Want to make the best coconut buttercream recipe but tired of throwing away leftover frosting? Look no further than this Small Batch Coconut Frosting with coconut milk! Makes enough to frost 6 cupcakes or one 6 inch cake.
Hiiiii remember me?
I unexpectedly took the past 2 months off, but now I’m back.
It certainly wasn’t my intention to disappear like that, but I was hired to do food photography for a local business. Except it ended up being much bigger than anticipated, so all of my time and energy went into that.
I thought I could balance it all. Maybe once upon a time I could have, but with the pandemic it’s been really hard to function. More anxiety, less energy.
Good news is I wrapped up that project, so now I’m back! Just in time for fall and holiday baking.
My time off from the blog had me itching to get back in the kitchen. I had a little bit of a break in early August for my dad’s birthday, so I made him a coconut cake that I frosted with this Small Batch Coconut Frosting.
I actually made and shot both the coconut cake and frosting recipes last month but never had the time to write about it.
This creamy coconut frosting pairs well with my Small Coconut Cake recipe and is made with canned coconut milk. The kind you find in the Asian aisle, not the refrigerated kind in the dairy aisle by the milk.
It’s similar to making a buttercream frosting. The big difference is you thicken the coconut milk on the stovetop so your frosting isn’t too runny.
Since I hate leftover frosting, I made the ideal amount to frost a 6 inch cake or 6 cupcakes.
What is canned coconut milk?
Before we get to the recipe, we need to talk about coconut milk.
First, it’s the kind of coconut milk you buy in a can, usually in the Asian aisle. Sometimes you can find it in the Mexican or baking aisles.
The label will say coconut milk. Not cream of coconut. Not coconut water. And make sure it’s the normal version and not lite. It won’t have enough fat if it’s lite.
It’s also not the coconut milk you find in the dairy aisle. Those are much thinner and won’t work.
Got your canned coconut milk? Good, now let’s talk about what it is exactly.
Coconut milk is made up of two parts: the coconut cream and the coconut liquid.
Most of the time when you open a can, you’ll see the cream (the solid part) sitting on top. Once you dump the can, you’ll notice the liquid underneath.
You want to make sure these parts are equally distributed before using. You can either shake the can really well or dump everything into a large bowl or measuring cup then stir until it becomes one rich and creamy liquid.
It should now be a smooth pourable liquid you can measure, much like regular milk.
What to do with leftover coconut milk
You’re going to have leftover canned coconut milk, so what do you make with it? Check out my recipes using coconut milk, including pancakes, hot chocolate, and more!
What is coconut extract?
Another important ingredient you need in coconut frosting is coconut extract, but what is it exactly?
Coconut extract is similar to vanilla extract but instead of soaking vanilla beans in alcohol, you soak coconut meat.
This helps add more coconut flavor to a recipe without altering the ingredient list too much.
Why use coconut extract?
I get it. The last thing you want to do is buy an ingredient you’ll never use again.
But sometimes extracts are the best way to bring out more flavor in a recipe. The coconut from the milk is very subtle, especially after baking.
There is no substitute for coconut extract, assuming you want the recipe to still taste like coconut.
The good news is I have a list of recipes using coconut extract in addition to this frosting recipe.
How do you make coconut frosting from scratch?
I highly recommend using an electric mixer to beat together the ingredients rather than beating by hand. Using a mixer makes it super smooth and adds air, which is key for making a fluffy frosting.
I personally use a 5 quart stand mixer. However, you can also use a hand mixer.
First, start with room temperature butter.
If you beat it while too cold, the frosting won’t be as smooth and may result in a lumpy frosting. If you beat it while too warm, the frosting will become too soft to set up.
Since I always use unsalted butter, I often add a pinch of salt to my frostings. It helps amplify the other flavors.
Coconut frosting starts a little bit differently than my small batch buttercream frosting thanks to the canned coconut milk.
First, whisk together the coconut milk and flour in a saucepan then bring to a boil. This thickens the coconut milk so your frosting isn’t overly runny.
Let the coconut milk cool before proceeding.
