Tag Archives: mousse

Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes: NOT Back-to-School Cupcakes!

It’s Cupcake Week on Willow Bird Baking! Cupcake Capers was a 5-day summer camp I conducted last week wherein 5 middle school girls learned to bake, fill, and frost cupcakes. We eschewed pedestrian cupcake flavors in favor of creative combinations that I now get to share with you! Every day this week I’ve been posting fun memories and recipes from Cupcake Camp.


No really, they’re not Back-to-School Cupcakes.

Like all good things, Cupcake Camp had to eventually come to an end. Day 5 arrived and so did the campers, eager to pack in one last day of cake pops and cupcakes. At the end of the day they would finally carry home their aprons, recipe notebooks, and colorful bakery boxes filled with the cupcakes we’d made all week (the ones they hadn’t already devoured, that is) to share with their families.

But first, we sat down to complete the cutest decorating job of the week: turning cupcakes into apples! We baked these apple cupcakes in bright red liners to begin creating the effect. Once they were cooled and frosted, we dipped the tops in red sanding sugar, used bits of pretzel for their “stems,” and cut “leaves” from green fruit roll-ups.

These cupcakes weren’t just adorable, though — they were also one of the girls’ favorite recipes all week long. The spice cake, creamy cinnamon mousse, and brown sugar buttercream frosting melded into a delicious preview of fall flavors. Bright smiles broke out all around as the campers first tasted one of their “apples.” Even though they had already ranked their favorite cupcakes, several of them went back and added Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes right at the top of their lists!

After tasting, we sat back and admired our handiwork. Meticulous Mary Rood made the comment that these looked like Back-to-School cupcakes. She’s right, of course. Isn’t it funny how just as soon as August peeks around the corner, stores everywhere roll out the red plaid, apples, mini chalkboards, and school supplies in an array of primary colors? These cupcakes fit right in.

Her comment sunk in for a moment before our summer spirit rebelled. We still have a few weeks of freedom! The temperature still climbs to 100 degrees each day! We still have beach trips, pool trips, and sprints through the sprinkler planned!

I don’t care what the stores might have you believe, it’s still SUMMER! We’ll go back to school when our parents drag us, kicking and screaming, and not one second before!

(Okay, I guess I can’t quite wait until my parents drag me . . . )

So these may look like Back-to-School cupcakes. They may taste like Back-to-School cupcakes. I may have gotten carried away and photographed them surrounded by a bunch of the brightly colored school supplies I just made fun of.

But these are NOT Back-to-School cupcakes. These are IT’S-STILL-SUMMER-AND-I-DON’T-CARE-WHAT-YOU-SAY-LA-LA-LA cupcakes.

Now that we’re clear on that, you should go make them and eat about twenty.

What summer plans do you still have to accomplish before summer ends? Or, for readers on the tail end of winter, what exciting things do you have lined up for the spring?

Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes



Recipe by: adapted from Baked Bree
Yields:about 24-28 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 sticks butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped (optional)

Cinnamon Mousse Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 (4 serving) package vanilla Instant Pudding Mix (not Cook & Serve)
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1 stick room temperature butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups of powdered sugar (depends on consistency desired)
3 tablespoons of heavy cream (depends on consistency desired)

Directions:
*Note: This recipe makes twice as much mousse as you need for filling the cupcakes. If you want to use half the pudding pack and save the rest for later, just measure it out and do so. Or use the extra mousse for another project (you know, like eating it with a spoon).

Make cupcakes: Line two muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a separate, large bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy (several minutes). Add the eggs in one at a time, beating after each addition, and then mix in the applesauce. Finally, mix in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 full of batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes and let cool completely.

Make mousse: To make the cinnamon mousse, combine milk, cream, and pudding mix, and spices in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer until you reach soft peaks, or a thick whipped cream consistency (this takes a few minutes). Refrigerate mousse until you’re ready to use it.

Make frosting: To make the frosting, beat butter and shortening together until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and mix. Gradually add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and alternately add the cream. Adjust these items until desired consistency is reached.

Assemble cupcakes: To fill the cupcakes, use the Cone Method: cut an upside-down cone out of the top of each one. Cut off the tip of the cone (and eat it, if you wish) leaving just the “lid.” Fill the cavity with mousse using a piping bag or zip-top bag with the corner cut off, and then replace the “lid” to give you a relatively smooth surface to frost. Don’t overfill these, or they’ll be hard to frost.

Use the back of a spoon, a knife, or an offset spatula to cover the cupcakes with a layer of frosting. To ensure you don’t accidentally shift your “lid,” use a pretty thick layer of frosting and just gently pull it out toward the sides of the cupcake to achieve full coverage — that way you’re never pulling your spoon/spatula straight up and pulling the lid off. Dip frosted cupcakes into a bowl of red sanding sugar or sprinkles. Add a piece of a pretzel stick for a stem. Add a leaf cut from a green fruit roll up (I made a little indentation in my frosting with the tip of a knife to stick the tip of the leaf into). Enjoy!

All Cupcake Week Recipes:
Day One: Chocolate Pistachio Cream Cupcakes
Day Two: Banana Split Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Three: Creamsicle Cupcakes
Day Four: Strawberry & Cream Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Five: Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes

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Strawberry & Cream Cupcakes and Cake Pops

It’s Cupcake Week on Willow Bird Baking! Cupcake Capers was a 5-day summer camp I conducted last week wherein 5 middle school girls learned to bake, fill, and frost cupcakes. We eschewed pedestrian cupcake flavors in favor of creative combinations that I now get to share with you! Every day this week I’ll be posting fun memories and recipes from Cupcake Camp.

