Best-Ever Chocolate Nutella Layer Cake

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere!

I was looking through some older posts the other day, and I came across these Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting. And while I’ve never been fixated on Nutella desserts, I had almost forgotten how much I loved the way the sweet and hazelnutty flavour and creamy texture of Nutella added a much-welcome addition to these otherwise classic (but awesome) chocolate cupcakes.  So this week I decided to make a super-simple, quick and easy cake version of those cupcakes, embracing quality dark chocolate, extra dark cocoa powder and, of course, Nutella.

Simply put, the frosting is magical. Like unicorn and rainbows magical.

I have this thing about chocolate frosting. I kind of need it to be airy and satiny, as opposed to super-fudgy and dense–I think it pairs so well with a deep, dark moist chocolate cake, such as this one. This frosting is a take on that same Nutella Cloud Frosting I had used on the cupcakes, but I decided to add much more Nutella and a generous amount of sour cream to balance out the sweet. Rather than using the mixer, I just popped everything into my food processor and gave it a 60-second spin or so. The result was the creamiest and richest sweet chocolate frosting I’ve ever tasted.

In addition to the Nutella, we add a good dose of extra dark premium melted chocolate (I used a 70%) to help keep some of the intense chocolate flavour. The Nutella lends to the satiny texture, but because it is already quite sweet, the overall quality of this frosting is on the sweet side, but with a dark decadence. If you can’t get Nutella, or if you find you prefer a deeper flavour with minimal sweetness, you could even skip the Nutella and add a handful of ground hazelnuts. Of course the texture would change to a more rustic one, but the taste would be notably more sophisticated.

But Nutella seems to bring a nostalgic element for some, and if this cake is going anywhere near a little cakelet’s belly, I think Nutella is the way to go, because kids go, well, nuts for this stuff.

And because this cake, as simple as it is, is a celebration of chocolate, I opted for a medley of pure chocolate sprinkles as the finishing touch. It adds an interesting visual and delightful chocolaty crunch to each slice. For the piped border, I went with an unfussy shell-style border, but extended each one for a few extra seconds to create a more elongated shell look. Nothing fancy, but quick, easy and pretty. Because this frosting pipes like a dream, it makes for the perfect frosting border.

So this photo just goes to show that not all cakes look picture-perfect when sliced (this is what happens when I frost a cake and take photos 10 minutes later, rather than refrigerating it for some time to set), but holy Easter-bunny this chocolaty madness is divine. And it couldn’t be easier to create. You’ll see!

Best-Ever Chocolate & Nutella Layer Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 7-inch round cake

Super-moist, dark chocolate cake filled and frosted with satiny dark chocolate & Nutella sour cream frosting and covered in a medley of chocolate sprinkles.

