Coconut-Grapefruit Cupcakes with Matcha Frosting

December 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm 73 comments

Coconut-Grapefruit Cupcakes with Matcha Frosting

Even as a little kid, I liked flying home. Not the chaos of the security checks, the trip itself, or even the weary drive back to our house. But I love that first step outside SeaTac Airport. When I exit the airport after hours of flight and days of vacation – I breathe in the Pacific Northwest air as slowly and deliberately as I can. No matter where I’ve been or how much I enjoyed myself, that first breath always tastes like the freshest, cleanest air I’ve ever known.

My flight back from Boston was forgettable. I took a taxi from my school at 5 am, spent a two hour layover in Chicago, and finally made it to Seattle after 12 hours. As tired as I was, I anticipated the step outside. I usually get this incredible emotion, a mix of contentment and familiarity, a rush of glassy lakes and painted mountains. I dragged my suitcase outside with me, looked out at the flat grey sky, and inhaled.

But… nothing.

Instead, there was something else – a strange feeling I couldn’t place. It sat in my chest, somewhat uncomfortably, even as the Toyota pulled up and I saw my mother for the first time since summer.

Coconut-Grapefruit Cupcakes with Matcha Frosting

When we came home, the first thing I did was walk to the kitchen. I expected fireworks to burst in my heart, rainbows to pump through my veins and surge out my fingertips when we reunited. Nothing had changed in my absence. The walls were the same marigold yellow, the same checkerboard tile covered the floor, but somehow it wasn’t the kitchen I’d remembered and missed. It looked cramped and dim, hardly big enough for three people and two dogs.

I wheeled my bag into my old room, pulled out my Boston sweatshirt, and fell asleep without unpacking.

Over the next few days, I saw Grandma and my parents, which made me feel like daybreak inside. Almost at once I caught up with old friends, a both strange and easy experience. But during the afternoon, with no classes or job to distract me, I got bored. If I wasn’t asleep, I suffered from bad headaches all day. And that uncomfortable feeling lodged in my chest hadn’t vanished.

By now, I’ve figured out what the feeling is… homesickness. I know it’s ridiculous to feel homesick for school when I’m home. I also see how pointless it is to wallow in sadness, pining for Boston, while I have three weeks left in this beautiful place. If I don’t appreciate the rain, family, and happiness I can only find in Seattle, I’ll regret it a month later when I’m gone.

Coconut-Grapefruit Cupcakes with Matcha Frosting

The solution for the headaches didn’t come in Tylenol. It’s a healthy combination of Mom’s noodle soup, Dad’s sweater hugs, damp dog paws all over my bed and the tug of a camera strap. It’s a sifting of flour on my apron and cinnamon dust on my palms. It’s not exactly a bitter pill to swallow.

One of the best things about being home is the food. Predictable, but it isn’t even the food as much as the ingredients. There are the luxury items I haven’t bought in college – all natural creamy peanut butter, the kind you have to stir up before spreading. Soft handmade tortillas, brown rice, even almonds! It’s a joyful thing to appreciate a quick handful of almonds before dinner. And produce! Even in winter, at home I’m eating crisp spinach and sweet Asian pears.

The school menu never changes, and most of the fruit comes out of a can, soaked in sugary syrup. At home, every flavor is amplified. The grapefruit I sliced with my first breakfast back was so clean and fresh, the sharpest thing I’d tasted in ages. After I devoured it, I thought about citrus the rest of the day. I’ve been drinking grapefruits the way parched survivors reach for water.

Coconut-Grapefruit Cupcakes with Matcha Frosting

Reacquainting myself with our kitchen is like slipping into a familiar song. Every measuring cup is where I know it’ll be. Pans still clink and clatter in our cupboard, and that old bag of shredded coconut still has some life in it. The microplane zester, still my favorite tool in the room, is just as sharp as ever. The result? Coconut-Grapefruit Cupcakes with Matcha Frosting.

Even baked into a cupcake, the grapefruit manages to refresh. It’s light and zingy, pairing beautifully with the sweetness of coconut. And the frosting? I wanted something mellow and subtle, and the green tea powder I bought from Pike Place Market over the summer was just the right touch.

