Whenever there’s a new cookbook or magazine—food related or not—essentially if there’s a glossy product with pretty pictures, the first read-through I do is not a read-through. It a flip-through in which I ‘oo!’ and ‘aw!’ at the pictures. Yes, I treat the first read through as if I’m reading a picture book, and oh, the food photographs. In a magazine, nothing draws me to a recipe like a great photograph. The crumb of a cake, the shine of a frosting…. delicious.
So, upon receiving the most lovely gift of Francois Payard’s Simply Sensational Desserts, what was the first thing I did? Yes, I skipped all the troublesome reading and took in the pictures. And oh, they were beautiful. But one caught my eye. A chocolate cake, perfect for the first thing I baked at home, on Californian soil, in three weeks. In the picture was a beautiful dark and light half-circle of chocolate cake, not too tall, just perfect and dusted with cocoa.
It turned out to be an extremely easy Milk and Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake, and let’s just say, the cake more than lived up to the photo.
Adapted form Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
1 ¼ cup flour
½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 ¼ cup white sugar
1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
¾ cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup warm water
1. Preheat over to 350 degrees and butter and flour one 8-inch cake pan. In a large bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda and powder, and salt. Add the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla. Stir until just combined. Pour warm water over the batter and stir again until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan and then level the cake and slice it into two layers. Put aside. Can be frozen for up to a week in advance, just bring to room temperature when ready to assemble.
Milk and Dark Chocolate Mousses
Adapted from Francois Payard’s Simply Sensational Desserts
3 ½ heavy whipping cream
5 oz. high quality milk chocolate, chopped into chunks
5 oz. high quality dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
1. Whip 2 ½ cups heavy whipping cream to soft peaks. Divide between two bowls and refrigerate. Place the chocolates into two separate bowls.
2. Bring remaining cup of cream to a boil in a saucepan and divide hot cream among the two bowl of chocolate. Let stand for a minute or two and then whisk until smooth. Let the ganaches cool for ten minutes. Whip the milk chocolate into one bowl of whipped cream, and the dark chocolate into another. Refrigerate until use. Can be used immediately.
¼ cup strongly brewed coffee
¼ cup white sugar
1. In a saucepan over high heat, bring the coffee and sugar to a boil, set aside in a separate bowl until use.
2 oz. high quality milk chocolate for fans
2 oz. high quality bar of dark chocolate for curls
1. To make fans, melt the milk chocolate and then on a sheet of foil create a fan shape with an outward-inward motion using a small frosting spatula or knife. The base of the fan should be thickest for support. Freeze until use, and then peel foil off the chocolate.
2. For curls: Microwave the chocolate for two-five second intervals until warm to touch but not melted. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the chocolate. Reserve.
1. Place the bottom cake layer on a 9-inch cake cardboard and then place the cake and cardboard into a 10-inch spring form pan ring or a cake ring. Soak the cake with ½ of the coffee syrup. Using all the dark chocolate mousse, completely cover the cake all the way around. Freeze for ten minutes. Place the second cake layer on top of the dark chocolate mouse and working quickly, soak with the remaining ½ of the coffee syrup. Cover with all the milk chocolate mousse and run a knife around the edge of the cake to ensure all sides are covered. Freeze or refrigerate. Garnish, and store in the fridge.