Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The fine folks who make Nutella have never heard of me. If I were to fall off the face of the planet, they would never know. I just really freaking love Nutella. Many thanks for your understanding.
Confession: there is no soft spot in my pastry-loving heart for birthday cake. I have no problem with cake in general… or rather I have a very SERIOUS problem with cake in general. I really can’t help it. Baked goods make me all kinds of happy. But barring a few exceptions, every birthday cake I’ve ever had has been dry, tasteless, and draped in stiff, too-sweet frosting that snaps, crackles, and pops when you cut into it. I eat it because I’m the kind of girl that never turns down cake, no matter how unappealing it looks and tastes, and also because I’m the kind of girl that accepts what you give her with a smile and the utmost gratitude.
And because I just really, REALLY like cake.
It seems that as I mature, so does my taste in birthday cakes. The sugar-flavored cardboard blocks I ate in grade school were decorated with whatever cartoon character was the most popular. In junior high, my well-meaning mother obtained a photo of a certain senior at my high school, the eyes and biceps of said young man being fire to the powder keg of my pre-teen heart, and had his FACE put on my birthday cake. I laughed and blushed redder than Florence Welch’s hair, and my friends mercilessly teased me for months afterward. Thankfully, no photo evidence of this cake exists… right, Mom?
High school saw a veritable parade of nonspecific grocery store cakes, because in high school birthday parties aren’t about cake. High school birthday parties are about being excited that you’re having a birthday party and being the center of attention but ACTING like you’re too cool for it and you’re only following through with this bizarre social charade to please your parental units. Those cakes would be pretty non-descript, personalized only a swipe of airbrushed frosting in the celebrant’s favorite color—iris-searing orange was the shade du jour in those days—and the words, “Happy Birthday, Angi!” No “e,” please, because you’re unique and individual and you thought that dropping a vowel from your name was the best way to symbolize your differentness.*
In my freshman year of college, Mom had a cheesecake sampler sent to the office where I worked. I didn’t get a piece and I’m still bitter about it. Sophomore year, my parents came down to my school and had an impromptu birthday party in the common area in my dorm. They bought an obscene number of pizzas and brought with them a delicious carrot cake (one of the aforementioned exceptions) courtesy of Mom’s best friendLisa. People, I have dreams about this cake. You had to eat it on a real plate (or straight from the cake pan, if you’re me) because it’s so moist it can seep through the bottom of your average paper plate. The frosting was creamy and fluffy and sweet without being overpowering. Since that fateful cake, it’s become kind of an unspoken tradition. And by “unspoken,” I mean I drop broad hits around Valentine’s Day that my birthday is a mere month and a half away and I sure hope with all my cake-loving soul that there will be a certain carrot-y confection in store for me. I was thinking about this cake a few days ago, as my birthday looms perilously near (like, Wednesday) when it occurred to me then that in my 24-nearly-25 years I have never made my own birthday cake.
It was past 9:00 last night when I decided to remedy this pertinent issue, and was in no mood to run to the grocery store. So I yanked out my handy dandy recipe book and started thumbing through the dessert section to see what I could make with what I already had. I was looking for a cake, but once I convince myself that I want something sweet, anything will suffice. I stumbled across the word Nutella** in one of the recipe titles and decided that I didn’t care what vehicle was employed to transport the Nutella to my mouth. Nutella was to be baked into something, and I was to eat it.
I found this recipe several months ago, but wasn’t in a position to do anymore than scribble it into said recipe book and vow to try it later. The verdict? Not too shabby. I had to make some minor adjustments to the ingredients and didn’t have enough Nutella to do the marbling bit on top of each muffin, but as I’ve already said, I’m hard-pressed to find a baked good that doesn’t make me ten kinds of giddy. I’ll have to try it again when I have enough/the right kinds of ingredients to make it according to the recipe.
3 ½ cups AP flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temp (this is no place for spreads or pansy-ass fake butter; please-oh-please use the real stuff?)
1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups buttermilk
1 cup Nutella + ¼ cup for topping (pretty much a whole 13-ounce jar)
Pre-heat the hot box to 350. Prep a muffin pan with liners, because you’re better prepared than I am. If you’re a nitwit like me, spray some butter-flavored cooking spray on some paper towel and run it around the inside of each cup.
Sift together all the dry stuff and set it aside. Cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time. Make sure you completely incorporate one before you add another. Add the vanilla and pulverize for 30 seconds. I recommend dancing while completing this portion of the procedure. It helps.
Mix in the dry goods, alternating with the buttermilk. There is a method to this madness, like if you start and end with one or the other ingredients marvelous things will happen to you, or at the very least you’ll end up with superior muffins. I can never remember what the right way is, so I started with flour and ended with milk. Feel free to correct me on this, but I’ll probably still just do it my way. Add in one cup of the Nutella and mix until smooth.
If you can find an ice cream scoop in your well-organized kitchen, dole out a scoop of batter into each muffin liner, filling it about ¾ of the way. Then send me your ice cream scoop because I can’t find mine. Take about a quarter-ish teaspoon of the remaining Nutella and plop it onto each muffin. Use a toothpick or a fork tine to swirl it around. Dancing is optional here, but recommended.
Toss the pan into the oven for half an hour. While they’re baking, think about cleaning your kitchen. Then wail and moan and gnash your teeth because you have to clean your kitchen. In the end, don’t clean your kitchen.
Once the muffins are cool enough to handle, move them to a wire rack to finish cooling. The smear of Nutella on top is optional; like I said, I didn’t have enough for the marble topping. I was just able to scrape enough out of the jar to top one of the muffins. Yields about 26 muffins.
Happy birthday to me.
*Oh dear, sweet, little Angie… you were a moron.
**You’ve heard of this sinfully delicious phenomenon, right? If not, get thee to the grocery store with all speed. Nutella is kinda like Fight Club. We do not speak of it. Only those initiated in its solemn rites are aware of its power. I’ve been known to eat it directly from the jar with a spoon… or my finger. Whatever. Words hardly do it justice, but it’s chocolatey and velvety and slightly nutty (like, not the way I’M slightly nutty, but legitimately nutty) because it’s made with hazelnuts. You know that creamy, dreamy goo inside those Ferrero Roche candies? Yeah, that’s this stuff.