5 ratings

Salted Coconut Almond Cupcakes (Gluten-Free and Milk-Free) Recipe


Salted Coconut Almond Cupcakes (Gluten-Free and Milk-Free)

With Easter just behind us, I can't help reminiscing about my childhood Easters growing up in South Florida. My stepmother Patti would make the Easter meal showstopper: her coconut lamb cake with jelly bean embellishments was the crescendo for all the kids. The cake was light, fluffy and with the sweetness of bountiful coconut. A couple of years ago I decided to recreate Patti’s masterpiece as a more approachable cupcake that's perfect for anytime of the year and any occasion.

Converting this recipe to gluten-free had its benefits through the use of almond flour in the sponge cake base, which added deliciousness and nutritional value. Coconut milk serves as a perfect replacement for all milk products making this dessert milk-free and enhancing the depth of the coconut flavor.

A sponge cake is one in which the eggs are whipped with a little acid (lemon juice in this case) to coagulate the proteins and set the eggs into a fluffy, pale yellow foam into which the rest of the ingredients are gently folded in, resulting in a delicate sponge-like texture. The acidity of the lemon also brightens up the coconut and almond flavors. With this large amount of eggs, no baking powder or leavener is needed because the eggs act as the leavers as well as providing the main structure of the cake. Too much leavening can result in a big dip in the cupcakes. Remember, it is always better to under leaven than over leaven.

The perfect frosting pairing for this coconut almond cupcake is a twist on a classic seven-minute frosting that resembles a marshmallow fluff. Coconut milk used here, too and topped with traditional shredded coconut. A small amount of salt is used in the frosting and a very light sprinkling of salt on top to bring out maximum coconut flavor.


For the almond coconut sponge cake:

  • 2 large whole eggs plus 1 yolk (about 115 grams), at room temperature
  • ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, preferably fresh for best results
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup blanched almond flour
  • ½ cup arrowroot starch (or cornstarch)
  • 1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk

For the salted coconut frosting:

  • ¾ cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 egg white
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1 ½ cups coconut, flaked and sweetened, for garnish (chop if you want a finer texture)
  • ½ teaspoon your choice of finishing salt: kosher, sea salt, fleur de sel, pink salt, or blue/turquoise salt, for garnish


For the almond coconut sponge cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Measure and combine the eggs, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla in the bowl of the stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip the egg-sugar mixture on high until the eggs have tripled in volume and turned a very pale yellow color, about a few minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, measure and combine the almond flour with the arrowroot starch well.  Remove the bowl with the whipped egg mixture. Fold in the flour mixture until just incorporated, and then follow with the coconut milk. Pour the batter into a lined cupcake pan, filling about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on rack before adding frosting.

For the salted coconut frosting:

Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, coconut milk, and egg white in the top bowl of a double boiler. If you do not have a double boiler, use a metal mixing bowl that sits on top of a saucepan securely with plenty of space between the bottom of the bowl and the bottom of the saucepan. Fill the saucepan with 1 inch of water and boil, then simmer on low heat.

Beat the mixture with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute at room temperature. Place the pan over the simmering water, being sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the top pan.  (If this happens, the frosting becomes grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and then beat in the vanilla.

To serve, use a small spatula or butter knife to frost each cupcake. Sprinkle with the shredded coconut, and, dust a very small amount of salt on top.