Nutella as we know it first hit the shelves in the 1960s; however, the first batch of this sweet spread was made by Pietro Ferrero (yes, the same Pietro Ferrero who gave us the Ferrero Roche) in the 1940s but it came in a solid block! The smooth version wasn’t created until the ’50s but its history dates back much further than that.
Nutella is essentially a smooth gianduja. Gianduja is a spread made of at least 30% hazelnut paste as well as sweetened chocolate. Gianduja was first invested in Turin during Napoléon’s regency (that dates it back to the 18th century!) If you haven’t tried the real stuff, you really ought to. It’s far superior to Nutella, has a much crunchier texture (being less processed) and is not nearly as sweet. Admittedly, gianduja is much less convenient to get hold of hence why these cupcakes are called nutella surprise cupcakes and not gianduja surprise cupcakes!
Talking of what to call them, Nutella isn’t all good, so I’ll admit now that this recipe is only called nutella surprise cupcakes because it sounds much better than chocolate hazelnut spread surprise cupcakes! You’re free to use whatever filling you like (I often do, myself.)
Do a quick google search and you will soon realise that it is a chocolate hazelnut palm oil spread. Palm oil. For those of you who have never delved into the controversial topic that is palm oil: essentially, it is one of the biggest contributors to destruction of the planet’s rain forests. Now, I’m not going to get on my soapbox and explain why you should use alternatives but bear in mind that they do exist and the price isn’t too dissimilar given that they are free from palm oil. I always use ethically sourced ingredients where I can and here, for example, Sweet Freedom chocolate spread would be a great alternative.
On a different subject, these cupcakes are perfect to make with children. They can help mix the batter and, when they’re baked and cooled, they can unleash their creative side with icing and sprinkle! Just don’t think about the mess!
Gluten free? No problem. Simple follow my recipe for gluten-free choc-chip cupcakes (omitting the chocolate chips!) and jump back in to this recipe at the “Time to core and fill” stage below!
Nutella Surprise Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
- 165 g butter softened
- 195 g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 215 g plain flour
- 1/2 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 100 g chocolate hazelnut spread such as Nutella
For the buttercream:
- 200 g butter slightly softened
- 400 g icing sugar
- 50 g cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp milk if required
- Preheat the oven to 160°c and line a 12-hole tin with cupcake cases.
- In a mixer, beat together the softened butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Next, beat in your eggs. I like to add them one at a time, beating well between the addition of each egg.
- Beat the mixture until it is pale and airy before sifting in your flour and baking powder.
- Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until almost fully combined.
- Then, add the vanilla and chocolate, folding them in until fully combined.
- Spoon 1-2 tbsp of mixture into each of your cupcake cases.
- Bake the cupcakes on the middle shelf for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer pierced in the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Time to core and fill
- Once the cakes are cooled, create a small hole in the centre of each, using a cupcake corer (an apple corer or teaspoon would work fine too!) Don’t throw away the tops, we’ll place them back on top afterwards.
- Fill each of the holes with a teaspoon or so of chocolate spread, trying not to get it all over the top of the cakes, before placing the reserved centres back on top of the cupcakes.
Now for buttercream
- In a stand-mixer (a hand-held electric mixer will work too), beat the slightly softened butter for 2-3 minutes to incorporate some air.
- Next, mix together the icing sugar and cocoa powder and sift into the whipped butter one tablespoon at a time (this will prevent your kitchen looking like a winter scene!)
- Once all of the icing sugar and cocoa powder is incorporated, beat for a further 5 minutes.
- When ready, your buttercream should be stiff enough to hold it’s shape but soft enough to easily spread/pipe. If your buttercream is too stiff, add a splash of milk to slacken it. Too runny? Add more icing sugar.
- Fill a piping bag with your buttercream, and pipe a nice, big swirl on each cake.
- Now, here’s where you can get really creative with your toppers and sprinkles! I like to roll the cakes in chocolate strands to completely cover them but you can do whatever you like. You can ever make little fondant toppers for each one! They’re lots of fun to make and sure to be a hit with children and adults alike!