A dollop of coconut-cream cheese filling hides inside these adorable cupcakes that start with red velvet cake mix.
For filling: In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, coconut extract, if you like, and salt. Stir in coconut. Chill, covered, for at least 1 hour or until stiff.
Line about thirty 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.
Prepare cake mix according to package directions for cupcakes. Fill each muffin cup with 2 tablespoons cake batter. Drop 1 tablespoon of the filling into each bake cup. Top with 1 tablespoon more batter. With a small spoon, smooth batter over filling to cover.
Bake in a 350° oven about 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted off center (in the cake, not the filling) comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans; cool completely on wire racks.
Generously frost with Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting. Just before serving, decorate with an assortment of patriotic decorations. (Cupcakes are best the day they are frosted.)
In a large mixing bowl, beat 1/2 cup softened butter for 30 seconds on high speed with an electric mixer. Add 4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, alternating with 6 tablespoons half-and-half, light cream or whole milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and, if desired, 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract. Beat on high speed until smooth and creamy. If necessary, beat in enough additional half-and-half (about 1 teaspoon) to reach spreading consistency.
On top use American flag picks, tinsel picks, stars on wire, icing stars, red, white & blue sprinkles OR use white paper baking cups and tie patriotic ribbon around the paper bake cups.