On Day 4 of Cupcake Camp, things got a little silly. I’ve talked before about the moment toward the end of the school year when teachers realize they’ve controlled their classes as long as they can, and that the powder keg of summer frenzy is about to blow. Turns out cupcake camp has that moment, too!

On Day 4, everyone went a little crazy in their own personal ways. Energetic Erica played the Carrot Song until I felt sure I was going to throw a cupcake at someone. Elbow Grease Ella decided she was going to decorate her cupcake with polka dots and then wash every bowl by hand (okay, so her particular method of going crazy happened to be awesome).

Meticulous Mary Rood and I convinced everyone to watch the YouTube video of the sneezing baby panda (no seriously, go watch it). And then there were Pistachio Peyton and Elaborate Elizabeth.

They decided to become architects.

Measuring powdered sugar can get messy. Like, whole-cups-of-powdered-sugar-spilled-on-the-counter messy. Instead of cleaning this up like ordinary children, Pistachio Peyton and Elaborate Elizabeth decided to be extraordinary. They carefully constructed a perfect block of powdered sugar that they then manipulated with a table knife into various shapes and messages. Because, you know, that’s what you do at Cupcake Camp, right?


They may have gotten a little territorial.

I finally convinced the girls to clean off the counters despite their insistence that the powdered sugar sculpture should remain as an eternal (ahem) monument to Cupcake Camp. And believe it or not, in between watching crazy YouTube videos and playing with our food, we actually made some cupcakes!

These Strawberry & Cream Cupcakes were the perfect cool, sweet treat for summer. Tender strawberry cakes were filled with easy vanilla mousse and topped with a creamy, delicious strawberry cream cheese frosting. We had leftover cupcakes, too, so can you guess what we did?

We made cake pops! We crumbled the cupcakes up and mixed them with some of the frosting, rolled them into balls, chilled them overnight, and dipped them in pink candy melts.

If you’ve ever made cake pops, you know that dipping them is the hardest part (see my video tutorial at the bottom of the recipe). I loved watching the girls develop their own dipping techniques as they got the hang of it.

Pistachio Peyton dipped her pops and then rolled them in the spoon to get full coverage. Elbow Grease Ella used the spoon to drizzle candy melts over her cake pop. Elaborate Elizabeth was a pro at turning cake pops into cake balls if they fell off of their pretzel sticks (I love using these instead of lollipop sticks) by draining them on a couple of forks.

Despite a few inevitable cake pop missteps, the campers all successfully rolled, dipped, and ate! The cake pops were a tasty addition to our cupcake picnic.

With Day 4 complete, the girls dropped off their aprons and recipe notebooks and headed home. I’m pretty sure that I went home and collapsed into a cupcake coma (or maybe just a long nap). One more day left of cupcake camp!

What’s your favorite funny YouTube video?

Strawberry & Cream Cupcakes



Recipe by: adapted from Annie’s Eats
Yields: 18-24 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
¼ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chopped strawberries

Vanilla Mousse Filling Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 (4 serving) package vanilla Instant Pudding Mix (not Cook & Serve)

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
½ cup strawberries
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
4-5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
pink sanding sugar, if desired

Directions:
*Note: This recipe makes twice as much mousse as you need for filling the cupcakes. If you want to use half the pudding pack and save the rest for later, just measure it out and do so. Or use the extra mousse for another project (you know, like eating it with a spoon).

Make cupcakes: Line two muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350°F. Onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper, sift flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light, fluffy, and pale yellow (several minutes). Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Pick up both ends of the parchment/wax paper and use it to add dry ingredients into the bowl and stir until just combined. Fold in the chopped strawberries (you could toss these with a few tablespoons of the dry ingredients first, if you were worried about them sinking to the bottom).

Fill each liner about 3/4 full of batter and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of several cupcakes comes out with just moist crumbs. Let cool completely.

Make mousse: To make the vanilla mousse, combine milk, cream, and pudding mix in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer until you reach soft peaks, or a thick whipped cream consistency (this takes a few minutes). Refrigerate mousse until you’re ready to use it.

Make frosting: To make the frosting, puree the strawberries in food processor and then strain them through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy and smooth before adding the lemon juice, vanilla, and sugar (start on the low side with the sugar and add more until the frosting reaches your desired consistency). Add the amount of puree needed to achieve your desired consistency and color (I do this before I’ve added all the sugar, so I can adjust both as needed). This is a loose frosting and benefits from sitting in the fridge for awhile after you make it with a damp cloth covering it.

Assemble cupcakes: To fill the cupcakes, use the Cone Method: cut an upside-down cone out of the top of each one. Cut off the tip of the cone (and eat it, if you wish) leaving just the “lid.” Fill the cavity with mousse using a piping bag or zip-top bag with the corner cut off, and then replace the “lid” to give you a relatively smooth surface to frost. Use a piping bag or zip-top bag to pipe on the frosting. Dust with pink sanding sugar if you wish.

Strawberry & Cream Cake Pops



Recipe by: adapted from Annie’s Eats
Yields: probably around 40-50 cake pops

Cupcake Ingredients:
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
¼ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chopped strawberries

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1/4 cup strawberries
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2-2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Other Cake Pop Ingredients:
pretzel sticks
pink candy melts or candy bark
sprinkles or pink sanding sugar, if desired

Directions:
*NOTE: We made our cake pops with leftover cupcakes, so I’m printing instructions for making them with cupcakes here. I’m not sure how this recipe would work if you tried baking this as a cake to save liners, so I don’t want to recommend that, but let me know if you try it.

