Walnut and Nutella (optional) cupcakes, plus little cupcakes baked in walnut shells

Did you ever play with walnut shells as a child? I spent many hours making little boats, and recently I have been dreaming about baking inside them... not very practical, I admit it, and difficult to eat, but absolutely adorable to look at!!

Walnut and Nutella cupcakes


120 g butter
3 eggs
130 g sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
200 g self-rising flour
60 ml milk
15 walnuts
A little nutella (optional)

Topping (optional):
mini cupcakes baked inside walnut shells, and topped with royal icing

Makes 12 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line a 12-muffin tray with cupcakes paper cups.
Melt the butter in a jug, either in the microwave or in the oven (while the oven is warming up for the cupcakes). Place the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk, using an electric beater, until the mixture looks light and pale yellow in colour. Slowly add the melted butter and the lemon zest. Keep beating at a low speed now; add half of the flour followed by half of the milk. Add the rest of the flour and milk and keep beating making sure that there are no lumps. In the meantime crack the walnuts and break the kernels. Keep some halved walnut shells aside, if you can. Fold the kernels into  the mixture. Grease the inside of the walnut shells with butter and add a little cupcake mixture, place the shells onto a mini cupcake tray to keep them upright, then bake for about 10 minutes or until the top looks golden. Divide the rest of the mixture between the 12-cupcake cases, if you like add a little nutella to each one and mix it in lightly with a toothpick to make a spiral motif. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until golden brown at the top. You can also check by inserting a toothpick into the cupcakes: if it comes out clean the cupcakes are ready. Remove the cupcakes from the tin and let them cool down. Place the walnut shell cupcakes on top, decorated with some frosting (I just used some royal icing) and a cupcake flag (they are little boats, after all).

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©