Corn and Coconut Cupcakes

Four short years ago, in the course of extolling Black Mexican Corn, I strongly urged home gardeners to buy their modern sweet corn from local farmers, so they could devote their all their corn growing space to heirlooms.

Now I’m feeling that a retraction may be necessary: it’s getting more and more difficult to find farmers who sell the modern corn that’s a vegetable instead of dessert. All this chichi corn ice cream and such no longer seems like an affectation but instead an act of desperation – what else is there to do with this stuff?

corn and coconut cupcakes, with chocolate and coconut

Corn and Coconut Cupcakes, with and without Aztec Ganache.


The source of this recipe is the internet, in the most general sense; I looked at a lot of food blogs in the course of “creating” ( I use the word advisedly) this version. Don’t sneer at the tiny amounts of cumin and almond extract; they’re there to accentuate the corn and shouldn’t be recognizable.

The icing is optional. It dresses up the cupcakes and adds another layer of flavor, but being chocolate it pretty much smothers the corn…until, oddly enough, about three days later. Just before they’re too stale to enjoy, the corn reasserts itself.

Corn and Coconut Cupcakes

For one dozen:

  • 1 ½ c. all purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • tiny pinch ground cumin
  • ½ c. butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c. minus 2 tbl. sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 c. canned coconut milk
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • drop of almond extract
  • 1 ½ c. cooked fresh corn, including juices scraped from the cob, or frozen corn (see note)
  • ½ c. unsweetened flaked coconut (may not all be needed)

1. Heat the oven to 375. Line a dozen cupcake pans with papers. In a small bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, salt, baking powder and cumin. Set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl large enough to hold everything, cream the butter with the sugar until pale and more-or-less fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time.

3. Beat in about a third of the flour mixture. Add the vanilla and almond to the coconut milk and beat in about half of it. Then, serially, another third of the flour, the rest of the liquid and the last of the flour.

4. Stir in the corn and 2 tbl. of the coconut and transfer the batter to the pans, filing them almost but not quite to the top. Sprinkle remaining coconut over the cupcakes you want topped that way. There’s enough for the whole batch but don’t put it on the cakes you plan to frost.

5. Bake until well risen and browned, with a toothpick emerging clean, about 25 minutes. (When in doubt, it’s better to overbake than underbake, a little extra browning on the outside is if anything extra tasty.) Cool on a wire rack.

Aztec Ganache

This frosting is no more Aztec than Black Mexican corn is Mexican, but at this point I think its fair to say that “Aztec” means “hot peppers” the same way “Florentine” means “spinach.” (Not fair to the Aztecs, perhaps, but they’re not around to complain.)

  • 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70-80%), roughly chopped
  • ½ tsp. ground dried chipotle pepper
  • 1 c. heavy cream

In a processor, grind the chocolate with the pepper until fine as meal. Bring the cream to just under a boil, then pour it in slowly with the motor running and process until the mixture is smooth.

For Fudgy Ganache (pictured): Let the mixture cool completely in the processor. Chill it, still in the processor, then pulse it a few times to smooth and lighten slightly.

For Fluffy Ganache: Scrape the mixture into a bowl. Cool and chill, then beat with an electric mixer until lightened and mousselike. Beware of overbeating.

Steps along the way:

large and small corn cupcakes

First try made enough for a bakery (I had only a dozen standard cupcake pans. The leftover batter made 20 minis).

corn cupcakes, with and without broiled tops

Some kind of topping was needed to keep them from looking too much like muffins, but as they were already sweet and the corn flavor was subtle, icing seemed unwise. Broiling the tops was actually pretty tasty, but somehow insufficiently cupcaky.

close up of corn cupcake

Coconut on top helped accentuate the toasted flavor without sitting too hard on the corn. (Slices of fresh peach might be nice, but by the time I got into this, peach season was over. Mango, in case you’re wondering, turned out to be even stronger than chocolate.)

Note: If you cut corn kernels from the cob and then use the back of a knife to scrape out the juices left behind, you get a bit of bonus juice/puree that helps spread the flavor evenly through the batter. Corn is usually prepared this way for freezing at home, but commercially frozen corn kernels are – for want of a better word – naked. If you’re using naked kernels, puree about ¼ cup of the total and then mix them back in to get a similar effect. Or don’t. It’s a pretty small nicety, but if you did it a couple of times this winter you might be moved to freeze some local corn for yourself next summer (and if long about now you’re asking yourself “why not just use canned creamed corn?,” take a look at the label).

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