Make cupcakes: Line two muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350°F. Onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper, sift flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light, fluffy, and pale yellow (several minutes). Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Pick up both ends of the parchment/wax paper and use it to add dry ingredients into the bowl and stir until just combined. Fold in the chopped strawberries (you could toss these with a few tablespoons of the dry ingredients first, if you were worried about them sinking to the bottom).

Fill each liner about 3/4 full of batter and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of several cupcakes comes out with just moist crumbs. Let cool completely, and then crumble your cupcakes into a large bowl. Set aside.

Make frosting: To make the frosting, puree the strawberries in food processor and then strain them through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy and smooth before adding the lemon juice, vanilla, and sugar (start on the low side with the sugar and add more until the frosting reaches your desired consistency). Add the amount of puree needed to achieve your desired consistency and color (I do this before I’ve added all the sugar, so I can adjust both as needed).

Make cake balls: Mix about 3/4 cup of frosting into your crumbled cake, adding more frosting if the mixture is still too crumbly. You want it to reach a sort of stiff play-dough texture so you can shape it into balls. Prepare a sheet pan with a sheet of wax paper on it. Shape your banana mixture into balls and line them on the wax paper. Chill these in the refrigerator overnight. I don’t freeze mine like some sites suggest, because I find chilling them in the fridge instead reduces cracking after I dip them.

Mount and dip cake balls: After cake balls have chilled overnight, melt your candy melts or chocolate bark according to the package directions. I keep my bowl of candy melts situated in a bigger bowl of hot water to keep them warm and fluid, but be careful no water gets into the melts! To mount each cake ball, take a pretzel stick and dip the end in candy melts. Gently but firmly push the end of the pretzel stick into the cake ball. Put these back on their silicone mat or wax paper to chill. Repeat until all cake balls are mounted and chill for about 30 minutes.

After chilling, you’re ready to dip! Dip each cake ball into the candy melts, using a spoon to help coat them. After dipping, hold your cake ball over the bowl and gently bounce to drain the excess off. Turn the pop as you drain. When well-drained, sprinkle some sprinkles on top and gently place the pop in a foam block to continue drying. I placed mine in the fridge to reduce drying time. Once they’re dry, you’re ready to eat them! These keep great in an airtight container in the fridge.

Never made cake pops before? I made this video tutorial to show you some techniques involved.

All Cupcake Week Recipes:
Day One: Chocolate Pistachio Cream Cupcakes
Day Two: Banana Split Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Three: Creamsicle Cupcakes
Day Four: Strawberry & Cream Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Five: Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes

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Creamsicle Cupcakes

It’s Cupcake Week on Willow Bird Baking! Cupcake Capers was a 5-day summer camp I conducted last week wherein 5 middle school girls learned to bake, fill, and frost cupcakes. We eschewed pedestrian cupcake flavors in favor of creative combinations that I now get to share with you! Every day this week I’ll be posting fun memories and recipes from Cupcake Camp.

Day 3 of Cupcake Camp was a day several of the campers had been waiting for. It was Creamsicle Cupcake day.

Each day at our cupcake picnic, I’d been asking the girls what they thought of the day’s cupcake and mousse. And each day, like clockwork, a few of them had been ready with the same response: “This one’s good, but I think my favorite is going to be the Creamsicle!”

Meticulous Mary Rood and I discussed this phenomenon in the kitchen before the others arrived one morning. We agreed that it was impressive how certain they were of their favorite before they’d ever tasted it. Some of them had had the cupcakes ranked from favorite to least favorite as soon as Day 2! She wondered aloud if the Creamsicle cupcakes would live up to their expectations.

First thing’s first, though — before we could eat or even decorate our Creamsicle Cupcakes, we had an activity to complete. When all the campers had arrived, I sat them down with a list of cake flavors, filling flavors, frosting flavors, and toppings and gave them 10 minutes to come up with creative cupcake combinations of their own. Anyone can be given a book of fun recipes and whip them up, but I wanted these kids to experience what it’s like to create a new flavor.

Turns out they’re creative geniuses. Pistachio Peyton was dreaming of chocolate when she came up with her Chocolate Dream Cupcake, comprised of chocolate cake, chocolate filling, and chocolate frosting. Elaborate Elizabeth wanted to make a Fruit Punch Cupcake, while Elbow Grease Ella was excited about one covered in cashews. And these are just three examples of the almost 20 ideas they came up with!

With our brainstorming complete, we set about filling our moist orange cupcakes with the easy vanilla mousse I discussed yesterday. Each camper then frosted their masterpiece with a big swirl of orange cream cheese frosting.

They were thrilled with how their piping skills had improved since Day 1 of camp, and especially with the consistency of the cream cheese frosting, which is soft and easy to pipe. They topped their cupcakes with a dusting of orange sanding sugar before refrigerating them to let the frosting stiffen up.

At our cupcake picnic that day, the moment of truth had finally arrived. Everyone peeled off their cupcake papers, eager to see if the Creamsicle Cupcake was as awesome as they’d imagined it to be. Five hungry mouths opened and took five gigantic first bites, and . . . silence.

Lots of silence, and lots of this:

In other words, 10 middle schooler thumbs up! I have to hand it to the girls, they know how to pick ’em. I hope you enjoy these as much as they did!

What creative cupcake flavors can you imagine? Have you made any fantastic cupcake combinations lately?

