Because of YOU, Willow Bird Baking is one of only 24 blogs in Project Food Blog Round 8! I am so beyond grateful for your support and love throughout this process. Challenge #8 was to create a baked good using pumpkin. VOTING IS NOW OPEN! (Thank you for voting! Voting is now closed.) I’d love it if you’d pop over to cast a vote for me by clicking “Vote for this Entry” here. Thank you all!!

I am basically an architect. I know some folks who worked through countless hours of pesky schoolwork to call themselves architects and may disagree with me. But I think I have enough experience to go ahead and claim the title.

See, in 6th grade, my classmates and I were divided into teams and charged with a task of monumental proportions. We were to engineer a bridge out of toothpicks, string, and glue. Each of these “resources” was assigned a cost, and we were given a budget of imaginary money with which to purchase supplies. The team whose bridge could hold the most weight at the end of the competition would win epic bragging rights.

Moist, amazing Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake!

We must have been hyped up on marshmallowy breakfast cereal or something, because as soon as the teachers said GO, it was on.

We were ruthless. We pasted, chopped, measured, quarreled, budgeted, collaborated, and in a move that I’m still not sure was entirely legal, pilfered cast-off supplies from the trash can. Hey, we were just being green, right? Nowadays we’d obtain a high L.E.E.D. certification and get a pat on the back. I’m sure my teachers would’ve seen it that way . . .

I remember waxing intellectual about the structural integrity of domes, lecturing a classmate on how strong the ends of an egg were for this reason. Another peer gave an impromptu diatribe on the virtues of suspension bridges. We ended up with some sort of Frankesteinian hybrid, a bridge held up by suspension and bulky domes underneath. We were still furiously glopping on excess glue in hopes of bolstering the bridge’s integrity when the teachers called time.

We watched breathlessly as the teacher judging the competition picked up a thin book and placed it on our bridge. It held. Another volume was snapped up into her fingers and laid gingerly on our opponents’ bridge. It held.

One by one, she stacked books on top of our lopsided, aesthetically wreck-tastic but apparently strong-as-an-ox toothpick bridge. Every book our bridge held was matched by one on our opponent’s bridge — until the teacher picked up two textbooks. Ours held under the weight. Our opponents’ bridge collapsed — and so did we: we collapsed into cheers and giggles, inebriated with victory. We had done it! We were brilliant engineers! We had won!

Pumpkin profiteroles — with pumpkin in the choux dough itself — were filled alternately with White Chocolate Chai Mousse and ganache.

As the crowd thinned, we stood around and stared in wonder at our messy little Golden Gate. My friend Ashley was not yet satisfied. Sure, our bridge was stronger than the other team’s, but just how strong? With her hands on teammates’ shoulders for balance, Ashley stepped — first one foot, and then the other — onto the bridge.

It held.

I’ll never forget that moment standing in front of my elementary school, seeing Ashley’s huge grin, relishing the easy pulse of victory through our already-marshmallow-filled veins. So, yeah, I’m basically an architect. Right?

At least, it was this (misguided?) confidence that led me to believe that I could construct what I’ve officially dubbed the croquemcake.

I wanted to pull out all the stops for Project Food Blog Round 8 (do I say that every round? It’s definitely true every round!) The challenge was to create a baked good using pumpkin, and I was torn between building pumpkin profiteroles (made from pΓ’te Γ  choux) into a lovely croquembouche (mounted cream puff tower) or baking a pumpkin chai cake. Suddenly, it hit me. When in doubt, do both.

I may or may not have tweeted my desire to bathe in luxurious Swiss buttercream.

Thus, the croquemcake was born: a browned butter pumpkin cake filled with a comforting white chocolate chai mousse heart, frosted with velveteen Swiss buttercream frosting, and topped with a croquembouche of pumpkin profiteroles filled with chai mousse and ganache. The cake is served in slices accompanied by a few plucked cream puffs, and is essentially the embodiment of all things autumn.

At first I was panicky about trying to stack a tall, leany thing on top of a tall, frosted thing, but it turned out to be super easy, and it produced a ravishing effect.

The White Chocolate Chai Mousse is incredamazing, y’all. Even if you put off making the whole shebang until Christmas, you should make some bowls o’ mousse ASAP!