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 2 1/4 cups (285 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/3 cups (470 grams) superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (12 grams) baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (8 grams) salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) brewed coffee or espresso
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Frosting:
  • 4 1/2 cups (565 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (280 grams) Nutella (or other hazelnut spread)
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) full-fat sour cream
  • 11 ounces (330 grams) best-quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare three 7-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray and parchment rounds.
  2. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sift all dry ingredients, including sugar. Combine eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla in a measuring cup and beat lightly with a fork.
  3. Add milk mixture to the dry ingredients mix for 1 minute on medium speed (you may need the plastic splash-guard that comes with mixer). Divide batter evenly among prepared pans--each pan should contain about 600 grams of batter.
  4. Bake the first 2 layers for 20 minutes and rotate pans in oven. Continue to bake until toothpick or skewer comes almost clean (a few crumbs), about 5 more minutes. Cool on wire racks for 20 minutes. Repeat with remaining layer, and then gently invert onto racks until completely cool.
  5. For the Chocolate Frosting:
  6. Put all of the ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until smooth and glossy, about 1 minute. The frosting will be very soft. Refrigerate the frosting until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Assembly of the Best-Ever Chocolate & Nutella Layer Cake:
  8. Put a dollop of frosting on a 7-inch round cake board (or cake plate) or 8-inch scalloped cake board.
  9. Put your first layer top-up on the cake board or plate, and spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly across layer. Put the second cake layer on top and repeat with another layer of frosting. Put the final cake layer top-down. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and wiggle the layers into place. Refrigerate the cake for about 30 minutes.
  10. Using a turntable, if possible, frost entire outside of cake with a thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs. Chill until the frosting begins to firm-up, about 15 minutes. Repeat with another thin layer of frosting, this time working to achieve a smooth finish. Chill for another 15 minutes.
  11. Apply a third coat of frosting to the cake. Holding a tall pastry comb in your dominant hand, press it gently against the side of the cake and keep it steady. Use the other hand to slowly rotate the turntable until you have gone all the way around the cake. Gently press some chocolate sprinkles around the bottom edge of the cake.
  12. Fit a medium pastry bag with a medium-large closed star tip, such as 1M, and fill about 2/3 full with frosting. Pipe a border around the top of the cake. Chill the cake until the frosting border firms up, at least 30 minutes.
  13. Cover the top of the cake (but not the piped border) with chocolate sprinkles. Once frosting softens again, the sprinkles will adhere to top. The cake will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • If you don’t have 7-inch round cake pans, you could also use 8-inch cake pans. The layers will just be ever-so-slightly shorter.
  • For the cake layers, I use Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Brute–it adds so much depth, chocolate-y flavour and a wonderfully dark hue.
  • For the frosting I used Callebaut Dark Callets 70.4 %  to balance the sweetness of the Nutella.
  • I used one of the Wilton Decorate Smart 3-Piece Icing Comb Set for the sides of the cake (the furthest comb to the right in the image).
  • I used a medley of chocolate vermicelli sprinkles on top, including India Tree Chocolate Vermicelli and De Ruyter Chocoadehagel. Any kind works well, but I prefer to keep it to pure chocolate vermicelli, as opposed to just chocolate jimmies.
  • Because the frosting has sour cream in it, it’s best to refrigerate this cake if it hasn’t been gobbled up after a day. Keep refrigerated at that point, and serve at room temperature (although it tastes pretty great cold too).

Happy Easter to you and your family!

Good luck & enjoy!

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Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting

Cupcakes galore! I think it’s safe to say that this layer-cake bakin’ girl has never before made so many cupcakes or used so many sprinkles in such a short span of time. Actually, maybe it’s not so much that I haven’t made so many in such a short time, but that I’ve never blogged about so many. The thing is that so often when I bake, I then eat, share, deliver…all with no time left to photograph or write about the recipes. This was going to be one of those times, but then after sharing a few Instagram shots of the cupcakes and receiving a flurry of requests to share what these cupcakes were all about, I thought I’d switch things up and do an all-iPhone shot post and go ahead and share!

So, a close friend of mine, Janin, was celebrating her birthday this past weekend, and we had a super-fun girls’ night on Friday night at her house (Birthday Cake Shooters, anyone?). Since she’s a relatively new friend (I just discovered how incredible it is finding such true friends at this stage in life.), I hadn’t yet met several of her hometown friends who were coming in to celebrate, so when trying to decide what birthday treats to make for the occasion, I figured if there’s anything that speaks to a gaggle of girls, it’s chocolate and sprinkles–lots of chocolate and sprinkles. You know, one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, is that sometimes keeping things classic and decadent can be as much of a crowd-pleaser as super-fancy, fondant-covered treats. You probably know by now that I am passionate about those as well, but I just feel that it totally depends on the situation. I used to feel that I had to go crazy decorating for days in order for birthday desserts to have wow-factor, but I’ve since discovered that’s not true.

So I made two types of cupcakes, the first was Janin’s all-time favourite, banana cake with chocolate frosting (I ended up making that frosting a la Nutella), and the second was classic dark chocolate cupcakes with the same chocolate frosting, sans Nutella (an amazing option for the non-Nutella fan). When one of the girls took a bite and said, “Whoa, the frosting is like a chocolate cloud!” I knew I had to put that down on paper. Chocolate clouds? What my dreams are made of. The truth is, it really does have a billowy cloud-like texture, and as a girl very concerned about texture, particularly frosting texture (not to mention enticing baked good names), “chocolate cloud” spoke to my very core. Add the rich, satiny awesomeness that is Nutella to the mix, and I’m blogging an otherwise unblogged delight.

