This post is part of the Cake Week series. If you’ve missed previous cakes, check them out below!
Speculoos Bundt Cake
Chocolate Layer Cake
There’s something about cupcakes that instantly puts a smile on anyone’s face. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m guessing that it would be the potential of having an entire cake all to yourself. What I do know though, is that if the cupcake in question tastes like Nutella, that smile becomes exponentially wider.
Sometimes upscale cupcake shops try to make a new, inventive, chocolate-and-something-else flavor combination, but what ends up happening is that the cupcake just tastes like chocolate. This is nowhere near the case with these cupcakes. The hazelnut flavor pairs perfectly with the chocolate buttercream, without one flavor overpowering the other.
To ensure that the hazelnut flavor stayed present, the hazelnuts are roasted and finely ground before being folded into the cupcake batter so that they perfume every inch of the dessert. To help the hazelnuts out, I also added some browned butter. The French call browned butter beurre noisette, which literally means “hazelnut butter” because of the nutty aroma it gives off when the milk solids caramelize. Clearly, it would be a mistake to leave it out.
However, I feel like I should warn everyone about baking with hazelnuts. The skins are bitter when cooked, so they have to be roasted and rubbed gently by hand or with a towel. It’s long, boring work, so I would recommend a younger sibling to provide the slave labor. Or, you can do what I do and buy roasted hazelnuts from Trader Joe’s, then take a particularly bumpy route home—the jostling will make most of the skins slide right off. The choice is yours.
Once the cupcakes are in the oven, use the baking time to whip up a chocolate frosting, based on a Swiss buttercream. It uses egg whites for stability rather than powdered sugar, so the focus is on the chocolate, not tooth-achingly sweet quantities of sugar. Spread the frosting on in whichever manner suits you, then garnish with a single roasted hazelnut to tie together the whole dessert. Before serving, I would recommend telling everyone that the hazelnut is, in fact, a hazelnut. Some family members expressed concern over my use of chickpeas in baked goods before I was able to tell them otherwise.
As always, enjoy!
Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes
Makes 12 frosted cupcakes
½ cup roasted hazelnuts, skins removed plus 12 more for the garnish
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350F and line a cupcake pan with paper or foil liners.
- In the work bowl of a food processor, place ½ cup of the roasted, skinned hazelnuts and process until a finely ground meal forms—about 30 seconds. Do not process until it begins to stick together.
- In a small skillet over medium-high heat, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Once it’s melted, continue to cook for 1-3 more minutes until the milk solids have browned and caramelized. Transfer the browned butter to a bowl and set aside to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the ground hazelnuts, softened butter, browned butter, sugar, eggs, milk, vanilla, yogurt, flour, baking powder and salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth, 30-60 seconds. Remove bowl from the mixer and stir the batter a couple times with a spatula to make sure no flour pockets remain.
- Using an ice cream scoop or a large spoon, add about 3-4 tablespoons of batter to each muffin cup.
- Bake on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and when lightly tapped on the surface, the cupcake will bounce back. Remove from the pan to cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes before frosting.
From Cook’s Illustrated
2 egg whites
1/3 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into 12 pieces
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to 85-100F
1 teaspoon vanilla
- Set a saucepan with 3-4 cups of water in it over medium heat and bring to a simmer. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt. Set the bowl over the simmering water and whisk constantly until foamy and voluminous. The mixture should be 150F. This will take about 3 minutes.
- Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until cooled slightly, 1-2 minutes.
- With the mixer on medium, add the butter 1 piece at a time, whisking after every addition.
- Turn the mixer off, add the chocolate and vanilla. Turn the speed to medium high and beat until smooth and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
To frost the cupcakes:
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the frosting and use the pastry bag to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Garnish each cupcake with a roasted hazelnut.
Spread 3 tablespoons of the frosting over each cupcake using a butter knife and garnish each with a roasted hazelnut.