. . . oh, and it just might be my new favorite dessert ever. Every bite had an insanely satisfying combination of textures and flavors. This beautiful croquemcake would be the rockstar of any holiday table.

Don’t be scared of the length of the recipe. True to Willow Bird Baking’s mission, this dessert is also surprisingly easy to make. Let me qualify that: it takes three days and has tons of steps, but the steps themselves are simple and manageable. Use my note below on timing to space out the recipe steps into manageable chunks. It is so worth the effort.

What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Browned Butter Pumpkin CroquemCAKE with White Chocolate Chai Mousse

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking, compiled and adapted from sources including Fine Cooking, Annie’s Eats, America’s Test Kitchen, Cookin’ Canuck, Martha Stewart, Gina DePalma, Alone and Unobserved
Yields: 15-20 servings, depending on your size o’ cake slices. You’ll have the topping croquembouche plus about 30 other cream puffs to serve alongside.

Pumpkin Puree Ingredients: (or use canned pumpkin puree)
about 7 pounds worth of sugar pumpkins (or pie pumpkins)
2-3 cups water

Browned Butter Pumpkin Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of your pumpkin puree
3/4 cup unsalted butter; more for the pans
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pans
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk

White Chocolate Chai Mousse Ingredients: (I had a lot of leftover mousse; you could probably get by with 2/3 of this recipe)
2 1/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
3 tablespoons water
18 ounces white chocolate chips (see note)
4 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
heaping 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper (white or black)
dash cayenne powder

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

Profiterole (Cream Puff) Ingredients:
1 1/8 cups water
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/8 teaspoons salt
1.5 tablespoons sugar
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
Egg wash (1 egg yolk and 1/2 cup heavy cream, lightly beaten)

Ganache Ingredients:
10 ounces bittersweet and semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Note on timing: This dessert is easy to create, but involves many steps. For this reason, I divided the work over three days. On day 1, I roasted and pureed my pumpkins (you can nix this day if you use canned pumpkin). On day 2, I baked my cake and froze it, baked my profiteroles and froze them, and made my chai mousse. I also piped out white chocolate snowflake decorations to dry overnight. On day 3, I made my frosting, assembled and frosted my cake, made ganache, filled my profiteroles, and constructed my croquembouche.

To make pumpkin puree: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the tops off of above 7 pounds worth of sugar pumpkins (also called pie pumpkins). Cut the pumpkins in half and scrape out the seeds and innards. Place the pumpkin halves peel-up, cut-side-down in a baking dish and fill the dish 1/4 inch deep with water (about 2-3 cups). Roast pumpkins for 60-90 minutes, or until flesh is fork tender. Allow them to cool for a bit before scooping all flesh out of the peel and placing it in a food processor. Puree for 2-3 minutes until completely pureed, then drain in a paper towel-lined colander for about an hour. Store your pumpkin puree in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it in 1-cup increments for later use. Alternatively, you can use canned pumpkin puree for this recipe.

To make browned butter pumpkin cake: I baked my cake in a pan that allows you to fill your cake with a heart-shaped tunnel of mousse (please comment if you’d like the details). If you don’t have one of these pans, you can still create the tunnel effect! You can use this technique by the fabulous Amanda, or this tunnel technique featured previously on my blog.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two cake pans (either the heart-tunnel pan or regular 9-inch cake pans) very thoroughly. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook it, swirling occasionally, until it’s golden brown with a nutty aroma, around 4 minutes. Remove it from heat and pour it into a bowl to cool for about 15 minutes.
Whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cloves in a small bowl. In a separate, large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until well combined. Use a spatula to stir in the dry ingredients until just combined, and then whisk in the browned butter. Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pans.

Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, around 28 minutes. Let cakes cool in their pans until mostly cool before turning them out onto wax paper to wrap and freeze. Freeze at least 30 minutes or until firm.

To make white chocolate chai mousse: Mix spices (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, pepper, cayenne) together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over top to dissolve and soften for at least 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in a medium bowl. Combine 1 1/2 cups of cream and spice mixture in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until simmering. Remove from heat, add gelatin, and stir to dissolve. Pour gelatin mixture over white chocolate and whisk in small circles until smooth. Cool completely to room temperature, stirring occasionally, around 5 to 8 minutes.

