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Dorothy Dean presents: You’ll like these piña colada cupcakes – and it won’t require getting caught in the rain

UPDATED: Tue., July 28, 2020

By Audrey Alfaro For The Spokesman-Review

These cupcakes – these cupcakes are everything.

Actually, I don’t think I should even be sharing this recipe. I feel like it’s something I should take to the grave, leaving my family and friends who were lucky enough to have one grieving the loss of them, as well.

They’re that good. (Well, unless you’re not keen on coconut.)

But how could you not love the tropical combination of sweet pineapple and nutty coconut, especially when they’re dressed up in a luscious, handheld confection?

These piña colada cupcakes are a semi-homemade recipe, the love child of a batch of pineapple cupcakes that met the leftover filling of a coconut cream pie – and they’ve been at it ever since.

From birthdays and baby showers to weddings and graduation parties, there isn’t a celebration they haven’t christened.

The cupcakes are made with a box of pineapple cake mix that’s combined with vanilla pudding mix. (Adding pudding mix makes boxed cake moister and richer.)

The creamy decadent filling, a blend of vanilla pudding, whipped topping, coconut flakes and extract, is then piped into each cupcake.

It’s topped off with a light and airy frosting made by whipping together heavy cream, coconut extract, powdered sugar and pudding mix to help stabilize it.

Toasted coconut finishes it off, and if you’re feeling really festive, a cherry and cocktail umbrella can be added, too.

Speaking of cocktails, what’s a piña colada without the rum? Rum extract, or the real thing, also can be incorporated into the cake mix, filling or frosting. Just start with a ½ teaspoon at a time, checking for taste and consistency, before adding in more.

Piña Colada Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1 box pineapple cake mix

1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix, divided

Water, oil and eggs called for on cake mix box

For the filling:

1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 cup cold milk

½ teaspoon coconut extract

6 tablespoons flaked coconut

Heaping ½ cup of whipped topping such as Cool Whip

For the frosting/topping:

2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon coconut extract

¼ cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix

¼ cup flaked coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, all but 2 tablespoons of pudding mix (the 2 tablespoons of pudding mix will be used later in the frosting) and water, oil and eggs called for on the cake box.

Beat until well combined, about 3 minutes. Divide batter evenly among the lined muffin tins and bake for 17 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, add the pudding mix, milk and coconut extract in a medium bowl and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Then fold in the flaked coconut and whipped topping until well combined. Cover and chill until ready to use.

For the frosting, beat the heavy cream and coconut extract to soft peaks. Add in the powdered sugar and the reserved 2 tablespoons of vanilla pudding and beat to stiff peaks, scraping down the bowl as needed. Be careful not to over beat, or it’ll separate into butter.

To assemble the cupcakes, add the chilled filling to a piping bag, or into a zip-top bag, with a ½-inch tip or hole. Insert the tip about an inch into the cupcake and steadily squeeze the filling into the cupcake while slowly lifting out the tip. Repeat until all the cupcakes are filled.

Transfer the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a star tip, or a zip-top bag with the corner snipped, and pipe swirls of frosting on each cupcake. Finish them off with a sprinkle of cooled toasted coconut and chill until serving.

Notes: Toast coconut by cooking it in a skillet over low heat, stirring frequently, until the coconut is lightly browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely.

Audrey Alfaro can be reached at

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