Category Archives: Desserts

Decadent Chocolate Mousse Cake

I have a friend who is amazingly pregnant – she’s about a month from her due date and at the point of just wanting to get it done. My first thought upon hearing this from her: “Baked goods fix everything.” I inquired what she would have me bake and she asked for a chocolate cake. The first thing that popped into my mind was my favorite cake, the spiced chocolate torte. Fearing that might be too rich, I looked through a couple of books and settled on chocolate mousse cake from French: The Secrets of Classical Cooking Made Easy.

Who on earth thought up baking mousse? The mousse in this cake is not simply filling, it is the cake bits of the cake as well. Really! I would never have dreamt doing anything to mouse except savoring it slowly in its chilled magnificence, but obviously someone decided to stick it in the oven.

In actuality, the cake part of this comes together much in the same way as a soufflé, and shares pretty much the same ingredients put together the same way. Makes me wonder about doing soufflés…..

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Chocolate Mousse Cake

from French: The Secrets of Classical Cooking Made Easy

for the cake:
10oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 eggs, separated
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3 tbsp brandy or rum (optional)

for the ganache
1 c heavy cream
8oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp brandy or rum (optional)
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter two 8-9″ springform pans and line the bases with buttered baking parchment. (I don’t have two springform pans of the same diameter, so I used my newly acquired baking pans. I would probably have been just fine if I had put the parchment on the bottom. One cake came out just fine, the other fell apart a bit.)

In a pan, melt the chocolate and butter over low heat until smooth, stirring frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks until completely blended. Beat in the brandy or rum, if using, and pour into a large bowl. Set aside, stirring occasionally.

In a clean bowl, using and electric mixer, beat the egg whites slowly until frothy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed and continue beating until they form soft peaks, then stiffer peaks that just flop over a little at the top.

Stir a large spoonful of whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites until they are just combined (a few white streaks are fine).

Divide about two-thirds of the mousse between the two prepared pans, smoothing the tops evenly, and tap gently to release any air bubbles. Chill the remaining mousse.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until puffed; the cakes will fall slightly. (Even with this warning, I was rather startled to find that one of my cakes had decided it was a volcano. Luckily enough it did fall back into place, only leaving a few fissures.) Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the sides of the pans and leave them to cool completely. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pan bases and peel off the papers. Wash the cake tins.

To assemble the cake, place one layer flat-side down in one of the clean pans. Spread the remaining mousse over the surface, smoothing the top. Top with the second cake layer, flat-side up. Press down gently so the mousse is evenly distributed. Chill for 2-4hrs or overnight.

To make the ganache, bring the cream to a boil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate all at once, stirring until melted and smooth. Stir in the brandy or rum, if using, and beat in the softened butter. Set aside for about 5 minutes to thicken slightly.

Run a knife around the edge of the assembled cake to loosen it, then remove the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, over a baking tray. Pour the warm ganache over the cake all at once, tilting gently to help spread it evenly on all surfaces. Use a spatula to smooth the sides, then leave to set. (This is the time I put the Dove hearts around the edge, mostly to obscure any irregularities in the visual texture.)


As far as I know, the cake went over pretty well. My friend took one look at the cake and said, “That is ridiculous.” Yes, fabulously ridiculous, and that’s how it should be.

I am really excited for next week. I recently acquired a V-day chocolate bar mold, so I will be trying my hand at that. Because I only got one, though, I will also be making more of the heart chocolates I made last year because I don’t trust myself to keep the chocolate in temper for as long as it would take for the bars to set individually.

On top of that, I plan to make a really amazing tart I saw posted on BonAppetit’s Facebook wall a few days ago – something about chocolate and almonds and coffee beans and caramel. Sounds absolutely divine, which is as it should be for Valentine’s day.

Christmas Confections – Part II

The one candy I know my mother loves is Almond Roca. It’s pretty awesome, if you ask me. In my perusing of Pinterest, I came across a recipe for Almond Roca – though it’s more like almond-toffee-brittle-bark. Or something.