In a separate bowl, beat remaining cream to soft peaks. Use a whisk to fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Then fold the rest of the whipped cream in until no streaks remain. Refrigerate your mousse until set, then stir slightly to break up before using.

To make profiteroles: Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs. Stir in pumpkin puree.

Pipe the batter using a pastry bag and a plain tip. Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top. Brush tops with egg wash while trying not to drip the wash down the puffs onto the pan (which could somewhat inhibit rise).

Bake the choux at 425 degrees F until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool (tip from a pro: poke each puff with a toothpick while cooling to release the steam inside. It shouldn’t cause your cream to leak, but will help the puffs stay crisp). Can be stored in a airtight box overnight, but I recommend, if you aren’t using them right away to create your croquembouche, that you freeze them. When you’re ready to use them, bake them at 350 degrees F for 5-6 minutes to refresh and recrisp them.

To make ganache: Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan (or just stick it in the microwave for 2 minutes in a microwave-safe bowl). Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Let ganache stand at room temperature until fully cooled, then whip to frosting-like consistency for piping into cooled profiteroles.

To make Swiss buttercream frosting: 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 240Β° 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 extract.

To assemble your cake: Line up cake layers and trim sides as needed with a long serrated knife. No need to thaw before you do this — it’s actually easier with frozen layers. Spoon white chocolate chai mousse into heart-shaped wells in your cake layers (if applicable — or spoon it into whatever shaped cavity you’re using). Carefully position the top layer on the bottom. Apply a thin coating of frosting all over as a “crumb coat” and refrigerate the cake for a half hour or so. Then frost the cake generously with the remaining frosting.

To assemble your croquembouche: Fill cooled profiteroles with leftover chai mousse and ganache as desired. Melt white chocolate bark and dip tops of each profiterole into the chocolate, lining up on wax paper to dry. Cover a plate with wax paper — this is where you’ll build your croquembouche. Start with bigger, broader profiteroles and use the white chocolate as “glue” to piece together a sturdy base. I refrigerate my croquembouche after the construction of each new layer, to harden the chocolate and avoid any toppling incidents! Continue building a cone, fitting the profiteroles together according to their shape. Use white chocolate to pipe snowflakes on wax paper, and to “glue” them onto your croquembouche once they’re dry. Refrigerate your croquembouche until you’re ready to assemble your final product.

To assemble your final croquemCAKE: Carefully ensure that your croquembouche isn’t sticking to your wax paper. Gently lift it onto the center of your cake. Surround your cake with leftover cream puffs for serving. Enjoy!

Roasting pumpkins! While there’s not a huge taste difference from using this process versus the canned stuff, it’s a fun, satisfying thing to try!

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174 Comments on Browned Butter Pumpkin Croquemcake with White Chocolate Chai Mousse (Project Food Blog Round 8!)

  1. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite
    November 28, 2010 at 9:31 am (14 years ago)

    Never mind the length of the recipe – the cake is so spectacular that I wouldn’t even *think* I could attempt it. Gorgeous and well done! (your friends must love you when you are baking up goodies like this!! Lucky them!)

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 28, 2010 at 9:39 am (14 years ago)

      Thanks Mardi! It’s actually easy step-by-step: make a cake, make some cream puffs, stack ’em up — but the end looks fancy! I love recipes like this for that reason!

      Here’s hoping my friends enjoy it — I’ll find out today πŸ™‚

  2. Wei-Wei
    November 28, 2010 at 9:43 am (14 years ago)

    This is kind of mindblowing. Also, I just LOVE your story!

  3. Julie @SavvyEats
    November 28, 2010 at 9:49 am (14 years ago)

    I am already considering making this today, and it is 8:49 am. It looks SO perfect and delicious!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 28, 2010 at 9:51 am (14 years ago)

      Here’s more from my 6th grade self: peer pressure! DO IT!! DO IT!! πŸ˜€

      Thanks so much, Julie!

  4. Jamie
    November 28, 2010 at 10:55 am (14 years ago)

    The heart! The snowflakes! The deliciousness! I love it!

  5. KeepItSweet
    November 28, 2010 at 11:08 am (14 years ago)

    what an incredible looking cake!! congrats on making it so far in Project Food Blog!

