking for in terms of a cupcake that will hold up to thicker fillings/toppings. I hope you give it a try!

  4. #
    Catherine — March 4, 2022 at 11:06 pm

    This is the second recipe By Tessa that I’ve tried, and honestly they were the BEST chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever had. I really like the instructions she gives, and the troubleshoot section is 10/10. Genuinely, I will be trying every recipe by Tessa after this. Thank you!

    • #
      Emily — March 7, 2022 at 5:03 pm

      Yay! So happy to hear this, Catherine! Thank you so much for the comment 🙂

  5. #
    Kristine — February 25, 2022 at 3:27 pm

    Such a delicious cupcake.
    Rich, chocolate cake flavor. Plenty of coconut flavor in the frosting. Tastes like a Mounds candy bar.
    Ate 3 in one day! Thanks!

    • #
      Emily — February 28, 2022 at 9:57 am

      So happy you loved this recipe!

  6. #
    Carmen — May 8, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    These cupcakes are delicious! I made these & 4 other kinds for a wedding. They requested coconut in the cupcake which was delicious! I did add an extra tablespoon of coconut milk to the frosting as well as 1 tablespoon of cream because the frosting was thick, this mad it easy to decorate

    • #
      Tessa — May 10, 2021 at 2:17 pm

      Wonderful! I’m so pleased these cupcakes were a hit and that you chose to use my recipe to celebrate with! 🙂

  7. #
    Christine — April 5, 2021 at 10:37 am

    I made this as an Easter treat for my neighbors and everybody absolutely loved it. The chocolate flavor was great (I used extra dark cocoa powder). I will definitely make this again.

    • #
      Tessa — April 5, 2021 at 2:10 pm

      So nice of you to share with your neighbors, Christine! I’m sure they love where they live 🙂

  8. #
    Jane C — April 3, 2021 at 9:03 pm

    I made these cupcakes for my Easter gathering. These cupcakes, in addition to being so cute and festive, taste absolutely fabulous. The frosting is very good and creamy, but the cake is moist with a very nice crumb and texture. What stands out the most is the rich chocolatey flavor kissed by a gentle hint of coconut. I’m an experienced home baker, and this cupcake is one of the best I’ve ever made or even purchased from a bakery! Thanks so much, Tessa, for developing this marvelous recipe!!!!!!

    • #
      Tessa — April 5, 2021 at 11:00 am

      Wow, Jane, thank you for the ultimate compliment! You just made my day 🙂 I’m absolutely thrilled you love these cupcakes!

  9. #
    Farrah — April 2, 2021 at 11:33 am

    Hi Tessa,
    Sometimes I see that a recipe calls for baking powder and baking soda. Can you please tell me the function of baking soda? And can it be left out if it is not for hand?

    • #
      Tessa — April 2, 2021 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Farrah, I discuss baking powder and baking soda in this post. I do not recommend making this recipe without it as it is a crucial ingredient in helping the cupcakes rise. Good luck!

  10. #
    Carla — April 2, 2021 at 9:46 am

    What would be a good substitute for the coconut oil?

    • #
      Tessa — April 2, 2021 at 2:20 pm

      Hi Carla, I talk about that in the pink box above the recipe 🙂

  11. #
    Joy — February 26, 2021 at 6:25 am

    It’s amazing!! My family loves it! Whenever i bake them, my mom is always anxiously waiting for them to come out of the oven and once the cupcakes are cool enough to touch half of them are gone within fifteen minutes!

    The cupcakes are soft, spongy and moist on the inside. The top is slightly crispy. They keep well fo quite a number of days. Three days later kept at room temperature and they are still as moist and spongy as day one!

    Definitely recommend it!!! Especially love it because it has coconut, which my mom loves!! 11/10 for me!!!

  12. #
    Paul — January 23, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    Would the same measurements yield a 13×9 cake?

    • #
      Nik — January 28, 2021 at 12:06 pm

      Can you use coconut cream instead of milk?

      • #
        Blossom — April 18, 2022 at 8:39 am

        I used coconut cream and they turned our great!

  13. #
    Loretta — October 26, 2020 at 1:51 pm

    Gorgeous! Deliciously chocolatey just the right hint of coconut.

  14. #
    Wendy — June 27, 2020 at 1:48 am

    I had made this cupcake for my kid’s birthday and I love it. My husband thought the same lol, he ate four when I was done and not watching him haha
    They are so yummy! I will definitely put it on my favorite recipe list. Thank you so much

  15. #
    LiAnne Tasato — April 22, 2020 at 5:54 pm

    Could I use vanilla extract instead of coconut extract in the frosting? Do you think it’ll still taste a little like coconut?

  16. #
    Rima — April 15, 2020 at 5:43 am

    This cupcake was amazing! Can’t believe I have tried cupcakes for the first time and trust me, it was a hit in my family. Your recipe’s are amazing, waiting for the new one.

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