Recipe: Teeny Tiny Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes with Spices

I think we all knew it wouldn’t take long before I felt compelled to create a recipe modelled on those fantastic vegetable-based cakes from Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache (also known as My Favourite Cookbook Ever Ever Ever).

Of course, if one is going to create a recipe full of stealth vegetables and following Harry Seaton’s methods, one must naturally provide a suitable introductory paragraph.  Hmm, let’s see…

This recipe is sophisticated, yet comforting, like the scent of your mother’s Chanel No. 5 perfume as she kisses you on her way out the door.  The chocolate and hazelnut hug you into a Nutella-flavoured embrace, while the cinnamon and ginger wink slyly at you like your favourite babysitter – the one who lets you stay up way too late and watch all the things on TV that you’re not supposed to.

(OK, I have to say that those blurbs are harder to write than they looked. Or at least, they are if you want to keep them G-rated.  The ginger and cinnamon kept on trying to slide the whole thing into some very dubious territory indeed.  Good grief.)

More straightforwardly, let’s just say that these cupcakes are lovely little bites of spicy, chocolatey goodness – far less ferociously hot than my chilli cupcakes, but still gently warming.  Just right for a winter’s night.


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75g hazelnut meal
50g rice flour
25g cocoa + 20 g for the icing1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
70 g caster sugar
1 egg
100 g zucchini, peeled and very finely grated (do this at the last minute)
100 icing sugar
30 ml boiling water
24 roasted hazelnuts, optional


Now what will you do with it?

Preheat your oven to 180°C, and line a 24-hole mini muffin tin with paper cases.

In a small bowl, combine the hazelnut meal, cocoa, rice flour, spices, baking powder and salt.


In a larger bowl, beat the eggs and caster sugar together with electric beaters for 3 minutes – you want them to be thick and creamy.  And you really do want electric beaters – I’ve tried doing this by hand and it simply does not work.

Finely grate the zucchini if you haven’t done so already (use the smaller holes on your grater – the ones you would use for parmesan), and add to the egg mixture.  Beat briefly until well combined, then add the dry ingredients and beat until everything is properly incorporated.


Use a teaspoon or small dessert spoon to drop small spoonfuls of the mixture into the prepared tray – your cases should be about 2/3 full, which isn’t much mixture at all!


Bake for 15 minutes, until risen and a little bouncy, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack for about ten minutes while you make the icing.


For the icing, combine the icing sugar and the rest of the cocoa in a small bowl, and add the boiling water.  Mix together with a fork until smooth and shiny.  Use a teeny tiny teaspoon to drop about 1/2 a teaspoon of icing onto each cake.  It will spread out a bit, but shouldn’t cascade off the cakes – if it looks like doing that, you need a bit more icing sugar and cocoa in your mix.


Top each cake with a roasted hazelnut, or a grate of nutmeg, or a piece of glacé ginger – or just a silver ball.

Serve, with delight!



This recipe is gluten free and dairy free.  It’s vegetarian, but not vegan, and I don’t think it could be made so – it really does rely on the egg for the rise and most of the rest of the texture.  It is low in fructose and FODMAPs, and while it isn’t low GI, if you stick to just one of these, you’re doing better than you would be with most other cakes.  Obviously, the cake isn’t nut free, and making it nut free would change both the texture and flavour so much that I don’t really want to suggest it.  You could use almond meal if you are sensitive to hazelnuts, however.  Pistachio meal might also be nice, and you might then add a little cardamom to the spices.

In terms of flavour variations, I do think a pistachio and chocolate variation could be rather lovely – just grind the pistachios finely in your food processor at the start instead of using hazelnut meal.  You might go a bit easier on the spices, too, so that you can enjoy the pistachio flavour.  You could put a tiny dab of apricot jam in the centre, too, which might be lovely – say a quarter of a teaspoon.



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