By Laura Mack
May 4, 2016
These Coconut Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Icing are low carb, nut-free, and totally delicious. The cupcakes are made with coconut flour and shredded coconut, with a hint of lemon to complement the vibrant blueberry icing. No added food coloring here — just a hue from Mother Nature’s palette.
I haven’t baked much with coconut flour. I love almond flour, and it has been my primary flour in low carb baking. While coconut flour has wonderful properties, let’s just say it can be a bit quirky to bake with. There are workarounds, of course, but it’s easy to end up with dense, dry products. To avoid this, I started by following the recipes of low carb bakers who have gone before me and have learned some of their secrets to success.
What’s so great about coconut flour, anyway?
- It’s nut-free. If you’re one of the many people who are allergic to nuts, that’s a big deal.
- It’s exremely nutritious, rich in protein, fiber, and fat.
- The fiber is significant. For example, there are 4 grams of coconut flour (about a half a tablespoon) in each of these coconut cupcakes. That translates to 2.4 grams of total carbs and 1.6 grams of fiber; so, the carbs are comprised of 67% fiber. If you’re counting only net carbs, as a we do, that’s good thing. And the fiber itself is beneficial for gut health.
- 90% of the fat in coconut is a particularly healthy form of saturated fat known as “medium-chain triglycerides” (MCT), unlike most other dietary saturated fatty acids (SFAs). MCT is metabolized differently and is used by the body as a quick source of energy that also appears to be very beneficial for the brain.
- 50% of the SFAs in coconut oil are comprised of lauric acid, which is an efficient killer of pathogens like bacteria, viruses and fungi. It is also thought to support the immune system, the thyroid, and promote good skin health.
- There are a number of other benefits to coconut oil, which I won’t go into here, but you can read about in the link.
Back to cupcakes! I wanted to develop a great coconut cupcake recipe for my niece, Emma (Deb’s daughter). Emma is 14 years old and decided, on her own, that she wanted to do a trial of gluten-free, sugar-free eating for 21 days. Deb and I know from experience that having “legal” treats is particularly helpful during the transition period to avoid feeling deprived. Emma is allergic to tree nuts, however, so my beloved almond flour is out. I’m proud to say that these coconut cupcakes are not a compromise in any way.
As tasty as cupcakes are, we all know that a great cupcake needs great icing. I have to admit that I am so darned pleased with this Blueberry Cream Cheese Icing. It has the requisite dreamy creaminess of a good buttercream, but with a twist. For the blueberry flavor and color, I used a product new to me: powdered freeze-dried blueberries, no sugar added, of course. Just blueberries. Not only did it give fabulous color to the icing, it imparted a lovely blueberry flavor for less than 1 carb per serving, not to mention the health benefits. Has anyone NOT heard about the antioxidant properties of blueberries? They are a bonafide superfood! At any rate, the powder is a bit on the pricey side, but because it so concentrated, I used only 10 grams (1 tablespoon) for the entire batch of icing.
The bottom line: not only are these cupcakes healthy, the icing is too! It doesn’t get any better than double-healthy cupcakes, wouldn’t you agree?
Now, if you don’t have freeze-dried blueberry powder, you can certainly leave it out. You’ll be left with a wonderful vanilla icing, although you may need to add a touch more liquid stevia for sweetening.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Deb and I prefer to use birch-derived xylitol over other low carb natural sweeteners. However, if you have a different favorite sweetener, you can substitute it here. As I often do, I used liquid stevia here along with xylitol to balance out the flavor and aftertaste profiles that they each bring to the table. I also find it easier to start with less xylitol and adjust to taste with liquid stevia at the end for the most flexibility. The sweetness level is such an individual thing, especially if you have been sugar-free for a long time.
It’s also important to note that I powder the xylitol granules in my Nutri Bullet with the milling blade (a clean coffee grinder would work as well). Because this icing is primarily fat with almost no liquid, the granules will not dissolve well and can leave the texture a bit gritty. Just a quick note to say how much I love my Nutri Bullet. I use it for so many things (look for my smoothie post coming up in the next few weeks), plus it is so easy to clean.
There are a number of brands of coconut flour available, but I use Nutiva brand, which happens to be available at my local Costco. I’ve also heard good things about the coconut flour from Bob’s Red Mill.
