I realized the other day that I don’t have a gimmick. I mean, sure, I’m the one that lives in a condo and has too much free time on her hands, but other than that, I have no “thing.” Other bloggers focus exclusively on making fun of terribly dressed celebrities, finding ridiculous listings on Etsy, and beautifying their homes. I, like a raccoon encountering shiny object after shiny object, focus on everything and anything.
So I decided it was time to buckle down and focus on SOMETHING. What I came up with is the “Cake of the Month.”
You see, I love baking, but typically stick to cookies, brownies, and the like because they’re usually successful and hardly time consuming. Cakes, on the other hand, can be finicky. Centers can be undercooked, icing can get gloppy, and, after hours of work, you might be left with something just “meh.” That, in my humble opinion, is scary. Really scary.
But, the only way to get better at these sorts of things is to try, try again. So that’s what I’m going to do. For the next 12 months, I am going to feature a cake that is outside of my comfort zone (i.e. no pound cakes or bundt cakes unless they’re particularly tricky). A cake that I’ll have to make in steps and may even be multiple layers. Woah.
So, without further ado, I’d like to present my very first Cake of the Month: Michel Rostang’s Double Chocolate Mousse Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. I picked this beauty to be my very first foray into fancy cakes because, though requiring only a few ingredients, it had some tricky steps. Like whipping egg whites until they were “firm but still glossy.” Um, could someone paint a picture of that for me? I mean, talk about vague. My interpretation was, “beat those suckers until they form peaks that hold, but not stiff peaks like a meringue.” Not sure if that’s the right interpretation, but it worked for me.
This recipe also requires quite a bit of waiting. “Bake the crust, let it come to room temp, put it in the fridge for at least an hour, pour mousse on top, bake it for 30 minutes, let it sit, etc., etc., etc.” That’s a lot of down time for this raccoon.
But the work and the waiting is worth it. I went with the “warm” method (since it meant I could eat it the soonest), and after a few hours of labor/tapping my foot, I got to dig in to a surprisingly light, chocolatey mousse cake. Yes, even though its been baked, the mousse on top retains its mousse-y qualities. Yum.
I dusted mine with cocoa powder (not shown), but I think it would’ve been equally as nice with powdered sugar. Serve this cake after a heavy meal (since it really is pretty light), and impress your company with your skills and excellent taste in sweets.
Michel Rostang’s Double-Chocolate Mousse Cake
makes an 8-inch cake
1/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 C hot brewed espresso or very strong coffee
7 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
2/3 C sugar
2 pinches of salt
4 large eggs, separated
cocoa powder or powdered sugar, for dusting
Whipped cream/vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)
Center a rack in the oven, and preheat the oven to 400F. Generously butter the sides of an 8-inch springform pan (you won’t be using the base). Line a baking sheet with baking parchment, and put the springform ring on it (I put mine on the pan upside-down, since the top doesn’t include the bump-out for the base of the pan).
Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, in a large heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water. Once smooth, whisk in the espresso/coffee. Remove from heat, and mix in the butter, tablespoon by tablespoon. Gently whisk in the sugar and one pinch of salt, then add in the egg yolks, one at a time. You’ll have a lovely, velvety mixture.
Using an electric or a stand mixer and a clean , dry bowl, whip the egg whites and the remaining pinch of salt until they are firm but still glossy. Very gingerly whisk about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Switch to a rubber spatula, and gently fold in the remainder of the whites.
Scrape a generous third of the mixture into the buttered ring on the baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate the remaining mousse.
Bake the mousse in the ring for 15 mins, at which point it will be puffed. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack, and let the cake cool to room temp. There will be a dip in the center. Place the cake, still on the baking sheet, in the refrigerator.
Now you have a choice:
TO SERVE BAKED AND CHILLED: Chill the base of the cake for at least 1 hr. Preheat the oven to 400F. Scrape the chilled mousse onto the chilled base (still on the baking sheet). Bake for 30 mins or until top is puffed and dry. It will crack, and a knife inserted inside a crack will come out almost dry.
Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack, and cool to room temp. Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the sides of the springform pan. (Run a blunt knife around the edges or warm the pan with a hairdryer). Carefully transfer the cake to a serving plate, and dust with cocoa. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.
TO SERVE BAKED AND WARM: bake as for “baked and chilled”. After transferring the baking sheet, with the cake on it, to a cooling rack, wait 5 mins. Then run a blunt knife round the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. The cake will sink so just let it settle for another 5 mins. Transfer to a serving platter, dust with cocoa. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.
TO SERVE CHILLED: Let the base of the cake chill thoroughly. Scrape the remaining mousse over the base. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours, or overnight.