Thursday, October 10, 2013

Triple chocolate mousse cake

There are cakes, and then there are cakes like this.  Cakes that command a room.  Cakes that elicit gasps from soon-to-be samplers.  Cakes that are truly epic.

Over the years, I've amassed quite a collection of recipes.  I've clipped, torn out, stashed, and bookmarked hundreds.  "Desserts" is the most well-represented genre.  (Obviously.)

Within the "cakes" subcategory, there even more headings: cheesecakes, fruit/veggie cakes, ice cream cakes, semi-homemade cakes, bundt cakes, no-icing cakes, and layer cakes.  There's one more tab, that's not visited often enough, titled "Epic cakes."

What qualifies a cake as being epic?  It's simply any cake that I wouldn't make on a whim.  Whether it's due to a few unique ingredients I don't have or a significant amount of time required for creation, an epic cake is a one that demands my undivided attention.

I've had this particular recipe saved for nearly a year.  Coincidentally, that's almost as long as my boss has been retiring.  To make a long story short, let's just say that no one wanted her to leave, and we did a pretty good job of drawing out the process for as long as possible.

When she finally saw through all of our flimsy excuses for why she had to stay and made her end date official, we planned a big ol' party.  With lots of food.  Because that's how we celebrate here at my office.  (Have I mentioned how much I love my workplace?)

As soon as the potluck sign-up sheet was created, I snatched it and proclaimed that I'd be bringing a chocolate cake.  An epic chocolate cake, fitting to honor a woman who happens to be the most serious chocolate lover I've ever known.  The darker the chocolate, the better.  Naturally, a triple chocolate mousse cake was the only thing fit for the occasion!

Full disclosure: This is the most labor-intense dessert I think I've ever made.  It requires patience and a gentle touch.  Though the steps aren't difficult at all, there are quite a few of 'em, so make sure to read through the entire recipe before you begin.  (If I could do it, you can, too!)

But, good gracious almighty,  it is beyond worth it!  In fact, I'd still make this cake even if it took twice as long.  That's how utterly divine it is.  Let us explore zee cake, shall we?

Three layers of pure chocolate decadence stack up to make this showstopping dessert.  The bottom-most layer is a flourless chocolate cake with a deeply cocoa flavor and only a smidgen of sugar for an unapologetic chocolatey experience.  The middle tier is composed of whipped dark chocolate mousse that's so delicious you'll swear you could eat the layer.  Finally, the hue is the lightest at the top in the cloud-like white chocolate mousse.

For all of that richness, the cake is just barely sweet and surprisingly light.  So light that your fork can glide right through it, bite after bite.  If it's a serious chocolate cake you're in the mood for, look no further.

An epic chocolate cake for an unforgettable woman with an epic passion for chocolate.  Now that's what I call a triple threat.

Two years ago: Chocolate pudding dump cake

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake
(seen on a few blogs, adapted slightly from Cook's Illustrated)

A few notes: I always have trouble finding instant espresso powder, so I simply substituted unsweetened cocoa powder with success.  If you are a Pittsburgh local and know where to get instant espresso, please leave a comment indicating where I can find it.  Thanks!

For the bottom layer:
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
Pinch salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar

For the middle layer:
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
5 tablespoons hot water
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar ⅛ teaspoon table salt

For the top layer:
3/4 teaspoon powdered unflavored gelatin
1 Tablespoon water
1 cup (6 ounces) white chocolate chips
1 1/2 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 cocoa in a large glass bowl, microwaving at 30 second intervals, stirring for nearly a minute between intervals until mixture is smooth. 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 glass bowl by microwaving for 30 second intervals, stirring between, until mixture is completely smooth.  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 1/2 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 while the mixture thickens 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. 10. The cake can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated. Remove the cakefrom 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. OMG! This cake looks luscious and now that you have reviewed it, I have to make it. I have had the recipe staring at me for years.... :)

    1. It's one of those "where have you been all my life?" kind of desserts :) I'm excited for you to try it!

  2. Excellent article. Very interesting to read. I really love to read such a nice article. Thanks! keep rocking. football birthday cakes