Sweet coconut cake, nutty almond filling, and decadent fudgy chocolate frosting.
Two weekends ago, Dorothy of Crazy for Crust hosted our first “Rotating Sacramento Food Blogger Family Gathering.” She opened her house to 6 of us as well as our families, and we lounged on her sofas for hours, laughing and comparing various stories of recipe testing and photo shoots. In between conversations, Glory shared a sneak peek preview of her new cookbook, Glorious Layered Desserts, and emailed us an invitation to her Book Launch Party the next day.
The following Friday afternoon, I slid behind the wheel of my car and navigated through weekend getaway traffic out to Glory’s hometown. As I slowed to a stop on the off-ramp, my worrywart side took over. What if I don’t know anybody? What if I just stand in a corner by myself the whole time?
After cautiously easing into a parking spot in front of the building, I pulled out my phone to procrastinate for a minute by checking Instagram. As the first few pictures popped up on the screen, a smile crept onto my face. Hayley of The Domestic Rebel had just posted a few shots of Glory’s fabulous dessert sampler table!
I nearly sprinted through the doors in excitement over seeing this lovely lady again less than a week later. And almost all of the other women showed up too! Amy asked her husband to snap our picture, and we spent the rest of the evening laughing again, catching up, and sneaking sample after sample of those heavenly layered desserts. (That decadent Chocolate Brownie Trifle still floats through my dreams at night.)
Partway through the celebration, Glory paused a moment from autographing copies of her cookbook to thank the crowd for their support. She shed a few tears of pure joy, which touched all of our hearts, before raffling off a collection of gifts. When she reached into the glass jar to pull out the final ticket for the grand prize—a Kitchenaid mixer—she called out Hayley’s name! I cheered loudly from the back of the room; that mixer ended up with the sweetest, most deserving lady in the room.
On Sunday morning while I scrubbed my kitchen countertops, my phone vibrated with a text message from Hayley. She wrote that she planned on visiting my town for a few hours and asked if she could drop something off at my house afterward. My brain immediately jumped to the most delicious idea: Ohmygosh!! She’s going to give me a slice of her Brownie Truffle Pie she posted for Pi Day! My heart raced at the thought… By now, you guys must know that I’m addicted to dark chocolate and fudgy brownies!
I tried to calm myself down, suggesting to my slightly crazy mind that she was probably returning something I forgot at Glory’s book launch… Or Dorothy’s party… Or… Or… Or…
(Yeah, I was really trying hard not to get my hopes up. But that pie just looked so rich and fudgy!)
A few hours later, after cleaning up my banana cake photo shoot, Hayley knocked on the front door. As my little Chihuahua yipped at our ankles, she immediately invited me out to her car to pick up my surprise. Hmm, that’s odd… I mused. Why didn’t she just bring the plate in? (Yes, I was operating under the pie assumption again.) Hayley led the way to her trunk, popped it open, and…
She handed me the Kitchenaid mixer. The brand new, sleek and shiny, gorgeous silver Kitchenaid mixer she won at Glory’s book launch. My jaw fell open a few inches, and tiny tears threatened to well up in my eyes and spill over. She smiled and explained, “Because you don’t own one, I wanted you to have this!”
Just a week after meeting in person, Hayley was already giving me the most expensive baking appliance I’ve ever seen. She is such a sweet, compassionate, and truly genuine friend! As she backed out of my driveway, my heart burst with happiness, and I did the only logical thing I could think of…
I baked—Almond JOY Cupcakes!
These fun cupcakes are completely filled with the familiar flavors of the classic candy bar. Tropical coconut infuses the tender cakes, creamy almond butter fills their center, and decadent dark chocolate frosting spreads across their tops. Despite their sophisticated appearance and rich flavors, these cupcakes are so easy to make and surprisingly healthy too!
I actually began planning this recipe 3 months ago. But a few days after formulating the idea, I decided to redesign my entire blog, and I set aside the concept until I finished that humongous project. Because I initially thought of it before Hayley sweetly handed me the mixer, you actually don’t need one for this simple recipe!
For the cupcake base, I worked with whole wheat pastry flour. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll remember my excitement over finding the 20-pound box on my front doorstep, and I actually ordered it specifically for this recipe! Whole wheat pastry flour differs from regular whole wheat flour because it’s ground from softer wheat berries. This produces a finer and slightly more tender texture, which more closely resembles that of all-purpose flour. However, if you don’t own whole wheat pastry flour, you can easily substitute regular whole wheat flour instead! This recipe is very similar to my Fig Newton Cupcakes, and when I used regular whole wheat flour in those, they still turned out light and moist. Just make sure you measure it correctly! (Check out my Baking Basics for a quick refresher.)
To impart the classic Almond Joy coconut flavor, I added both coconut oil and coconut extract. The coconut oil keeps the cupcakes moist and tender, while the coconut extract provides the majority of the flavor. Please do NOT skip it! A mere 1 ½ teaspoons of coconut extract imparted a lovely flavor without being overpowering, but if you prefer a more prominent taste to compete with the dark chocolate frosting, try increasing it to 2 teaspoons instead.
As one of my favorite ingredients in healthy baking, I mixed in Greek yogurt as well. It supplies lots of moisture without the excess fat and calories of butter and oil, and it adds a little extra protein too! Maple syrup contributes the sweetness, keeping these clean-eating friendly, but you could replace it with honey or agave if you prefer. For the last touch of moisture, I decided against coconut milk because (a) it’s not an ingredient I normally stock in my pantry and (b) it’s much higher in fat and calories than regular milk. I wanted to keep these cupcakes low fat and skinny, so I turned to nonfat milk instead.
It’s really important to mix the cupcake batter correctly! You’ll alternate between adding in the flour mixture and milk, making sure you stir just until they’re barely incorporated. Alternating additions are mandatory. They maintain the light, tender texture that we want and prevent over-developing the gluten strands, which would result in tough dense cupcakes. For the best results, add the flour mixture in 3 equal parts and the milk in 2, beginning and ending with the flour.
The filling and frosting are both laughably easy to make. Neither one requires a mixer—that’s right, no butter and sugar to cream! For the filling, you just need 3 ingredients: almond butter, Greek yogurt, and maple syrup. The almond butter adds the classic almond flavor from the candy bar, while the Greek yogurt creates a creamy texture and the maple syrup cuts back a bit on the yogurt’s tang. Mix those together in a bowl, and you’re done!
For the fudgy dark chocolate frosting, you only need cocoa powder, agave, milk, and vanilla. Again, just stir them together in a bowl—so simple! I prefer agave over honey or maple syrup because it has a cleaner taste. The other two impart a subtle floral or woodsy flavor (respectively), but the agave allows the rich chocolate taste to really shine through.
By now, the cupcakes are cool, the frosting and filling are ready to go, so let’s assemble these cute cupcakes! Cut a hole in the center of each using a knife or a cupcake corer. I highly recommend a cupcake corer; I actually bought that pink one for less than $2 at Walmart. Spoon in a few teaspoons of filling before topping with the frosting. To prevent the almond filling from seeping out and swirling into the chocolate frosting, place a large dollop of the frosting directly on top of the filling, and spread it outward from there.
These Almond Joy Cupcakes taste exactly like a sophisticated version of their classic candy bar namesake. Bursting with nutty almond, decadent chocolate, and tropical coconut flavors, you’ll love every tender bite, from your first taste to the final crumb. Made with only clean wholesome ingredients, these are a sweet treat you can feel good about enjoying!
And the biggest thank you to Hayley, one of the most thoughtful ladies I know, for her enormous generosity and my beautiful new Kitchenaid mixer! ♥