  6. Becca
    November 28, 2010 at 11:30 am (14 years ago)

    I don’t even know how to tell you how incredibly delicious this sounds. Every part of the title makes my mouth water! And then the pictures! Oh my goodness Julie! I do think you keep out-doing yourself! Which is amazing!

  7. Winnie
    November 28, 2010 at 11:36 am (14 years ago)

    I just knew you would rock this challenge. That is a wonderful cake Julie- I love each and every part of it on its own, and I imagine that together, it’s just heaven πŸ™‚

  8. The Cilantropist
    November 28, 2010 at 11:39 am (14 years ago)

    This is quite the undertaking, but I for one, would definitely spend 3 days on a fabulous dessert like this one! My favorite thing? A hard decision considering you made chai mousse and browned butter pumpkin cake… but I definitely love that you tackled the challenge of baking the pumpkin INTO the choux recipe. Kudos for that!!! Now my only question… just how tall was this bad boy? πŸ˜‰

  9. Mara @ What's For Dinner?
    November 28, 2010 at 11:40 am (14 years ago)

    You did it!!!!! This is really remarkable my friend, I’m beyond impressed and seriously want a slice of that right now, k?? Amazing!!!!

  10. RhodeyGirl
    November 28, 2010 at 11:43 am (14 years ago)

    I love the story you shared in this post, and I love how beautiful your pumpkin dessert(s) turned out! Yum!

  11. eataduckimust
    November 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm (14 years ago)

    i think i lost to you in that bridge contest way back when… πŸ™‚

    this is by far the cutest cake i’ve ever seen PLUS you made it with pumpkin and chai. my heart, it’s been stolen!

  12. Leah
    November 28, 2010 at 12:55 pm (14 years ago)

    Holy wowzers that thing is gorgeous!

  13. Sally
    November 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm (14 years ago)

    How on earth do you make heart-shaped wells in your cake?! I must admit I’m bored stiff of pumpkin recipes but this is outrageously ambitious and imaginative and you absolutely deserve to be voted through.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 28, 2010 at 6:12 pm (14 years ago)

      Aw, thank you so much Sally! There are several techniques — two are linked in the recipe, and I will email you a third.

      • Claudine Farhadi
        March 22, 2012 at 6:57 pm (12 years ago)

        What a beautiful cake! I know this recipe if from over a year ago, but I stumbled upon it on Pinterest. How do you make those heart shaped tubes? Incredible!!

        • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
          March 22, 2012 at 9:47 pm (12 years ago)

          Aw, thank you Claudine! The heart shape is SUPER EASY with the pan I use — it’s the Wilton Tasti-Fill Heart Pan and it basically does the work for you! You bake your cake layers in it and they come out ready to fill and put together. I use it all the time because the heart is just too fun. πŸ™‚

  14. Jackie
    November 28, 2010 at 2:40 pm (14 years ago)

    Julie, this is gorgeous and I love the story – I remember doing the same task at an entrance exam for a primary school. Sadly our bridge would never have taken my weight (not to mention that I was a wee podgy little thing!), it couldn’t even withstand a gentle blow from pursed lips!

    You are an architect, and even better, you’re a CAKE architect. Nom. Well done! Good luck for this round!

    Jax x

  15. Robin
    November 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm (14 years ago)

    Julie, Julie, Julie! You are either a genius or you have lost your mind (maybe a little of both)?! This dessert has it all (and then some)! This cake is spectacular! I love the idea of the chai mousse. Am bookmarking this recipe right now. You are a shoe in for this round!!!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 28, 2010 at 6:13 pm (14 years ago)

      Well, definitely lost at least a good portion of my mind . . . πŸ˜‰ I so hope you’re right, Robin! Thank you for your constant support!!

  16. Joanne
    November 28, 2010 at 3:06 pm (14 years ago)

    Whoa you really went beyond amazing for this round! That is truly an architectural masterpiece. It reminds me of this one building at MIT (Frank Gehrig building) that was so architecturally insane that I was sure it was going to collapse at any second. But of course it didn’t. And was quite awe-inspiring to behold. You’ve got my vote!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 28, 2010 at 6:14 pm (14 years ago)

      Thank you so much Joanne!! The apple cake you just posted had me drooling. Amazing.

  17. Joan Nova
    November 28, 2010 at 4:26 pm (14 years ago)

    A spectacular structure, a fun post, and a fabulous concoction of flavors. And I love the surprise heart in the center.

