Gianduja Cupcakes

Last year I had so many realizations in discover how to work with fondant, make sugar flowers, cakes and register all those experiences by the art of the photography that I’m really excited to learn more and more new techniques. When the New Year begins, we usually enumerate a lot of goals and resolutions. Mine was to learn to work with chocolate. I bought a professional book, a marble slab and all the confectionary equipment needed. Over the past three weeks I’ve been learning how to temper properly chocolate and how to make confections, ganache and nut pastes. As Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, I think this is the appropriate occasion to talk about what I have been experienced. Besides, is there a better time to explore this most marvelous ingredient present in the world? So for the first post I will share with you luscious gianduja cupcakes with vanilla buttercream topped with glittered gianduja chocolate hearts.

Can you imagine how those Valentines cupcakes are wonderful? If you are a Nutella lover as I am, you will love to make your own Gianduja. This nut paste is prepared using dark, milk, or white chocolate, sugar and hazelnuts. Freshly made gianduja retains such more aroma and flavor of the freshly roasted nuts than the one commercially available. To make a medium-consistency gianduja using dark chocolate, my suggestion is to use a 1:1:1 ratio – that is, one part dark chocolate, one part roasted hazelnuts, and one part confectioners’ sugar. If you opted for milk or white chocolate, you have to increase the amount of chocolate to approximately 1.25 parts to ensure a similar texture. When a softer gianduja is desired, add more nuts to the mixture or if you want it less sweet, the sugar may be decrease or eliminated.

The procedure to make gianduja is quite simple. First toast the nuts to the desire degree. Roasting nut before baking is an important practice for bringing out the flavors. It’s wonderful how hazelnuts smell good after some minutes roasting. It’s a delight! Second, grind the nut while still hot in a food processor with about 25 percent of the sugar to as fine a consistency as possible. Process them while hot will facilitate to release the oils. To achieve a smooth cream and to avoid a grainy texture on the final product, the nuts should be reduced to a liquid state. Once the nuts have been satisfactorily ground, the remaining sugar and the melted chocolate can be added. I chose dark chocolate this time. Be careful to don't overprocessing the mixture or the heat can cause damage on the chocolate producing an overly viscous paste. Finally, put the entire quantity onto a marble slab and agitate it generously until it is cooled to 27°C/80°F or below. This practice calls temper and it is needed to assure that the gianduja will have a smooth mouthfeel free of large fat crystals on the finished product. In a future post I will try to write more about the theory of temper chocolates! 

I’ve got the inspiration to create these glittered bonbons from this photo on Martha Stewart web site. To conquer the desired result on these gianduja bonbons I took a lot of time between failures and success attempts. My first attempt was to sprinkle edible glitter (disco dust) into the mold before filling with the melted chocolate. The result was beautiful but not vibrant as I wish. So I decided to make the opposite and the result was wonderful. I made a solid gianduja heart followed by chocolate dipping finalized with disco dust. 

For the gianduja cupcakes, I adapted the recipe from the lovely Meg Ray's book by adding ground hazelnuts and gianduja. For the frosting, I made a vanilla buttercream recipe from the same book. I have to say that these indulgent treats are beautiful and equally delicious. I was really happy that I was capable to make these cupcakes and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. 

Hazelnut Gianduja
(from the book Chocolate and Confections: formula, theory, and technique for the artisan confectioner)
yield: 600g

200 g/3.6 oz hazelnuts, toasted
200 g/3.6 oz confectioners' sugar
200 g/3.6 oz 70 percent cocoa chocolate, melted

Food processor
marble slab
double boiler for melt the chocolate

In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts with a small amount of the confectioners'sugar until liquefied.
Add the chocolate and the remaining confectioners' sugar. Mix in the food processor until homogeneous.
Temper the gianduja for immediate use, or store for future use.

Hazelnut Gianduja Cupcakes
yield: 15 cupcakes

1 cup cake flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
120g/3.9 oz hazelnut gianduja
62 g/2 oz 70 percent cacao chocolate, melted
62 g/ 2 oz ground toasted hazelnut 
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, that's about 5 minutes.
Add eggs and beat until well incorporated.
Add gianduja paste, ground toasted hazelnuts and chocolate melted to the mixture and beat until well incorporated.
Add the flour and buttermilk in 3 additions always start and finish with the flour. 
line two standard muffin tins with paper lines. Fill each cup two-thirds full with batter. Bake at 350 degrees F until the tops spring back and a taster inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool completely in the pan.

