Samoa Cupcakes

by Jillian
Fluffy vanilla cupcakes topped with a silky caramel swiss meringue buttercream, a decadent crown of caramel coconut topping, and a drizzle of chocolate ganache!

Fluffy vanilla cupcakes topped with a silky smooth caramel swiss meringue buttercream, a decadent crown of caramel coconut topping, and a drizzle of chocolate ganache!

When it comes to Girl Scout cookies, EVERYone has their favorite. For me, it’s always been the ICONIC Samoa. As someone who absolutely adores caramel and coconut, this cookie is nothing short of perfection.

From ice cream sandwiches and macaroons to blondies and even pie, I’ve definitely created my fair share of Samoa-inspired recipes. However, I still had yet to dedicate a cupcake to this Girl Scout cookie fave…

Can we just stop and take a moment to appreciate the beauty of this cupcake in all of its delicious glory?

Seriously though, can you get any more tempting than this Samoa Cupcake? It has the softest, most incredibly moist vanilla cake base, supremely silky caramel swiss meringue buttercream, dangerously addictive caramel coconut topping, and a luxurious drizzle of rich chocolate ganache. This cupcake is BEAMING with decadence.

Although there are several components involved in making these cupcakes, I can promise you that they are SO worth it. And honestly, have you seen a cupcake as gorgeous as this at any of your local bakeries?

I didn’t think so.

The cake itself is pretty much your standard vanilla cupcake recipe, so I don’t think I need to go into much detail on those. The major component of these cupcakes is the caramel, which is used in both the caramel coconut topping and the swiss meringue buttercream. 

I’ve actually used this caramel recipe in several other desserts over the years, and it’s never ever let me down. You’ll start by cooking some granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan until the mixture reaches a golden amber color. Instead of using a spoon to stir, I just swirl the pan around occasionally making sure everything cooks evenly.

Once the right color is reached, remove the pan from the heat, pour in the heavy cream (it will boil up), and stir until smooth. Return the pan to the stove and continue stirring until the temperature reaches 225ºF-230ºF. The vanilla is stirred in at the very end.

After the caramel has had some time to cool, a cup of it is tossed in with the shredded coconut. I prefer to use shredded unsweetened coconut, but if you can only find sweetened shredded coconut, that’s fine too. Whatever you use, make sure you toast the coconut! This enhances the flavor and creates that crispy crunchy texture which is ESSENTIAL in this caramel coconut topping.

Since these cupcakes are topped with a rather decadent caramel coconut topping, I decided to frost them with a buttercream that’s less sweet than your traditional American buttercream. Swiss meringue buttercream, or SMB, is not only silkier in texture, but much less sweet due to the fact that it contains about a quarter of the amount of sugar that’s added to American buttercream. There’s a little more work and skill involved, however, it’s so worth it for these cupcakes.

All you have to do is combine some egg whites, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl, and place it over a pot of simmering water. Allow this mixture to warm slowly until it reaches 150-160ºF on a thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, just check to make sure that the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is heated through. This takes about 3-4 minutes.

Next, remove the bowl from the heat, and whip up the egg whites until cooled and fluffy. You want the mixture to be about room temperature, so that the butter doesn’t melt on contact. Speaking of, make sure that your butter is completely softened to room temperature. Cold butter will not blend well with the whipped egg whites, and you’ll just end up with a sticky, runny mess in the end. 

You’ll also want to make sure to cut your butter into pieces since you’ll be adding them slowly to the egg whites. I just sliced my butter into tablespoon-sized squares. As you’re adding the butter to the egg white mixture, you might notice that it looks a little curdled–don’t panic! This is totally normal, and I promise you that it’ll eventually smooth out and become super satiny as you continue beating.

If your SMB still looks curdled no matter how long you’ve beaten it, simply remove a couple of tablespoons of the curdled frosting and place it into a small microwaveable bowl. Heat it in the microwave until it’s completely melted, then add it back into the mixing bowl. Turn the mixer on, and beat everything until it’s smooth. If it still looks curdled, just keep repeating this reheating technique a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together.

If the buttercream looks soupy and runny, chill the bowl of frosting in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. Take it out, then beat the mixture until smooth and satiny.

Once you’ve got your silky smooth SMB, you’ll add the caramel. I ended up adding 5 Tablespoons, and I still had a little leftover. However, you’re free to add as much or as little as you wish!

