this past sunday, my kitchen and i were attacked by a moose. wait, no… a mousse. but we were attacked, i assure you of this. i considered taking some photos of the mess, but the lighting in my kitchen isn’t so great, and i would rather concentrate on how magnificent this cake is. i wish i had recorded the reactions it received, but since i did not, i suggest that you make this cake for the next special occasion (yes, today sounds like a day worth celebrating to me) and hear them for yourself! although some of the remarks were “heavenly,” “melt in your mouth good,” “if awesome had a taste, this would be it,” etc… the best reactions were the ones that were noises rather than words. it is the biggest compliment to me as a recreational baker when people accuse me of purchasing at a bakery!okay, so maybe part of why they thought it was from a bakery was the container i used, but they said it *after* eating it, so it still counts! btw, next time, i am using a container without ridges, or at least a size bigger than is needed for the cake, to avoid getting ridges on the cake…kinda ruined that whole perfectly smooth look, but i guess nobody knew it wasn’t supposed to have a textured edge…
the recipe originally called for white chocolate in the top layer, but i wasn’t sure that the birthday boy liked white chocolate, and milk chocolate is his favorite, so i went with that instead. apparently this was a good move, as he had two big slices before i convinced him that he should share with the folks that sit around him. now, let me tell you the story of the cake. keep in mind that i forewarned you about the poor lighting in my kitchen, please.
i wanted to show you a few things here…that double boiler there, it got used several times, as did the mixer (not pictured), which meant that in between layers, everything needed washed…the whisk, the pot, the bowl, the wooden spoon or rubber scraper, the whisk attachment for the mixer…you get the point. it was especially important between the first and second layer since the first layer had eggs– note that i picked this recipe since it didn’t include raw eggs, like most other ones. you can also kinda see in this photo that the bottom layer pulls away from the pan a bit, which is okay, because the part of the cake that looked like it was only two layers from the outside actually kinda looked nicer. in any case, i made all the layers, then needed to refrigerate it. the comments on the recipe warned not to put wrap over it until you are absolutely certain that it wouldn’t touch the top, as that would ruin the perfect look; i solved this problem pretty simply, by putting a lid on it, which is something most of us should try to do in our lives from time to time.
this proved to be a good decision, as the top looked lovely in the morning, though the ocd part of me did notice that it wasn’t quite perfect…
which can be fixed with chocolate curls…lots and lots of delicious milk chocolate curls
that cake lifter there on the left was my brilliant idea of how to get the cake onto the tray. i figured i would slip it under the parchment round that i used to line the bottom of the springform pan, and gently slide it over. this was not as simple as i had planned
and there was some damage.
then i gave up on the lifter, and just shimmied it off, which worked surprisingly well. the parchment round is a must, in my opinion, otherwise i would have most likely ended up serving it on the base of the pan. thankfully, i am exception at spackling…unfortunately, covering it up with chocolate curls wasn’t an option, but i did manage to smooth it out enough, and the container mashed up the edges a bit, so nobody noticed. although i said that the part that only showed two layers looked really nice, the rest of it, which showed all three, didn’t look so shabby either! you can see how nice and light it is here as well
i am hoping that i have sold you on making this cake, because it really is worth it! it was pretty easy to make, honest, the toughest part was washing everything, and transferring it to the platter…the rest of it was, well, a piece of cake.
oh– two more notes: having gelatin in it, this is the only thing i have ever posted on my site that is not vegetarian– this can easily be substituted with vegetarian gelatin-like substances; if your chocolate blocks won’t let you chop them up– mine did not…they were too thick– they will just take a little longer to melt, and you just have to flip them over continuously so they don’t burn.
recipe, adapted from cook’s illustrated:
For the bottom layer:
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces (plus extra for greasing the pan)
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ tsp. instant espresso powder
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
For the middle layer:
2 tbsp. cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
5 tbsp. hot water
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
For the top layer:
¾ tsp. powdered gelatin
1 tbsp. water
6 oz. milk chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups heavy cream
Chocolate curls or cocoa powder
To make the bottom layer, butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. (I lined the bottom of the pan with a parchment round for easy removal later.) Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325˚ F. Combine the butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in a large heatproof bowl set over simmering water (I used a double-boiler). Stir occasionally until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla and egg yolks. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Crumble half of the brown sugar into the mixing bowl with your fingers to remove any lumps. Beat until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Add the remaining brown sugar and continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 1 minute more. Using a whisk, mix one-third of the beaten egg whites to the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining egg whites gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake until the cake has risen, is firm around the edges and the center has just set but is still soft (should spring back after pressing gently with a finger), about 14-18 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool completely, at least 1 hour. Do not remove the cake from the pan. (If not making the second layer right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to proceed.)
To make the second layer, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl; set aside. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water (again, i used a double boiler), stirring occasionally until smooth. Once melted, remove from the heat and let cool slightly, 2-5 minutes.
In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, sugar and salt on medium speed until the mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds. Whisk in the cocoa powder mixture until smooth. Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain. Pour the mousse into the springform pan over the cooled cake and tap gently on the counter 3 times to remove air bubbles. Gently smooth the top with a spatula. Wipe the inside edge of the pan to remove any drips. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes while preparing the top layer.
To make the top layer, sprinkle the gelatin over the water in a small bowl and let stand at least 5 minutes to soften. Place the milk chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring ½ cup of the cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat, add the gelatin mixture and stir until dissolved. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate and let stand about 1 minute (I actually just threw the chocolate into the pot, as I wanted to minimize the final round of dishes). Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Cool to room temperature, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 1 cup of cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken. Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds. Using a whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to the milk chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently with a rubber spatula until no streaks remain. Spoon the milk chocolate mousse into the pan over the middle layer. Smooth the top with an offset spatula. Return the cake to the refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours
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