Hazelnut and Pistachio Cupcake with Hazelnut Cream Cheese Icing

Recipe courtesy of Sharone Hakman

Get this recipe and more with the official MasterChef Cookbook

One Mystery Box Challenge stands out as the sweetest of them all. After the contestants lifted the lids off of their boxes to find a muffin pan, milk, eggs, flour, sugar, butter, and vanilla, the judges announced what most of the contestants already suspected: It was cupcake time!

They were also given an array of ingredients to create their own signature cupcake, from chocolate and sprinkles to fruit and nuts. One ingredient, in particular, stood out to Sharone, who admits, "I've never attempted to bake cupcakes in my life. That's my wife's specialty. I wanted to create an homage to Nutella, one of the most delicious things on the planet." After tasting his unique, whimsical treat, Joe exclaimed, "It has a Willy Wonka thing to it. Exquisitely decorated, it looks as amazing as it tastes!"


For the batter

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted
  • 1/2 cup shelled hazelnuts, toasted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate-hazelnut spread

For the frosting

  • 2 packages (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate-hazelnut spread, softened


To make the batter:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with silicone cups or liners coated with vegetable cooking spray.

  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

  3. Using a handheld or standing electric mixer, whip the butter for 1 minute, or until creamy and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate chips and continue to beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat for 4 minutes, or until the sugar is fully incorporated and the mixture is light.

  4. Chop 2 tablespoons each of the pistachios and hazelnuts and mix them into the batter. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions and continuing to scrape the bowl. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk, beating well until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, swirl in the hazelnut spread by hand.

  5. Divide the batter evenly in the cupcake pan. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when touched gently in the center. Remove from the oven and cool completely before decorating. If you have difficulty unmolding the cupcakes, run a small icing spatula or a thin knife around the perimeter of each cupcake.

To make the frosting:

  1. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until whipped and light. Gradually sprinkle in the confectioners' sugar and continue to beat until thick. Fold in the hazelnut spread using a small spatula or spoon, or a wooden skewer for a finer swirl.

  2. To assemble, spoon the frosting into a piping bag and squeeze it onto the cooled cupcakes. Top with the reserved whole nuts.

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Hazelnut and Pistachio Cupcake with Hazelnut Cream Cheese Icing