Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Anyone who has spent any time with my family knows that we specialize in witty banter littered with obscure cultural references and movie quotes. One of the best parts about being reunited with any one of my siblings is that we always fall into conversing almost entirely in movie quotes. All of us have a knack for remembering even the most obscure quotes. Apparently, this is very much a hereditary trait because Emma seems to possess it as well.

For example, once a week we head up to Chick-fil-a to enjoy breakfast. The night before, the Chick-fil-A operator will post a password on their facebook page that we must repeat in order to receive the free entree. The kids very much enjoy not only eating out for breakfast once a week, but the thrill that comes to having the "secret knowledge" in the form of this password. It's been a fun little family tradition for the past year.

Anyway, this past Monday we headed up for breakfast and my friend Susan was behind the counter. Lucy and I repeated the phrase and then Susan bent down to be eye-level with Emma and asked her, "Do you know the secret password, Emma?" To which Emma responded maniacally: "The password? I'll tell you what the password is! The password is 'Don't ask the leader for the password!' Got it?"

Susan looked very confused but I understood the reference immediately (since it's, you know, my thing) and explained: "Have you ever seen The Secret Life of Pets? It's a quote from that movie." Emma, meanwhile, continued to giggle gleefully: "Yeah! It was so funny when that crazy bunny said that!"

Another incident occurred at the dinner table recently when Emma suddenly looked up from poking gingerly at her chicken and asked:  "Mommy, what does 'fell into despair' mean?"

"It means to be really, really sad. Where did you hear that from?"

Emma pokes at her dinner in disgust again, "In Beauty and the Beast, the Beast fell into despair because he thought no one would love him...but Belle did!!"

Silence followed for a few moments as the rest of us went back to eating our dinner. Emma continued frowning at her plate before turning to me once more: "Mommy? I just fell into despair because I don't want to eat my dinner."

Beauty and the Beast has been quite the hit around here - and I'm referring to the magnificent, old-school cartoon, not the new, glitzy version although we liked that too. Lucy has sweetly requested me to rock her each night while singing a certain famous song from the film, only she calls it "Beauty and the Beach". This cracks Matthew up to no end.

We'll see if either Matthew or Lucy also develop the ability to remember obscure quotes and references. So far it's not looking good for Matthew as he has displayed an unfortunate inability to remember even some of the simplest of song lyrics - or at least to remember them incorrectly and then insist vehemently that his botched version is in fact correct! That comes from my Mother, who lulled me to sleep during my younger years by singing classic nursery songs with completely mutilated lyrics, some of which I did not discover until I was ridiculed for my rendition by my wards while babysitting in high school. There's nothing like being mocked by a three-year-old.

Continuing with the randomness that has been this current posting, let's shift topics and talk about chocolate cake. For my birthday, I usually am in charge of making my own cake and I wouldn't have it any other way. I like to choose something different, new, challenging, and perhaps a little more in tune with my personal tastes than those of my little family. I have been drooling over this recipe for Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake ever since I saw it in an issue of Cook's Illustrated many years ago while rocking and nursing a newborn Matthew. Alas, I was unable to run to the kitchen to make it because my husband, for some strange, inexpressible reason, holds a deep disdain for all things mousse and pudding. Although his favorite cake is this Chocolate Mousse Cake. I didn't say he had a logical reason for hating it. But, because I did not want to be stuck eating a whole cake by myself, I saved the recipe in my files and put off making it until I came across it again recently. My birthday seemed like a perfect opportunity to make it and Paul was a good sport about agreeing to at least try it.

This cake is pretty amazing and certainly worthy of a show-stopping ending to a beautiful holiday meal or for when you're really trying to impress some guests. The first layer is a rich, dark chocolate flourless chocolate cake, followed by a fluffy dark chocolate mouse. The entire thing is finished with a layer of not-too-sweet white chocolate mousse, which provides a nice contrast to the richness of the previous layers. Chocolate shavings make the perfect garnish for this beautiful dessert.

There are multiple steps to this recipe but it was all really, really simple. I did a lot of washing of dishes in between the making of each layer, but that was probably the most difficult part of the whole process. Otherwise, it came together way more easily than your typical layer cake AND had the added benefit of being able to be made ahead of time and just kept in fridge until dessert time! I made mine a day in advance, saving both myself and Paul the stress of baking on the actual day.

This cake is exquisite. It is meant to be eaten slowly, pausing to savor each bite in between. It also should be cut into thin slices since it is a very rich cake. Coffee is the perfect accompaniment. I just loved it - and the kids did as well! My sister Sophie was in town for my birthday and I believe her exact comments were: "Ommm...mmmm...yumm....yum...yum!" Paul did give it a try, but really couldn't finish his piece. He just doesn't get along with mousse.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake
from Cook's Illustrated

For the Bottom Layer:
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs, separated
Pinch salt
⅓ cup light brown sugar

For the Middle Layer:
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
5 tablespoons hot water
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon table salt

For the Top Layer:
¾ teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon water
6 ounces (1 cup) white chocolate chips
1½ cups cold heavy cream

Make the Bottom Layer: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan that is at least 3 inches high.

Melt the butter, chocolate and espresso powder in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool for 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 at medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add half of the brown sugar and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the remaining brown sugar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, about 1 minute longer, scraping down the sides halfway through. Whisk one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. Carefully transfer the batter to the prepared springform pan, gently smoothing the top with an offset spatula.

Bake until the cake has risen, is firm around the edges, and the center has just set but is still soft (the center of cake will spring back after pressing gently with your finger), 13 to 18 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. (The cake will collapse as it cools.) Do not remove the cake from the pan.

Make the Middle Layer: Whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl and set aside. Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, granulated 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, 15 to 60 seconds.

Whisk the cocoa powder mixture into the melted chocolate until smooth. Whisk one-third of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon the mousse into the springform pan over the cooled cake and gently tap the pan on counter 3 times to remove any large air bubbles; smooth the top with an offset spatula. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes while preparing the top layer.

Make the Top Layer: In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water; let stand for at least 5 minutes. Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring ½ cup of the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add the gelatin mixture, whisking until fully dissolved. Pour the cream mixture over the white chocolate chips and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is completely smooth. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes (the mixture will thicken slightly).

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 1 cup heavy cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds. Whisk one-third of the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture to lighten. Using a rubber spatula, fold the remaining whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain. Spoon the white 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.

The cake can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes before releasing it from the pan. Garnish the top of cake with chocolate curls or dust with cocoa, if desired. Run a thin knife between the cake and side of the springform pan, then remove the side of pan. Cut into slices and serve. (For clean slices, dip a sharp knife into hot water and wipe dry between cuts.)


  1. Sounds so good!!! I think I would love it. And you are right about me botching song lyrics and retelling anything! Matthew for sure gets that from me!

  2. This is news to me! Which song lyrics have you messed up for me??