When I opened that oven door, the warm air that surged up was so fragrant and sweet. I was caught off guard by how hot it was, and how good it felt against the oven mitt. Later, in bed, I rolled over and pressed my nose into my hair – it smelled like sugar. It was one of the best smells I’d almost forgotten.

I think I’ll bake again tomorrow.

[It's good to be back. See you in 2011!]

Coconut-Grapefruit Cupcakes with Matcha Frosting

Coconut-Grapefruit Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 21 cupcakes

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
Zest of 2 grapefruits
2 large eggs + 2 large egg whites
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tins with paper liners.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and coconut together in a large bowl. In an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and grapefruit zest until light and fluffy. Add the egg whites one at a time, beating well between whites.

On low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the coconut milk and ending with the dry ingredients. Fill the cupcake tins 2/3 full and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool on wire racks before frosting.

Matcha Frosting
Adapted from Savory Sweet Life

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon matcha (green tea powder)
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

Beat the butter in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed for a few minutes. Add the powdered sugar and matcha. Stir on the lowest speed possible (or give it a few turns first by hand to avoid sugar flying everywhere) until the sugar’s incorporated into the butter. Then beat on medium speed and add the vanilla extract and salt. Beat for 3 minutes, then beat in a tablespoon of milk, adding more (or less) if necessary. More milk will make a thinner frosting, more sugar will make a stiffer frosting.

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73 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tiedwithblue  |  December 29, 2010 at 12:14 am

    I’m glad you’re finally back home and happy :) Your cupcakes look and sound delicious! Interesting combination, grapefruit, coconut and matcha…I really want to try these out now!

    Reply
  • 2. Sarah  |  December 29, 2010 at 1:13 am

    Elissa, your post captures the emotions of homecoming perfectly. Though it’s good to be home, I feel homesick for school as well. I find myself listening to my roommate’s favorite albums on repeat, trying to recreate the special tea I usually get after my my monday morning Econ class, sitting idly at my computer half wishing someone would assign me reading. But then, after baking gorgeously uniformally cooked scones in my convection oven (no burnt bottoms and still-gooey interiors!) and wandering through my favorite book store (blissfully uncroweded because the city has just been graced with almost two feet of snow and half the subway lines aren’t running), I fell back in love with my home.
    P.S. The warm, sugary smell lingering in my hair and skin is one of my favorite parts of baking.

    Reply
  • 3. Melissa  |  December 29, 2010 at 3:48 am

    You described it so well! I remember visiting my mom for the holidays when I was in college. There was always something comforting about being at home even when it was no longer my home. Loving your blog!

    Reply
  • 4. Kraftedbykelly  |  December 29, 2010 at 4:38 am

    Lovely post as usual and gorgeous pictures! Though my definition of home has become more flexible lately, I still get that fresh air feeling you talk about whenever I come out of the airport in the US.

    Reply
  • 5. Procrastibaking  |  December 29, 2010 at 4:56 am

    The only thing that could bring me back from University is the promise of three square meals. Nice cupcakes!

    Reply
  • 6. bittersweetbaker  |  December 29, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Elissa, your managed to capture and write about the exact feeling I experienced last summer, visiting my grandparents. I walked out the same airport you did, and just like you, I anticipated that first breath of pure, fresh air and a feeling of immense joy, but it never came. I now know that I was homesick. I find it incredible how you can take such a feeling and write about it so eloquently. And I also knew that I would regret my vacation if I didn’t enjoy myself with every ounce of my being.

    I absolutely love reading your posts.

    Reply
  • 7. hannah @ Bake 5  |  December 29, 2010 at 6:48 am

    what lovely cupcakes! enjoy the holidays while you can! you’d be homesick before you know it once you’re back in school. it’s a vicious cycle, i say.

