For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 2 dozen mini-cupcake pans with paper liners and spray with oil spray. Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and shortening on medium speed, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat on medium until fluffy, 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the whole egg and egg whites, and beat until incorporated. Turn the mixer to low. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the water, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low. Using a small ice cream scoop, fill the prepared pans three-quarters of the way full with batter and bake until baked through, about 9 minutes. Cool the cupcakes completely. Set aside for assembly.
For the buttercream: To melt the chocolate, place it in a double boiler over simmering water on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir occasionally until completely smooth and no pieces of chocolate remain. Remove from the heat and let cool until lukewarm, 5 to 15 minutes.
In a medium heavy-bottomed pot, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the half-and-half and milk and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 20 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and white chocolate and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, and then beat until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
For the meringue: Place the sugar, cream soda, corn syrup, salt and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Place the pan over boiling water, being sure that the boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy.) Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.
For the popcorn: Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium-high heat. Put 3 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan. When the kernels pop, add the rest of the popcorn kernels in an even layer. Cover, remove from the heat and count 30 seconds. Return the pan to the heat. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. Once the popping starts in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper). Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid and dump the popcorn immediately into a wide bowl. If you are adding butter, you can easily melt the butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Then, toss the popcorn in the butter and add salt to taste.
For the idol envelopes: With the edible ink marker, print on the white fondant paper the words "the winner is" in 1-inch squares. With scissors, cut out the squares and reserve to the side for assembly. Measure the red fondant with a ruler into 1-inch squares; trace and cut. With the marker, draw a triangle from the top left corner to the center to the top right corner to give the appearance of a fold in an envelope. With a moist paper towel, wet the back of the red square without the marked fold. Then stick the white square to the red square with the writing facing out.
To assemble: Fill each cupcake with the buttercream. Generously frost the top of each cupcake with Swiss meringue. Adorn with freshly popped popcorn and an idol envelope.
This recipe was created by a contestant during a cooking competition. It has not been tested for home use.
Recipe courtesy of Hollis Wilder