One of my best friends and I have a saying we use all the time: “You don’t need to worry, I’ve already over thought it.”  No doubt this is one reason she and I get along so well – we think the same way, and we both over analyze nearly everything.  Really, everything.  Sometimes this can be a bit of a burden, but when I’m experimenting with recipes in the kitchen it can be pretty useful.  We’re in the midst of birthday season at work and when a coworker chose samoa cupcakes, my mind immediately went into overdrive.  “How do I ensure that the chocolate cake doesn’t overpower the flavor of the topping?  Should I even use chocolate cake?  How do I incorporate the shortbread cookie component?  What kind of frosting should I make?  Does frosting even belong on these cupcakes?”  These are just a few of the questions I pondered out loud and poor Ben did his best to humor me with a response.

As for my final answers to those questions, here’s where we ended up: I made small shortbread cookies for the base of the cupcakes (though you can use store bought, I won’t tell.)  The cupcake itself is my favorite chocolate cupcake, and it turns out that no, it didn’t overpower the other flavors.  I decided frosting had no place on these cupcakes but that a caramel coconut ganache would do much better, and it did.  Oh yes, it did.  Finally, the cupcakes are topped with the classic coconut-caramel concoction that we all know and love, and I decided to poke a little indentation in it to mimic the cookie shape.  Drizzle with a little bit of extra ganache and there you have it.  Though I have no scientific evidence, I believe this is the most popular treat I have brought into work ever.  Truly.  The only disappointing thing about these is that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to top them.  But I’m kind of okay with that.

As a former Daisy-Brownie-Girl Scout (whose favorite cookie is Caramel DeLites/Samoas), I approve these cupcakes.


For the cupcakes:
About 21 (1.75-inch) round shortbread cookies*
6 tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
6 tbsp. hot water
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
12 tbsp. (6 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream

For the topping:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup caramel sauce**
½ cup heavy cream
1 tsp. coconut extract, divided
15 oz. soft caramels (store bought or homemade)
3 tbsp. milk
Pinch of coarse salt
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted


  • 01

    Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Place a shortbread cookie in the bottom of each liner.  To make the cake, in a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water and whisk until smooth.  In another medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to blend.

  • 02

    Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan set over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is cool, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated.

  • 03

    Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let cool in the pan about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  When the cupcakes have cooled, level slightly if necessary (if large domes have formed.)

  • 04

    To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl.  Combine the caramel and cream in a liquid measuring cup.  Microwave in 30 second intervals and bring to a brisk simmer.  (This can also be done in a saucepan.)  Pour the warm liquid over the chocolate in the bowl and let stand 1-2 minutes.  Whisk together until the chocolate is fully melted and a smooth ganache has formed.  Stir in ½ teaspoon of the coconut extract.  Spread a layer of the ganache on top of each cupcake.

  • 05

    To make the topping, place the caramels and milk in a large heatproof bowl.  Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until the mixture is melted and smooth.  Stir in the salt and the remaining ½ teaspoon of coconut extract.  Fold in the toasted coconut.  Scoop a small mound of the coconut-caramel mixture (about 1½ tablespoons each) and place on top of each cupcake.  If desired, indent the center of each mound to mimic the hole in a samoa cookie.  When all the cupcakes have been topped, drizzle with any additional ganache.  Let the ganache set before serving.

  • 06

    *I used the shortbread cookie dough from Kelly’s homemade samoa cookie recipe.  You only need a half batch of dough for enough cookies for this recipe.  If you use store bought cookies, you should be able to cut them to size with a small round cookie or biscuit cutter.

    **Homemade caramel sauce is well worth your time.  If you do use store bought, make sure it is of good quality and not overly sweet.

  • Jamie_MilkNCookies

    Wow, Annie! I can see why these would be your most popular treat. Samoas are my favorite GS cookie, as well, so these cupcakes are calling my name. I must admit that I’m a bit jealous of your coworkers —

  • Sara L’arcobaleno di Sara

    Gnam gnam, good recipe, Grazie Sara

  • Melinda Z.

    Ohmygosh. This post just made me go to my happy place. I am SO excited to try these!!

  • Samoa cupcakes were one of my favorites when I was working at the cupcake shop, both to make and to eat. I can’t wait to try these!

  • HalfBakedHarvest

    These are incredible! I have to make them. Such a gorgeous cupcake!

  • taraliptak

    Why am I not shocked that Samoas are your favorite GS cookie? Just another reason why we’re friends. :) I LOVE that you made a Samoas cupcake and that caramel-coconut ganache? GENIUS. I’m pretty sure I could bathe in that stuff. Great job once again, friend!

  • annieseats

    I am confident you would love these. We are two peas in a pod!

  • Caroline L.

    Samoas are hands down the best Girl Scout cookies! And I think I love you and your overthinking ways for thinking these up :)

  • Diane

    O.M.G. SWOON!

