I recently bought the dessert shell pan to make the Chocolate Brownie Bowls in Kitchen (p162) and was hoping you could give some ideas for how else it can be used? Can I just use any cake mix in the pan or does it have to be a particular kind of recipe?
The dessert shell pan is made by Wilton and according to their instructions the pan will accomodate a brownie batter that would normally fill a 20 cm (8-inch) square pan. A 20cm square pan is roughly the same size as a 23cm (9-inch) round cake pan so theoretically any cake batter that will make one layer of a 23cm round cake will be about the right amount for the dessert shell pan.
Nigella's Buttermilk Birthday Cake in Domestic Goddess (p210) is for a 23cm (9-inch) square pan so would also be a good recipe to try, though you are going to have some batter left over so we would suggest making the leftovers into a few cupcakes. You can flavour the cake batter with grated lemon or orange zest or add a little espresso powder for coffee flavoured cakes.
One important point to make is that the cups of the pan do need to be thoroughly greased (particularly at the bottom edges) so that the cakes release and it is also a good idea to dust them with a light coating of flour after greasing (or cocoa if making a chocolate cake). If you have one of the non-stick baking products (such as Pam For Baking, Baker's Joy or Wilton's Cake Release or Bake Easy) then these usually work well. Fill the cups no more than 2/3rds full with cake batter. Although the large cake is baked at 180c/350F we would suggest that you stick with 200c/400F for the cups as they are smaller and will bake quickly. When the cakes come out of the oven the tops (that will eventually be the bases) may be a little too peaked for them to sit properly when turned out. If this happens then sit a heavy baking sheet over the pan while the cakes cool and this will help to flatten the peaks a little. Let the cakes cool for about 15 minutes before unmoulding them on to a wire rack.