Are you planning a taco-themed party? Gearing up for Cinco de Mayo celebrations? Or, do you just want a taste of the tropics to put you in a vacation getaway state of mind? These Coconut Lime Cupcakes are an easy cake mix hack. They start with the Duncan Hines Dolly Parton Coconut cake mix and some margarita mix. You can impress your guests with this upgrade to plain vanilla cupcakes. Plus, these are margarita cupcakes without alcohol, so they are appropriate for all ages.
Cake Mix Hacks
There are so many ways to add to a cake mix to make a customized flavor. My post about doctoring up cake mixes featuring my recipe for red velvet cupcakes is one of the most popular recipes on my blog. Just by adding flavoring such as almond extract, you can create an entirely different flavor profile. Your guests will think you baked from scratch.
You can also substitute other liquids for some or all of the water and oil that most cake mixes call for. This will not only improve the flavor of the cake but potentially create a better texture as well. I almost always add either sour cream or an instant pudding mix to my batter for this reason.
Book Club Potluck
My coworkers and I have a book club, where the discussion usually features a potluck. Being the adventurous baker of the group, I try to come up with a dessert that ties into the book we are reading. A few years back, one of the books we read did not feature any food. But our meeting was on Cinco de mayo, so I researched recipes that would feature the flavors of a margarita. I found a recipe for Margarita Cupcakes that used a white cake mix. It substituted margarita mix for the water and added fresh lime juice to the batter to amp up the citrusy flavor even further.
Friends of mine host a themed New Year’s Eve party each year. This year’s buffet featured a taco bar, so I decided to make those margarita cupcakes again. Now, I could have sworn that I had just bought some white cake mix the week before. But I guess with all the Christmas chaos, I did not realize that I had actually bought a chocolate cake mix. Hmm. That would not work with the lime flavor.
But here it was, New Year’s Eve morning, and I did not have time to run to the supermarket again. I was about the scrap the idea when I saw the Duncan Hines Dolly Parton Coconut cake mix in my pantry. I had picked up a box of this, as well as the Dolly Parton Banana cake mix when I saw them in Walmart on a holiday baking display, figuring I would use them after the holidays were over.
Well, since the picture of the coconut cake on the box looked almost as white as a white cake mix, I thought I might as well use it in the margarita cupcake recipe, turning them into Lime Coconut Cupcakes. Having never tasted this particular coconut cake mix before, I crossed my fingers that it would turn out ok. The party was starting in a few hours, so I had no time to start over if it was a cake fail!
Is There Anything Dolly Can’t Do?
In recent years, Dolly Parton has demonstrated that not only is she a gifted singer but has many other talents as well. From donating books to children, funding medical research, and employing people at Dollywood, she is just such a generous person. She apparently also developed a love for baking at a young age and is known for her coconut cake.
Duncan Hines has had a coconut cake mix on the market but replaced it with Dolly’s version in early 2022. I have spotted this line of baking products at Walmart, but not in the baking aisle. Instead, the Walmart by me has an island of seasonal baking products in the main aisle next to the grocery department. The Duncan Hines website mentions that these mixes are limited editions. I am not sure if they just plan to carry this line of cake mixes on a temporary basis.
But Duncan Hines recently announced that they are coming out with even more Dolly Parton baking mixes (cornbread, biscuits, and brownies). Therefore, I am thinking that they have proved popular enough to earn a permanent spot on the shelves.
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When Life Gives You Limes, Make Lime Coconut Cupcakes
The cake mix is made with coconut cream and coconut flour, but not any flaked or shredded coconut in the mix. I know that some people do not like the texture of coconut. So the fact that the mix does not contain any coconut chunks could be a good selling feature.
If you want to make this cake mix “as is,” the directions on the package call for 1 cup of milk, 4 large eggs, and 1/2 cup of melted butter. This is different from other cake mixes that usually call for oil instead of butter.
Doctoring Up a Coconut Cake Mix to Make Lime Coconut Cupcakes
To doctor it up into a coconut lime cupcake, substitute 1 cup of frozen margarita mix that has been thawed. Add the juice and zest of 1 lime. Also, only use the whites of 3 eggs with 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
I used the Bacardi Mixers Margarita flavor, which I found in the freezer section of the grocery store next to the frozen juice concentrates. This one is made with lime juice and lemon and lime pulp, but no alcohol. So the cupcakes are definitely family-friendly.
Before juicing the lime, I used a fine Microplane grater/zester to zest it over a small bowl. I then sliced the lime in half and used my small citrus juicer to squeeze as much juice as I could from the one lime.
After mixing all the ingredients in my stand mixer for 30 seconds on low and 2 minutes on medium speed, I then filled each cupcake liner ⅔ full. (I almost always use foil cupcake liners because any oil in a recipe tends to seep through paper liners.)