    Good luck!

  18. amanda @ fake ginger
    November 28, 2010 at 5:07 pm (14 years ago)

    Holy yum! I have never seen such a spectacular cake! Please send me a piece. Or two. πŸ˜‰

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 28, 2010 at 6:14 pm (14 years ago)

      Thank you, Amanda! There’s definitely more sitting in my fridge right now . . . πŸ™‚

  19. Becca
    November 28, 2010 at 6:27 pm (14 years ago)

    This looks….too spectacular for words. When I saw the first picture, I was amazed! I’m still wondering how you got the heart inside the cake, maybe it’s the engineer in me or something. Well anyways, I remember that bridge project. It was hard and I can’t believe your bridge took books, text books and kid on top! That’s still amazing in itself…congrats, on both the cake and the toothpick bridge πŸ˜€

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 28, 2010 at 6:31 pm (14 years ago)

      We were amazed too, Becca! It was totally exhilarating πŸ˜€

      Thank you!! There are two techniques for doing a heart or tunnel in the recipe, but I’ll email you a third!

  20. amelia from Z Tasty Life
    November 28, 2010 at 8:06 pm (14 years ago)

    aw! how festive and whimsical! the white on white makes for a very white Xmas πŸ™‚

  21. sayre
    November 28, 2010 at 10:13 pm (14 years ago)

    WOW this looks AMAZING! when does voting start?

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 28, 2010 at 11:25 pm (14 years ago)

      Thank you, Sayre! Voting starts tomorrow at 9 am! Would love your support πŸ˜€

  22. Diana
    November 28, 2010 at 10:50 pm (14 years ago)

    Looks gorgeous! Nice work roomie! πŸ˜‰

  23. Amanda L.
    November 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm (14 years ago)

    I love everything about this post! I remember making a similar bridge but we had to use spaghetti instead. We almost won, no we SHOULD have won, since we were only allotted a certain amount of glue, and one team used waaaaaay too much glue and we didn’t, so in essence, we should have won. But that’s besides the point because this cake is amazing!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 28, 2010 at 11:03 pm (14 years ago)

      LOL, Amanda, we totally might have been that other team if not for using toothpicks instead of spaghetti. We DRENCHED that thing in glue. I wonder now how we got so much glue?! πŸ˜‰

      Thanks, girl!

  24. Carol Peterman/TableFare
    November 29, 2010 at 12:00 am (14 years ago)

    It’s beautiful and fantastic! It’s croquemcake! I’m going to make this just so I can use that word.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 29, 2010 at 12:01 am (14 years ago)

      Thank you, Carol! I’ve been using that word EVERY CHANCE I GET, so I know just what you mean! LOL.

  25. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit
    November 29, 2010 at 1:32 am (14 years ago)

    I love the mousse heart in the cake! The whole “croquemcake” is amazing. πŸ™‚ Great job!

  26. Tastes Better With Friends
    November 29, 2010 at 1:48 am (14 years ago)

    Well, no puppies are grandparents in this post either, but the crazy cake that I would never attempt even if my life depended on it, more than makes up for it! well done!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 29, 2010 at 1:55 am (14 years ago)

      Oh no! How do I keep forgetting the puppies and grandparents?!?! πŸ˜‰ Thanks, Ethan!

  27. Lou
    November 29, 2010 at 4:57 am (14 years ago)

    That would make a beautiful wedding cake for a winter wedding. Stunning.

  28. Vivian
    November 29, 2010 at 11:03 am (14 years ago)

    Looks great and I bet it tastes wonderful, too! πŸ™‚ Just voted for you!

  29. Isabelle
    November 29, 2010 at 11:22 am (14 years ago)

    Great entry! It’s definitely not something I could just whip up on a whim, but you do a great job of breaking down the components to make it more manageable. And how awesome is that heart-shaped tunnel of mousse? Love it!
    You did a fabulous job. Good luck with this round of the challenge.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 29, 2010 at 11:24 am (14 years ago)

      Thank you, Isabelle! It does require a bit of planning, but is SO much bang for your kitchen buck πŸ˜‰

  30. Whit @ Amuse Bouche
    November 29, 2010 at 11:55 am (14 years ago)

    Julie you have truly outdone yourself this time. I am amazed! Of course, you know I wouldn’t let a round go by without a vote for you! Good luck!!!!