Creamsicle Cupcakes



Recipe by: adapted from My Baking Addiction
Yields: about 14-16 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon of pure orange extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk

Vanilla Mousse Filling Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 (4 serving) package vanilla Instant Pudding Mix (not Cook & Serve)

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
orange sprinkles or sanding sugar, if desired

Directions:
*Note: This recipe makes twice as much mousse as you need for filling the cupcakes. If you want to use half the pudding pack and save the rest for later, just measure it out and do so. Or use the extra mousse for another project (you know, like eating it with a spoon).

Make cupcakes: Line two muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate, medium bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light, fluffy, and pale yellow. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating after each, and then beat in the vanilla and orange extract. Add the dry ingredients in, alternating with the milk, in three additions. Begin and end by adding the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically.

Fill the paper liners about 2/3 full of batter and bake cupcakes for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Remove cupcakes from the oven and let cool completely.

Make mousse: To make the vanilla mousse, combine milk, cream, and pudding mix in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer until you reach soft peaks, or a thick whipped cream consistency (this takes a few minutes). Refrigerate mousse until you’re ready to use it.

Make frosting: To make the frosting, cream butter and cream cheese together until fluffy in a large bowl. Add extracts and mix. Add sugar gradually, mixing as you go, and then beat the frosting until smooth and creamy. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth until ready to use.

Assemble cupcakes: To fill the cupcakes, use the Cone Method: cut an upside-down cone out of the top of each one. Cut off the tip of the cone (and eat it, if you wish) leaving just the “lid.” Fill the cavity with mousse using a piping bag or zip-top bag with the corner cut off, and then replace the “lid” to give you a relatively smooth surface to frost. Use a piping bag or zip-top bag to pipe on the frosting. Sprinkle on orange sanding sugar, if desired.

All Cupcake Week Recipes:
Day One: Chocolate Pistachio Cream Cupcakes
Day Two: Banana Split Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Three: Creamsicle Cupcakes
Day Four: Strawberry & Cream Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Five: Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes

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Chocolate Pistachio Cream Cupcakes

Welcome to Cupcake Week on Willow Bird Baking! Last week was quiet around here, in large part because I was conducting a summer camp for middle schoolers. Not one of those sleep-in-tents, get-harassed-by-cheeky-raccoons, feed-your-body-to-mosquitoes kind of summer camps, but the kind of summer camp dreams are made of: CUPCAKE CAMP.

Cupcake Capers was a 5-day camp where campers learned to bake, fill, and frost cupcakes. We eschewed pedestrian cupcake flavors in favor of creative combinations that I now get to share with you! Every day this week I’ll be posting fun memories and recipes from Cupcake Camp.

Monday morning at 9 a.m. sharp, five sweet faces popped into the Cupcake Capers kitchen ready for dessert. Cake and frosting might not be morning fare for your average kid, but these five kids were anything but average. They were the Cupcake Campers.

Meticulous Mary Rood, Energetic Erica, Pistachio Peyton, Elaborate Elizabeth, and Elbow Grease Ella were bright-eyed, bushy-tailed . . . and hungry.

But first thing’s first: we had to ensure no one would lose limbs or eyeballs during our week-long exploration of all things cupcake. The campers settled down to build their cupcake boxes and draw designs on fresh white aprons with fabric markers while I began reciting the litany of safety rules.

You might remember these sorts of safety rules from the Home Economics classes of your youth. They cover important things such as not sticking metal objects into electrical sockets, re-washing your hands if you sneeze all over them, and resisting the urge to dance around with knives.

The kids snickered at a few of the most obvious ones, but also learned a few things they may not have realized. I noticed them all look down sheepishly at their flip-flops when we got to the “closed-toe shoes” rule. I held up my own flip-flopped foot and shrugged: “We’ll just be really careful that no one loses a toe today.” Oh, the hazards of holding a cooking class in summer . . .

Finally, we were ready to get our hands on some cupcakes! I’d prepared some moist chocolate cupcakes, easy pistachio mousse, and a rich, stiff chocolate buttercream to teach the girls how to fill and frost a cupcake. They set to work using the Cone Method (my preferred technique for filling cupcakes) to create a cavity in each little cake.

I love the Cone Method. If you stick a pastry tip into a cupcake and squeeze without creating a cavity first, you usually (depending on the density of your cake) end up with a disappointing pittance of cream. Filling needs space to fill! You could just cut a big hole in the top of your cupcake, fill it, and frost over it, but depending on your frosting type, that might not end up too neat or pretty.

With the Cone Method, however, you cut an upside down cone out of the top of your cupcake by cutting in a circle with a knife held at an angle (much like you’d hull a strawberry). You then cut the tip of the cone off leaving just the “lid.” Fill the cavity with as much filling as you can, replace the lid, and frost like usual. The Cupcake Bakeshop has lovely photos of this method on this post.

We filled our cupcakes with a simple mousse I’ll brag about tomorrow, frosted each one, and topped them with pale green pistachios. Elaborate Elizabeth crusted hers with a thick layer while some of the other girls created a sparse design.

When the first day of camp was drawing to a close and each camper had assembled their own unique cupcake, we went outside and spread a blanket on the grass for a cupcake picnic. The girls devoured their handiwork with exuberance, and these moist, creamy, salty and sweet cupcakes remained one of their favorites all week long!

Chocolate Pistachio Cream Cupcakes



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, adapted from Hershey’s and Wilton
Yield: About 16-18 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
7/8 cup all-purpose flour
3/8 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water

Mousse Ingredients*:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 (4 serving) package of Instant Pistachio Pudding Mix (not Cook & Serve)

Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
3-4 tablespoons milk
pistachios, chopped, for topping

Directions:
*Note: This recipe makes twice as much mousse as you need for filling the cupcakes. If you want to use half the pudding pack and save the rest for later, just measure it out and do so. Or use the extra mousse for another project (you know, like eating it with a spoon).

Line two muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat the mixture with a mixer set on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in the boiling water and then pour mixture into a measuring cup with a pour spout to help you fill the paper liners (the batter will be very thin).

Fill cups just a little over 1/2 full with batter (be careful not to overfill, because these cupcakes get wonky if you do). Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Cool completely.

To make the pistachio mousse, combine milk, cream, and pudding mix in a medium bowl. Beat with a mixer until you reach soft peaks, or a thick whipped cream consistency (this takes a few minutes). Refrigerate mousse until you’re ready to use it.

To make the frosting, cream shortening and butter together in a large bowl. Mix in cocoa and vanilla. Add in the sugar one cup at a time while beating on medium speed and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Add milk and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth until ready to use.

Now you’re ready to assemble the cupcakes. To fill the cupcakes, use the Cone Method: cut an upside-down cone out of the top of each one. Cut off the tip of the cone (and eat it, if you wish) leaving just the “lid.” Fill the cavity with pistachio mousse using a piping bag or zip-top bag with the corner cut off, and then replace the “lid” to give you a relatively smooth surface to frost. Use a piping bag or zip-top bag to pipe on the frosting. Top cupcakes with pistachios.

All Cupcake Week Recipes:
Day One: Chocolate Pistachio Cream Cupcakes
Day Two: Banana Split Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Three: Creamsicle Cupcakes
Day Four: Strawberry & Cream Cupcakes and Cake Pops
Day Five: Apple Cinnamon Cream Cupcakes

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Coffee Mousse Filled Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sandwiches

Last weekend I spent 48 hours with 14 of my seventh graders. At camp. Doing campy things (pun intended).

That probably sounds like a unique form of teacher-torture, but it was actually a fantastic experience, and one I’m planning on telling you all about. For now, though, I just want to tell you about highs and lows.

Highs and lows is a game we played while sitting in one of those kumbaya campfire circles you may remember from the summers of your childhood. Each student listed a high from the day — some accomplishment or moment of frolicking they particularly enjoyed — and a low — something they would change if they had fancy superhero rewind powers.

This may sound strange, but listening to them recite their lows was encouraging. If you’ve ever been close to a seventh grader for a prolonged period of time, you know that they can lapse into sarcasm and negativity about as quick as you can say, “Do your homework.” At other times, though, they can be pretty special little people to be around.

I heard a few people say, “I can’t think of any lows.” A couple commented on minor annoyances like bugs or pollen. One was sad his team didn’t get to float their raft because of the rain, but even that was qualified with, “but I really enjoyed the process of building it anyway.” What cool kids.

Their highs were even better. They were proud of how everyone had worked as a team, enthusiastic about spending time with their classmates, excited that one team’s makeshift raft had made it to the dock and back without disintegrating. All in all, the circle was a sweet, s’more-punctuated time — even without joining hands or braiding daisies into each other’s hair (though that would’ve been fun).

I’m a thoroughly reflective person — a trait happily amplified by my profession — and there’s been quite a lot to digest in my life beyond the campgrounds lately. Perhaps that’s why my thoughts turned today toward the highs and lows game — mountains and valleys, waterfalls and mud puddles. I’ve been trying to revisit the campfire in my mind to catalog and categorize recent events.

My lowest low this week was disconnecting from a good friend. I’ve been seeing a boy for awhile now who was special to me during my own middle school years, but I realized recently that things weren’t going to pan out. I’m trying to be all Joy-the-Baker about this and say, “Oh, boys come and go like brownie recipes,” but I think you must need curly hair and adorable freckles to pull that off, ’cause it’s not working for me. I guess I’ll stick to unattractive moping.

There are other, more mundane lows. My basil plant is looking droopy. The weather’s been rainy and chilled. A cloud bank today on the horizon reminded me of unreachable mountains, somber moments.

But:

-Today my sweet friend and coworker Ashley brought me a happy hippo.
-I just bought two of the sweetest sundresses ever from Target.
-I literally own at least 5 jars of On the Border salsa at this very moment.
-My family is healthy.
-I’m watching a bit of Kings of Pastry each evening.
-I found out a local cupcake truck is selling a version of one of my cupcake recipes, which they’ve named after the blog.
-Flippin’ SAVEUR listed Willow Bird Baking as one of the “50 More Food Blogs You Should Be Reading.”

Such soaring highs! I’m so grateful for those.

Another sorely needed high came in the form of these sweet little sandwich cookies. Driving home with Ashley, who bravely co-chaperoned the camping trip, I started brainstorming ways to use the coffee mousse I’m now enamored with. We thought of a gorgeous roulade, filled cupcakes, and lots of other things, but then Ashley mentioned how she loved to invent new cookie recipes. Cookies are so simple, so quick, so satisfying — everything I needed after a rough and tumble couple of days.


Mom’s hydrangea bushes are blooming — another high!

They’re also delectable, particularly when the words double chocolate are involved. These little sandwiches turned out rich and indulgent, with the perfect balance of flavors (sweet chocolate combined with the bitter, matte flavor of coffee) and textures (voluminous cream between chunky cookies).

For me, there’s also something simple and childlike about the experience of eating a cookie sandwich. It reminds me of pulling an Oreo or an Oatmeal Cream Pie like a treasure from a Care Bears lunchbox. And if that sort of memory isn’t a high, I don’t know what is.

What are your highs and lows lately?

Coffee Mousse Filled Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sandwiches



Recipe by: Cookies adapted from Cathy Lowe, mousse adapted from coffee pastry cream by Rebecca Franklin
Yield: About 48 cookies or 24 sandwiches

Cookie Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup bitterweet chocolate chips (I love Ghirardelli)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Coffee Mousse Ingredients:
1 ¼ cups whole milk
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
3 egg yolks
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon gelatin

Directions:
Make the cookies: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, cream the butters and both sugars together for a couple of minutes until fluffy. Add egg, vanilla and cocoa and mix. Gradually add flour mixture and mix until combined. Add chocolate chips and pecans, stirring until they’re evenly distributed.

Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet or one covered with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Bake for 8-10 minutes and cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Make the mousse: While cookies are baking and cooling, make the mousse. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth and set aside. Place the milk in a saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let it soften for 2 minutes before adding the coffee granules and setting the saucepan over low heat. Heat until it’s just hot enough to steam, stirring the gelatin in to dissolve.

Once the milk is steaming, add half of it, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture to temper the eggs (this ensures they won’t cook when you add them to the hot mixture). Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk and continue stirring, and heat it for 1-2 minutes, until the custard reaches 170 F on a digital thermometer and is very thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and set the pan in a bowl of ice water, stirring every few minutes. Cool completely in this manner.

In the meantime, whip the cream in a chilled bowl until it holds stiff peaks. When the coffee mixture is cool, mix about 1/3 of the cream into it to loosen and lighten it. Then fold the rest of the cream in gently. Chill the mousse for at least 30 minutes before using.

Assemble the sandwiches: Turn half of the cookies upside down on the cooling rack. Pipe or dollop a good amount of cream onto these cookies and place the other cookies on top of them. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container.

P.S. One of my high school cooking students had the idea to try this coffee mousse with bacon and it was fantastic! Have I mentioned that I love my students?

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Chocolate Mousse Pie

It was a warm Friday in May, and I left school in a hurry after teaching my last class. I swung through the drive-through of Arby’s, ordering a sandwich as large as my head and then wondering why I’d just ordered a sandwich as large as my head. No time to worry about that!

I barreled down the interstate with a quick stop at the UPS processing center to grab the package that should have been delivered to my apartment (sigh) but wasn’t. No time to wait for them to correct the problem — I would need the contents of this package in a matter of hours. I ripped it open to unveil the apron I’d just had printed:

To my great relief, there were no spelling errors, egregious or otherwise. Can you imagine handing an apron to Ree Drummond that said, “WILLOW BIRD BAKING ❤ PINEER WOMUN.” Actually, now that I think about it, she might’ve liked that.

That’s right, I was on my way to meet P-Dub herself at her Charlotte booksigning. Now, I’m not really fanatic about celebrities. I was in love with Isaac Hanson for about 2 weeks in middle school before realizing he was never even going to know I existed. So I snapped out of it, went about my business, and didn’t bother with this “fan” silliness anymore.

That being said, I love Ree Drummond. She’s warm, hilarious, genuine, and probably more deserving of her fame than any of the Hollywood crowd. And last time I mentioned her in a post, I got hate mail! From real, live, professional trolls! You know someone’s really “made it” when they have their own little official hate squad following mentions of them around the internet. Cool.

She was as lovely as I expected when I met her in person, but for me, it was one of those Christmas Story experiences. You know the Christmas Story movie, right? The one with the leg lamp? In the movie, little Ralphie stands in line for hours to meet Santa with one goal echoing incessantly in his brain: to ask for a Red Rider BB Gun. That gun is all he wants, and all he’s been able to think about for weeks. He rehearses his lines to perfection. Finally, he reaches the front of the line and stares up into the face of a jaded department store Santa. It’s time to ask for his dream! He musters the strength to speak and . . . he panics. He chokes. He stares. He asks for a football.

Thankfully, I didn’t ask Ree for a football. What I did do is shuffle about, hand her the apron shyly, sort of mention Willow Bird Baking, and then give a dazed grin to the camera. Suddenly we were walking out of the building and I thought about turning around to scream, “No! I wanted a Red Rider BB Gun!” Somehow I don’t think that would have helped.

Anyway, despite my stagefright, Ree was charming and interested in each and every one of the hundreds of people who came to see her. I hope she’s enjoying her apron, and I dedicate this big ol’ heaping Chocolate Mousse Pie to her.

Well, okay, I sort of messed that up too. But not too badly.

The pie was tasty: a buttery, flaky pie crust embracing a thick mess of pillowy, indulgent chocolate mousse and topped with slightly sweetened, loosely whipped cream and chocolate curls. There aren’t many things that taste better than that crust + chocolate combination, in my opinion. It reminded me of the French Silk pies I used to love at Perkins — anybody out there still have a Perkins in their town? Eat a slice of that French Silk for me, please.

But there was an issue; namely, my mousse was grainy. Two or three other commenters on P-Dub’s site had the same problem, but most obtained smooth mousse. I think it comes down to creaming your butter and sugar. Make sure your butter is room temperature, thoroughly softened, and that you cream the sugar in until it’s really dissolved and fluffy.

Regardless of the slight sugar crunch, the pie was a rich, luxurious treat. My Sunday school class got ahold of it and left an empty pie plate in its place — and if that’s not a good sign, I don’t know what is!

Chocolate Mousse Pie



Recipe by: Adapted from Pioneer Woman, crust by Willow Bird Baking
Yields: one 9-inch pie, serves about 8-9

Chocolate Mousse Ingredients:
4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup salted butter, softened
1-½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 whole eggs (since they will be raw, you may want to use pasteurized eggs, and/or avoid serving this recipe to older or pregnant guests)

Pie Crust Ingredients: (you can use a prepared pie shell if desired)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup cold lard (non-hydrogenated if available)*
1/2 cup cold butter, chopped
3-4 tablespoons ice cold water
1 egg and 1 teaspoon heavy cream for egg wash
*you can substitute vegetable shortening here if you wish, but I highly recommend the lard!

Whipped Cream Ingredients:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon hot water

chocolate curls, if desired, for garnish

Directions:
To make the crust, pulse flour and salt together to combine. Add scoops of lard and pulse into the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Add in chunks of butter and pulse until butter pieces are no larger than small peas, about 10 pulses. Add minimum amount of water and pulse on low. If dough remains crumbly and doesn’t come together, add another tablespoon of water. Add as little as is required to enable the dough to be rolled into a ball. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 20-30.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Roll disk of dough out to around 2 inches larger than your pie plate and transfer it, situating it in the plate. Fold the excess dough around the edges and crimp, trimming where necessary. Cover the dough with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans, pressing to the edges. Bake for around 20 minutes. Remove weights and paper, egg wash crust, and bake 5-10 minutes more, until golden brown (you won’t be baking it again, so make sure it has good color — shielding edges with foil if they begin getting too dark). Let crust cool completely.

In small microwave safe bowl melt 4 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate until stirrable (about 45 seconds on high). Set aside to cool.

To make the mousse, in a large bowl with an electric mixer beat 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter (I used unsalted and added a dash of salt) and 1 ½ cups of white sugar until fluffy (about 2 to 4 minutes). NOTE: make sure butter is very soft and at room temperature, and beat until sugar is entirely dissolved, or the chocolate mousse will be grainy. When melted chocolate is cooled, drizzle it over the butter/sugar mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat the mixture thoroughly until combined (on a Kitchen Aid mixer, you will be using the whisk attachment).

Turn your mixer to a medium speed and over a period of 15 to 20 minutes add in the four eggs, one at a time, leaving about 5 minutes between each egg addition. Once the pie filling is well mixed, pour it into the baked pie shell, scraping every last speck of it out of the bowl. Smooth out the pie filling and place pie in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours (preferably longer).

To make whipped cream, soften gelatin on 3 tablespoons cold water for about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon hot water and stir to dissolve gelatin. Let cool while you mix other ingredients in a bowl to soft peaks. Add gelatin mixture to whipped cream and fold in gently. Pile whipped cream onto top of pie and refrigerate. Garnish with chocolate curls if desired.

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Lemon Triumph Cake

The looming summertime has given me the perfect excuse to indulge my love of lemons. Oh! Lemons! The pungent aroma of lemon juice on my fingers from a fresh squeeze! The bright yellow, spoked discs dripping with juice! The tang! The sweetness!

I was thrilled when my mom was pondering what sort of cake she wanted for her birthday and mentioned lemon. She made a fantastic lemon and lemon cream jellyroll cake awhile back from a cake mix and thought she might like something similar. I put on my Dr. Frankenstein hat and began piecing recipes together to oblige.

My first dilemma was how to make a cake from scratch that tasted like a cake mix cake. I always get a kick out of foodies who disdain the taste of cake mix. Being an avid baker, I have news for those folks: many of us are constantly trying to attain a cake-mix-like level of moistness and buttery flavor. There are definitely downsides to cake mix (preservatives and the fact that you don’t get all the fun of baking from scratch, of course!) but in terms of taste . . . yeah, they’re pretty good at that.

So how to make a delicious, preservative-free yella cake that was just as moist and scrummy as a cake mix? While considering this conundrum, I happened to see this recipe for a homemade cake mix and decided to give it a try. It smelled buttery and magnificent while mixing it up, just as it was supposed to, and baked into a lovely lemon cake with a bit of additional flavoring.

Now about that lemon cream. I decided I wanted to do a lemon mousse instead, and had my heart set on a big ol’ fancy mousse layer cake. I was going to buy a cake ring and build the cake with two cake layers sandwiching a thick layer of mousse. Only problem? Well, that first part . . . the part about the cake ring. You let me know if you find one, but after visiting three stores, I’ve come to the conclusion that there aren’t any cake rings in Charlotte. Lame.


And again, with candles!

Well, kind of lame, but kind of awesome, because it gave me an excuse to buy this Wilton Heart Tasty-Fill Pan I’ve had my eye on for months (Note to calm your fears: I always mention if I’ve been asked to review a product or have received something for free to review, but that’s not the case here. Wilton, y’all are welcome to send me free pans and all, but I bought this pan with my own hard-earned money and decided to share it without being asked). I am so excited about this pan! All the filling possibilities! I’m already pondering: banana cake with caramel cream filling, chocolate cake with caramel cream filling, yellow cake with chocolate mousse filling . . . but I digress! Back to the Lemon Triumph Cake at hand.

I did love the Wilton pan, but I think it’ll take a bit of practice to get used to. As you can see in some of the pictures, the heart wasn’t aligned correctly on one side of the pan. This has to do with me forgetting to trim the sides of the cake so that the top and bottom were even. I feel like it might be a bit difficult to get it lined up straight, though, and it’s hard to know until you cut into it . . . at which point (after 8 hours of baking, in the case of this cake) you don’t really want to know if something’s wrong. I’ll let you know next time I use it (which will hopefully be soon!) if it’s easier to align, having had a bit of practice.


