Coconut Limoncello Cupcakes

I know there are a lot of you cupcake haters here on ES, and yes, I am still trying to convert you. Can I offer you a cupcake with a boozy limoncello curd center that will drip, pour and ooze its way into likeability?

Come on, check out that money shot, begging you to take a bite and taste its tartness. Actually, it was really tart when I first made it so instead of adding more sugar to the mix to even it out, I decided to step it up with some limoncello. Booze is, after all, the grand equalizer in food — alright, that’s just my personal philosophy. It works more often than not to even out a too-strong flavor, and as expected here, it didn’t fail.

So, my dear cupcake haters, brace your tastebuds and take in a rich lemon cupcake body filled with a limoncello curd that’s then been stacked with piles of coconut sweet buttercream frosting, then covered in sweetened coconut.

And trust me when I say the lemon and coconut pairing is quite damntastic!

Coconut Limoncello Cupcakes

Preparation: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.

Cupcake portion adapted from Cooks Illustrated January 2003.  Adaptation made: Lemon zest added to recipe.

Cupcake ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg , room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoon of lemon zest (about 3 large lemons)

Coconut Frosting ingredients:

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, diced and softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cream of coconut
  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut

Limoncello Curd ingredients:

  • 1 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Zest from 2 lemons
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 10 tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces
  • ¼ cup Limoncello

To make cupcakes:

  1. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment; beat until combined. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and shiny, about 30 seconds. Turn off mixer and scrape down side, add in lemon zest, then using a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon, finish folding until mixture is smooth and free of any flour lumps.
  2. Drop a heaping tablespoon into each lined well. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and set aside to cool on a wire rack.

To make frosting:

  1. Combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl placed over simmering water. Bring mixture to 160 degrees F while whisking constantly.
  2. Transfer mixture to stand mixer bowl, fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium high speed (speed 8 on a KitchenAid stand mixer) until mixture cools and doubles in volume and forms soft medium peaks; about 10-15 minutes).
  3. Add butter in one piece at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. The mixture may appear clumpy and almost curdled-looking at first — this is normal. Keep mixing and it will become even and smooth again.
  4. Add salt and cream of coconut and mix to combine.

To make curd (click here for a step- by-step tutorial) :

  1. Whisk egg yolks and transfer to a saucepan; set aside.
  2. Place lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar in a saucepan. Heat to simmer or until sugar completely dissolves. Add butter and continue to heat until butter dissolves.
  3. Gradually pour  hot mixture into saucepan with egg yolks, while continuously whisking until everything is combined. Return combined mixture to stovetop and heat to 160 degrees F. For a visual cue heat mixture until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and hold a drawn line down the middle of spoon. Add in limoncello and stir to combine.
  4. Limoncello curd will thicken fruther upon cooling.  Can be made overnight.

To assemble:

  1. Create a well in the middle of the cupcake using this method or use a paring knife to carve out a hole. Fill well with limoncello curd. Pipe coconut frosting on top. Place 1 tablespoon of shredded coconut in palm of hand and press it into the frosting. Optional: Garnish with a raspberry.


  1. Cream of coconut can be found in the liquor section of the store. My preference is for the Coco Lopez brand. I don’t recommend using coconut extract as most of them taste like sunblock.
  2. The addition of the limoncello will make for a thinner curd than the non-alcoholic version.
  3. For a non-alchoholic version omit the limoncello and keep the remaining recipe as is.

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  • Carol March 19, 2012  

    I really appreciate the vanilla cupcake trials. The reviews are very helpful. I’ve come to really trust your opinions and your recipes. Although I do have a bottle of Limoncello on hand which I bought for another recipe, I can’t get past the fact that to me it tastes like cough syrup or some other medicine. Lemon curd (especially Meyer lemon curd) is so delicious on it’s own, how can adding something that tastes like cough syrup improve it? Do you think leaving out the Limoncello would take away from this recipe as far as flavor? The photos make it LOOK totally amazing. Thanks for the post.

  • bakersroyale March 19, 2012  

    Hi Carol-I’m so glad the reviews are helpful. Thanks for reading! Yes, the lemon curd can be made without the limoncello and no need to make any adjustments to the recipe.

    Hmmm, I sorta like/love my limoncello. Although now I wonder if limoncello will taste like cough syrup to me now that you’ve said that. If that’s the case – time to see about making our own limoncello brew. 🙂

  • erica March 20, 2012  

    i don’t hate cupcakes; i just don’t know why i’d eat them when i could have pie 🙂 but really, i just don’t cook with sugar a lot, ’cause it messes with my system. i *DO* appreciate lemon filling, it’s the best one. lemon meringue was a hobby of mine as a teenager.

  • Celeste March 20, 2012  

    Any suggestions for a limoncello substitute? I have some children who will be coming, and I’d like to have some for them! Thanks!

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