  • These look so good. I have a recipe for a Samoa cake that I have never made because it makes a HUGE cake. These look so much more doable!

  • Angela Wilhite

    Oh wow! You had me at Samoa. I’m really going to have to try these.

  • Mel

    These are ridiculous (in a good way!), Annie! Seriously, you are the cupcake queen. I wish I was one of your coworkers for real. Also, your saying you share with your friend (the overthought it one) had me laughing out loud. It’s like you were living in my brain when you typed that. :)

  • Ali @ Solano’s Kitchen

    No way!!! What a fantastic idea. I’ll have to make these immediately :)


    These look so delicious. Definitely want to try!

  • Diana

    Wow…these look amazing. I’m trying to be more adventurous in my baking and it must be paying off because my first thought was that these don’t sound that hard to do… You’re a good influence. =)

  • These look so delicious! I must try this!!!!!!

  • I can definitely see why these topped all other cupcake creations! So much chocolate and caramel and coconut in every bite…what could be better?

  • stevierae5

    YUMMY! Samoas were always my favorite

  • stevierae5

    (continued when I posted too early) …and these look AMAZING. Brings back memories of cookie selling! ;) And I second the homemade caramel sauce. It doesn’t take that long and, though I should be ashamed to admit it, I have been known to take little swigs of it from the bottle I store it in. (In my defense, I’m not the only one–my husband does it, too.)

  • Tracy

    I can’t imagine what sort of cupcake would beat these! Your evidence for their greatness sounds reliable! Fantastic looking cupcakes with all the elements of a samoa perfectly incorporated!

  • Morgan

    Did you bake the shortbread cookies in the actual cupcake liner?
    Thank you!

  • annieseats

    No, I baked them on a baking sheet and then placed them in the cupcake liners when I baked the cupcakes.

  • Oh my goodness, yes! Been craving something sweet all weekend, but couldn’t find anything to satisfy it. These look perfect.. pretty, chocolatey, and fruity!

  • Oh I would kill for one of these right now Annie! Samoas are my all-time favorite- these look absolutely delicious!

  • Pam

    Fantastic!! These are on my list of must-try list of cupcakes. Thank you!

  • Woah, these look incredible! I looove samoas!

  • Kelly Senyei (Just a Taste)

    These look fantastic, Annie! And thanks so much for the link to my Homemade Samoas Girl Scout Cookies :)

  • Michelle

    These just moved to the very TOP of my cupcake list.

  • Morgan

    Thank you! They looked to fit so perfectly, I couldn’t tell :)

  • Emily @ Life on Food

    These are a little piece of heaven. What a lucky co-worker!

  • Becky

    All I can say is…YUM! I am definitely baking these for my next get together!

  • Jess @ Floptimism

    Hi there! My name is Jessica, and I run a food blog called Floptimism where, every Saturday, I write a Weekend Wrap-Up post to share all of my favorite internet finds from the past week. I wanted to let you know that I absolutely loved this post –I’m just starting to embrace the flavors of coconut and think these cupcakes look incredible — so much so that I included it in my blog’s Weekend Wrap-Up. I’ve included the link to the post in case you’re interested. Thanks for such a fabulous recipe!

  • Leah Brandtner

    Oh, wow! Not only do these sound fabulously decadent, but they look that way too! The Samoa is my dad’s favorite Girl Scout cookie, and I think I need to makè these next time I’m home. Thanks, Annie, for sharing!

  • Sarah

    I made these last night and WOW! The caramel ganache was so tasty! Thanks for sharing

  • Mel

    What would I do without you, Annie? I come to your site every single time I need an over the top cupcake recipe for coworkers. I’m pretty sure I’ve made at least 97.5% of your fab cupcake recipes. I just made this one for my husband’s birthday tomorrow. I think they are my all time favorite. Amazing! Keep the ridiculously good cupcake masterpieces coming!

  • annieseats

    Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed them Mel. My coworkers were just asking me the other day what my all time favorite cupcake is that I’ve made, and I had to admit I think this one has taken the top spot for me too. Thanks Mel!

  • Diane

    I can’t wait to try these! I made caramels today for this recipe. I’m making it for a dinner with friends on Friday.

    One question–did you bake the shortbread cookies in the cupcake liners? They fit so perfectly in your picture that it looks like you just put the dough in the bottom of your liners. Thanks!

  • Diane

    Never mind about the baking the cookies in the cupcake liners question–I saw that you already answered it below. Thanks! :)

  • Diana

    I finally made these after dreaming about them for 6 months and they turned out amazing. A lot of steps but all of it was easy. I was amazed I could make something this delicious! Thank you!

  • I finally made these last week and they exceeded my expectations! I took them into work and they were devoured in no time. Thanks for another GREAT recipe! :)