Vanilla Buttercream
(from the book Miette)
yield: 6 cups

2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1/3 cup water
5 large egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 cups (1 1/2 pounds) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Cook the mixture until it reaches 248 degrees F, 5 to 10 minutes, keeping a constant eye on it.

Meanwhile, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment.
As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 248 degrees F, immediately pour it into a heat-proof measurer. Pour a few tablespoons into the whites, away from the whisk, so the hot syrup doesn't splash, and whisk on medium speed for a few seconds. Be careful as the syrup is very hot. Pour in a little more syrup and whisk for a few seconds, until incorporated. Repeat until all the syrup has been added. Raise the speed to high and continue to whisk until the mixture cools to room temperature, 70 to 75 degrees F, 5 to 10 minutes.

Only when the meringue is cool enough should you begin adding the butter. Reduce the speed to medium. With the mixer running, drop in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting until each is incorporated before adding another. The mixture may deflate and begin to look curdle. Raise the speed to high and continue to add to add tablespoon-size pieces of butter, making sure each is completely combined before adding more. When all of the butter has been added, the frosting should be smooth and thick. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.

Use the buttercream immediately, or cover and refrigerate until needed. Store in a zippered plastic bag for up to 1 week in the refrigerator and up to 2 months in the freezer. (To thaw, leave in the refrigerator over-night, not on the countertop).  To use the buttercream that has been chilled, remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature, about 1 hour, or microwave in 15-second intervals, mixing in between each, until soft. If frosting has been frozen, this can take up to 2 minutes total. You can also soften the buttercream over a bain-marie or a double boiler. The frosting will soften from the outer edges of the bowl so mix from outside, folding the frosting inside. Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until soft and spreadable, 2 to 3 minutes.

Gianduja Bonbons

gianduja paste
70 percent cocoa chocolate melted for dipping, as needed
 pink and gold disco dust to coat the bonbons 

heart chocolate mold
double boiler
dipping fork
parchment paper
small brush to sprinkle the disco dust

Fill the chocolate heart molds with gianduja paste and then let they rest on the refrigerator until they release from the mold. 
 Dip with a dipping fork each gianduja heart in the chocolate melted. Place them on parchment paper. Before the chocolate sets, sprinkle disco dust by tapping brush gently over-top of each heart. Let they dry before top the cupcakes.


  1. I'm glad that I had the pleasure to eat these delicious cupcakes (the hubby)

  2. Very impressive post, probably about the most unique when it comes to Valentine's goodies. I always like trying to improve on my decorating skills, so I am glad to see this post. Also I do like the hazelnut chocolate combo. Saving this!

  3. These look beautiful! Your pictures are so soft and are really just beautiful. I'm officially hooked on your blog :)

  4. Your efforts in mastering chocolate have certainly paid of, as this cupcake is drop dead gorgeous, but then again so, are all of your creations! :)

  5. Verdadeiras obras de arte! A combinaçao das forminhas douradas com a purpurina dos coraçoezinhos ficou lindo demais! No proximo post vc tira uma foto com o prato que a Luana te deu de Natal?? Estou louca para ver! Beijos Luisa

  6. I just discovered your site and I LOVE it! Your photography is amazing and whimsical. Please keep posting beautiful things!

  7. Oh wow!!! These are simply stunning. Beyond stunning!!! I am so impressed :-) And your photos are gorgeous too!

  8. Oh my heavens those are beautiful! Way to rock the resolution! Just pinned them...

  9. My dream cupcake for Valentines Day. Fresh taste and your photography is just stunning. 

  10. Luciana, so happy to see your new post! I thought you're already expert but I'm amazed by your dedication to get better result. Absolutely stunning cupcakes AND photography. It's like perfect work that there is no flaw... Amazing!

  11. Hello, I just LOVE your creativity!! Those colored hearts on top of the cupcake reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland. Amazing!!!



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