This is a story about a boy named Gilbert. He’s our resident culture boy; the multilingual dictionary we consult when we want to learn new foreign words. He absolutely loves India and its culture, and I’m convinced he had been Indian during his past life. But most of all, he’s one of my longest-standing friends. I’ve known him since before I knew my multiplication table!
I first met him during preschool, when we were 4 or 5. As luck would have it, we were classmates all throughout kindergarten and grade school as well. When high school came along, we got assigned into our separate classes. If anything though, I think this was the time we became closer friends. To be honest, I don’t even know how to describe our friendship, or how to describe the closeness that we have. It’s just always been there, you know?
I remember in high school, he used to pop over to our classroom during lunchtime to chat and have a taste of whatever we were eating. And then he would go up front and perform uncanny impressions of some of our “favourite” high school teachers. I guess you could say that I’m pretty used to having him around, and occasionally, I would even invite him and my best friend out to family gatherings (this was when we became a trio). We saw each other less when we went to college, each of us leading very different lives from the other, but we would still make it a point to meet during special occasions. Specifically, eating out on our birthdays has become a bit of a ritual for us.
When Gilbert texted me about meeting for a post-birthday celebration, I jumped at the chance to make him something as special as this cake I made last year for my best friend Margarette. There were two things that I knew I had to do: First, incorporate Nutella into the cupcakes (he loves the stuff!); and second, I had to have some sort of surprise in the middle of the cupcake.
Well, I must admit, maybe I’m just bad at surprises. After mentioning the cupcakes had a surprise inside, he was able to guess right off the bat what it was. (I never should have said anything!) He picked one cupcake up and commented on how heavy it was and he immediately guessed that there was a piece of Ferrero Rocher inside.
As a sidenote, I never understood why my peers went gaga over these things during my high school years. During Valentine’s Day, we had this little card and rose delivery service at school and most girls would receive Ferreros from their guys. They’d be gushing over it like Ferreros were the most spectacular piece of candy in the world. Perhaps I don’t get all the fuss over these sweet little balls because I’m just more of a dark chocolate kind of girl. However, I did feel sad when all that was left of the Ferreros were the empty golden wrappers.
Going back to my story about the cupcakes, I was really nervous when I handed Gilbert the cupcake box. For one thing, the cupcakes inside had gotten jostled during my travel to meet him and my best friend, and the icing was completely ruined. He’s not one to mind these things though so I stayed silent as he began eating a cupcake.
Shockingly- and if you know how talkative Gilbert is you’d feel the same kind of shock- he stayed quiet the whole time, which could only mean two things. (Like or no like?) But after he scarfed one cupcake down, he grabbed another one and ate it in pretty much the same fashion as the first, and I was instantly relieved. I don’t tend to give people anything I’ve never tested before but he looks happy in the photo below doesn’t he? (Please say yes.)
When I got home, I took a taste of a cupcake (I had given him only 6), and while the icing- despite my major sugar adjustments- was still too sweet for my taste, the chocolate cupcakes were fantabulous! Rich, chocolatey, not too sweet, with a gorgeous and moist crumb. The addition of the coffee into the batter I think really gave it that magical taste. I reckon this will be my go-to chocolate cupcake from now own.
Nutella Surprise Cupcakes
For the Ferrero Cupcakes
- 1 cup 4.5 ounces all purpose flour
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons, 7.3 ounces sugar
- ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons, 1.5 ounces unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and warm
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoon instant coffee powder
- ½ cup hot coffee
- 12 Ferrero Rocher
For the Nutella Buttercream Frosting
- 1 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 6.5 ounces of Nutella
- pinch of fine grain sea salt
- 1/2 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
- 150 grams confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 3 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
Make the cupcakes
- 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line a 12-cup regular-sized cupcake pan with paper liners.
- 2. Add flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a blow and mix thoroughly to combine.
- 3. Add the butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat on medium speed for about a minute.
- 4. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add instant coffee and the hot coffee. Beat for 20-30 seconds until the batter is smooth. The batter will be thin enough to pour.
- 5. Divide the batter evenly among the lined cups, filling only a little over halfway full. Place a whole Ferrero Rochero in the center of each well. The batter will rise to nearly cover the Ferrero.
- 6. Bake 18-22 minutes just until a toothpick inserted into a few of the cupcakes comes out clean. Set the pan on a rack to cool. Frost the cupcakes when they are completely cool.
Make the frosting
- 7. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and Nutella until well combined, thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Slowly add in confectioner’s sugar, and continue mixing until well blended.
- 8. Add salt, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional tablespoon of heavy cream or milk (or confectioner's sugar if the frosting is too thin) until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- 9. Pipe or spread the frosting atop your cupcakes.