If you were to open my pantry cupboards you’d find, like most people, different bags and boxes of pasta, various types of canned beans, and canisters full of bags with small amounts of assorted grains, dried legumes, and nuts bought from the bulk section at the grocery store. I just can’t resist the fact that I can buy as much or as little as I want. I’m like a kid in a candy store, filling bags with a little of this and a little of that, some old favorites, and some that I’m not sure I like yet, but I want to try out. The favorites usually get eaten first and the others left to languish, waiting for a spark of inspiration.
That’s how I ended up with a small bag of hazelnuts – just enough, I thought, for an early March salad of roasted beets and gorgonzola. Well, I got busy and forgot about the beets at the bottom of the fridge drawer and once I remembered I just didn’t feel like eating them. I did however feel like eating chocolate cupcakes, and so I did, topping them with the toasted and chopped hazelnuts that narrowly escaped their healthy fate.
Chocolate and hazelnuts are a classic combination. We’ve all had a crepe smeared with Nutella or a box of Ferrero Rocher during the holidays, but these cupcakes are just a little more festive, can be made ahead, and combine the best of both the creamy rich frosting and the crunch of the hazelnuts.
These cupcakes use an adaptation of one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes as the base. It only uses one bowl and doesn’t require softened butter so it can easily be made with little to no advanced planning. The best part is that even when using regular cocoa powder, the boiling water “blooms” the cocoa to deepen the chocolatey flavor. So go ahead, save the good stuff for the frosting where it will really shine.
Biting into one of these you’ll find a light and moist cake, a rich and creamy chocolate frosting, accented by the crunch of the toasted hazelnuts. Perfection.
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- ¼ c. + 2 T. cocoa powder
- ¾ t. baking soda
- ¾ t. baking powder
- ½ t. salt
- 1 egg
- ½ c. milk
- ¼ c. vegetable oil
- 1 t. vanilla extract
- ½ c. boiling water
- ½ c. butter, softened
- 1 ¾ c. powdered sugar
- ¼ c. cocoa powder
- Pinch of salt
- 2 T. milk or heavy cream
- 2 oz. raw hazelnuts
- Preheat oven to 350° and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
- Sift sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Add egg, milk and vegetable oil and whisk to combine. Add boiling water and vanilla and whisk again to combine. The batter will be very thin.
- Fill cupcake liners ⅔ full with batter and bake for 22-25 minutes.
- Add hazelnuts to a small pan and bake along with the cupcakes for 10-15 minutes, watching closely so they don’t burn. You want the hazelnuts to be toasted and fragrant.
- While cupcakes and hazelnuts are cooling make your frosting. Combine all ingredients except the milk to a bowl and beat using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add milk a little bit at a time until your frosting is the consistency you want.
- Lay out a clean dish towel and pour the hazelnuts on top. Fold over the sides to cover and rub/roll the hazelnuts around to remove most of their skins. Remove to a cutting board and chop.
- To assemble smear a thin layer of frosting on the cupcakes, then either sprinkle the hazelnuts on top or press the frosting directly in the hazelnuts for a thicker coating.
- The frosting recipe makes more than you’ll need for only a dozen cupcakes, but trying to whip less than a half cup of butter gets tricky. If you want, the cupcake recipe easily doubles to match the quantity of frosting.
- Pro tip - cocoa powder has a tendency to clump, so if you don’t want to bother with sifting just add the egg and milk first, whisking/stirring into a thick paste to break up the little lumps, then add vegetable oil and proceed as normal.