Deliciously fluffy Coconut Sugar Cupcakes made without refined sugar! These cupcakes have a sweet caramel flavor thanks to the coconut sugar used in both the cake and the Swiss meringue buttercream. Make them mini for the perfect small snack.
Coconut Sugar Cupcakes
I’ve had these cupcakes on my blog to-do list for quite awhile now, and being that it’s the start of a new year and many people are challenging themselves to follow certain diets, it feels like the perfect time to introduce these classic cupcakes made without any refined sugar. Now, are these cupcakes “healthy.” Well, no. They’re still made with all of the classic ingredients, like all-purpose flour and butter (or plant-based butter). But there’s significantly less sugar in these cupcakes as they’re topped with a Swiss meringue buttercream which is far less sugar-laden than a traditional American buttercream (my usual go-to). And they’re made without cane sugar (which more quickly spikes our blood sugar levels).
What is Coconut Sugar?
Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm tree. I love baking with coconut sugar as it can replace regular, white granulated sugar 1:1 in most baking recipes. It’s unrefined, low glycemic index (much lower than cane sugar, honey, and maple syrup), and has absolutely no coconut flavor. If you aren’t familiar with coconut sugar, then you may think it will taste like coconut, but it doesn’t. At all! Since it’s made from the sap of the coconut palm tree, the sugar actually lends a very cozy caramel taste to these cupcakes.
Why Swiss Meringue Buttercream?
If you’re anything like me when it comes to baking, you like to keeps things quick and simple. This is why I use a standard American buttercream for 99.9% of my cake recipes. I love American buttercream, and, for me, the taste and texture is exactly what I think of when I picture the perfect cake. The downside of my favorite frosting is that it is so sweet. Too sweet for a lot of people. This is where other frostings, like a Swiss meringue buttercream, shine. SMB is smooth, creamy, and pretty fool-proof. Plus, you can get the same volume of frosting without all the sugar!
Since SMB is made using a melted sugar, it can be made with a variety of sugars, including coconut sugar! Hello, low glycemic index frosting! If you like to keep your bakes on the healthier side then this is pretty exciting. The SMB made with coconut sugar has a caramel-like flavor to it. It’s silky smooth and so delightful atop the coconut sugar cupcakes. I found a SMB recipe from Liv For Cake and love how it turned out with coconut sugar.
To make the Swiss meringue buttercream, you’ll need:
- Stand mixer with whisk attachment
- Medium pot
- Stover or burner
- Candy thermometer
- 1 3/4 cup (228g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (112g) plant-based butter (or regular butter), softened
- 2/3 cup (112g) coconut sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (240g) oat milk (or almond milk)
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 3 large egg whites, room temp
- 1 cup (168g) coconut sugar
- 1 cup (224g) plant-based butter (or regular butter), slightly softened and cubed
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Make the Cupcakes
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and fill a mini cupcake (or regular cupcake) pan with liners. (Now is also a good time to set out the eggs for your frosting).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter and coconut sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.
- Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and beat until combined. Then add 1/2 of the milk and beat until combined. Repeat. Finally, add the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients and beat until combined.
- Scoop batter into the cupcake liners, filling 3/4 full. Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out with a few crumbs.
- Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before gently removing to a cooling rack.
- Once the cupcake pan is cool, repeat Steps 5 and 6 to finish baking the cupcakes. TIP: you can quickly cool your pan by running cool water over the back. Dry it thoroughly and keep baking.
- Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before making the frosting.
Make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream (see Note 1)
- Prepare your butter by slicing it into small cubes. It's important that the butter you use is softened but not goopy or melty (even a little chilled is okay). I don't recommend using tub "butter" for this frosting.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the room temperature egg whites (see Note 2) and coconut sugar; whisk until combined.
- Prepare a double boiler by adding 1" of water to a medium pot and bringing the water to a simmer. Place the bowl of egg whites and sugar over the simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn't touch the water. Whisk the mixture constantly until it reaches 160°F on a candy thermometer (this should only take a couple of minutes).
- Remove the bowl from the pot of water and dry off the bottom. Place it back on the stand mixer and whisk on medium-high until the meringue reaches stiff peaks and the bowl is no longer warm to the touch. This should take approximately 5-10 minutes.
- With the stand mixer on, slowly add the cubed butter to the meringue mixture. Keep whisking until all the butter has been added. Add the vanilla extract and whisk.
- If your buttercream looks chunky, or split, continue whisking on a lower speed setting (4 on a Kitchenaid mixer) for a few minutes or until the frosting reaches a smooth, glossy consistency.
- Add the frosting to a pipping bag fitted with your favorite tip and frost the cupcakes. Top with sprinkles until all cupcakes are decorated.
- Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Swiss Meringue Buttercream: this recipe is adapted from Liv For Cake and her detailed blog post has a ton of helpful tips if you're new to making this kind of frosting.
- Eggs: if your eggs are still cold, you can warm them up by placing them in a glass of hot water for around 10 minutes.
- For regular cupcakes, increase bake time to 15-20 minutes.