Nutella Cupcakes

While it looked for awhile like we wouldn’t be able to settle on a new camera, we ultimately picked up this Canon PowerShot on sale at Target for around $100. Since then, Aidan and I have both been playing around with it, getting used to all of its features and how small it is compared to our previous camera. This, of course, has resulted in a lot of new beauty shots of the cats.

Ramona

(Cat pictures taken by Aidan.)

Neko

As Aidan pointed out, the baseline in terms of quality with digital cameras has improved in major ways since the last time we bought a camera (4 or 5 years ago), and its nice to be able to buy something so basic and relatively inexpensive and feel like you’ve made¬† a solid purchase. It’s a reminder that something like food blogging doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. You can get far with an inexpensive point-and-shoot, a free blogging platform, everyday ingredients, and a small kitchen stocked with some basic utensils/pans. Keep it on the cheap and you won’t even have to worry about any of those pesky ads–especially since so many of them involve Weight Watchers or claims to magically decrease belly fat. Leave my belly fat alone. It is soft and good for cuddling.

I found this Nutella Cupcake recipe last weekend on World Nutella Day. I’m frankly, not the biggest fan of Nutella. It’s good, but eating Nutella always makes me acutely aware of the fact that I am not eating peanut butter, which is where my allegiance lies. (This is precisely why I have a bag full of peanuts in my cupboard waiting to be turned into this chocolate-peanut spread.) However, we have a jar of Nutella in the back of one of our cupboards that neither of us has touched for awhile. So I figured, what better way to use some of it up than to try out this recipe?

Nutella Cupcakes

These are just your basic yellow cupcake with a dollop of Nutella swirled into the top of the cupcake, resulting in a cupcake that comes out of the oven already frosted and ready to be eaten. Simplicity is the big appeal of this recipe: basic ingredients and minimal hands-on time yield truly tasty and satisfying cupcakes.

Nutella Cupcake 2

They were a little bit dryer than I would of liked, but I also think I probably should have pulled them out of the oven a few minutes earlier. Still, these were fantastic and this is recipe is definitely a keeper for those times when you need a quick dessert–especially one that will appeal to kids and adults equally.

I hope you’re enjoying what’s left of the weekend!

Nutella Cupcakes (Adapted from Baking Bites)

  • 10 tbsp butter
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Around 1/3 cup of Nutella (the amount you use really depends on how much Nutella you plop on top of the cupcakes)
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated. Add in the vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the batter in 2 or 3 batches, beating after each addition until all the flour has been incorporated.
  4. Line a muffin tin with 12 baking cups. Divide the batter evenly among the baking cups. Top each batter-filled cup with about 1 1/2 tsp Nutella. (I just used a generously rounded teaspoon.) Using a toothpick or knife, swirl the Nutella into the batter, being sure to pull some of the cake batter over the Nutella.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

There is a student group in my program that I’m not involved with who hosted a department potluck last night that I had decided awhile ago I probably wouldn’t attend. That is, until one very persuasive friend started throwing around words like “free beer” and “chili relleno casserole.” So I went, and greatly enjoyed the beer, the food, and the good conversation. It was a fun night.

After I decided to go to this shindig, my first move was to go to Smitten Kitchen to figure out what I was going to bring. I find myself doing this a lot when I’m looking for recipes–first I check SK, then the King Arthur Flour website, and then my own cookbooks. If I can’t find anything there, then I take a deep breath and start sifting through recipes on Epicurious. I’m sure you feel greatly enriched now that you know my recipe finding process. The bottom line is that I really love Smitten Kitchen. It’s a great food blog that not only has a ton of great recipes, but also has a whole host of solid cooking and baking tips that have helped my own work in the kitchen immensely. Anyway, my own contribution to the potluck ended up being pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting–a recipe that I, of course, found on SK.

pumpkin cupcake

I have neither the patience nor the equipment to pipe roses onto the top of my cupcakes as they were beautifully shown on SK, so mine are more humbly “decorated” with some chopped, toasted pecans. I followed the recipe exactly as its posted on SK, except that I halved the frosting recipe since I knew I wasn’t going to pull off any impressive frosting design feats. Half of the recipe ended up being perfect for frosting the 18 cupcakes that I got from this recipe.

These were really good. I mean, REALLY good. They are light and moist in texture, not overly spiced, and they don’t have an overwhelming pumpkin taste. And they were well received by children and adults alike. At least two people who aren’t big fans of pumpkin (Aidan included) ate more than one, and one friend said, “this cupcake is the best part of my night.” What more can you ask for?

