At work, we have cake once a month to celebrate everyone's birthday for that month. Since my birthday was this month, I was asked what my vote for the month's cake flavor was. I said chocolate, as always, but then I started thinking about how the chocolate cake we usually get isn't really that great. I like to bake (obviously), so I decided to offer to make the month's cake. I didn't actually think I'd get taken up on my offer, but lo and behold, I was! Then I started thinking about what kind of cake I'd make and realized that I don't have a cake carrier, so trying to get a layer cake to work in one piece with no one to hold it was going to be nigh on impossible. Cupcakes started to seem like the most easily-transportable option. I love to make layer cakes with yummy combinations of fillings, and the idea of filled cupcakes intrigued me. I'd been having a craving for Nutella for a few days at that point, and chocolate cupcakes filled with Nutella seemed like just the thing. I debated between Nutella buttercream and a chocolate ganache topping, and eventually settled on the ganache with a little bit of Nutella buttercream on top. It was an awesome combination.
To fill the cupcakes, I used a paring knife and cut the tops off by inserting the knife at about a 45 degree angle and gently working it around the circumference of the cupcake. This ends up giving you a cone-shaped cap and a cupcake with a cone-shaped pit in it. I cut the tips off the cone-shaped caps (to allow for more room for filling, of course!), and used a piping bag to fill the centers of the cupcakes with Nutella. The caps were fitted back onto the cakes, ganache was spread over the top, and then the cupcakes were topped with a rosette of Nuttela buttercream.
Here's the recipe I used for the cakes themselves, which is actually a somewhat tweaked version of the basic chocolate cake recipe from my old, worn Berry Crocker's cookbook:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup + 1 Tbsp baking cocoa
1 1/4 cups water
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or grease and flour them.
Dissolve coffee granules in water. Beat together all ingredients with an electric mixer on low for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes, scraping bowl occassionally.
Spoon batter into pans - fill each cup about 3/4 full. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pans and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
The ganache I coated the tops of the cakes with was about 2/3 of a cup of whipping cream heated until steaming, then poured over about 8 oz of bittersweet Ghirardelli chocolate chips. I let it sit for 5 minutes or so to let the chocolate melt, then used a whisk to stir it until smooth. The ganache cooled for about half an hour before I spread it on the cupcakes. The Nutella buttercream started out with 6 tbsp of butter, 2/3 of a cup of Nutella, and about a cup of powdered sugar. This yeilded something about the consistency of modeling clay, so I added milk a tablespoon at a time until it became a spreadable consistency.
The finished product, when cut in half, looked like this: