Anyone who’s talked to me about desserts, so pretty much anyone who’s ever met me, knows one thing for certain: this girl loves dirt cake. And yes, I’m talking about the dirt cake you remember from your childhood: thick, smooth chocolate pudding laced with chunks and crumbs of Oreos, often served up in a bucket with a shovel. Of course, a dessert this refined should be saved for special occasions only, so my brother, sister and I look forward to our birthday buckets all year. It’s a family thing, this dirt cake fascination. It’s in my blood, like freckles and sarcasm. I just can’t help it.
Naturally, with my sister’s birthday happening this weekend, I anticipated my dirt cake experience all last week. In all my dirt cake daydreaming, I got to thinking…what would happen if I stuffed dirt cake in a cupcake, and then topped it with some absurdly delicious Nutella buttercream frosting? Inspiration had hit, and there was no going back.
Stop looking at me like that. I know it’s over the top, but you’ll love it. Trust me.
Dirty Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream
Makes 24 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup canola oil
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 cups flour
- 1 and 1/3 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 cup hot coffee
For the dirt cake filling*:
- 1 small package instant chocolate pudding
- 1 and 1/2 cups milk
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 4-ounces cream cheese, softened
- 4-ounces cool whip
- 1-pound (1 package) Oreo cookies
For the Nutella buttercream:
- 1 cup butter
- 3/4 cup nutella
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp milk
*I halved my mom’s dirt cake recipe for these cupcakes. If you want to make a full bucket of dirt cake, just double the ingredients listed here.
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, oil and buttermilk. In a separate bowl, fluff together the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the egg, oil, and buttermilk mixture. Once everything is happily mixed, ever so gradually beat in the hot coffee.
Put liners into your cupcake pan, and lightly coat with cooking spray. Scoop the batter to about 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.
I tore one in half to make sure it looked just right. Then I tasted it to make sure it was up to snuff (spoiler alert: it was).
While your cupcakes are cooling, crush up the Oreos.
Wash your hands and just get at it.
Onto the dirt cake pudding. Mix the pudding and the milk. Add the butter and powdered sugar, and then beat in the cream cheese. It will be lumpy, but don’t you even worry about it.
Gently fold in the cool whip. You don’t want to beat out the fluffiness, so use a spatula to mix just until it’s incorporated. You may still have some swirls of white cool whip showing. It’s all good.
To assemble to dirt cake, just layer the Oreos with the pudding, starting and ending with the Oreos. You WANT to have leftover Oreos for sprinkling on top, so don’t feel like you need to use all of them.
Yes, I put this dirt cake together in a bucket. It’s easier to create the layers, and I just can’t bring myself to put dirt cake in any other container. It wouldn’t feel right.
Now things just get crazy, because it’s Nutella buttercream time.
In a medium-large bowl, cream the butter until fluffy. Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup of the Nutella, and the vanilla. Beat together until well blended. Add the milk, the remaining powdered sugar, and the remaining Nutella, and mix well. If it’s too thick, add a teaspoon of milk, but remember that you want a thick buttercream.
Now that you have everything ready, you need to make reservoirs in your cupcakes to hold the dirt cake! To do this, use a small knife, angled at about 45-degrees, to cut a circle in the top of the cupcake. You want a fairly deep hole, so insert it about one-inch when you start cutting. When the circle is complete, you’ll be left with a cone-shaped cutout.
You want as much room for dirt cake filling as you can get, so cut the end off of the cone so you’re left with a disc to pop on top of the filling. I also trimmed a bit more cake out of the middle so I could get optimum dirt cake filling, but this is risky business so only chance it if you’re feeling lucky.
When your reservoirs are ready, fill them up with a spoonful of dirt cake, making sure to get a good mixture of pudding and Oreos. Pop the cake disc on top and press down. Voila.
Fill a pastry bag with frosting, and generously pipe the Nutella buttercream on each cupcake in a swirl pattern. Don’t be shy, people.
I used a food processor to make the remaining Oreo crumbs as fine as possible. If you want big chunks, go for it. Either way, give each cupcake a hefty sprinkle of Oreo goodness.
These are so over the top, but so wonderfully ridiculous that I don’t even care, and neither will you. The creaminess of the dirt cake melts into the sides of the light, fluffy cake, and then you’re hit with the crunch of the Oreos and the thick, nutella-spiked frosting, and oh man, it’s all over. Admittedly, I was a bit apprehensive of messing with dirt cake, but if anything could possibly make dirt cake even more perfect, it’s this cupcake right here.
Since my family would obviously be serving dirt cake in bucket-form at my sister’s actual birthday on Sunday, I decided to bring these dreamy things to her surprise party the night before. They went over in a big bad way, and left everyone happily brushing cookie crumbs off their clothes and wiping nutella frosting off their faces. Which I think is ideal, because if you’re going to get dirty, might as well do it with a cupcake that puts it all out there in the name, right?