Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MSC: Candied Hazelnut Cupcakes

I'm finally posting another Martha Stewart's Cupcakes Club entry this month! I skipped last month's selection because I had already made the assigned cupcakes and blogged about them in the past. But now I'm back and ready to talk about Candied Hazelnut Cupcakes!

These nutty little gems were chosen by Jeannette of The Whimsical Cupcake. The cupcakes themselves are a tasty mix of flours (all-purpose flour and cake flour), along with finely ground almonds and hazelnuts. This cake recipe also incorporates the use of egg whites whipped to soft peaks and then folded into the batter, which aids in preventing the cupcakes from being dense and heavy. I was excited about these cupcakes, particularly the cake part because I love nuts and had just recently bought almond flour. I couldn't wait to use it in these. The cake turned out wonderfully, with great flavor, texture, and a surprising nuttiness (well, it's only surprising if you're not the baker, I guess, but I still found it pleasant!). They were a snap to make and I prepared them the day before I worked on the candied nut and the frosting.

Everything was going along just swimmingly until I attempted to make the caramel for the candied hazelnuts. I say "attempted" because I never actually succeeded in making my caramel. I'm not quite sure what happened here. I tried making the caramel twice. Both times, the sugar syrup never quite turned the medium amber color indicated in the book. The first batch actually transformed from clear sugar syrup back into solid sugar, right before my very eyes, and hardened and crystallized onto the bottom of my pot and became an impenetrable mass. I had to fill the pot up with water, put it on the stove to boil, and then basically chisel the mass off the pot.

Once that mess was cleared up, I tried again. I was getting a bit frustrated at this point but I just thought I had cooked it too long or something. I watched it very, very carefully the second time, and this time I took the pot from the heat earlier than the previous try. I plunged it into the ice water bath as the directions indicate. About two minutes later, I noticed that the sugar syrup had crystallized again! I tried to start dipping the hazelnuts into it before it got too hard, but within moments the mass had re-formed, and I was out of luck. It was incredibly frustrating, especially because I have made caramel in the past and had success. I'm still not too sure what went wrong. My best guess is that there wasn't enough water in proportion to the sugar. I'm dying to see how everyone else made out with this; maybe it'll give me a clue as to what happened to mine.

What I finally did was I added extra water to my crystallized mass, put it back on the stove, and heated it back up until it was syrupy. Then, I dipped the hazelnuts into the syrup and let them sit for a while. They never hardened up, but at that point I didn't even care anymore. The nuts had a nice, shiny coat on them, and they still looked pretty on top of the cupcakes. They weren't the showstoppers I had hoped they would be, but I can live with that.

The frosting is an Italian meringue buttercream with chocolate. I could have made the dark chocolate frosting Martha suggests to use, but frankly I was a little wary of using that one because of all the butter and chocolate that goes into it. I know someday I will eventually make that frosting, because it sounds amazing. My original plan was to make an IMB and then turn it into caramel IMB by pouring in the leftover caramel. Obviously, my plans were thwarted when the caramel never turned out. It all worked out okay, though. I really enjoy making IMB and was eager to try a chocolate version. It turned out light, like mousse, not too sweet, and just perfect on these cupcakes, I thought.

Head on over to the MSC blogroll to see if the other bakers had better luck with those candied hazelnuts. I'm dying to see everyone's cupcakes! Hopefully nobody had the kinds of problems I did. If anyone's got any suggestions about my kitchen disaster, I'd be happy to hear them!


  1. I had trouble with the candied hazelnuts, too. In my second attempt, I avoided the ice water bath and just let it cool slightly on its own. It seemed like I boiled the sugar water for a LOOOOONG time!

    I think yours are equally pretty and surely just as tasty! Before you try the dark chocolate frosting, look at the recipe on my blog. After trying it twice, I've modified it so it's not so bitter. Glad you could join us!


  2. Those look wonderful, loved reading about the whole process and what did and didn't work, etc., and I learned a lot. I have sort of fallen off the MSC cupcake train...any inspiration to get me back on it? Actually, these are sort of working in that regard.

  3. I totally understand your frustration with the candied hazelnuts. It took forever to get to the right color and then it hardened up fast. I was able to get it to melt a bit again and dip a few, but the picture I posted was almost the only good ones. I definitely did not have 24 of these. I love the dark chocolate frosting, but it probably is not the best. Your icing sounds fabulous and your cupcakes look great!

  4. You did well, the sugar mixture is hard to work with.

  5. The candied hazelnuts are hard work, but so worth it.