Italian Cream Cupcakes

The following recipe was submitted by Hi Cookery in honor of today's feast of St. Joseph and the Installation of Pope Francis. Thank you Highlander and Islander!  Update: I just created a Vatican Flag Cupcake Printable for you all. Here is the link

Habemus papam—we have a pope! Congratulations to Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, who was elected as the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church on March 13, 2013. This is a significant event for the billions of Catholics worldwide as the church struggles to stay grounded in Christian morality in a predominantly secular society, deal with scandals and controversy, continue its rich historical traditions, grow in modern times and still keep the faith.

Succeeding Pope Benedict XVI, Francis is a Jesuit priest of Italian immigrant parents in Argentina, whose papal name was taken after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron of Italy. Before first blessing those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City on the night of his election, Pope Francis asked that they pray for him. He surely needs our prayers, as being head of the church is not an easy task.

While baking Italian cream cupcakes for a pope prayer party for Islander’s brother’s students, we prayed that the Holy See is made an instrument of the Lord’s peace during his tenure as pope. We topped the cupcakes with tiny Vatican flags instead of a pecan for a festive Francis food. May God bless Pope Francis!

(Adapted from Cupcakes: From the Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn)

For the Italian Cream Cupcakes
  • 1 box (18.25 ounces) yellow, white or French vanilla cake mix (we recommend Duncan Hines brand)
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons coconut flavoring
  • 1 cup flaked coconut, sweetened
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped


In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, water, vegetable oil and eggs. Blend well until smooth.

Mix in the coconut flavoring. Fold in the flaked coconut and chopped pecans.

Scoop the batter into 24 cupcake papers lining a muffin pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. Prepare the frosting.

For the coconut and cream cheese frosting

  • 1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (we used clear vanilla flavoring)
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1+ tablespoons water or milk (optional)
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • pecan half (optional)


In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in the butter until well blended with the cream cheese. Stir in the vanilla. Gradually add the powdered sugar a cup at a time and mix until smooth. Add water or milk to the frosting, if necessary, to make a spreadable consistency.

Use a spatula to spread frosting on top of the cupcakes. Dip the frosted cupcakes into a small bowl of coconut flakes. Decorate with a pecan half or mini Vatican City flags.

  • We used a yellow cake mix and a white coconut cream cheese frosting to match the colors of the Vatican flag.
  • Boost the coconut flavor in the cream cheese frosting by substituting the vanilla for a teaspoon of coconut flavoring. Toast the sweetened coconut flakes to bring out the fruitiness as well as add some color to the cupcakes.
  • The parish we attend, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, is proud to bear the name of new pope!
  • Make Italian cream cupcakes for the installation of Pope Francis on March 19, the Feast Day of St. Joseph, or on October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis.

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