  31. Michelle
    November 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm (14 years ago)

    You’ve got my vote!

  32. whatsfordinneracrossstatelines
    November 29, 2010 at 1:39 pm (14 years ago)

    This could have been a cake from a mix and I would have voted for it! But you went way beyond that! Those flavors sound wonderful, and I love hearts but I think it’s your stunning use of architecture that pushed it over the top! Can’t wait to see what you do next!

  33. Annelies
    November 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm (14 years ago)

    Behold the croquemcake. It looks amazing & so creative! Pumpkin with chai spices are perfect for this time of year. Good luck Julie.

  34. Sarah @ OC2Seattle
    November 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm (14 years ago)

    3 days? Too funny! I can totally envision little Ashley standing on that bridge – impressive that it held and that you can now put your achitecture skills to such good use πŸ˜‰

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 29, 2010 at 2:41 pm (14 years ago)

      Thanks Sarah πŸ˜€ I’m a sucker for big baking projects where the components are relatively easy, but come together in a special way.

  35. Megan
    November 29, 2010 at 2:45 pm (14 years ago)

    It is amazing, Julie. I’d say you are an architect. You already have my vote! Good luck! (And I love how you always have the most wonderful story to share along with everything you create.)

  36. Susan C.
    November 29, 2010 at 3:06 pm (14 years ago)

    Holy Smokes!! I saw this post when you originally put it up and have been waiting for a quiet nap-time to process it. Wowza!! Pronouncing the finished product is, in itself, a challenge!!

    I am so going to try this over the holidays!! Thanks for breaking it up into steps. Having three gals under the age of 4 makes it nearly impossible to attempt something so detailed at once!! (Though having fresh, frozen pumpkin puree already done will be helpful!!) Can I sign myself up for heart tunneling details??

    You’ll have my vote for sure!!

  37. Lisa
    November 29, 2010 at 3:06 pm (14 years ago)

    Ok where do I order one of these cakes? OMG you did a fantastic job!

  38. sippitysup
    November 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm (14 years ago)

    Brown Butter, Chai, Pumpkin! I can’t decide which flavor to love the most

  39. norma
    November 29, 2010 at 5:22 pm (14 years ago)

    Since meeting you in San Francisco…I have been voting for you and checking your blog. Good luck!

  40. I Speak Math
    November 29, 2010 at 8:36 pm (14 years ago)

    I have a FUNNY “I tried to bake a cheesecake” story! Remind me to tell you tomorrow. Ganache on the floor…

  41. Monica H
    November 29, 2010 at 9:09 pm (14 years ago)

    You said the cake resulted in “a ravishing effect” and you are so right!

    This cake is beautiful and would be perfect for any special occasion or even a fall wedding.

    Great job you! I hope to be cheering you on in Round 9!

  42. Finny
    November 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm (14 years ago)

    The cake looks lovely. And the bridge story reminds me of the tower I had to build, with a partner, in grade six. Our tower held the most weight of any tower anyone at the school had build up to that point–the meter only went up to 220lbs, and at that point our tower was still standing and hadn’t even cracked. Took the teacher throwing it at the wall to get it to break. Fun times.

  43. Kimmy
    November 29, 2010 at 9:48 pm (14 years ago)

    Wow, this is unbelievable and combines some of my favorite flavors (brown butter, chai, pumpkin). Be still my beating heart! Great job!

  44. Tiny Urban Kitchen
    November 29, 2010 at 10:21 pm (14 years ago)

    I am soooo impressed with this! I love how you successfully combined your two ideas. And I gotta say, the heart inside the cake is absolutely adorable!

  45. Daydreamer Desserts
    November 29, 2010 at 11:57 pm (14 years ago)

    Wow… Julie ‘er should I say Ms. Architect? I’m totally speechless, Croquemcake? Brilliant!

  46. Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table
    November 30, 2010 at 12:02 am (14 years ago)

    Whoa – I am totally impressed. Good luck to you!

