Monday, February 1, 2010

Elizabeth's December Cake - Chocolate Mousse Layer Cake

For December, I made another chocolate layer cake. This time, I made it to celebrate the birthday of one of the girls in the Young Women's class that I teach at church. I teach the 16- and 17-year-olds, and I love it. They crack me up, make me think, and inspire me -- sometimes all at the same time.

I got this recipe from the Food Network Website. It is an Emeril Legasse recipe. I learned so much from this cake!! Let me explain.

I was looking for a rich, moist, deep chocolate cake, and I didn't get it in this cake at all. But that was MY fault for not knowing enough about cakes yet! (HURRAY, YEAR OF CAKE.) I didn't understand that the "egg foam method" (like a genoise) produced such a dry, tough cake, with a subtle flavor. I know this sounds like a criticism, but it's not. As soon as I cut into the cake when I was serving it, I realized that I have had cakes like this many times: in Europe, and a couple of times in European restaurants in America. They're not supposed to be rich and moist! They're supposed to be airy and dry. When you whip whole eggs for that long, this is the style of cake you get. I ended up liking it quite a bit (other than the ultra-sweet frosting. You tricked me again, Emeril!), but it was not what I was going for. Again, if I had understood the egg foam method, one look at the instructions would have told me the kind of cake it would turn out to be.

So even though I don't fault the cake or the author, I still wish I had made something else. I still prefer the AMERICAN style of cake (despite what I said in my very last post. That's something different. That's un-frosted European-style cake -- more of a home-style cake than a pastry-chef-style cake.) And I'm still craving rich layered chocolate cake! I can't believe I didn't recreate it during Year of Cake. It's my Holy Grail!

American cakes rely on fat. (Mmmmmm....delicious fat....) European cakes rely on syrup soaked into the sponge cake. Here I am soaking the cake:

Now spreading the mousse:

Now stacking the layers together:

Now the finished cake. I frosted the cake with a separate frosting, and then added the chocolate curls:

I learned how to make chocolate curls from Julia Child:

1. Spread melted chocolate on the bottom of a jelly roll pan.

2. Cool it in the fridge, and then scrape it off with a spatula.

Oops! Too cool.

3. Leave it on the counter for a few minutes to warm it up.

4. Scrape again. Perfect!

Here are some girls from my class, with the cake in the foreground. (We meet on the stage. That explains some of the crazy equipment.)

Sarah, on the right, is the birthday girl!

A couple of the girls from my class surprised me by hiding from the camera because they didn't "look good" that day, which ruined my whole theory about their generation! I'd never seen someone from their generation object to a picture being taken (or posted online), as opposed to MY generation, in which girls wouldn't eat anything in front of anyone, and definitely wouldn't let anyone take a picture of them not looking their best. Ugh. I like the current generation's way of doing things better -- so much more self confident. I still think I'm right about their generation being more open, but I was still surprised that some of them avoided the camera. In fact, it wasn't until I was posting this that I realized that Nusly did manage to escape the photo. I'll get you next time, Nusly! Actually, Nusly took loads of pictures the next Sunday, but then she was ready for the pictures, which is fine. I've had days when I haven't wanted to be photographed either. There are women from my generation who still always run from the camera, no matter what, and I just think it's goofy.

More of my awesome girls:

Katie loved the photos so much, she appeared twice!

The woman on the right, Giselle, is the Young Women's President. She's amazing.

Now for the recipe:

Emeril Legasse's Chocolate Mousse Layer


For the cake:

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup bleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter

To finish:

  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
  • 3/4 cup simple syrup, (equal amounts sugar and water, simmered until sugar dissolves)
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, shaved into curls


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the cake: Put the eggs and 1 cup of the sugar in a large mixing bowl and, with an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale yellow, thick and has tripled in volume, about 8 minutes. Sift the cocoa, flour and baking powder together in another large mixing bowl. Add the egg mixture and fold to mix thoroughly.

Grease 2 (9 by 2-inch) round cake pans with the butter. Sprinkle each with a tablespoon of the remaining sugar. Pour the cake batter evenly into the pans and bake until the cake springs back when touched, about 25 minutes. Let cool for about 2 minutes.

Using a thin knife, loosen the edges of the cakes and flip onto a wire rack. Let cool completely. Sift together the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder into a medium-size bowl. Add the butter and mix with an electric mixer until incorporated. Add the vanilla and boiling water and mix until smooth. Let cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream and the chocolate. On medium speed. Whip until stiff peaks form, set aside.

To assemble the cake:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a wire rack over it. Using a serrated knife, cut each cake in half horizontally. Brush the tops of three of the layers with 1/4 cup of the simple syrup.

Place the bottom layer on a 9-inch round of cardboard and set it on the wire rack. Spread 3/4 cup of the mousse evenly on top of the cake. Top with a second layer of cake. Spread another 3/4 cup of the mousse over the top of the cake. Repeat the same process with the third layer. Top with the fourth layer. If necessary, shave off any uneven pieces of the cake with a serrated knife so that it is smooth and even on all sides. Chill for 2 hours.

Spread the frosting evenly over the sides and top of the cake. Refrigerate until the frosting sets. Place the chocolate curls on top of the cake.

1 comment:

ferskner said...

Julia taught us the chocolate curls together!!! They're so pretty! Dude, this cake looks AWESOME! It's so crazy pretty. I'm sorry it wasn't as rich and delicious as you wanted, but it does look awesome!!!!!