Crooked heart this time around!

If you don’t have the Tasty-Fill Heart Pan, don’t worry! You can make this as a regular mousse cake using a cake ring per my original plan. Just layer a 9-inch cake on the bottom and a thick layer of mousse on top of that. Chill until the mousse is firm and place another 9-inch layer of cake on top. Chill again before frosting, taking care around the mousse layer not to mix the frosting and mousse. Alternatively, if your city also has no cake rings, serve this as a regular two-layer lemon cake with the mousse on the side.


Better ❤ on this side of the cake.

Nevertheless, crooked hearts notwithstanding, this cake was worth the effort. The yellow cake drenched in lemon syrup was moist and buttery, just like I hoped. This method of making Swiss buttercream produces hands-down the fluffiest, smoothest, silkiest, tastiest frosting I’ve ever had the pleasure of licking off my spatula. And the lemon mousse was, well, a triumph! Lemon curd folded into mousse that sets up like a bright, creamy-tangy cloud in the middle of the cake. Close your eyes and imagine a satisfying summer day — birdsong, sprinklers, green grass, sunshine, lemonade, lounge chair, long naps and good books — with a little sophistication mixed in. That’s what this cake tastes like. If that doesn’t make you want a slice, I don’t know what will!

Lemon Triumph Cake



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, compiled from Fine Cooking (lemon curd), Giada DiLaurentis (lemon syrup, adapted), Gina DePalma (Swiss buttercream, adapted), Bon Appétit (lemon mousse), My Kitchen Cafe (homemade cake mix)
Yields: one 9-inch, two layer cake

Yellow “Cake Mix” Cake Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons butter (2 sticks), cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoons lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
1-2 teaspoons lemon extract
strands of lemon peel for garnish

Lemon Curd Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Lemon Mousse Ingredients:
1 recipe lemon curd (above)
2.5 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites
3/8 cup sugar
3/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream

Lemon Syrup Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup lemon juice

Lemon Swiss Buttercream Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites , at room temperature
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Directions:
Note on scheduling: I might schedule this cake baking in the following way. Make lemon curd and refrigerate two days in advance. Bake cake and coat with lemon syrup one day in advance, wrapping carefully and freezing. On day of serving, make mousse, trim and fill cake (much easier with frozen layers!), make frosting, and assemble.

To make lemon curd: In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, about 2 min. Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for 1 min. Mix in the lemon juice. The mixture will look curdled, but it will smooth out as it cooks.

In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth. (The curdled appearance disappears as the butter in the mixture melts.) Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 15 min. It should leave a path on the back of a spoon and will read 170°F on a thermometer. Don’t let the mixture boil.

Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest. Transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming and chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools. Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.

To make cake: Process sugar, flours, milk powder, baking powder, and salt in a food processor for 15 seconds to combine. Add butter and vanilla and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (you want this much finer than, say, a pie crust). Freeze the dry mixture in a zipper-lock bag for up to 2 months or use immediately.

To make the cake, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans (the Tasty-Fill pans, if you’re using those).

With an electric mixer, beat the prepared cake mix, 1 1/4 cups warm water and 2 large room-temperature eggs until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-27 minutes for two 9-inch layer cakes. Cool the cakes in pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack. Poke holes in them and spoon lemon syrup over generously. Cool for about 30 more minutes before placing cake layers in freezer for at least 30 minutes. This helps a ton with trimming, filling, and decorating!

To make lemon syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool, about 20 minutes.

To make the mousse: Pour 2.5 tablespoons water into small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place 7/8 cups lemon curd in large bowl. Stir 3/8 cup curd in another small saucepan over medium-low heat until very warm.

Stir gelatin mixture over medium-low heat until dissolved and liquid is clear (do not boil). Whisk warm gelatin mixture into 3/8 cup warm curd. Gradually whisk gelatin-curd mixture into curd in large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until whites are thick and glossy. Fold whites into curd mixture in 3 additions. Using same beaters, beat cream in another medium bowl until peaks form. Fold into egg white-curd mixture in 3 additions.

To make lemon Swiss buttercream icing: Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil without stirring until syrup reaches 240° on a digital thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer on medium speed, gradually pour in hot syrup in a thin stream; avoid pouring syrup on whisk. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture is cool, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. (If at any time buttercream appears curdled, beat on high until smooth, then reduce speed to medium and continue beating in butter.) Once all butter is added, beat on high speed until buttercream is smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla and lemon extract.

To assemble the cake: Level the layers using a long serrated knife. If using a Tasty-Fill Heart Pan, align heart and then trim sides of cake to make them even. Fill both sides of the heart with mousse, leveling it off using a spatula (see instructions in the note below for making this a regular mousse cake).* Place the top layer on the bottom layer, aligning the heart. Cover cake with a thin coat of icing as a crumb coat and chill until the icing is set, 20 minutes or so. Frost cake and decorate with slices of lemon peel. Store, covered, in refrigerator. Set out about 10 minutes before serving to soften the icing.

*NOTE: Make this as a regular mousse cake by using a cake ring. Layer a 9-inch cake on the bottom and a thick layer of mousse on top of that. Chill until the mousse is firm and place another 9-inch layer of cake on top. Chill again before frosting, taking care around the mousse layer not to mix the frosting and mousse. Alternatively, serve this as a regular two-layer lemon cake with the mousse on the side.


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