Anyway, a while ago I invested in a silicone baking mold with 1-inch square cavities, which I never ended up using. I figured it would be a wonderful way to make the not-Roca, as opposed to the irregular/jagged pieces. Turns out the recipe I used makes just the perfect amount to measure 1 tbsp of toffee into the cavities and leave room for a healthy dose of chocolate on top.

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Almond Toffee Squares

3/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped/smashed
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
6 oz. chocolate

Butter a 7 x 11 inch baking pan, or use a similar silicone pan. Sprinkle half the almonds on the bottom of the pan.

Heat butter in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Keep stirring gently until boiling. Reduce heat to medium and continue stirring until it reaches 300°F. Don’t let it go to over 320°F – it won’t stay solid.

Pour the hot liquid into the pan over the almonds. It will set decently quickly – within five or ten minutes (not sure about larger pans).

You can go a couple of ways with the chocolate. If you use chocolate chips or chop your chocolate up, you could immediately put the chocolate on top of the toffee once you put it in the pan. Once the chocolate melts you spread it smooth. Sprinkle more almonds on top.

You can also choose to melt your chocolate and pour it over once it’s completely melted. I find that to be a bit more no-fuss as far as smoothing out.

I stuck them in the fridge for about 30 minutes, and found that the chocolate had set and didn’t melt once it came out. Totally awesome.

Christmas Confections

I recently sent some boxes of baked goods out to people as a quick “Hello, I’m thinking of you!” sort of thing. I came to find that the box I sent to my mother in Wyoming took a week to get to her. I’m sorry, Mom, but you live in the middle of nowhere! Even the postal service says so.

So I decided to change my usual baking box sets to something a little less perishable. A couple of years ago I attempted to send truffles – worst idea ever. I don’t know if I have disclosed this, but I have become quite the Pinterest addict in the last couple of months. I keep seeing pictures of …

bundt cakes turned into pumpkins,

espresso bark,

peppermint marshmallows,

peppermint bark,

and apple cider caramels.

Really? Aren’t those just awesome-looking? And they’re not as perishable! That way, if my mom gets blizzarded-in and can’t get to the post office for a week or so, it’s ok.

My boss threw a small holiday party over the weekend, and she asked me to bring a little something. I had initially hoped to do more, but I worked that day and this week has been seriously busy. I ended up doing some chocolate crackle cookies with sprinkles, which Mikal called Reindeer Poop, as well as a batch of the peppermint marshmallows. It was amazingly easy. I’m really glad I decided to read the comments first, because there was one in particular that gave me all the extra guidance I needed to make this shit awesome.

Peppermint Marshmallows

2 cups sugar
1 tbsp light agave or corn syrup
4 pkgs unflavored gelatin
3/4 tsp peppermint extract
2 large egg whites
2 tsp red food coloring
1 1/2 cups water, divided

The instructions I found said to use an 8×8 inch square pan; in the comments, someone said to use a 9×13 inch pan. Let me tell you now – unless you want gargantuan marshmallows, go for a cookie sheet. Seriously. The marshmallows in that photo are over an inch tall. It was a pain trying to get the red food coloring incorporated – as you can see it only goes perhaps a third of the way through the mallow.

Anyway, take your cookie sheet, oil it in some way, then line it with parchment paper and oil that. I didn’t, and they didn’t stick too horribly, but I have a feeling it would have been easier had I done so. Set aside.

Dissolve the gelatin 3/4 cup water. Set aside.

Put sugar, syrup, and 3/4 cup water in thick-bottomed pan on the stove. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring; let mixture come to a boil. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until mixture registers 255°F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and add extract. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in mixer until stiff-but-not-dry peaks form. Whisk gelatin mixture into sugar mixture, and gradually add to the egg whites. Mix on high speed until very thick. Pretty much keep whipping until you think it’ll start pouring out of your mixing bowl – at least that’s what it seems like. It pretty much should triple in volume.

Balk at the size of the fluff momentarily, then quickly put fluff into the cookie sheet. Be sure to spread it out very quickly – it will start to set and do its thing before you’re ready for it. Once you have it spread, drop bits of red food coloring around the pan and use a toothpick to swirl it. I don’t know if this will get the coloring all the way through, but it should work better than having random pink ends.

Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for the day or overnight. When going to cut it, I would recommend a pizza cutter with some oil and powdered sugar on it. I did it without the oil, but with a bowl of powdered sugar at my elbow and once I had built up enough fluff-goo on the blade so that the powdered sugar could stick, things went swimmingly. Also, you might want to coat the cut edges with powdered sugar so that they don’t stick. The next time I make this I will try setting them out on parchment paper for a while after cutting to see if they develop a similar skin to what develops while they’re setting without plastic wrap over them.

Enjoy in hot chocolate (I hear it’s pretty awesome), or just pop them in your mouth occasionally.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Yes, you read that right: chocolate cream pie. I’m going there. You remember when I put the banana cream pie up, right? This will be better. Do you know why? Because chocolate makes everything better.

My biggest concern with the recipe was adding the chocolate. I wasn’t sure whether to add the chocolate to the cream before it was added to the egg, while it was on the stovetop afterward, or when stirring it on the ice bath. I logicked it out to while on the stove before adding to the egg. I used Dove dark chocolate (what better than that?), and added about and ounce and a half, stirred it in to melting. It didn’t seem to be completely incorporating at that point, so I held off on it. I tempered the egg/starch mixture with the milk, mixed it all together… and realized that it didn’t look very chocolatey. Also, it was very much incorporated. So I added another ounce and a half or so while bringing the mixture to a boil on the stove. That was fun – trying to make sure the cream didn’t scorch while crumbling up hardish chocolate. Part of the reason for making cream pie filling twice so close together was that the first two times it turned out a bit runny – the pastry cream hadn’t cooked long enough to fully set, so when I served it up it puddled. This time I let it cook until I was sure that it was too long – the cream was thick, felt like it might be scalding at the bottom, and was getting really hard to get the whisk through. While stirring it in the ice bath, I tried a bit and thought that it was surely going to be an experiment gone wrong – the chocolate flavor was a bit odd, hadn’t really permeated, it didn’t have that nice vanilla flavor it usually has. But I went with it, kept going. Turns out it was one of the best things I have ever made. The chocolate flavor was exquisite after sitting in the fridge overnight. I made a bunch of miniature cream pies, with a chocolate shortbread crust, and just a small dollop of whipped cream on each to counter the richness.

As you can see, they didn’t survive long enough to have a picture taken.

 

Firefly marathon goodies

So my awesome boss had an awesomely good idea once she realized half the office hadn’t seen Firefly: have a Firefly marathon. Everyone would bring goodies, it would start at nine in the morning, and it’d just be an awesome way to spend a day off. (If you have no idea what Firefly is, do yourself a wonderful favor and head to Hulu and check some episodes out.)

When we went shopping for the yummies to bring to the party, it took on a mexican flavor – taquitos and tortilla chips – so I amended my original idea of strawberry pie to something more within the spectrum, tres leches cake. Tres leches cake is a rich dessert of a sponge cake soaked in three milks (evaporated, sweetened condensed, and whole), then topped with whipped cream. I add strawberries to mine because it feels incomplete otherwise. This time I tried a different recipe from my last two, and I do prefer my initial recipe.

Tres Leches Cake

1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 whole eggs
1 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
Kahlua

Icing:
1 pint heavy cream for whipping
1 heaping tbsp powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Liberally coat 9″ x 13″ pan with butter. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large owl. Separate eggs.

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. Add as much Kahlua as you deem necessary – I used one of those mini-bottles for two cakes, and it was just enough to flavor it. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.

Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip 1 pint heavy cream with the tablespoon of powdered sugar until thick and spreadable.

Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate cake with whole or chopped strawberries. Cut into squares and serve.


I love this cake. Even while soaked in milk, it still feels light and fluffy. The only issues I had with it were my first time around, when I felt like I was adding too much milk but in fact had left some dry spots. If you decide to make a smaller cake, or have large enough plates/platters to do this, turn the cake upside-down from how you want it presented, poke with holes, and soak that side, wait half an hour, and carefully turn it back over and repeat the process. That is the best way I have found to ensure adequate moisture throughout the cake.