    Did your grade school bridge-building lead you to be a civil engineer?! πŸ˜‰

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 30, 2010 at 12:08 am (14 years ago)

      LOL, not quite — but I do teach 6th grade, so something special must have stuck with me πŸ˜‰

  47. Mariko
    November 30, 2010 at 4:11 am (14 years ago)

    Well, I for one would bathe in that buttercream.
    You have definitely created an official dessert for my future country.
    (And I totally remember doing that toothpick bridge thing. Yep. I failed miserably.)

  48. Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen
    November 30, 2010 at 4:07 pm (14 years ago)

    I love your story. I think that, as kids, we had to create some sort of egg container that would protect the egg from breaking, after being thown from the roof. I don’t remember being successful.

    And fabulous Franken-dessert! I love the idea and the flavors sound amazing. Good luck this round!

  49. The Cuisinerd
    November 30, 2010 at 4:26 pm (14 years ago)

    I love your little heart frosting center! Like my twinkies it seems as if you and I have a fondness for fillings!

    Great post!

  50. June g.
    November 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm (14 years ago)

    Wow! Words cannot express how beautiful this is! I’ve been dying to make a filled cake, a little afraid;)

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      November 30, 2010 at 4:49 pm (14 years ago)

      It’s totally easier than you’d expect! I’ll email you details.

      Thanks πŸ˜€

  51. Heather
    November 30, 2010 at 5:19 pm (14 years ago)

    Simply beautiful, as always. πŸ™‚

  52. Diana@Spain in Iowa
    November 30, 2010 at 5:57 pm (14 years ago)

    Dang Julie, this is gorgeous! Way to go on a browned butter cake, and the time you took to create this. Best wishes!!

  53. Sue
    November 30, 2010 at 6:30 pm (14 years ago)

    I’m sure this tastes as good as it looks~Wonderful!
    Best wishes in this round!

  54. Abbie
    November 30, 2010 at 7:35 pm (14 years ago)

    Ah-mazing! πŸ™‚ Where did you get the heart tunnel pan from? I’d love to get my stepmum one for Christmas!

  55. Meagan
    November 30, 2010 at 8:37 pm (14 years ago)

    WOW – you really outdid yourself. My favorite part of this cake is the moist pumpkin texture it has and the heart inside πŸ™‚

  56. ~m
    December 1, 2010 at 12:07 am (14 years ago)

    hey, i have that heart-tunnel cake pan, too! it’s so much fun!

  57. Andrea
    December 1, 2010 at 9:33 am (14 years ago)

    I’m so proud of you and how well you’re doing in this competition. You totally deserve it! Miss you! We need to get together and catch up soon! πŸ˜€

  58. Sweet Artichoke
    December 1, 2010 at 10:16 am (14 years ago)

    Fantastic and stunning! This is one of the most beautiful cake I have ever seen! and I love the heart shaped filling! Hats off!

  59. Hot Polka Dot's Mom
    December 1, 2010 at 10:31 am (14 years ago)

    Spectacular edible architecture! May I have the penthouse?

  60. jennie
    December 1, 2010 at 3:26 pm (14 years ago)

    Absolutely stunning! I wish I could vote twice.

  61. Sharlene (Wheels and Lollipops)
    December 2, 2010 at 8:43 am (14 years ago)

    Impressive ! Love the fact that you gave tips and timing on the cake. I think if I were to have this that it could also become a favorite desert!

  62. Rich
    December 2, 2010 at 9:49 am (14 years ago)

    That is a beautiful cake! Much more aesthetically pleasing, I would imagine, than the bridge. But I wouldn’t stack books on the cake.

  63. betsy
    December 2, 2010 at 11:55 am (14 years ago)

    Wow, that cake looks incredible. Good luck!

  64. Ben
    December 2, 2010 at 2:48 pm (14 years ago)

    But did the cake support Ashley’s weight? The suspense is killing me!!! Engaging story and I like the semi-rhetorical call to action at the end. This was such a pleasure to read. I am imagining trying to get every component into one bite!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      December 2, 2010 at 2:56 pm (14 years ago)

      DEFINITELY DOABLE, from experience πŸ™‚ I know if Ashley were here, she’d love to stand on this very cake!

      Thanks Ben πŸ™‚

  65. Sheena
    December 2, 2010 at 6:05 pm (14 years ago)

    This cake is just stunning, and sounds delicious! Especially the white chocolate chai mousse, I love the flavour combination.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      December 2, 2010 at 8:47 pm (14 years ago)

      Thank you so much, Sheena! That mousse is killin’ me! I have the leftovers in my freezer and it makes an AMAZING “ice cream.”

