Sunday, November 25, 2012

Almond-Hazelnut Cupcakes (Cupcake of the Month Series #11)

It figures that November, one of my busiest months as a teacher, would also happen to be the month of the most time consuming, labor intensive cupcake of the year.

These almond-hazelnut cupcakes weren't actually that difficult to make.  There were just a lot of steps, so the whole process took me a good three hours start to finish.

Now, the recipe card said I should get 24 cupcakes from this recipe, but the online recipe says only 16. I actually got 18 cupcakes total.  So who knows.

To start, I had to toast a half cup of almonds and a half cup plus 24 hazelnuts.  Who knew you could do it in the microwave? Just use a pie plate and microwave on high.  It took about 2 minutes for the almonds, giving them a stir after a minute, and about 3 minutes for the hazelnuts, stirring after two minutes.

Now came the first of the messy, rather time consuming steps.  After toasting the hazelnuts, you have to skin them. This is done by rubbing them in a clean kitchen towel. And it makes a holy mess.  And it doesn't really work super well, so you have to go through and finish rubbing the skin off almost every hazelnut individually.

But I remained very zen throughout.

After skinning the hazelnuts, I set 24 of them aside, and dumped the rest and the almonds into my new food processor.

Yes, it's a brand new food processor, a 7-cup Cuisinart.  Because I burned the motor out on my little one-cup processor making lots of homemade mayo and the October cupcake.

Anyway.... process the nuts until they're finely ground.

Next, add 3/4 of a cup each all-purpose flour and sifted cake flour, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  The directions say to whisk these ingredients together with the nuts in a separate bowl, but I just processed them for a few seconds in the processor.

Cream a stick of softened, room temperature butter, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar until light and fluffy.

With the mixer running, add the flour-nut mixture and 3/4 cup of milk, alternating in three additions of flour and two of milk, ending with the flour.  Mix until smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Separate 4 eggs and whisk the whites only until soft peaks form.  Save the yolks for another purpose.  In two additions, fold in the egg whites until the batter is smooth.

Line tins with cupcake liners and evenly divide batter to fill each well 3/4 full..  Bake on 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Let them cool completely in the tins before removing.

Make the dark chocolate buttercream.

Melt 12 ounces of good, semi-sweet chocolate. I used a combination of Nestle's mini semi-sweet morsels and Hershey's Special Dark chips, because I didn't have enough of either to equal 12 ounces.

Next, combine 1/2 cup plus one tablespoon of cocoa powder with 1/2 cup boiling water, and stir until combined and smooth.

On medium high speed, beat three sticks of soft butter, 1/4 cup of sifted confectioner's sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit the salt if using salted butter).  Then beat in the melted and cooled chocolate and the cocoa mixture, scraping the bowl as needed.

It'll be pretty soupy, so I suggest putting it in the fridge for an hour or so to stiffen up a bit, especially if you plan to pipe it.  I just gave each cupcake a very generous smear.

Now, on to the next, most time-consuming, labor intensive, slightly fussy part of the recipe.

Remember those hazelnuts I set aside?  Those need to be coated with a thick caramel syrup and allowed to drip into spikes.

First, set up a cutting board on the edge of the counter and line the floor with newspaper.

Then, very carefully stick a wooden skewer into the side of each hazelnut. You don't have to stick them in very far, and too far will cause the nuts to crack and split.

In a small saucepan, combine 3 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup of water.  Heat over medium, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is clear. Let it come to a boil, stop stirring, and cook until the syrup reaches a light amber color.  Brush down the sides with a wet pastry brush to prevent the formation of sugar crystals. After the syrup has reached the desired color, immediately remove from heat and plunge the pan into an ice water bath to stop the cooking.

I probably pulled mine off the heat a little too soon, but I'm a little "gun-shy" when it comes to cooking caramel.

Anyway, let the caramel cool for about ten minutes or so, not too long or it'll start to harden.  Then carefully dip each hazelnut into the syrup, secure the skewer under the cutting board, and let the caramel drip onto the newspaper.

After about five minutes or so, the caramel drips should have hardened.  Break them off at the desired length, carefully remove from the skewers, and top each cupcake with a candied hazelnut.

And warn people to watch their fillings when they eat them!


  1. I am in awe of your mad cupcake skills, Jen! These look amazing!

    1. Well, that's fair, because I'm in awe of your sewing skills. :)