    Reply
  • 8. kate - epicureanexpat.blogspot.com  |  December 29, 2010 at 11:24 am

    One thing that is so funny, but funny-sad sometimes is that home is never the same place you left. It will always retain its charm, its smells, and its love, but so many other things change which were the things that made home, home. Loved ones are what make a place so special and all the silly traditions which go with them. I spent my first Christmas this year with my boyfriend’s family and while it was a blast, it really helped me feel more at home by making my dad’s cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning and incorporating other funky things from growing up in Portland. Enjoy your time at home – the PNW air really is the greatest :)

    Reply
  • 9. Betsy @JavaCupcake  |  December 29, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Love this!! Thanks so much for sharing!! :)

    I’m a Seattle blogger as well and have also been following you for the last year and LOVE that you make time for baking! It’s so therapeutic!

    I’m an intern for the blog Cupcakes take the Cake and shared this recipe over there! Thanks again!

    <3 Betsy

    Reply
  • 10. Sharlene  |  December 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    It’s always nice to come home even if it doesn’t feel like “home” right away anymore.

    Reply
  • 11. Marta  |  December 29, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Elissa, I’m craving those cupcakes… And what a delightful post! Seattle, Boston, it’s not the “Homes” that take on nuances… :)

    Reply
  • 12. Foodiebia  |  December 29, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Unfortunately, coming “home” will never be the same again. College is a great, exciting place, and going home to your parents can never compare to the thrill of being at school. Make sure to enjoy normal washers/dryers and the joy of leaving your laundry in the machine for an hour or two before removing it. If you’re anything like I was, you will likely spend a lot of time on the internet connecting with the college friends you miss so much.

    Reply
  • 13. Aoife  |  December 29, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Hello!

    I’ve loved your blog for some time now so I hope I can express this compliment properly…I really think your writing has matured.
    Your writing has always impressed me, I had to keep reminding myself of what I was like at your age, I’ve always loved cooking but your passion and precision is worlds away from my 17 year old splish and splosh self…
    But I think that recently your writing style has concentrated down and it demands a far more well-written comment than this, but I’ll try anyway..
    I think you’re incredibly talented. I’ll be honest, the first thing that hit me was your unnerving skill in the kitchen, and though your love of the written word was clear, it didn’t bite as much as your amazing photography of all the delights you presented here. Oh please don’t take that as anything but a compliment of your amazing cooking and photography skills! Seriously, if it wasn’t for your beautifully contagious enthusiasm, I’d be so overwhelmed with envy by your gorgeous photography skills, let alone the amazing skill in just creating these feasts.
    But I really hope I’m explaining this properly, I’ve always visited this blog to enjoy your joy of cooking. For me, you’ve always spoken in this blog of your love of writing over cooking, which if I’m honest I didn’t understand because I think your cooking/photography skills are so huge…but with this post, I think your writing overpowers them. And that says a lot because they’re fairly awesome on their own.
    But in this post, and your recent posts I think your writing is what shines…and that’s some achievement because your recipes and photography are so impressive it would demand a huge punch from the writing to overshadow them…and yet it does…so as we say in Ireland….fair play to ya girl…you’re something else!…:)
    I can only hope that this comment compliments in all the way it’s intentioned to.
    Have a lovely time at home and thank you for all you give to so many people with this gorgeous blog.
    I look forward so much to hearing all about all that you do in 2011.
    x Aoife

    Reply
    • 14. melissa  |  December 31, 2010 at 4:37 pm

      That is an awesome compliment… I agree with you. I love the recipes on the blog – the photos capture them so well… I want to try them all…

      but reading about Elissa’s experiences are very interesting, too. Most blogs I just read the recipes and skip the banter — but I enjoy reading every part of Elissa’s post… she is really good about opening her whole soul here… it’s like reading a good biography :)

  • 15. Christine  |  December 29, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    so glad you enjoying home! these cupcakes are quite divine.

    xoxox
    c from sweetseas.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • 16. itsacupcakeworld  |  December 29, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    This is a mouth water flavor combination! I also love baking with matcha powder.

    Reply
  • 17. Manasi  |  December 30, 2010 at 12:35 am

    Hi Elissa,

    I just stumbled upon your blog and am so excited that you get to experience Boston as a college student! I was there myself (more years ago than I’d care to admit) and it’s an amazing place to be. I just moved out of there last year, or else I would let you use my kitchen! I remember that first Christmas break coming home and feeling so lonely. You’re so used to being around people all the time that the emptiness of a house can get to you. Eventually though, your parents’ home will be normal again then you’ll back to school and that will feel normal and so on and so forth! Anyway, love your recipes and can’t wait to try some of them! Enjoy Boston!

