Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Mousse

My birthday was a few weeks ago so naturally, I used the occasion as an excuse to make some delicious cupcakes. I like to go all out for birthday desserts (i.e. my husband’s birthday cake) and my birthday is no exception. I’ve been making some iteration of this recipe for more than ten years. I had a similar cake at a local bakery and fell in love with it. When I went back for more a few months later, it was no longer on the menu. So I had to make my own. It’s taken me awhile to get it to where I’m really proud of it.

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My birthday cake from 2010. We all have to start somewhere.

Now, there are a lot of components to this recipe, but all of the components are easy to do, I promise. Because of all the components, and because it takes a while for the mousse to set, and the cupcakes to cool, I tend to make the mousse and cupcakes the day before I want to serve them and then put everything together the day of. It can totally be done in one day though. I just tend to get antsy waiting for the mousse to set completely. Also, I use a cake mix to make my chocolate cupcakes. Don’t hate me.

Ingredients

For the strawberry mousse

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups cut up fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream

For the cupcakes

  • 1 Devil’s Food cake mix
  • whatever ingredients cake mix calls for

For the ganache

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

For the whipped cream

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

Directions

For the strawberry mousse

  1. Sprinkle the gelatin on top of the 1/4 cup of water. Let it sit for five minutes while you get your strawberries going.
  2. Put your strawberries and the sugar into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Move your strawberry and sugar mixture to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin mixture until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator until cool and the consistency of egg whites.
  6. Once your strawberry mixture is cool, start to beat your cream into whipped cream. Start at a low speed until foamy, and then increase your speed to medium/medium-high. Beat until peaks form. You’ll know it’s done when you can tilt the bowl on it’s side (slowly, otherwise, uh-oh) and the whipped cream holds its shape instead of sloshing all over.
  7. Gently fold in your strawberry mixture until fully incorporated. And I mean gently. You don’t want to lose all that air you just beat into your whipped cream, so be gentle and sweet to your mousse. 😉
  8. Let chill for at least 30 minutes. You want your mousse to be nice and firm.

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    Mmmm. Perfectly set mousse.

For the cupcakes

  1. Prepare your cupcakes according to the box, or use your favorite chocolate cake recipe. Honestly, after getting the mousse just right, you’ve earned the right to make the cupcakes as easy as possible.
  2. Let them cool COMPLETELY.

Assembling the cupcakes

  1. Once your mousse is set, and your cupcakes are cool, you’re ready to put them all together.
  2. To fill the cupcakes you’ll need a pastry bag (or large Ziploc or sandwich type bag) and a long, thin, pastry tip. Fill the pastry bag with your mousse, about half full (more than that and you’ll end up with strawberry mousse all over your hands like I did). Stick your pastry tip into the center of the cupcake about halfway. Pull out the tip a little bit and squeeze the mousse into the cupcake. At the risk of sounding like a big old weirdo, this step is a lot of fun! You can actually see the cupcakes getting filled with mousse. You’ll know it’s good when little cracks start to form in the top of the cupcake.
  3. Once all of the cupcakes are filled, it’s time to make the chocolate ganache to put on top. Melt the chocolate chips and cream in a saucepan on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Nothing is worse than burned chocolate. Once the ganache is smooth and shiny, take it off the heat and top your cupcakes.
  4. I put the ganache on with a spoon, while holding the cupcake at an angle. I start at the edge of the cupcake, and let gravity do most of the work for me. I keep adding ganache on the edge, turning the cupcake as I go, and once I have enough on there (and a little goes a long way) I use the back of the spoon to smooth it out and cover the middle, where I filled the cupcake with mousse. Doing it this way cuts down on how much mousse mixes with the ganache and makes it look prettier. And if a little pink gets in your ganache, don’t worry, you can cover it up with whipped cream.
  5. I top my cupcakes with whipped cream and sliced strawberries right before I serve them. The whipped cream helps cut through all the richness and sweetness, also, everything is better with whipped cream. And the strawberries look cute. Make your whipped cream the same way you did with the strawberry mousse, start at a low speed, increase when it gets foamy. You can use another pastry bag and pastry tip for fun shapes, or just scoop a little dollop on top, you literally can’t go wrong when you’re adding whipped cream to things.

And there you have it! My favorite cupcake and my birthday tradition. I hope you enjoy!

 

 

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Grapefruit Cake Recipe

I make this cake every year for my husband’s birthday. He’s not a sweet eater (awesome, more for me), but he loves this cake as much as I do, and what is a birthday without a birthday cake?

This is a recreation of the Grapefruit Cake that was served at the Hollywood Brown Derby during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Legend has it, a powerful gossip columnist complained to the restaurant’s owner, Robert Cobb, that all of the desserts on the menu were too fattening. So he told his chef to put grapefruit on something, since grapefruit is known to be slimming.

Now, is the cake delicious? Yes. Light and refreshing? Yes. Healthy? Welllllllll, with the layers of decadent cream cheese frosting it’s definitely not the most healthy cake out there.

While the original Brown Derby restaurant no longer exists, there is a replica restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Disney World. They serve this cake along with other legendary dishes from the original restaurant including the Cobb Salad. I try to stop by every time I’m there. Not only is it like stepping back into time, but it is a very nice break from the heat and crowds. But, if a trip to Disney World isn’t in your immediate future, you can still make this cake at home and pretend. 😉

Ingredients

For the Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, separated

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons grapefruit juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

16 oz cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 cup powdered sugar

Grapefruit, well drained

Dehydrated grapefruit wedges (optional)

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  1. First things first. If you decide to decorate your cake with dehydrated grapefruit wedges, you are going to want to dehydrate your wedges the day before you bake your cake. This is an easy (albeit time consuming) way to give your cake that extra bit of pizzazz. Preheat your oven to 170°F. Cut your grapefruit into thin (about 1/4 inch) slices, then cut those slices in half. Spread your grapefruit on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven. It should take about 9 hours to fully dehydrate. I flipped my slices every 3 hours to help them dehydrate evenly.
  2. Time for the cake. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottom with wax paper, and then lightly grease the paper. (Note: The cake will fit into one 9-inch cake pan, I prefer using two so that I don’t have to cut the cake in half. I always make a mess of it when I try. If you are more coordinated than myself, feel free to stick to one pan.)
  3. In a large bowl, sift together your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together your egg yolks, oil, water, grapefruit juice, and lemon zest until smooth. Mix in your flour mixture. IMG_0963
  5. Grab another medium bowl. Using an electric beater, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks start to form. IMG_0967
  6. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture until just blended. When I was first making this recipe, this is where I always got tripped up. I either over mixed it or under mixed it. You separate the eggs and beat the whites to get lots and lots of air into your cake batter, which will make your cake light and fluffy. So when mixing the egg whites with the rest of your batter, you want to do your best to keep all that air in there. Folding it in helps keep all that air from escaping. Never stir it in! IMG_0972
  7. Bake the cake for 12-15 minutes (25-30 if you used one pan). Insert a toothpick into the middle of your cake. Your cake is done when the toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. Make that frosting! In a medium bowl, use an electric beater to beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  10. Add in your lemon zest and lemon juice. Gradually mix in the powdered sugar.

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    Always good to have a helper if you don’t have three hands 😉
  11. Cover your bottom layer of cake with frosting. Top it with well drained grapefruit sections. IMG_1009
  12. Cover with the second layer of cake and frost the top and sides. IMG_1041
  13. Decorate and enjoy! IMG_1055

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I do. Let me know in the comments how it turned out for you!