The cakes are moist and somewhat dense, almost chewy, and come out of the oven with perfectly flat tops, which beg for a slick of ganache and end up having that gorgeous, streamlined European bake shop vibe. Also, the ganache in this recipe is my go-to ganache--it firms up nicely with a slight chew and a satiny sheen. Full story of this recipe available on my blog at pieceofcakeblog.blogspot.com ! —Shauna Sever
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
Whisk together the flour and salt and set aside.
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.
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
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.
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.
Shauna Sever is the author of Real Sweet, Pure Vanilla, and Marshmallow Madness!, and is the voice behind the popular blog Piece of Cake. As a baking expert and television host, she has appeared on Food Network, NPR, CHOW, eHowFood, and more. Her work has been published in O, The Oprah Magazine; USA Weekend; Woman's World; Fine Cooking; Parade; the Huffington Post; and many others. She lives with her husband and their two children in Oak Park, Illinois.