    Reply
  • 18. Sunny  |  December 30, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Hey Elissa!

    I’ve been an avid follower of your blog for a year or two now. I just have a question about this recipe. Where do you get matcha powder and what brand do you use? Thanks a ton! Keep up with the posts, it’s a delight to read them. :)

    Reply
  • 19. jess  |  December 30, 2010 at 11:22 am

    like every other commenter above, you’re right. that’s exactly how i felt when i came home. all that excitement leading up to it and… what?! it almost seems like a disappointment!

    but i’m glad you’ve realized that your time in seattle is limited. remember, you still have a full 3.5 years ahead of you in boston! if it was this great in the first semester, i’m sure it’ll only get better!

    Reply
  • 20. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  December 30, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Whoa! This is so unique!! Cool recipe.

    Reply
  • 21. linda  |  December 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    lovely “heartwarming” post, beautiful photography & recipe…
    wishing you & your family a joy filled new year enjoyed in good health…wishing you all the best!
    see you in 2011!

    Reply
  • 22. Leslie  |  December 30, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Mmm, these cupcakes look fantastic!
    I’m still looking forward to your all-pictures Boston post! :)

    Reply
  • 23. M from 52weeksbaking  |  December 31, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I love the idea of the flavours, Elissa! I’m starting up a new blog for this year and I think I’m going to try this recipe! Sounds so good :)

    Reply
  • 24. melissa  |  December 31, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    these sound really yummy. i’m going to try them for my birthday – with a different frosting though…

    don’t worry about missing college – you’ll be back there soon enough. enjoy your quiet time ;)

    Reply
  • 25. Stephanie  |  December 31, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Yum!!! That sounds like an amazing flavor combination!

    Reply
  • 26. SeattleDee  |  January 1, 2011 at 3:16 am

    Your year end post feels like a Happy New Year present – and I found it while it’s still 2010! Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2011, full of good health, joy and the energy to enjoy your new adventures.

    Reply
  • 27. Vivian  |  January 2, 2011 at 4:09 am

    These cupcakes look so elegant and has a homey feel to them. The flavor combination sounds really interesting, its just too bad I don’t like coconut. I love your writing, as usual. My favorite parts are when you describe the familiar sugar smell of your hair and the feeling of homesickness at home. THanks for another amazing post!

    Reply
  • 28. Brittany  |  January 3, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Returning home is always an experience. Your cupcakes look delicious; and the piping is perfect.

    Happy New Year!

    Reply
  • 29. Silki  |  January 3, 2011 at 9:09 am

    This looks absolutely delicious. I’m learning so much from your website. I have started my own cooking blog, please check it out when u r free: fridayswithcoco.tumblr.com

    Thanks and happy cooking :)

    Reply
  • 30. summersher  |  January 3, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Such a creative cupcake! I love the coconut-grapefruit-matcha combo…
    Maybe you’ll find that special feeling getting off the plane in Boston again?
    Happy New Year!

    Reply
  • 31. Megabite  |  January 3, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    These are so pretty and I bet they are amazingly tasty. I need cupcakes for dinner, I think.

    Reply
  • 32. Becca@Baking Monster  |  January 3, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Elissa!
    I’m glad you able to enjoy break! I know how strange it seems though with working,school,clubs nd more its taking me a awhile to adjust to break too. I’m glad your home and baking though!Happy New Year!

    Reply
  • 33. Andrea [bella eats]  |  January 4, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Welcome home Elissa! I hope to see more of your home baking before you head back to Boston. :)

    Reply
  • 34. Bec  |  January 5, 2011 at 4:09 am

    I’m eighteen too, and have been following your blog for the past year now since finding out about it in Australian magazine Girlfriend. You have a gift:) Keep those awesome posts and pictures coming!

