Hedgehog “Cinnabon” Mont Blancs

I initially was inspired to make these cakes from seeing all of the cute animal-themed crepes in Japan! One that seemed doable-enough were the hedgehogs, which they made by piping things onto a scoop of whipped cream to create the animal. I knew that I could do something similar using the half-sphere molds I normally use, and piping on the features using either meringue cookies for the mouth and ears, or some kind of mousse to form the quills around the body or head of the hedgehog! Hilariously enough, when I Googled “hedgehog cake” for some references to see if anyone else has made something similar before, I stumbled upon a lot of….interesting cakes. Cakes that would haunt my nightmares. Cakes that I would persevere to not make. I would just leave it at there, since talking about how some of those cakes turned out just makes me cringe. Or at least pray that those people were just auditioning for Netflix’s Nailed It!(Apparently the cake I was referring to was from an SNL Skit, so I stand corrected in assuming that somebody actually thought that was their best attempt at a hedgehog cake).

For my recipe, I went with a cake, since that just seemed the most feasible for pressing into the half sphere molds, specifically into a mousse. I was between doing an icebox cake and an actual cake, but I went with an egg yolk-based sponge cake, since I wanted to use an egg white to make the meringue with, and while the leftover egg yolk could be used in a mousse, I figured, why not just use it in a cake batter and minimize the amount of eggs I need for this recipe to literally just one? So I went with a cinnamon-spiced sponge cake. I felt like leaning into the Cinnabon-feel with this cake, going with a cinnamon cake, a cream cheese based mousse, and a brown sugar-cinnamon-sweet potato puree on top, just to really tie in those cinnamon roll flavors. To form the ears and the mouth, I went with meringue cookies, using pipings of chocolate to form the nose and eyes on the actual hedgehog itself.

For the cake:
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

In a bowl, whisk together your egg yolk, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla until they reach ribbon stage. Sift in your all-purpose flour. and fold everything together to form your batter. Spread onto a parchment lined sheet tray. Bake at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes. Allow the cake to cool before cutting out 1 1/2-inch disks and storing in an airtight container.

For the mousse:
6oz cream cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt
1 tsp gelatin powder + 1 tbsp water
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped stiff
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese until softened. In a pot, heat up sugar, salt, water, and gelatin powder until it comes up to a boil and pour into the cream cheese. Mix together until combined, then fold in the cream and vanilla to finish.

For initial assembly:
In 4-inch half sphere molds, place down your mousse first. Then press in the cakes. Freeze solid for at least 2 hours before attempting to unmold.

For the spiced yam and brown sugar puree:
6oz peeled Japanese yam, cut into small dice
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of salt
2oz cream cheese
2 tbsp brown butter

Steam the yam for 5 minutes. In a food processor, blend the yam with the other ingredients to form your puree. Transfer to a piping bag with a star tip to finish. Pipe the puree on top and around the set and still-frozen mousses to form the quills around the hedgehog, keeping some negative space open for the meringue “mouth” and the eyes.

For the meringues:
1 egg white
2 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Whip to stiff peaks. Transfer into a piping bag with a small round tip. Pipe 1/8th-inch disks onto parchment. Bake at 200 degrees F for 1 hour. Store in an airtight container until time to use.

For garnish:
Mini dark chocolate chips

Melt down a very small portion of the chocolate(literally just enough to make 6 dots for eyes and noses) in the microwave in a heatproof bowl. Transfer to a piping bag and pipe the noses on top of the meringues. Press two meringues on top of the piped puree to form your ears, and allow the mousse to come up to room temperature before pressing in the mouth, just to guarantee that it will stay on. For the eyes, pipe the chocolate on carefully.

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