You’ll see from the photos that I used paper baking cups, rather than a traditional cupcake/muffin pan. I’ve been using these little things for a while because they are:
- Quick and easy. Just put them on a baking sheet, fill them, and bake.
- Easy to serve in. I don’t usually even take the paper off, I just use a fork or spoon and go for it.
- Great for freezing. I put them in a covered container, chill thoroughly, and transfer to the freezer. You can defrost them if you want, but they’re good straight from the freezer. OK, I might defrost them for company, but I’ve been known to serve my mini desserts still frozen to close friends!
- Just so cute! And they come in different sizes, colors, and patterns — oh my.
If you don’t have paper baking cups, never fear! Regular muffin tins with paper liners work just fine. Whatever you bake them in, these Coconut Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Icing are a thing of beauty.
You’ll be glad to know that my cupcakes received double thumbs-up from Emma. We’re already plotting our next version, which involves chocolate. As I believe Emma’s first word was ‘chocolate,’ it seems only appropriate.
Coconut Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Icing
Author: Laura Mack
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 35 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Total time: 1 hour
These Coconut Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Icing are low carb, nut-free, and totally delicious. The cupcakes are made with coconut flour and shredded coconut, with a hint of lemon to complement the vibrant blueberry icing. No added food coloring here -- just a hue from Mother Nature's palette. Although prep and baking time take about an hour, add another 45-60 minutes for the cupcakes to cool before frosting.
2 ounces / ½ cup coconut flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1.6 ounces / ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
6 large eggs
4 ounces/ ½ cup coconut milk (from carton), or almond milk
3.8 ounces / ½ cup xylitol, or equivalent sweetener
3 ounces / ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon liquid stevia, more or less, to taste
¼ teaspoon lemon extract, optional
zest of 1 lemon
Blueberry Cream Cheese Icing
4 ounces / ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces / ½ cup cream cheese, softened
1.9 ounces / ¼ cup xylitol, powdered in a Nutri Bullet or coffee grinder, or equivalent sweetener
20 grams / 1 tablespoon powdered freeze-dried blueberries
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon liquid stevia, more or less, to taste
1 pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons coconut milk (carton), or almond milk, to thin icing if needed (optional)
fresh blueberries, for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners, spray lightly with coconut oil, and place on a baking sheet. If using paper baking cups, omit spray, and place 12 small cups on a baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, add sifted coconut flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in shredded coconut. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl (one with a pouring spout is handy), whisk together eggs, coconut milk, coconut oil, xylitol, liquid stevia, extracts, and lemon zest.. Add dry ingredients into liquid and whisk until smooth.
- Fill muffin cups about ¾ full, and transfer to the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Cool cupcakes for 10 minutes before removing from pan and transferring to a wire rack. Let cupcakes cool completely before icing, 45 to 60 minutes.
- While cupcakes are cooling, prepare blueberry icing: Place softened butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment on low speed, blend until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed until well-blended, scraping down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula 1-2 times. Adjust sweetness with additional liquid stevia, if needed. Add coconut milk, if needed, to thin consistency. If making ahead, store icing well-covered in the refrigerator for several days. Bring to room temperature and mix until smooth before using.
- Frost the cupcakes using a butter knife or a pastry bag. Garnish with fresh blueberries, if desired. Serve immediately, or place cupcakes, uncovered, in the refrigerator to set icing, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a covered container, and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week (or freeze for up to 2 months). The flavor and texture is improved by letting the refrigerated cupcakes sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before serving.
- Per cupcake: 284 cal, 23.8 g total fat (85%), 5.1 g total carbs, 2.4 g fiber, 2.7 g net carbs, and 4.9 g protein. Please note that I do not count the sugar alcohols from xylitol in the total carbs or net carbs.
- Per cupcake (no icing): 168 cal, 12.9 g total fat (77%), 4.1 g total carbs, 2.4 g fiber, 1.7 g net carbs, and 4.1 g protein. Please note that I do not count the sugar alcohols from xylitol in the total carbs or net carbs.
- Per serving of icing (no cupcake): 115.9 cal, 11 g total fat (95%), 1.1 g total carbs, 0.1 g fiber, 1 g net carbs, and 0.8 g protein. Please note that I do not count the sugar alcohols from xylitol in the total carbs or net carbs.
*I use Living Cookbook 2015, along with package information and data from www.nutritiondata.self.com, to calculate the nutritional information for my recipes. Thus, I can make no guarantees as to the accuracy.