Thursday, May 29, 2008

Brown Sugar-Hazelnut Cupcakes with Blackberry Buttercream Frosting

Update: these cupcakes were selected as one of the 20 best potluck recipes by the New York Times Magazine!  Make sure to check out all 20 recipes and read the related article by Amanda Hesser.

I don’t want to play favorites, but I’m going to have to: this here is my favorite cupcake to date. It’s actually my favorite cake (I’ve made it a few times before), but because I wasn’t in the mood to make a full-out layer cake (nor did I think it would be a good idea to have my favorite cake sitting in my apartment), I decided to just turn the cake into cupcakes.

What makes this cupcake so freakin’ good? It's a combination a few things: the crunchy layer of crushed hazelnuts on the bottom of the cupcake that provide a little textural surprise; the incredibly moist not too sweet cake (courtesy of yogurt and brown sugar); and the satiny lavender-colored blackberry buttercream frosting (frosting that is purple through natural means obviously gets bonus points in my book). Add them up and you get one killer cupcake.


Brown Sugar-Hazelnut Cupcakes with
Blackberry Buttercream Frosting

(makes 8 cupcakes)

For the Brown Sugar-Hazelnut cupcakes:
¼ cup hazelnuts
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup low-fat yogurt
¼ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
½ cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature

For the Blackberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting:
4 ounces fresh blackberries
1 tablespoon sugar
[Alternately, 2 tablespoons blackberry jam in place of the blackberries + sugar]
2 egg whites
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and at room temperature



Heat an oven to 350 F. Line 8 wells of a muffin pan with cupcake papers.

Put the hazelnuts and sugar into the bowl of a mini chopper and pulse until the nuts are ground – you want some texture so do not grind them too finely. Evenly distribute the ground nuts between the lined wells of the pan and set the pan aside.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk, and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and light brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg, and mix until combined.

Add half of the flour mixture, all of the yogurt mixture, and then the remaining flour, mixing on medium speed after each addition until just combined.

Distribute the batter between the cups. Bake until lightly golden around the edges and a toothpick comes out clean, 16-18 minutes.


Slice 4 berries in half lengthwise and set them aside.

Puree the remaining berries along with the sugar. Strain the blackberry puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan. Gently simmer the puree over medium-low heat until it is thick and reduced to about 2 tablespoons; this will take 10-12 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside to cool.

Put the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer. Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan and set the mixer bowl on top of the pan. Whisk the egg white mixture until it is 130 F – the mixture will turn thick and white, and this should take about 3 minutes.

Transfer the bowl to a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip the egg white mixture on high speed until it is cool, thick, and glossy, about 7 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-high and add the butter a few pieces at a time, making sure they are fully incorporated before the next addition. After all the butter has been added, continue beating the frosting until it comes together – this will take a minute or two.

Add the reduced blackberry puree (or jam) and mix to combine.

Frost the cupcakes and top each with a berry half.


M^2 said...

Seriously, these are freaking delicious.

Meghan said...

these look DIVINE. you continue to impress and amaze me...

the hazelnut crust on the bottom is a GREAT idea too... and i love that it held together well.


jen said...

What a creative cupcake! These look SO tasty!

John said...

Roopa, you continue to make me feel sooooo guilty for procrastinating on making more of these cakes and cupcakes! :) I need to get my act together. Shame on me!

Grace said...

that may be the purtiest icing i've ever seen--i'm a sucker for purple. i can definitely see why you consider these a favorite--easy on the eyes, even easier on the palate! nice job! :)

BMoreSweet said...

OMG, if there are any blackberries to be had at the Farmers' Market this weekend, they are not safe from me. These look AWESOME, Roopa!

malini said...

These cup cakes look so delicious. Hazelnuts are my favorite and I can't wait for you to come home.

Jeena said...

These cakes look wonderful. I love blackberries, the colour is beautiful.

Pigtown-Design said...

Roopa - they are just awesomely beautiful!!!