The final CRUCIAL component of these cupcakes is the ganache. Just heat up some heavy cream (either on the stove of in the microwave) until it begins to simmer. Pour it over a bowl of semi-sweet chocolate (chips or chopped), cover it with plastic wrap, and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and stir until smooth! If you still see a few unmelted pieces in the ganache, return the bowl to the microwave for 15-20 seconds.

To make it easier to drizzle, I put the ganache in a disposable pastry bag and snipped off the tip. You can also use a ziplock bag with the tip of the corner cut off. And if you just don’t feel like messing with a bag, take a fork or spoon, dip it in the ganache, and drizzle away! 

Not to steal any business from those “oh-so-adorable” Girl Scouts, but who needs Girl Scout cookies when you can have these instead?

Fluffy vanilla cupcakes topped with a silky caramel swiss meringue buttercream, a decadent crown of caramel coconut topping, and a drizzle of chocolate ganache!

Samoa Cupcakes

Fluffy vanilla cupcakes topped with a silky smooth caramel swiss meringue buttercream, a decadent crown of caramel coconut topping, and a drizzle of chocolate ganache!
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 21 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 51 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 18 Cupcakes

Ingredients
  

Cupcakes:

  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup buttermilk*

Coconut Caramel Topping:

  • 1 ¾ cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature and sliced into 16 pieces
  • 5 Tablespoons caramel (reserved from caramel coconut topping)

Ganache:

  • 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chopped or chips
  • cup heavy cream

Instructions
 

Make the Cupcakes:

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together until combined; set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until lightened and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the Greek yogurt, and vanilla on medium speed.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Add the buttermilk and mix until just combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  • Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Coconut Caramel Topping:

  • Spread coconut evenly onto a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 350ºF oven, stirring occasionally, for about 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove immediately from oven and allow to cool completely while you work on the caramel.
  • Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Stir occasionally with a fork until mixture comes to a boil, about 3-4 minutes. Continue to simmer until mixture becomes a medium amber color, about 5-6 minutes, swirling pan every so often. Immediately add the cream, and reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Using a heat-resistant spatula, constantly stir the caramel until temperature reaches 225ºF-230ºF, about 4-5 minutes. Turn the heat off, stir in the vanilla, and allow to cool/thicken for about 5 minutes.
  • Place cooled toasted coconut into a mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of the caramel, stirring until combined; set aside.

Make the Buttercream:

  • Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, and place the bowl over a simmering pot of water. Whisking constantly, heat mixture until sugar is dissolved and the temperature registers 150-160°F on a candy thermometer, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Secure whisk attachment onto stand mixer, and beat the egg white mixture on high speed until fluffy and cooled to room temperature. Add the butter, one piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. If the mixture looks curdled, that’s totally normal–just keep beating until it becomes smooth and satiny.**
  • Add 5 Tablespoons of the cooled caramel; beat until fully incorporated. Transfer buttercream to a piping bag, fitted with a large round tip.

Make the Ganache:

  • Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the heavy cream into a glass measuring cup, and heat in the microwave until it just begins to boil. Pour hot cream over the chocolate, cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to sit for a few minutes.
  • Remove the plastic wrap and stir until smooth. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a pastry bag with the tip cut off.***

To Assemble:

  • Pipe buttercream on top of cupcake, leaving a little well in the center for the topping. Scoop coconut caramel topping on top of the buttercream, then drizzle with the ganache. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.
  • Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Notes

*If you don’t have buttermilk, just add 1/2 Tablespoon (or 1 and 1/2 teaspoons) of vinegar to a measuring cup, then pour in enough milk to equal 1/2 cup. Stir, and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
**If you find that your SMB still looks curdled no matter how long you’ve beaten it, simply remove a couple of tablespoons of the curdled frosting and place it into a small microwaveable bowl. Heat it in the microwave until it’s completely melted, then add it back into the mixing bowl. Turn the mixer on, and beat everything until it’s smooth. If it still looks curdled, just keep repeating this reheating technique a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together. If the buttercream looks soupy and runny, chill the bowl of frosting in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. Take it out, then beat the mixture until smooth and satiny.
***Alternatively, a small ziplock bag can also be used. Just pour the ganache into the bag, seal, and cut off the very tip of one of the corners. You can also just drizzle the ganache on top with a fork or spoon.
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