Coconut-Lime Cupcakes

So when Sara and I discussed doing a week of tropical recipes, apparently that meant all things coconut. Really, this recipe is my brain spawn from June, the month of never-ending celebrations (remember that discussion?) My husband loves coconut. Everything coconut. He often makes or buys coconut cake for my birthday when in reality, I’m not the biggest lover of coconut cake. But I take that as a semi-subtle hint that maybe I should be less experimental for his celebration desserts and just give him coconut cake. That’s all he wants. Well, coconut cake and Legos (he also bought me Legos for our first anniversary...hint taken).

I did some soul-searching in an attempt to determine why I don’t always love coconut cake. Here are my conclusions:

1) Coconut cakes are often dry. I don’t know if the coconut soaks up the moisture in the cake or what, but it seems like, even among expert go-to bakers like Ina Garten, a common complaint of their coconut cakes are dryness.

2) Rum flavoring is often paired with coconut, but I don’t like the flavor of rum.

3) Things that are JUST coconut-flavored are often a little too sweet and a little too one-note for me.

So I decided to use my go-to super-moist cupcake recipe and use my all-time favorite coconut combo: lime and coconut. For me, lime and coconut are the perfect pair. The apples to my peanut butter. The Lois to my Clark. The Tami to my Eric (y’all knew I had to go there.)

To make the cupcakes, preheat your oven to 350. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners and set them aside. Then you’ll need a white or yellow cake mix (we swear up and down by Duncan Hines cake mixes), sour cream, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup oil, the zest of 1 lime, vanilla extract, coconut extract, and a cup of sweetened coconut flakes.

Combine all the ingredients except for the coconut in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Mix for 30 seconds on low or until the ingredients are more or less combined. Then mix on high for 3 minutes. Add the coconut flakes and mix until just combined. Distribute the batter evenly among the cupcake liners.

Bake for 16-22 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden and a pick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. It’s reallyreallyreally important not to overbake these cupcakes because they will taste stale and dry, even straight from the oven. When they’re done baking, remove from the oven and cool completely.

To make the icing, combine 3 8-ounce packages of full-fat cream cheese and 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add 3 cups powdered sugar, the juice of 1 medium lime, and 2 teaspoons coconut extract. Mix until combined and fluffy. Transfer to an icing bag and swirl on top of the cooled cupcakes (check out this awesome tutorial on some of our favorite methods). Sprinkle with sweetened coconut and a little more lime zest. This makes 24 cupcakes (be sure to refrigerate any leftovers and eat them within 2-3 days).



  1. America’s Test Kitchen has an EXCELLENT coconut cake recipe. The frosting is alot of work but the cake itself- delicious! Not even close to being dry and the perfect amount of coconut flavor. Might be a good coconut cake to make for your husband’s next birthday (or the year after…)

  2. “This makes 24 cupcakes (be sure to refrigerate any leftovers and eat them within 2-3 days).”

    What happens to them after 2-3 days? lol

    1. You’ll die. It’s like a bad horror movie.


      No, that much time in the fridge just sucks the moisture out of them, but they need to be refrigerated because of the cream cheese frosting.

  3. These look awesome, but I know I won’t like the frosting. 3 bars of cream cheese with only 3 cups of sugar? nope. I don’t eat cheesecake either, though! *gasp*

    Anyway I’m thinking that a 7 minute icing would be marvelous with this! Is that one that you guys ever play with much? I would love some tips if you do!!

  4. I make a coconut cake that is to die for….I brush coconut milk on the layers (3) and it makes it very moist and delicious. I use a cream cheese frosting and then top with toasted coconut. is good!!

  5. I love the combination of coconut and lime. I recently made Margarita cupcakes with a coconut cake and pineapple frosting, and loved it. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Thank you for sharing.

  6. OK, so my comment has nothing to do with cupcakes (although they sound wonderful and I will definitely make them–love lime and coconut!). Your Tami & Eric comment made me a little tear-y. Just last night we finished watching the final episode after having it recommended by friends. I’m so sad that I won’t be spending my evenings with them anymore, but glad that someone appreciates them as much as we do!!

  7. My mom used to make one years ago that was called a hot milk cake. I don’t remember the recipe or why that is called that but it makes incredibly moist layers. I believe she used some type of 7-minute frosting and sprinkled it all with fresh coconut. It was my favorite cake and I used to swear it was so good because my knuckles ended up in it from the wire grater used to shred fresh coconut. These sound amazing and I just happened to get a couple of limes at Trader Joe’s this week. I don’t normally keep them around because they seem to go bad so much faster than lemons and I end up wasting them. Maybe I bought these just for this recipe. Thanks!!

