Dulce de Leche Mousse in Pecan Nests

Dulce de Leche Mousse in Pecan Nests

Best of Show, Outstanding Adult, and 1st Place in Adult Tarts by:

Amy Salopek




Prep Time: 15 minutes

Preheat Oven: 350o F

Total Cook Time: 45 minutes

Chill Time: 1-2 hours

Total Time: 2-3 hours (with chill time)

Number of Recipe Servings or Yield: 8 tarts





• 2 tablespoons butter

• 1 tablespoon heavy cream

• 1/3 cup sugar

• 1/2 cup pecans



• 1 1/3 cups pecans

• 3/4 cup powdered sugar

• 2 large egg whites

• 3 tablespoons sugar

• 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract



• 1 cup heavy whipping cream

• 1/2 cup dulce de leche (jarred or homemade)

• 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder

• 1 tablespoon hot water




• Step 1: Toast the 1 1/3 cups pecans for the nests on a cookie sheet in a 350o oven until fragrant, approximately 12-14 minutes, stirring once or twice to prevent burning. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

• Step 2: Make candied pecans for topping: Place 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon heavy cream in a small saucepan and heat on low until butter melts. Sprinkle 1/3 cup sugar on top (don’t stir yet) and continue heating on low until sugar dissolves and mixture starts to bubble. Add ½ cup pecans, stir, and bring to boil over medium heat. Boil for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture resembles caramel. Dump out onto parchment paper to cool. When cooled, chop into small pieces. Set aside.

• Step 3: Place the now cooled oven-toasted 1 1/3 cups pecans in the bowl of a food processor with the ¾ cup powdered sugar. Pulse to grind the nuts into a fine meal (approximately 50 pulses). Set aside.

• Step 4: Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer along with 3 tablespoons sugar, 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar, and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Whip on medium high, scraping sides of bowl occasionally with spatula, until stiff glossy peaks form, 7-8 minutes. Using a spatula, fold in the ground nut/powdered sugar mixture, mixing just until well blended. Scoop into a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch star tip. Pipe 8 nests onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (tip: draw 8 evenly spaced 3-inch circles on a rectangle of parchment paper, then flip and place on baking sheet): start at the center of each circle and pipe in a circular motion to form a 3-inch circle. Pipe a second layer on top of the outside circumference layer of the nest base to form a “lip” (think inverted jar lid). Leave out on countertop to rest for 15 minutes while you heat the oven to 375o. Place nests in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 325o. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges. Remove from oven and cool completely.

• Step 5: Make the mousse: Add 1 tablespoon of hot water to a small mixing bowl and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon gelatin powder. Stir until gelatin is completely dissolved. Set aside. Whip 1 cup heavy cream with mixer until soft peaks form. Start slowly drizzling the gelatin water into the whipped cream and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in ½ cup of dulce de leche with a spatula until well blended and no streaks of caramel remain. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe generous dollops of mousse into cooled nests. Sprinkle tops with the chopped candied pecans. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Refrigerated in a covered container, they will keep well for a day or two.

Note: Pecan decorations were made by sandwiching two toasted pecan halves together with dulce de leche, and then wrapping it in homemade marshmallow fondant. This was then pressed into a DIY pecan mold made from gelatin and glycerin. Not only are they cute, they taste good, too! Leaves were made from the same marshmallow fondant.


Browned Butter Pecan Cheesecake

Browned Butter Pecan Cheesecake

2nd Place in Adult Cheesecake by:

Marlene Castillo


  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Yields 12-14 slices



  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 2 tbsp salted butter, melted


  • 6 tbsp Challenge salted butter
  • 24 ounces cream cheese. room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar. loosely packed
  • 3 tbsp AP flour
  • 3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup toasted pecans (above)


  • 2 ¼ cups  graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ cup salted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon


  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon



1. Preheat the oven to 350°F, Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine the melted butter, pecans and brown sugar in a medium sized bowl and toss to coat.

3. Spread the pecans evenly onto the cookie sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until toasted.

4. Set pecans aside to cool.


5. To make the browned butter for the cheesecake filling, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. It’s best to use a light colored pan so that you can see the butter browning. Whisk the butter occasionally so that it cooks evenly.

6. Cook the butter until it turns a nice toasty brown. It will foam up at first, but it will eventually subside and you’ll have browned butter. Some of the brown bits may separate, but that’s ok. Once the butter has browned, pour it into a bowl and set it aside to cool.


7. Preheat oven to 325°F, Line a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan with parchment paper in the bottom and grease the sides.

8. Combine the crust ingredients in a small bowl. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan.

9. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

10. Cover the outsides of the pan with aluminum foil so that water from the water bath cannot get in, set prepared pan aside


11. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.

12. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugars and flour on low speed until well completely combined and smooth. Be sure to use low speed to reduce the amount of air added to the batter, which can cause cracks. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

13. Add the sour cream, vanilla extract and browned butter and mix on low speed until well combined.

14. Add the eggs one at a time,mixing slowly. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure everything is well combined.

15. Stir in 1 cup of the toasted pecans.

16. Pour the cheesecake batter evenly into the crust.

17. Place the springform pan inside another larger pan. Fill the outside pan with enough warm water to go about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. The water should not go above the top edge of the aluminum foil on the springform pan.

18. Bake for 1 hour 5 minutes. The center should be set, but still jiggly.

19. Turn off the oven and leave the door closed for 30 minutes. The cheesecake will continue to cook, but slowly begin to cool as well.

20. Crack the door of the oven for 30 min

21. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and water bath wrapping and refrigerate until firm, 5-6 hours or overnight.

22. To finish off the cheesecake, make the whipped cream. Add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon to a large mixer bowl. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.

23. Pipe swirls of whipped cream onto the cheesecake and finish off with the remaining toasted pecans. Refrigerate until ready to serve


Congratulations to all the participants!

Congratulations to all the participants!

Congratulations! We had 169 entries this year and the competition was fierce! The judges had their work cut out. We have set the dates for next year, March 3rd, 2024. We’ll be sending out some reminder emails occasionally.

If you received a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place ribbon, keep an eye out in the mail for yours as we will be sending those out in the next couple of days.