Bake the cupcakes for 15 minutes at 350 degrees F. They are done when a toothpick or tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. I like to use my cake thermometer since it turns bright red when a cake has reached the perfect temperature.
Keep the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes after taking them out of the oven. Then transfer them to a cooling rack. Let them cool completely before frosting them. (Buttercream frosting will melt off the cupcake if it is still warm.)
While Duncan Hines sells Dolly Parton buttercream frosting, I prefer to make my own so that it is the right consistency to pipe it on and hold its shape. Since I was making these during the winter, I did not have to worry about the icing “melting” in the heat. So I used butter, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla extract, and the zest and juice of 2 limes. (If you are making this during warmer months, use half the amount of butter and substitute an equal amount of shortening for the rest of the butter.) Save a little bit of the zest to sprinkle on after the cupcakes are decorated.
Depending on the amount of juice you get out of each lime, the frosting may either be too soft or too stiff to pipe. If it is too soft, add more confectioner’s sugar one tablespoon at a time. If it is too stiff, add a tiny bit more juice.
You can store these at room temperature during the cooler months. But if it is warm or humid, store these in the refrigerator. If you used the half-and-half mix of butter and shortening in the frosting, you can keep them at room temperature unless the room is very warm.
The Verdict on Lime Coconut Cupcakes
The fresh juice and zest definitely give these lime coconut cupcakes a pronounced lime flavor. The coconut cake mix has a subtle coconut flavor. If you wanted to amp it up, you could sprinkle shredded coconut on top of the frosting. Or, you could substitute ½ teaspoon of coconut extract and only use 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract in the frosting.
I happen to love coconut and lime. But even people who said they don’t like coconut said they liked these coconut lime cupcakes since they have just the subtle flavor, but not the chunky consistency of shredded coconut.
These would be the perfect dessert for a Cinco De Mayo party or Taco Tuesday. They are also ideal for when you want to imagine yourself on a tropical vacation. So, basically, any time!
If you have tried any of the other Dolly Parton baking mixes or frostings, let me know your opinions in the comment section below.
Lime Coconut Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream Frosting
- 1 microplane/zester
- 1 citrus juicer
- 1 Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
- 1 piping bag
- 1 decorating tip Wilton 1M or other large tip
- 1 package coconut cake mix I used the Duncan Hines Dolly Parton Coconut Cake Mix
- 1 cup frozen margarita mix thawed
- 1 medium lime zested and juiced (about 2 tbsp juice)
- 3 large egg whites
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 cup butter softened (2 sticks)
- 6 cups confectioners sugar powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 small limes zested and juiced (about 4 tbsp juice)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Line a standard sized cupcake pan with cupcake liners. I find that foil liners work the best. This recipe makes 18 cupcakes, so if you only have one pan with 12 wells, you will need to save batter for a second batch.
- Put the cake mix, thawed margarita mix, zest and juice of 1 medium lime, the egg whites, and the vegetable oil in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, and then increase speed to beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.1 package coconut cake mix, 1 cup frozen margarita mix, 1 medium lime, 3 large egg whites, 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- Fill each cupcake liner with about ⅓ cup of batter. The liner should be about ⅔ of the way full.
- Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.
- Let sit in pan for 10 minutes before transferring cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
Lime Buttercream Frosting
- In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.1 cup butter
- Add the confectioners sugar 1 cup at a time, beating after each addition until the sugar is incorporated.6 cups confectioners sugar
- Add the vanilla extract and lime juice, mixing until incorporated.2 tbsp pure vanilla extract, 2 small limes
- Add the lime zest, and mix just a few seconds to incorporate.2 small limes
- If the frosting consistency is too thin, add confectioners sugar 1 tbsp at a time. If the frosting is too stiff, add a few more drops of lime juice.
- Put the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large tip, such as a Wilton 1M star tip. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.
- Store the cupcakes in a refrigerator for up to 4 days. They can be stored at room temperature in cooler climates.
- One batch of buttercream will frost 18 cupcakes if you are using an icing spatula, or a simple piped design. For a thicker icing design, make 1 1/2 batches of frosting by using 1 1/2 cups of butter (3 sticks), 9 cups of confectioners sugar, 3 tsp vanilla extract, and the juice and zest of 3 small limes.
- If you are making this buttercream in a warmer climate, reduce the amount of butter in half and substitute an equal amount of shortening. One batch of frosting would then need 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick) and 1/2 cup of shortening. They can then be stored at room temperature.
- This recipe can also be made with white cake mix if you can’t find coconut cake mix. You could then sprinkle shredded coconut on top of the frosting instead.