Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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May 22, 2012

Nutella Cupcakes with Frangelico

Libations used: 2 Tbs Frangelico
Libations left over: None, but make yourself a cocktail if you need to imbibe while baking...
A friend of mine was celebrating her graduation from grad school last week and I wanted to bring something to her party.  I knew there would be some little kids at this shindig, so I didn't want to make cupcakes that were going to get folks tipsy, and I wanted a flavor profile that would appeal to everyone.  Who doesn't love chocolate-Nutella-goodness and strawberries?  This recipe for Nutella Cupcakes that I found on Baked-In uses Frangelico, an Italian hazelnut liqueur in the batter so the alcohol will burn off (yay, no drunk kiddies!), and has a Nutella filling and Nutella buttercream frosting.

Make sure that you use fresh eggs when you're making the frosting so those whites whip up nicely.  I was lucky to get a dozen eggs from a friend who raises chickens at Maggie's Farms, and boy, do those eggs make amazing frosting!  I had also bought a huge box of strawberries that morning and decided these all-brown cupcakes needed a little color and fruity flair (I had to restrain myself from dunking too many strawberries in the Nutella jar after I was done baking).  I brought almost all the cupcakes to the party and they pretty much disappeared in under 5 minutes.  I think that's a pretty good sign that I need to make them again...

Nutella Cupcakes with Frangelico - makes 24-26
Ingredients for the cake:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs Frangelico
  • 1 cup buttermilk
Ingredients for the frosting:
  • 4 large egg whites (make sure the eggs are fresh)
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
To make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350 and line your cupcake pans.
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl.
- In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed for about 10 minutes until they're thick and pale.
- Turn off the mixer and add the vegetable oil, Frangelico and buttermilk.
- Beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
- Add the flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until it's fully incorporated, for about 2 minutes.  
- Add the batter to the cupcake tins, filling the cups about 2/3 full.
- Bake for 17-20 minutes, and make sure they're completely cool before frosting.

To make the frosting:
- Add the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high speed for about 8 minutes.  The egg whites should be in stiff, white peaks when you remove the whisk attachment.
- Fit your mixer with the paddle attachment and add the butter 2 Tbs at a time.
- Beat for about 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy and smooth.  It will go through a period where it curdles a little bit, but keep beating through that and it will come back together into an even fluffier texture.
- Add the Nutella and beat until it's fully incorporated.

To decorate the cupcakes:
- Use a small paring knife or a cupcake holer to take out a small piece of the middle.  
- Fill each cupcake with 1/2 to 1 tsp of Nutella.
- Frost and garnish with a strawberry slice.