Otherwise known as Christmas Dessert (capital letters non-optional). I’ve made this the last two years for Christmas, and I think I’ll continue to make it for the foreseeable future. It’s perfect for a special occasion because it is so fancy, and while it takes a little more work than your average cake, it is completely worth it. Plus, it’s not *that* much more work. It *is* a lot of folding though. If you don’t like folding things into other things, this may not be the recipe for you…
You can get the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake recipe from Shannon’s blog, A Periodic Table. Her direction is super clear, and so easy to follow, that it’s a bit of a mystery why my cake this year has a giant layer in the middle and a slightly mini-layer on the top. I blame the lack of measuring cups and the necessity to use various small measuring implements to add up to the right volume, like that bit out of Die Hard 3.
I made the cake in two phases – the first two layers in my own kitchen, which as you can see is well organised, well appointed and just an all round lovely space to work in.
There’s just a lot going on at this time of year.
I did the whisking, folding and baking for the first layer, which is your solid cake foundation to rest the two mousse layers on. Like the Starship song says, we built this city on WHIIIISK AND FOLD (that is so funny in my head). Here are a few process shots of the cake:
Fellow Whovians may agree that the cracked top on the cake looks a bit like a crack in space and time. I was suitably wary of it, though of course the upside of it being a crack in space and time would be the possibility of the Doctor turning up in my kitchen, which I’m all for. The cake sinks dramatically once out of the oven, and mine sort of folded in on itself at the sides – there is something of the souffle about it, with all those egg whites being whipped up into a frenzy to give it lift. So when it comes out of the oven, don’t worry if it looks a bit tall. Or if it looks like there’s a crack in space and time on the top.
The second layer is a dark chocolate mousse, which is lightened from being too bitter by the liberal application of cream. I’ve always loved how a mix looks while it’s being folded together, all marbly and pretty. Less lovable is the way that there will always, always be a streak that shows up just as you think you’ve finished the folding…
The final layer I made at Mother and Father Rock Salt’s house, and their kitchen was much neater and therefore there was no comedy value in taking a picture of it. The last layer uses gelatine and if you get distracted while it blooms, for example by peeling potatoes for Christmas dinner, you may find that you have created a giant accidental Fruit Pastille. Just whisk the hot cream into it a little at a time, mashing a bit as necessary, and it will break right back up again, never fear.
There is a trick to knowing when your cream is whipped just right, and when it is over-whipped. You want it to be soft and billowy – if you go over it still tastes as good, but it is denser and firmer, more like a truffle layer than a mousse. I did over-whip last year, and I found that adding a tiny splash of milk or cream into the mix and folding gently helped to loosen it up without spoiling the end result at all. So if you go over, never fear. There is a way back. There is almost always a way back.
The last thing to do is to add some garnish – I shaved some chocolate off a block with a vegetable peeler and let it fall where it would, which worked out rather nicely. You can do fancier chocolate decoration if you have the time and inclination, or you can buy some lovely chocolate curls, or any other decoration that speaks to you. I like the quickness of the vegetable peeler method, myself.
The cake rests in the fridge for four hours or more, so remember to make it in the morning, or even the day before, so that it has plenty of time to firm up. Then you do the dance of ‘can I open the springform tin without it all sticking to the sides and being torn apart like that man in that film I once saw where these bad people got two trees and bent them right to the ground, crossed over each other, then tied the man’s arms and legs to the trees and then let them spring back up and rip him in half?’. I’m not sure what that film was, and you didn’t actually see the event itself, but I was quite young at the time and it has scarred me somewhat. Anyway you might not wonder exactly that but there is always the fear that a cake won’t release from a springform tin, and you do a bit of a dance first, where you sort of shuffle the tin around on the work surface and peer in at it and try to decide what angle to open it from and then eeeeeeease the catch open and breathe a sigh of relief when you see the cake letting go all the way round.
Shannon explains the recipe so beautifully that there isn’t too much I can add – the main rules are be patient, use good chocolate and slice with a hot knife. The first two rules are good for all of life. The third is pretty specific to this situation.
If you celebrate Christmas, Saturnalia, the solstice or any other winter holiday, I hope you had an absolute blinder. And cake. Quite a lot of cake.