Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Happy Birthday J

While office life drains me of much lifeforce, there are a couple of co-workers who go that extra mile to make my days bearable by being awesome. Upon learning that one of these people, darling J, was turning the ripe old age of 27 today, I decided it would be a terrific excuse to bake a cake. J had confided in me that she was a raspberry fan, and seeing as the freezer did already hold an astonishing number of said fruit, I tok it from there.

This was a new experience for me in that I dreamed up the cake on my own. The combination of ingredients is by no means revolutionary, but I wasn't relying on someone else's ideas - so that was, well, cool. I have, on previous occasions, made platings out of several different dessert ideas, and have long invented frozen dessert flavors, but this was my first cake composition.

I need to name it. But, you see, a good name doesn't present itself. The layers are as follows:

Chocolate Meringue
Dark Chocolate Mousse
Rich Chocolate Cake
Raspberry Mousse

I wanted to have some textural diversity so the two mousses were different, and the two separating layers were as well. It went crunchy, unctuous, dense, fluffy. Could I call it the Crunchy Unctuous Dense Fluffy Cake? Or CUDF Cake for short?

Step one: meringue.

Two egg whites
50 grams confectioner's sugar
1.5 tbsp. cocoa powder
45 grams sugar

Sift confectioner's sugar and cocoa together. Beat eggs until they hold soft peaks, gradually add sugar. When meringue is achieved, fold in cocoa mixture. Pipe. Let rest. Bake 2 hours in an ajar oven at 250 degrees. Let cool in turned off oven.

Step two: chocolate mousse

Adapted from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme

170 grams bittersweet chocolate (Callebaut 70%)
60 grams whole milk
20 grams heavy cream
1 large egg yolk
4 large egg whites
1 tbsp. vanilla sugar

Melt the chocolate and let cool to body temperature. Combine the milk and cream and boil. Pour over chocolate and whisk to incorporate. Add the egg yolk and whisk it as well. Beat the whites until soft peaky and gradually fold the whites into the chocolate mixture. Refrigerate.

Step 3: Dense Chocolate Cake

Also adapted from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme

250 grams bittersweet chocolate (Callebaut 70%)
230 grams sweet butter
20 grams lightly salted butter
180 grams sugar
4 large eggs
70 grams flour

Melt chocolate and let cool to body temperature. Beat butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, really incorporating each egg before adding the next. Add the chocolate and incorporate. Add the flour and incrporate briefly (no lumps or streaks). Pour into greased, parchment-papered, floured pan and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool a lot.

Step 4: raspberry mousse

200 grams raspberries
60 grams sugar
1 tbsp. glucose
2 tbsp. water
2 egg whites
240 ml heavy cream

Puree and strain raspberries. Make a simple syrup of the sugar, water and glucose - cook until soft ball stage. Beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks and start pouring syrup while mixer is running. When meringue is achieved, begin to fold in raspberry puree. Whip cream until firm and fold into raspberry meringue mixture. Refrigerate until firm.

Nota bene: I am not a huge fan of gelatin and wanted to make a fruit mousse without using it. This was both a great idea and a less good idea. The above recipe will give you an awesome airy mousse, but it needs to be eaten sooner rather than later. When I went to assemble the cake later, much of the puree had sunk to the bottom of the bowl and I had the skim the mousse off the top to get the bits that remained at the proper consistency.

Step 5: assembly

This is my least favorite step as I do not have what others could refer to as a light hand. The meringue had been baked in a cake ring (and really, if anyone can explain to me how to properly use a cake ring, I would name my firstborn after him or her (or something equally grandiose) because for the life of me, my batter, no matter what kind of batter, seeps out the bottom. I was under the, perhaps mistaken impression, that real bakers didn't mess around with pans, and instead used rings and silpat. I own rings and silpat and I end up with messes when I execute my baking using them - please, help would be a godsend), and so was the right size. Using an offset spatula, I added the chocolate mousse. I cut the cake vertically to get the thickness I wanted and then, literally, mushed it into the ring on top of the chocolate mousse. Finally, I offset spatula-ed the raspberry mousse on top and garnished with some berries.

I think the cake turned out to look fairly decent - I worry that it will be altogether too rich. However J was ecstatic when she saw it this morning abnd I only remonstrated with her briefly when she stuck her finger into the cake I spent a day making, reasoning that it was, after all, her cake now.

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