It was the Blues' first win on Munster soil since October 2007 and occurred on a night when Ronan O'Gara became the Irish province's most-capped player.
O'Gara will not want to remember his 233rd competitive appearance as he was outshone by his opposite number, man-of-the-match Rhys Patchell.
The 19-year-old Patchell converted both tries, adding to an early penalty, and displayed a calmness and control beyond his years in the number 10 channel.
O'Gara kicked a penalty in each half but Munster lacked penetration throughout and have now fallen to sixth in the RaboDirect PRO12 standings.
Two 2009 Lions made their returns from injury in Cork. Jamie Roberts tested the elbow he damaged during Wales' November international against Australia, while Keith Earls was back in Munster red after a recent groin problem.
The match lulled along until Doug Howlett's catch and run ignited a multi-phase attack. O'Gara's eventual grubber kick ricocheted favourably for the Blues, who broke downfield and almost scored a try through the speedy Patchell.
The Cardiff outside-half was denied in the right corner by the covering Donnacha Ryan, but was able to knock a subsequent penalty over for a 3-0 lead.
The Blues were able to build from a well-oiled lineout, but Munster were coming more into it with Earls and James Coughlan having noteworthy carries.
The scrum was a facet of play that the hosts got the early stranglehold on, and from a set piece penalty O'Gara rifled over the levelling kick 22 minutes in.
Captain Josh Navidi was a key figure at the breakdown for Cardiff, his influence helping the Blues break downfield for a drop goal attempt that Patchell pulled wide.
Munster were too predictable in their attacking movements, shifting from side to side with little incision made until James Downey got an offload away to Ryan.
Play was switched to the left wing where Coughlan was caught with a foot in touch, and the Blues, who had been camped in their half, held firm for the break.
Munster failed to take advantage of a Howlett surge at the start of the second period, and the Blues nipped ahead thanks to Williams' opportunist try.
Two short passes from Patchell and Roberts released the winger in midfield and he broke the first tackle and evaded both Duncan Williams and Denis Hurley on the way to the line.
Patchell converted but Bradley Davies was caught offside from the restart and O'Gara quickly closed the gap for Munster to 10-6.
Cardiff kicked for territory as they allowed Munster to dictate possession, with the misfiring hosts hampered by a series of wayward passes and kicks.
The fit-again Leigh Halfpenny made an impact off the bench as the Blues, now growing in confidence, exerted more control.
A crucial tackle from Howlett forced a forward pass from Roberts as he tried to put Williams over for his second try, but the Blues wrapped up the win just a minute later.
Munster lost control of a ruck ball near halfway and excellent number eight Copeland, who hails from Wexford, raced away from O'Gara and company to score in the left corner.
Patchell added the conversion to widen the margin to 11 points. He missed a late drop goal shot but Cardiff had an untroubled finish, keeping their defence intact despite late breaks from Downey and ex-Blue Casey Laulala.
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