Homemade Hostess Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease two 12-cup muffin tins (don’t bother using wrappers, as you’d just have to remove them to work with the cakes).
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla extract.
In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. Add half of flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by the milk, then finished with the addition of the rest of the flour mix. Stir well between each addition and mix only until no streaks of flour remain.
Evenly distribute batter into prepared baking cups. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed. (It’s fine if you can’t fit both trays into the oven at the same time, just wait until one batch finishes before putting in the second pan).
Turn cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting and filling.
Prepare cooled cupcakes for filling by using a small pairing knife, to cut a cone of cake (1-inch across by 1-inch deep) out of the bottom of each cupcake. Trim off the pointy end of the cone, leaving a thin and flat circle of cake. Set aside and repeat this process for all the cupcakes. Centers can be discarded, but save the discs of cake to seal the filled cakes later. Cupcakes should be set upside down for this project.
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract (optional)
3 cups sweetened or unsweetened shredded coconut
Put the egg whites in to bowl of an electric mixer or a large bowl with a hand mixer nearby.
Combine sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cool until syrup reaches 242F (use a candy thermometer).
As syrup nears correct temperature, begin to beat egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly stream in the hot sugar syrup, followed by the vanilla and coconut extracts. Beat for about 10 minutes after everything has been incorporated, or until frosting reaches room temperature.
Meanwhile, process coconut in a food processor until very fine. Add a drop of two of red food coloring if you wish to make some pink. Pour into a shallow bowl and set aside.
Place about 1 cup of frosting into a piping bag and pipe the filling into each hollowed out cupcake. Top off with a flat circle of cake to plug the hole and keep the filling in place.
Using a butter knife or a small offset spatula, frost the sides and top of each cupcake (the side with the hole cut out) with a thick layer of the frosting. Holding the cupcake carefully, gently roll it in shredded coconut and set, unfrosted-side down, on a serving platter. Repeat for each cupcake.