I have several regrets in life, but none quite rival my short-sighted decision to join the refreshments committee at my children’s elementary school.
I naively calculated that in exchange for baking a cake or two during the year, I would be free of constant pings imploring me to stock books in the library, chaperone rock climbing trips to Malibu, read to the class, collect canned goods at Thanksgiving, donate money so 5th graders can ride in a limo after graduating, clean classroom tables, buy 10 yellow t-shirts, or collect tickets and paint sets for the school play.
Well, I got that one wrong, on both accounts.
Friends, you can’t imagine how many meetings they have at schools, and apparently they all require a sweet. The other day when the email reminder of my obligation to bake for the magic show popped up, I searched food52 with desperation for a delicious confection suitable for weeknight baking.
I happened upon Nutella Cupcakes which has quickly become my go-to recipe for such occasions. (Obligations? Whatever.)
What makes this recipe so interesting is that it calls for very little butter – a mere two tablespoons – because its main fat source is the Nutella. Its ease stems from both its few steps and few bowls, and the fact that its very delicious ganache frosting is made in the microwave! (Some of you will frown about the corn syrup involved here. In general terms I agree. In worse-case scenarios of deep need, exceptions must be made.)
My kids helped me whip them up, and the whole thing was over in about an hour, including cooling time. I doubled the recipe and don’t you know, they all sold out during the first half of the show.
My kids liked these cupcakes so much I have since made them on two other occasions. Love you, Miss aptly-named pieceofcake!
I have only three small notes: I skipped the hazelnuts because no one wanted them, so I can’t speak to what they add. When I doubled the recipe I had just enough but when I made only a dozen, as the recipe calls for, I seemed to only have enough batter for 10. (This may have been because I filled a few cups too high. Don’t do that.)
Finally, you’ve got to make sure you get that Nutella as smooth as possible; if it lumps here and there you will have a concave cupcake or two in your batch. If this happens, do as I did and cover the sin with more frosting, and call it molten.
For the cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Whisk together the flour and salt and set aside.
3. With an electric mixer in a medium bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat until well-blended. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy and pale in color. Beat in the Nutella until well-incorporated, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl while beating. Add the eggs and beat until smooth. On low speed, beat in half the flour mixture just until it beings to disappear into the batter. Beat in the milk. Fold in the remainder of the flour mixture by hand until the batter is smooth.
4. Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling them no more than 1/2 full. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs -- if in doubt, pull them from the oven a bit early -- do not over bake. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
For the ganache:
1. Place the chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stopping to stir after each interval, until the mixture is shiny and smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
2. When the cupcakes are completely cool, using a spoon, top each one with about two teaspoons of the ganache, and with the back of the spoon coax it as close to the edges as possible without letting it drip down the sides (or go on and let it drip...drippy chocolate is rarely a bad thing). Sprinkle on a bit of the chopped hazelnuts. Let the ganache set before storing in an airtight container at room temperature overnight--these cupcakes truly taste better the next day. But if you want to defy me and serve the cupcakes immediately, refrigerate them for about five minutes and the ganache will quickly set.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, is the Los Angeles Bureau Chief for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
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