    Reply
  • 35. Alex  |  January 5, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Elissa,
    I love reading your blog, not least of all because I empathise with many of the emotions that you express so well on these pages. I always used to find I needed at least a few days to ‘settle’ on coming home but with time you learn what to expect and it is easier to slip back into appreciating all the things you miss when you’re away.
    I am most intrigued by the recipe above, I see so many things on here that I think look amazing but I’m still yet to try one of your recipes.

    Reply
  • 36. chefpriyanka  |  January 5, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    sososo cute!! and i LOVE matcha powder and the color common of these cupcakes- definitely approve of this recipe! I went to school in Boston too- just graduated :)

    Reply
  • 37. R.  |  January 6, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    When do you add the 2 eggs? I only see when to add the egg whites? Am I reading this wrong?

    Reply
  • 38. mellycakes  |  January 7, 2011 at 10:42 am

    wow
    xxx

    Reply
  • 39. melly@todayibaked  |  January 7, 2011 at 10:43 am

    you’re fantastic x

    Reply
  • 40. buttersweetmelody  |  January 7, 2011 at 11:06 am

    :O matcha frosting! that looks and sounds incredible! They look so lovely and perfect thanks!

    -Amalia http://buttersweetmelody.wordpress.cpom

    Reply
  • 41. KnitPastis  |  January 7, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    These look so beautiful! Especially the piping you chose to decorate these cupcakes with and pairing them with a yellow coconut grapefruit cupcake. There seems to be so many wonderful ways to use matcha green tea powder. I remember one of my favorite things, a matcha bubble tea!

    I am so saving this recipe to make! Thank you!

    Reply
  • 42. Erika  |  January 8, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Hi, I really loved this post :) The first paragraph, specially, when you describe how good it is to be back home, no matter where you have been…Makes me record the sensation I have everytime I´m back from vacations…I´m from Brazil, living in São Paulo, and when I step outside the airport here, the smell doesn´t look so good as the pacific air…After spend vacations in paradisiac beaches at northeast Brazil, smelling the fresh atlantic ocean air, the first smell I feel when I step outside the airport is polluted air mixed with the odor of the main river here…It´s bad…But I feel so at home :)

    Reply
  • 43. Peggy  |  January 8, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    I hope you enjoyed your time home in Seattle! These cupcakes sound so interesting and I’m sure they were delicious!

    Reply
  • 44. Crumb Bum  |  January 8, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    I completely understand what you’re saying! I’m graduating this year, and woefully regretting not getting to know my school and surrounding town better. These cupcakes could help if I share with my neighbors, I’m certain!

    Reply
  • 45. Postcards To Me  |  January 10, 2011 at 9:36 am

    I love those pictures you took and have every intention of trying out this recipe! It all looks very delicious :) Please visit my blog if you have the time and tell me what you think! x

    Reply
  • 46. The Vet Girl  |  January 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    They look absolutely yummy! Everything you cook looks sooo
    pretty :) I was a little sceptic about the green frosting, but it
    sure looks good! The Vet Girl @
    http://thevetgirl.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  • 47. Lexi  |  January 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I love cupcakes with grapefruit in them. I might have to make these for my mom’s birthday, she loves matcha tea and grapefruit.

    Reply
  • 48.  |  January 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Wow the cupcakes have such interesting flavors. Im sure they would have that great fresh taste when you bite into them.

    And you have been tagged! http://youburnsomeyoueatsome.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/tagg/

    Reply
  • 49. lisamichele  |  January 12, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Elissa, I just read through about a dozen of your posts and you are me almost 20 years ago. I also attended college in Boston, and it was one of the best times of my life. Your writing brings back just about every smell, site, sound, feeling etc, I had when I was a freshman. Thanks so much for taking me back, and enjoy – it goes by SO, SO fast! :)

    Finally, beautiful cupcakes! Love the flavors, so creative! I’ve got a huge can of Matcha that’s been beckoning me for about a month now LOL

    Reply
  • 50. lisamichele  |  January 12, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Wait..change that. I was YOU almost 20 years ago. ;D

    Reply
  • 51. Ira  |  January 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Your gratitude for the things that you have is so endearing to read. I guess rainy Seattle isn’t that bad after all. Also, your cupcakes look marvelous! :-)

    Reply

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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