A final word of praise: In the comments on the original SK post, a number of people were disappointed that the cream cheese frosting didn’t have a distinct maple flavor. And it’s true–the maple syrup in the frosting just can’t compete with the stronger flavor of the cream cheese. Really, I think it’s a good thing because I’m not sure these cupcakes would have benefited from a strongly flavored frosting. But the most important thing to note about this frosting recipe is that it yields a superior cream cheese frosting. Because of the addition of the maple syrup, the recipe calls for a lot less powdered sugar than you typically see in cream cheese frosting recipes. The result is a frosting that is satisfyingly sweet without have the kind of over-sugared bite you can get when you have to add a lot of powdered sugar, and it is also much lighter than your typical cream cheese frosting. It’s the kind of frosting you can eat straight from the bowl (which I may or may not be doing right now) without feeling like your teeth are going to fall out of your head. I’m bookmarking this as my go-to cream cheese frosting, and frankly, I think you should too.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

This year, I started work towards a PhD in a relatively small program that has (by my rough estimate) somewhere between 25 and 30 graduate students at a time. Regardless of where you go, I have to imagine that the first year of any PhD is some tough business because it involves a lot of new pressures and expectations, a heavy workload, and often an entirely new place and entirely new people to grow accustomed to. This year was even harder than I think it had to be for me for reasons that I’ll probably get into more in a later post, but one of the things that I feel most fortunate for throughout it all is having come into the program with a group of three other students who I all genuinely like and really get along with. The time-consuming nature of graduate work, especially combined with a rather small pool of graduate students, means that you end up spending a lot of time with a handful of people which often has the potential to be a very good or a very bad thing. For me, being around Justin, Missy, and Nicole has been a very, very good thing and we’ve a good time having group dinners, birthday celebrations, and even a Thanksgiving potluck. Any group of people I can enjoy good food and beer with is a group of people for me.

Anyway, the members of the CCR Cohort ’09 got together this past Friday at Nicole’s for a dinner celebrating her new house and the fact that her parents and in-laws had flown in.¬† I have more than established my role as the resident cohort baker (which wasn’t hard since I’m really the only who bakes) so Nicole asked me to bring dessert, which I frankly would have done even if she hadn’t asked. Nicole and I share a love of all things chocolate, so even though I briefly considered making some lemon bars I ultimately decided to try this black bottom cupcake recipe. (Yes, it’s another recipe from Smitten Kitchen which is because I enjoy her blog so much that it’s often one of my first go to’s when I’m looking for a recipe. Her reviews and her recipe modifications have yet to fail me.)

Adding chocolate pieces to the cream cheese mixture.

The cream cheese and chocolate pieces gettin' together

These cupcakes are basically a devil’s food cupcake with dollops of a kind of chocolate chip cheesecake batter dropped in the middle. It’s a combination that ranks relatively high on the list of “Best Ideas Humans Have Ever Had.” These are easy to make and process goes relatively quickly. If you’re like me and forget to buy more cupcake liners, the only tedious step of the process involves buttering the individual cups of the muffin tins. Never again, I say to myself. Never again.

Chocolate cake batter in the muffin tin

Lonely, unadorned chocolate cake batter . . .

I knew there were going to be somewhere around 10 people at dinner, and I appreciate them all so much that I felt they deserved to have more than one if they wanted so I doubled the recipe and made two dozen cupcakes. At one point in the evening, someone mentioned the idea of eating them the next morning for breakfast so making extras was clearly a good idea.

Cupcakes ready for the oven

Chocolate cake batter fortified by the sweet loving embrace of cream cheese.

I ended up filling each of the muffin cups up with about 1/4 c of cake batter and then dropped a nice rounded spoonful of the cream cheese mixture into the middle. One of my muffin pans was slightly more shallow than the other, and the cupcake in this pan spilled over the edges of the muffin cups and were a little . . . well, homely. After they were done baking, I tried to remove them from the pan before they were completely cool which caused one of them to fall apart. So I was forced to eat it while it was still warm. It was good, but not great. Thus I began to panic about whether or not people would enjoy them and preemptively began feeling ashamed at baking something sub-par for Nicole’s parents and in-laws who I had never met before.

Cupcakes done and cooling on the rack

If you listen closely, you can hear this batch of cupcakes gloating about how much more attractive they are than the other pan.

Luckily, after debating about whether I should start the cupcakes at midnight on Thursday or make them on Friday afternoon, I opted for making these on Thursday night. I feel like it’s polite to recommend that you make these a day in advance, but I think of it more as an imperative. Eating them out of the oven doesn’t do them justice. After sitting for almost a day, these became more moist and the tops of the cupcakes which came out of the oven with a chewy, almost crunchy texture softened up in a big way. The chocolate flavor of the cake also intensified with a bit of time, which I’ve recently learned is often the case with chocolate cakes. Ultimately, when I bit into these at Nicole’s, I was overcome with relief because they were just so damn good.

I lived up to my reputation as baker extradinaire in front of the parents. And there were still enough to bring some home to Aidan. Another win for Team Anna.