Next, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy, roughly 1-2 minutes depending on how powerful your mixer is. You may also want to scrape down the bowl if needed.
I like to sift my powdered sugar before beating so it’s not all clumpy. That also helps with making a smooth frosting.
After the frosting is light and fluffy, you then add your coconut milk and coconut extract and beat until smooth.
How do you fix runny frosting?
At this point, you need to decide if your frosting is to your liking. If you’re making a cake, you want the frosting to be spreadable.
However, if you’re piping cupcakes, you want the frosting more on the firm side so it doesn’t fall over while piping.
If your frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar. If your frosting is too thick, add a few drops of milk.
Sometimes if your frosting is the right thickness but too warm to pipe, the refrigerator is your friend! My kitchen gets super warm when the oven is on, even in the winter.
What I do is chill the frosting in 15 minute increments until firm enough to pipe.
How much frosting does a small batch make?
The yield for this frosting recipe will vary depending on what you’re making:
- If you’re piping cupcakes, you can frost between 6-8 cupcakes, depending on how tall you make the swirls.
- If you’re frosting cupcakes with an offset spatula, you can frost 1 dozen cupcakes because you typically don’t use as much as you would piping.
- If you’re frosting a 6 inch cake, you can frost the top and edges with about a spoonful or two left over, depending on how thick you like it.
- If you’re frosting an 8 inch cake, you can still frost the top and edges. Depending on how thick you like your frosting, you may or may not have some leftover.
- If you’re frosting a small two layer cake, you can frost the middle and top. Frosting the edges will depend on how much you’ve used so far. You can always leave it as a naked cake with the edges showing.
Can coconut frosting be made in advance?
Yes, you can make coconut frosting in advance! Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
You may need to bring your frosting to room temperature if it’s too hard to spread.
Do you have to refrigerate coconut frosting?
The biggest question I get about frosting is do you have to refrigerate a cake with coconut frosting?
The answer is no. Because it uses a good amount of powdered sugar, it’s safe to leave out at room temperature for 2-3 days.
That means a small cake covered in frosting can sit out overnight for up to 2-3 days.
However, coconut frosting does tend to melt if it’s too warm because of the butter’s melting point. In the winter I can leave my cake out, but in the summer I refrigerate my cakes.
How to refrigerate a cake with coconut frosting
To refrigerate a cake with coconut frosting, first put it in the fridge uncovered for about 15 minutes. This will harden the frosting just enough so it won’t smear if accidentally touched.
Next, you want to cover the cake so it doesn’t dry out in the refrigerator.
You can either loosely wrap with plastic wrap (you can use toothpicks if you don’t want it touching the frosting) or store in an airtight cake container (affiliate link).
I highly recommend using a cake container because it won’t actually touch your cake and you can store other items on top in the fridge.
Cake Recipes For Your Small Batch Frosting
As much fun as it is to eat frosting with a spoon, chances are you need a cake recipe too. That’s why I wrote my 6 Inch Cake Recipes For Two People guide. Mix and match your favorite flavors!
I also have a Small Batch Frosting Recipes Guide if you want more recipes for small batch frosting.
- 1/3 cup canned coconut milk (see Notes to ensure you're measuring properly)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 - 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- In a small saucepan, whisk together the milk and flour. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Once boiling, cook for 3-5 minutes or until thickened
and bubbly. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl on high speed, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Scrape down the bowl then add the thickened milk and 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract. Beat another 2-3 minutes or until fluffy.
Taste the frosting. If it needs more coconut flavor, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon extract.
If the frosting is too runny, add more powdered sugar to thicken it. If the frosting is too thick, add a few drops of uncooked milk to thin it out.
- Decorate cake as desired or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- To measure canned coconut milk: Shake the can well then open and add to a bowl. Stir the solid and liquid together until smooth and pourable. Measure then save the rest for future use. Check out my recipes using coconut milk for ideas.
- If using leftover coconut milk stored in the refrigerator, it needs to be room temperature. If it's too thick, microwave in 10 second increments until smooth then measure.
- Enjoyed this recipe? Check out my other small batch frosting recipes.
- Need a cake recipe? Check out my small 6 inch cake recipes.