The cupcakes themselves are a classic, one-bowl dark chocolate cupcake recipe that never disappoints. It’s only slightly different than this recipe, but I love it (love them both–I just have a thing for experimenting). The frosting is a modified version of this previous frosting I posted, but the Nutella gives it this incredible taste and adds to the already creamy texture. Even if you don’t like Nutella, you can simply omit it for a classic chocolate cloud frosting.

Such a classic birthday treat! Did I mention how well they pair with Chocolate Whipped Cake Martinis & Chocolate Banana Cake Martinis?

Oh yes, they do. Just sayin’.

Here’s the recipe:

*Product notes: The Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark (my favourite) cocoa powder is what makes this chocolate cupcake recipe so incredible.

Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting

Yield: 12 standard cupcakes

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 3/4 cup (95 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) dark cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Nutella Cloud Frosting:
  • 1 cup (227 g)(2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but cool
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 g) icing sugar (confectioners’), sifted
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (125 g) premium bittersweet chocolate, chopped, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/3 cup (100 g) Nutella
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and line a muffin/cupcake pan with your favourite cupcake liners.
  2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg and vanilla.
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splashguard that comes with mixer), Divide batter among (2/3 full or just less) liners. Batter will be liquidy, and cupcakes will rise.
  5. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs. Try not to over-bake. Carefully remove cupcakes from the pan immediately (it's hot!), and place them on a wire rack until completely cool.
  6. For the Nutella Cloud Frosting:
  7. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and butter and beat on low speed (I use #2 on my KitchenAid mixer) for about 1 minute.
  8. Add vanilla, and beat on low speed until well combined. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate and beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my KitchenAid mixer) until smooth, about 2 minutes).
  9. Add the Nutella, milk and pinch of salt, and beat on med-high speed for another minute.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes on the Cupcakes:

  • For evenly-sized cupcakes, I always use a 50mm cookie scoop (it’s a bit trickier with this runnier batter, but it’s worth it).
  • You can substitute the Cacao Barry Extra Brute cocoa powder, but be sure to use a quality cocoa powder (Dutch-processed).
  • To see the baking ingredients, equipment and tools that I used for this recipe, check out my shop.
  • Even if you dislike coffee with a passion, please trust me–it simply enhances the rich chocolate flavour!
  • For tips for baking better cakes, check out this previous post.
  • This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.
  • Unlike vanilla cupcakes, these stay incredibly moist for several days, so I often bake them a day before I need them (unfrosted) and frost on the day I am serving them, but you can also frost them and keep them in an airtight container for up to 3 days, for convenience (if they last that long!).

Sweetapolita’s Notes on the Nutella Cloud Frosting:

  • For the purest at heart, you can make your own Nutella by following Stella’s Homemade Nutella recipe.
  • You can omit the Nutella and you have an incredible “classic chocolate cloud frosting.”
  • It’s ideal to make this frosting right before you need it, because you’ll find it’s an ideal consistency for piping and decorating, but once it’s on the cake or cupcakes, it stays perfectly smooth and fluffy for up to 3 days.
  • You can add small increments of more milk, if too thick, and blend until smooth.
  • If you find the frosting starts to get air bubbles while sitting (during the decorating process), use a rubber spatula to knock the air out of it, by stirring it with a back and forth paddling motion.
  • To frost the cupcakes in the photo, I inserted a large, plain round icing tip into an 18″ pastry bag and filled it with the frosting. I piped a large swirl starting from the outside of the cupcake, and, moving in a slow circular motion, worked my way to the center, and gently pulling the bag up and away from the cupcake. Then, using the underside of a small spoon (I used a baby spoon), I put slight pressure on the very top of the swirl and pull the spoon up and away. This creates a well for the sprinkles and gives the cupcake a classic but not-so-perfect look. Top with confetti quins or sprinkles for a fun birthday finish!

Good luck & enjoy!


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