Lemon-White Chocolate “Snowballs”

Back in my earlier days as a baker, I remember watching an episode of Cupcake Wars on the Food Network, and there was an episode in season 1 where a baker named Kara made these vanilla cupcakes with lemon curd, Italian meringue buttercream, and rolled in white chocolate sprinkles. The idea of super soft cake with tangy lemon curd and crunchy sweet white chocolate bits sounds like an amazing time, so that’s what inspired these “snowballs”. For those who did not have an American childhood(myself included in this case because the first “snowball” I had was as an adult), snowballs are fluffy cream-filled cake snacks that are usually covered in coconut flakes to make them look like their namesake. Instead of doing the same exact flavors as the original, I went with the flavor combination that Kara used in that specific cupcake, being vanilla, lemon, and white chocolate. Specifically on the lemon side, I went with a lemon curd, using that as the filling of the cakes, as well as the base of the mousses!

For my components, I went with a super fluffy vanilla chiffon cake that as well. I layered that with lemon curd, and enrobed the cakes with a lemon-white chocolate mousse, and white chocolate shavings. Texturally, I wanted super fluffy cake, a creamy, tangy(but not so sour to the point where you’re salivating) curd, a creamy, velvety white chocolate mousse, and crunchy white chocolate that just adds an extra pop of sweetness. Since using white chocolate in general runs the risk of excessive sweetness, especially since I am using lemon to add that punchy citrus kick, in the context of the mousse, the white chocolate is the only sweetener being used in that component. Additionally, the curd uses very minimal sugar – I used just enough sugar to prevent the egg yolks from scrambling, but no more than that, just so that the entire “snowball” would be really balanced from a flavor standpoint! With these snowballs, they are meant to invoke Americana and nostalgia to those who grew up on them, while also being a throwback to the very show that got me into baking in the first place in Cupcake Wars!

For the vanilla chiffon cake:
4 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

In a bowl, whip the egg whites with the sugar to stiff peaks. In another bowl, whip the egg yolks and slowly stream in your oil, vanilla, and salt. Sift the flour into the egg yolk mixture. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk-flour mixture to form your batter. Pour the batter onto a lined quarter sheet tray, spread into an even layer and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Cool completely before unmolding. Cut out 3-inch rounds of the cake.

For the lemon curd:
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 lemon’s worth of zest
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 egg yolks
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp unsalted butter

In a pot, heat up the lemon juice and zest. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, yolks, and salt. Pour half of the heated lemon juice into the yolks and whisk together. Pour the lemon-yolk mixture back into the juice and whisk on medium heat until thickened substantially – it should cling to the sides of the whisk. Take off heat and whisk in the unsalted butter. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a piping bag. Keep refrigerated until time to assemble.

For the lemon-white chocolate mousse:
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp gelatin powder + 1 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup lemon curd
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped stiff

In a pot, whisk together milk, gelatin, and cornstarch over low heat until the they thicken slightly. Fold in the white chocolate chips, lemon curd, and salt, and continue to stir until everything is fully melted together. Take off heat and allow the mixture to cool down to room temperature before folding in the heavy cream. Transfer everything to a piping bag.

For initial assembly:
Pipe and spread the mousse into silicone 4-inch half sphere molds. Press one round of cake in first. Then pipe on top of the cake some of the lemon curd. On top of that the next layer of the cake and smooth out the mousse so that the cake is completely flat and inside of the molds. Freeze solid then unmold.

If you do not own sphere molds, you can alternatively start by piping the curd between 2 rounds of cake and the curd

. Smother the sides of the cake with the mousse and smooth them out to have a rounded dome appearance. You do not need to freeze the cakes if doing them this way, though the uniformity of your snowballs may get compromised here.

For the white chocolate shavings:
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Over a double boiler, melt 3/4 of the white chocolate until completely melted. Take off heat and stir until just above room temperature, around 95 degrees F – the outside of the bowl should be slightly warm, but not so warm that you cannot touch it. Then stir in your white chocolate chips. Continue to stir until the exterior of the bowl is basically the same temperature as your forehead, around 90 degrees F. Pour the white chocolate onto a marble surface and using a bench scraper, scrape it into curls. Alternatively, you can spread the white chocolate onto parchment and coil it up tightly and break it into smaller pieces as it sets.

Other options if you do not want to do all of that is either purchasing white chocolate curls or buying a large white chocolate bar and going at it with a vegetable peeler! In all cases, keep the chocolate chilled so it does not warp and melt. Sprinkle it over the mousses liberally just to coat them in the shavings and give them the appearance of a snowball.

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