It’s my Birthday at the weekend, which of course means that there will be cake! Now I’m sure that if I asked nicely Mr Colonial Cravings would no doubt have a stab at making me a birthday cake but, judging by the turmoil that always greets me in the kitchen after he’s made pizza, it would not be worth the clean-up!
So instead of donning a pair of marigolds I’ve donned my apron and come up with these little beauties. Indulgent, creamy Nutella flavoured Swiss meringue buttercream smothering fluffy hazelnut sponge. Just wonderful. The cakes develop a lovely slighty crisp chewy crust and the Nutella buttercream is absolutely sublime. But you didn’t need me to tell you that.
I know that making Swiss meringue buttercream takes a bit more effort than just beating together butter and icing sugar but I promise you it’s totally worth it. It’s also very forgiving so you shouldn’t feel daunted by it. The first time I tried this particular one my butter was a bit too soft when I added it so the buttercream ended up too runny to pipe. I just shoved it in the fridge for 15 minutes and then whipped it again and it was perfect.
If you’re feeling especially extravagant then you could even top them with Ferrero Rocher…just a suggestion.
70g plain flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
60g toasted hazelnuts, finely ground
pinch of salt
2 egg whites
3 tbsp Nutella
1 tbsp Frangelico (optional but it’ll really boost the hazelnut flavour)
Pre-heat the oven to 190°c and line a cupcake tin with pretty wrappers.
Put the butter, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl and then sift in the flour and baking powder. Beat this together so that it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the ground hazelnuts.
In a separate jug whisk together the egg and milk before gradually adding this to the dry mixture. Beat the batter for few minutes, so that it becomes quite fluffy. Divide this mixture evenly between the cupcake wrappers and bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes.
Once they are cooked and nicely browned leave them to cool on a wire rack whilst you make the frosting.
Place the egg whites and sugar in a super-clean mixing bowl set over a pan of boiling water. Use a hand whisk and continually whip the meringue mixture as it heats. It needs to be quite warm and the sugar needs to have dissolved into the egg white. Just rub a little between your fingers to check the temperature and that it isn’t grainy. Remove the pan from the heat and then whisk the egg white until it is fluffy and cool (I switch to an electric whisk for this). Once you’re at this point you can slowly beat in the butter, one small piece at a time. Continue to whip the buttercream until it has emulsified and become smooth and creamy. Finally beat in the Nutella and Frangelico until is well blended. Resist the urge to eat it all now and transfer it to a piping bag, ready to decorate your cupcakes. Alternatively just use a pallet knife to appoint each cake with a generous splodge. Sprinkle with a few chopped hazelnuts or chocolate sprinkles…