Chef Dominique Ansel’s shout to fame materialized in 2013 when he created the cronut, a cross between a croissant and a doughnut. On the first day he started selling cronuts, a blogger from New York’s The Grub stopped by, had one, and raved about it in the popular blog. Poor Mr. Ansel had no idea that next morning a line of more than 100 customers would be screaming for a cronut. You can read the whole story here. I have Ansel’s book “The Secret Recipes” which includes the method for his cronuts (they take three days to prepare). I am not too fond of fried pastries – just don’t care for dealing with all that oil at home, and would prefer to stop by his bakery in New York and enjoy one “sur place.” But I adore his cookbook. In the opening chapter he talks about one unusual “ingredient”: time. How important it is to consider time in a recipe and respect it. He illustrates the point with madeleines, that must be enjoyed within 3 to 5 minutes of baking. Being a timing fanatic, I was immediately captivated by his opening chapter. Today I share with you his chocolate mousse cake, with a modern look given by his unusual decoration: mini-meringues that he calls “mini-me’s.” I changed the look a bit, making the “mini-me’s” slightly bigger, and adding just a layer at the bottom of the cake, to allow the mirror glaze to shine. Sprinkled golden stars because… sometimes you need stars in your life.
CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE
(from Dominique Ansel’s Masterclass online video)
I don’t have permission to publish the recipe,
so I will share a very simplified overview.
Chocolate cake component: he uses a flourless chocolate base, starting with 11 eggs, separated in yolks and whites. The yolks are beaten with sugar until tripled in volume, then a French meringue is added to the yolks. Finally, some cocoa powder is gently mixed and the batter is distributed in two half-sheets for baking. You can use any chocolate concoction you like, a genoise like this one, or a Joconde like this one, as long as you have 2 circles of cake of similar thickness, 8 inches in diameter.
Chocolate Mousse: I started the mousse preparation by blooming 2 tsp gelatin in 30mL very cold water for 10 minutes. Then 310g of whole milk was brought to a boil and poured over 310g dark chocolate (70% cocoa). The ganache was emulsified well, then the bloomed gelatin added and gently but thoroughly mixed. Heavy cream (450g) was whipped to the consistency of melted ice cream, and gently folded in the chocolate ganache/gelatin. Mousse is ready to use to assemble the cake.
Chocolate Mirror Glaze: This is not the traditional mirror glaze with condensed milk and glucose, but a much simpler variation, similar to a pouring ganache used in Opera Cakes, for instance. It starts with blooming 12g of gelatin in 60g of water for at least 10 minutes. Then, 200g sugar is mixed with 140g heavy cream and heated until the sugar is fully dissolved. Water (150g) is mixed with 70g cocoa powder in a bowl to form a paste. The bloomed gelatin is added to the hot heavy cream (make sure it is not hotter than 80 C), mixed well to dissolve. That is added to the cocoa powder paste and emulsified well. Ideally, the glaze should be stored in the fridge overnight and used next day to cover the cake.
Assembling the cake: I like to wrap the base of a tall 8-inch ring cake with plastic wrap, bringing it up along the sides (it is easier to do if you add a few drops of water to the outside of the ring). Add a piece of acetate inside the ring to facilitate un-molding later. Place the first cake layer at the bottom, cut to fit exactly inside the ring. Add mousse, the second cake layer, and mousse to cover. Freeze overnight.
Next day, bring the mirror glaze to room temperature, warm gently in the microwave until it reaches 90 to 95 degrees F. You must minimize bubbles in the glaze, either by using an immersion blender, or passing the mixture through a fine sieve. I actually do both things to make sure it is very smooth. Remove the cake from the freezer, un-mold, place over a rack on a baking sheet. Cover by pouring the glaze at the center in a circular motion.
Decoration: make small meringues using any Swiss meringue recipe you like. I used this one. I baked mine at 175 F for 40 minutes only, then let them in the oven turned off for 30 minutes with the door slightly ajar. Add the meringues to the sides of the cake or in any pattern you like. Sprinkle with stars or other sprinkles. Leave in the fridge to de-frost for a couple of hours before serving.
to print the recipe overview, click here
Comments: Just to make sure I made it clear, this recipe is NOT part of his cookbook. It is demonstrated online in his Masterclass video. Which, by the way, is excellent! He is very personable, and his attention to detail, even if not unexpected, is a joy to see in action. In the video he teaches how to make perfect madeleines, a fantastic apple tart, croissants, and this delicious cake.
I had no issues to make the cake or assemble it. My favorite step – I am sure you won’t be surprised – is the final glazing. The cake was waiting in the freezer for 5 days, actually. We had a trip planned and the day after we arrived back we were supposed to attend a potluck dessert party, tradition of our department for the past few years. This was our contribution.
So, if you want to have a very easy time on the day you need to serve a special cake, consider this one. Everything can be made in advance (way in advance!), on party day you just need to make the glaze and the meringues. Which, by the way, are obviously not mandatory. The mirror glaze is so beautiful, you can add some sprinkles, or a drizzle of white chocolate and still have something super special to serve to your guests.
And… speaking of mirrors…
The day Sally photobombed her own shot!
The cake was very well-received at the party. I think it had the right level of sweetness and chocolate intensity, a very smooth and luscious mousse, with the tender cake to tease the palate. And the meringues! Honestly, I think under-baking them a tad is the right way to go. As they sat on the side of the cake, they got a bit more creamy instead of crumbly and dry. I had quite a bit of meringues leftover.
Bogey Quit That ™ practices his paranormal telekinesis.
I close this post with a quote from Chef Ansel’s book…
We live in a world where every creation strives to be both instantaneous and eternal. To respect time as the supreme ingredient is a battle of breaking habits and changing perceptions. Nobody likes to wait; nobody likes to rush. But when you treat time as an ingredient, it changes everything.
ONE YEAR AGO: Slow-Roasted Eye of the Round Beef
TWO YEARS AGO: Steam-Roasted Indian-Spiced Cauliflower
THREE YEARS AGO: Creamy Zucchini-Mushroom Soup
FOUR YEARS AGO: Ken Forkish’s Pain au Bacon
FIVE YEARS AGO: Carrot and Cumin Hamburger Buns
SIX YEARS AGO: Potato Galettes a l’Alsacienne & Book Review
SEVEN YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup
EIGHT YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp
NINE YEARS AGO: Pain Poilane