  66. Margaret - Savory Sweet Living
    December 2, 2010 at 6:35 pm (14 years ago)

    Wow, spectacular…this could be someone’s wedding cake! I’m always impressed with someone that could make a cake and spread the icing so smoothly. Good job and good luck!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      December 2, 2010 at 11:17 pm (14 years ago)

      Thank you so much, Margaret! It’s this Swiss buttercream — you have to try it if you haven’t already! It spreads like a cloud.

  67. Lori Lynn
    December 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm (14 years ago)

    Hi Julie – I adore your cake. That you combine 2 classics in one is fabulous, and the choice of flavors is just wonderful. I bet this one tastes the best of all! I vote for you whole-HEARTedly. Good luck my friend!

  68. LimeCake
    December 2, 2010 at 10:34 pm (14 years ago)

    My gosh I am in total admiration of this magnificent cake and your prowess! It looks delicious!

  69. Stay-At-Home-Chef
    December 3, 2010 at 12:04 am (14 years ago)

    I have no words…this is beyond any words I might have πŸ˜‰ Good luck!

  70. huntfortheverybest
    December 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm (14 years ago)

    i love croquembouche and the pumpkin cake looks delicious!

  71. bunkycooks
    December 3, 2010 at 3:43 pm (14 years ago)

    Wow! What an impressive cake. I know what to do with some of my homemade pumpkin puree after seeing this. Congrats for advancing to the next round and for winning the Reader’s Choice award. πŸ™‚

  72. Damaris @Kitchen Corners
    December 3, 2010 at 3:46 pm (14 years ago)

    I just saw that you won the reader’s choice award. I can see why. Congratulations that is one of the coolest cakes I have ever seen. You deserved it.

  73. DessertForTwo
    December 3, 2010 at 6:12 pm (14 years ago)

    Wow! I’m so impressed! You totally deserve the reader’s choice award! Good for you! πŸ™‚

  74. foododelmundo
    December 3, 2010 at 6:42 pm (14 years ago)

    I’m so excited for you!!!!!

  75. Erin
    December 3, 2010 at 7:02 pm (14 years ago)

    Just saw this and after staring at the picture for about 20 minutes trying to figure out how you got that heart into the cake I saw that you used a mold. Can you send me the deets on where to get that from? This is AWESOME! I’m drooling. Also, I loved your cheesecakes!

  76. Amy
    December 3, 2010 at 9:37 pm (14 years ago)

    This is gorgeous! I’d also love the details on the heart-shaped-cake-filling pan. (Thanks!!)

    I remember having to build a bridge out of newspaper. Sadly my group didn’t fare as well as yours. I never considered architecture or engineering after that. πŸ™‚

  77. Maranda
    December 4, 2010 at 1:05 pm (14 years ago)

    Sometimes it just blows me away how creative and amazing you are. I want a piece of that so bad. I don’t think I could stop myself from eating all those little puffs. Yum!!!

    And congrats on making it through the round and being voted reader’s choice! You totally deserve it!!!!!!

  78. Lisa Orgler
    December 5, 2010 at 12:06 am (14 years ago)

    Congrats on your Reader’s Choice Win! Well deserved…such a creative post!

  79. Evan @swEEts
    December 5, 2010 at 10:59 am (14 years ago)

    This is an absolutely beautiful cake! It looks like it could be at a wedding! I am so impressed.. now I’m just trying to figure out a time and place where I could make the white chocolate chai mousse- it sounds heavenly!

  80. Peggy
    December 5, 2010 at 6:36 pm (14 years ago)

    This was totally well deserving of the popular vote for this round! I can’t wait to see your entry for next round!

  81. charlotte
    December 6, 2010 at 9:11 pm (14 years ago)

    I think i voted for you but it might not have worked

  82. Wava Piccione
    May 20, 2011 at 3:41 am (13 years ago)

    Does your site have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to send you an email. I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      May 20, 2011 at 6:41 am (13 years ago)

      Hi Wava, I think my email address is somewhere around here, but I should probably make it more obvious! It’s juruble ‘at’ gmail dot com.


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