Baileys & Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

Cupcakes sparked my love for baking when I made my very first batch for a friend's birthday, and I'm at my most relaxed state when I'm baking cupcakes because I've made them so many times in massive quantities for the baking society that I know the recipes by heart. But ever since the last society event, I've stopped making them and have focused on whole cakes and tarts so it's nice to get back to cupcakes.

The star of this recipe is  Guido Gobino's gianduja (chocolate hazelnut) spread I got during my trip to Turin, Italy. The spread contains more than 35% hazelnuts while Nutella typically has only 13%. Besides the richer hazelnut flavour, the gianduja spread is thicker, smoother and more velvety, which makes the swiss meringue buttercream exceptionally delicious. I couldn't stop myself from "taste testing" a few spoonfuls. But if you can't get your hands on the gianduja spread (Venchi stocks their own spread), you could always use Nutella instead.

Baileys & Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes
(makes about 14 cupcakes)

113g - Butter
145g - Caster sugar
2 - Eggs
1 tspn - Vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
165g - Self-raising flour
1 tbspn - Cocoa powder
30g - Chopped hazelnuts
120ml - Baileys

~ Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line the cupcake tray with paper cases.
~ Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy. Add in the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla extract. Mix well.
~ Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Alternate between additions of the flour mixture and Baileys, folding till just combined.
~ Fill the cases 2/3 full and bake for 15-20 minutes (or until the inserted toothpick comes out clean).
~ Allow the cupcakes to cool before frosting.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
(enough for 2 batches of cupcakes)

2 - Large egg whites
100g - Caster sugar 
140g - Butter*
150g - Gianduja spread
74g - Cocoa powder

*Cut the butter into smaller cubes. It should be at room temperature, but firm enough to hold its shape.

~ Place the egg whites and sugar in a large metal bowl of the electric mixer. Suspend the bowl over simmering water and hand whisk constantly till the sugar has dissolved and is hot to the touch (70°C).
~ Remove from heat and fit it back to the stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium high speed till the bowl has cooled and the meringue is stiff and glossy (for about 10 minutes).
~ Add the butter one piece at a time, ensuring that each addition is incorporated completely. Keep beating until the mixture is smooth.
~ Add in the spread and cocoa powder. Mix well.
~ Pipe the buttercream onto the cooled cupcakes. (I used a Wilton 1M tip and sprinkled some crushed hazelnuts for the finishing touch)