The Cupcakes

I have been on a bender.  A cupcake bender.  I just can’t get enough of them; those three or four perfect bites of moist cake topped with sweet icing…mmm. See what I mean?  So here is the first in a bunch of recipes to come.

Tropical Island Cupcakes


For the Cakes:

1 (18.25 oz.) box of Betty Crocker French Vanilla Cake Mix, and the stuff it requires:

1.25 cups of water

1/3 cup of vegetable oil

3 eggs

vanilla (I added 1/4 teaspoon of extra vanilla to the batter. Vanilla…yummm)

For the filling:

1 pineapple (or 1 large can of crushed pineapple if you feel like cheating)

4 T. unsalted butter

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

For the icing:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1-2 limes zested, very finely minced. This is going to be in the icing, so really mince it well.

1/2-1 cup of lime juice

For the garnish:

Toasted coconut.  Put sweetened, bagged coconut in a dry skillet and toast over med/hi heat until it begins to brown.  Watch it once it starts though, it goes quick.

  • First, turn your oven on. Check the box for temp. It is either 325 or 350, depending on your pan.
  • Next, make the filling.  If you’re using a real pineapple, peel and core it, slicing the sides and then chopping them into small, bite-sized pieces. And if you’re using the canned pineapple…well, consider yourself ahead of the rest of us. Smarty-pants.
  • Melt the 4 T. of butter in a skillet.  Then add the pineapple.  If you’re using the canned, make sure you drain it first or your short cut won’t seem so smart anymore.  Now add the brown sugar.
  • Saute over med-high heat for 8-10 minutes or until the pineapple gives off its juice and then begins to turn brown and caramelize.

  • Once filling has cooled, puree in a blender. I used my Bullet. But mostly that’s because all that thing ever did was puree or liquify.  I’m still bitter. Set aside.  And if you’re like me, you’re already thinking of skipping the puree step. Don’t. Been there, done that (as you can see if you look closely at the picture). It’s not as good.
  • Spoon batter into a cupcake pan filled with liners. Or just spray the pan and skip the liners. But liners are cool, so you should use them.  Your oven should be all set.  Pop them in for 15-18 minutes.  I strongly suggest checking them at like, 12 minutes.  Use a toothpick to check for doneness. Pull them out as soon as that bad boy comes out clean.  No one wants a dry cake. Even when it’s stuffed with pineapple.
  • While the cupcakes are baking, make the icing. Beat softened butter and half of the powdered sugar together, adding a bit of the lime juice as you go. This buttercream is kind of free form. It is to taste, so use your judgement on the ratio of lime juice/sugar/butter.  I find 1 cup of butter/2 cups of powdered sugar works.  Maybe you like it sweeter (although I can’t imagine it getting any sweeter than pure powdered sugar).  When you get the icing where you want it (sweet with a lime kicker) then add the lime zest.  Mix well and set aside.
  • When the cupcakes are done baking, pull them out and let them cool for a few minutes.  Repeat until all of the batter is used up. I usually get 16 or so, but it depends on how full you make the cups.
  • Now the fun part! Take a cupcake and carefully cut a wedge out of the top.

  • You see where we’re going with this, right?  Spoon some of the filling into the hole.

  • Cut off the pointed part of the wedge and then replace the “lid.” Do this with all of the cupcakes.  They will look like this:

  • Now just ice them with the lime buttercream and top with toasted coconut. Of course you could just use regular coconut, or even skip it completely, but the brown color and the crispier texture is nice against the smooth icing.

These are fun and zesty, with a surprise of smooth, buttery pineapple in the center. They may be more effort than usual, but there is something very satisfying about the whole process.  Take a Saturday morning and give it a try.

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