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Mai Thai Cupcakes

Coconut, lime, orange and rum flavoured vanilla cupcakes with an ombre. Topped with lime frosting and tropical drink decorations.


  • Cupcakes
  • 430g - 3 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 265g - 1 1/4 cups caster (superfine) sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 125g – 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 250ml - 1 cup coconut milk
  • 125ml - 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 60ml - 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 125ml – 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp rum flavouring
  • Yellow food gel
  • Orange food gel
  • Frosting
  • 500g - 2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 500g - 4 cups icing (confectioners’) sugar
  • 2–4 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tbsp full-cream (whole) milk (at room temperature) (optional, but recommended)
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Decorations
  • 20 Pineapple wedges
  • 20 maraschino cherries


  1. Cupcakes
  2. Preheat a fan-forced oven to 140°C (275°F) or a conventional oven to 160°C (320°F). Line two cupcake tins with the cupcake liners.
  3. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix with a hand mixer until well combined.
  4. Next, add the softened butter and mix on low speed until the mixture reaches a crumbly, sand-like texture.
  5. Add the eggs, coconut milk, pineapple juice, orange juice, lime zest, rum, oil, 4 drops of yellow food gel, and vanilla, and mix on low speed until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Scrape down the side of the bowl and mix for a final 20 seconds. Split the batter into 4 bowls. Colour one using 1 drop of orange food gel, the second with two drops and the third with 3 drops. Mix each one with a spoon until evenly coloured.
  6. Spoon about 1 tbsp of each coloured batter into your cupcake liners, aiming to fill them up about 3/4 of the way. Bake for 40–50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
  7. Frosting
  8. Before you begin, it’s really important to make sure the butter is soft enough. Some people keep their butter out of the fridge, others chill it. Even if you keep it out, it may not be soft enough. You want your butter to be soft enough so that when you stick your finger in it, it glides in, but not without a little bit of resistance. The best way to get it too that softness is to place your butter on a microwave safe plate, microwave for 10 seconds at a time, testing the softness each time. If it needs longer than 10 seconds, turn the butter over and repeat until it’s ready.
  9. Add the softened butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. You can also use an electric hand mixer for this recipe, but if you do use a hand mixer, just make sure your bowl is large. Mix the butter on low speed to begin with, then switch to the highest speed and mix for 5 minutes until the butter is fluffy and turns pale in colour.
  10. Stop your mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl using a spatula. Add the icing sugar, lime zest and vanilla extract and mix again on low speed. LOW SPEED PEOPLE! The last thing you need is to end up in a sugar dust storm! (I’m speaking from experience…)
  11. Once all the sugar has been incorporated, it’s safe to turn your mixer up to high speed. Continue beating on high speed for about 5–6 minutes, or until the butter turns pale in colour and becomes fluffy again.
  12. Assembly
  13. Fit the end of a piping bag with a Wilton 8B piping tip and pipe a swirl on top. Add a pineapple wedge, a stripped straw, a cocktail umbrella and a maraschino cherry.