Rana and Nilesh said...

i want one.

Dawn said...

OMG - these look outrageously good. I will try making them - I know they won't look like yours. Did you see the giant cupcake mold that is in either Sur la table or William and Sonoma's catalog this month. I would love to see you go to town with that!

Navin D said...

Roopa, your recipes and tantalizing description never fail to make my mouth water! I can't wait til I'm back in the city so I can try my hand at some of them myself.

Becky said...

Those were fantastic. I failed, miserably, at the icing, though. I used another one, which incidentally turned out like glue, but they really did complement these cakes well, in flavour.

Cheers. Great job and thank you. :)

sasmonroe said...

Helloo.. i had ago in making this cupcake..and they came out beautiful. the cakes themselves were very moist and fluffy. However, i dont know why but i always have trouble when it comes to icing. I can never seem to make them in the right consistency. It's always too runny. I followed your instructions exactly and still came out with frosting that looks like..oh i better not say! haha. any thoughts on this?

Sarah said...

How would you change the recipe to make the cake version of this?? I made the cupcakes a couple days ago and my boyfriend LOVED them - I was going to make the cake to take to my grianparents' for XMas Eve.

Meghan said...

im making these tonight...for my dad's excited!

i will probably use jam if the store doesnt have any actual berries

Eggplant Armada said...

I made these the other day as a base for some pink grapefruit frosting. The cupcakes tasted amazing and I now offiically love this recipe, but I found that the cupcake wrappers fell off the cupcakes as they cooled. It was so frustrating. Would this be from the wrappers, or is it something about the ingredients that increases the odds of this? I didn't add the nuts, so maybe...?

roopa said...

Eggplant Armada - It could be your cupcake wrappers. Recently I bought a new brand of papers and all of them started peeling off when the cupcakes were cooling and that had previously never happened when I used the same recipe but a different brand of paper. It is very frustrating! I have noticed that this happens with papers that are coated - they aren't able to stick to the cupcake so they start to come off.

By the way, love your icon - it's the same image that's in my header :)

Christy said...

I tried these, too, and the cupcakes were really good - light and fluffy, but the icing came out way too runny! I am wondering what I did wrong, as I followed your directions exactly. I successfully did the meringue part and it tasted good at that point, but once I started adding the butter, it went downhill.

roopa said...

Christy - I often hear that comment about meringue-based buttercreams. If you don't mix it long enough the mixture will not emulsify and you'll be left with a runny mess. Keep the mixer running and it will come together eventually - I promise!

Dionne said...

Roopa, these cupcakes are a just delightful. I got the recipe from a friend who got it from the NYT. The cake is moist,the hazelnut held together well and the frosting is to die for. Thanks for sharing.

NuM NuM said...

Hi I'd love to make these but is there anyway I could make it for 12 cupcakes? Thank you.

roopa said...

num num - the recipe is scaled to make 8 cupcakes. If you want a full dozen, I suggest doubling the recipe and making 16. You can also fill the cups a little higher and you may be able to make 12 or 14 that way. Good luck!

NuM NuM said...

Hi roopa - maybe they didn't turn out for me b/c I increased the measurements by half and perhaps that messed up the equation. I'll have to try them again without altering the recipe. I linked the recipe back to you - sorry bout that. Thanks.

Cathy said...

I saw this recipe in the NY times a while back and couldn't get them out of my head. I finally made them and they turned out beautifully, except I only got 6 cupcakes out of the recipe, and they weren't really all that big. Next time I'll definitely double the recipe because I have a feeling these will disappear quickly!

Anonymous said...

I'm planning to make this recipe as a birthday cake for someone who is wild about hazelnut but unfortunately does not feel the same about blackberries. Do you think it would work well with a chocolate buttercream frosting? Do you have any recommendations? Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this recipe! Everyone I shared these with complemented them as the best cupcake they've ever had. Like many of the other commenters, my icing came out very runny as well. Regardless, it was still delicious!

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