  8. I made a cupcake loosely based on Sara’s Lime Coconut Macadamia Nut Cookies that is very similar to this, just add some toasted macadamia nuts to the top of your already-in-the-liners cake batter before you bake and voila! Thanks for the hints on the coconut cake, I’ve always struggled with your same issues. Love you both! Good job incubating! … in the summer, in Lousiana…

  9. We are a huge lego family snd have many many many legos. I can’t even help myself getting excited over legos. My husband wants the new Sopwith Camel Biplane. I keep telling him that he should get it for his birthday. He just doesn’t want to spend the money. I hope your husband gets what he wants and yes the cupcakes look great also. I’m going to give them a try.

  10. I wasn’t the biggest coconut fan either until I started using unsweetened coconut from the local food co-op. The difference is amazing and I’ll never use sweetened coconut again. Better flavor, not too sweet, and nothing I bake with it is ever dry.

  11. I made these Saturday and loved them!! I am not a big coconut fan, so I used a little less than what it called for and it really let the lime come through. Will be making these again for sure ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I made these for my sisters birthday this past weekend. My mom tood one bite and started singing “you put the lime in the coconut and mix it all up”. They all said tha should be the name of the cupcakes put the lime in the coconut cupcakes!! They were deliscious!!!

  13. What did I do wrong??? My frosting was very runny – not at all like it looks it your picture. But the flavor of the cake with the frosting was very tasty!

    1. I don’t know, that’s weird! Sometimes I’ve noticed though, that different brands of cream cheese react differently in recipes, it could be that.

  14. i love duncan hines least i used too! have you noticed they decreased the cake mix by a couple of ounces. i think it is throwing off my recipes. just wondering if you have noticed any issues. if i remember right the white and devils food are 16 oz instead of 18.

  15. has anyone actually made the frosting and had it not runny? mine was SO runny and i used the fatty creme cheese. it made a ton and i couldn’t really use it. BOO.

  16. I didn’t taste the cupcakes since they were made for someone else but I did get to taste the frosting…which is AMAZING. I’m setting it aside as a separate recipe for other cakes. I made a simple strawberry cake last night to take to work and used a little leftover frosting (i put the coconut in the frosting so it may have increased the amount). Everyone said it was a great combination. I love the texture–almost like whipped cream it is so fluffy and light and yet so full of flavor. Great recipe.

  17. These were so good!
    My frosting turned out runny, too. I had to add quite a bit more powdered sugar to firm it up a bit. Could it be the amount of lime juice? My line had a lot of juice in it.

  18. I made these yesterday for the office cupcake bake off & won! Thank you!!! They were awesome & I have enough frosting to make another batch of cupcakes – now to find the excuse….

  19. I used these as inspiration yesterday. I used the coconut cake recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for the cup cakes and just added the zested lime to the batter. I used your frosting recipe though. Frosting was a little thin and I had to work fast as my kitchen was getting hot and frosting was getting thinner. I would have chilled it a little if I’d had time. Comments from the audience – ” These are a Keeper”, “You could sell these,” “Can I have the recipe?”, ” These are awesome!”, “The cake was moist!” Sounds like I will be making then again! Thanks

  20. Very runny icing. I had to keep adding powdered sugar and it hardly made a difference. Now I have about 8 cups of coconut runny frosting…

  21. I just made these for my younger brother’s 23 b-day, except he’s not a huge fan of lime, so I switched it to orange. I used a little over a tablespoon of orange juice, and about a teaspoon of orange zest in the frosting. I filled them with a pineapple curd. Tropics in November! I honestly could have eaten the frosting with a spoon. Mine was just a little thinner than I would have liked, but since these need to stay in the fridge anyway, I made it the day before, kept the frosting in the fridge until I was ready, and frosted with it cold.

  22. I made these for a birthday party for myself and 2 kids. It went perfect with our theme. Eating and smelling them I know I gained 5 lbs. they smelled like we were at the beach! I toasted the coconut on top for a crunch and contrast garnish. They were a hit. Thanks

  23. Anyone having problems when they make the frosting and it’s runny! Keep the cream cheese cold before you make it. Or use it right out of the fridge. I didn’t soften it and I had no problems

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