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.

(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




Paris will always be a home away from home for Phil and I.  If we could, we’d fly back there more often, but unfortunately we go through several years of (switching briefly to Portuguese) “saudades de Paris”.  Saudade is a word from my native language that has no exact match is English. From Wikipedia: “Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or deeply melancholic longing for an absent something or someone who one loves”.  The word originated in Portugal to describe the feelings of family members of sailors who would see them leave shore on the glorious days of Portuguese expeditions, uncertain of their return.  And the exact same feeling hit the sailors themselves, as the distance between them and their beloved country would get bigger and bigger.  It’s been 3 years since we’ve last been to Paris, so the “saudade” is intensifying quite a bit.  How do I deal with it? I indulge in reading some wonderful French food blogs, like Du Miel et Du Sel, where I found this post about a chocolate mousse. It was described as  “légère comme une plumme“, or “light as a feather”.  It delivered exactly what it promised, a mousse without the cloying nature that often sends it over the top for my taste. The secret? No egg yolks and no butter!  Just pure chocolate deliciousness


(from Marie Claire,  Du Miel et du Sel)

* 8 servings*

200 g dark chocolate (I used 72% cocoa)
200 g heavy cream
200 g egg whites (6 egg whites)
pinch of salt
60 g sugar

Cut the chocolate in small pieces and place inside a large bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a gentle boil, then pour it over the chocolate, one-third of the volume at a time, mixing well after each addition.  After all the cream is added, the chocolate emulsion should be very smooth, without any lumps.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt for a few minutes until they start to get some body.  At this point, add the sugar slowly, a little at a time, always whipping the eggs.  Beat until they form firm peaks.

Mix 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to the chocolate, no need to be gentle at this point, just mix it all well to lighten up the chocolate mixture.  Add the rest of the egg whites very gently, folding with a spatula, making sure not to deflate the egg whites too much.  Divide the mousse into 8 serving cups, refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.


to print the recipe, click here

We make desserts exclusively when we have guests over for dinner.  For this particular occasion, we had three very special guests at home, a Brazilian scientists who came over to give a talk, and two friends from KSU.   Our Brazilian guest not only is a great scientist and a dear friend, but once suffered through a tricky situation in our home in Oklahoma.  He came to give a talk in our former department (just like he did now at KSU), and on that evening we hosted a lab party that ended with a strawberry genoise cake.  By far the worst concoction I’ve ever made, one that my guests ate in silence, but not the “good” type of silence.  The bottom layer of my “masterpiece” had somehow turned into a solid rock, hard to cut even with a serrated knife!  I know, I know, how could anyone achieve that?  It was very embarrassing. I wanted to disappear from the face of the planet. Of course, once the initial shock was over,  we laughed about it, and everyone salvaged the top layer of the cake and left the concrete part untouched.   I’ve never attempted a genoise again, although my friend Gary, patissier extraordinaire, keeps telling me to go for it.  I will, once I get over that trauma (sigh). Anyway, I wanted to exorcise the demons of my past, and make a dessert that our guests would enjoy. A chocolate mousse light as a feather could not possibly turn into a rock, right?  Right.  This was the happy ending I was hoping for our pizza party.  You can make them big, you can make them small, you can top with strawberries, you can add shaved chocolate, or go for the kill and top with some whipped cream.  Whatever route you choose, Marie Claire said it all in her post:

Vous allez vous lécher les doigts.  (It’s finger-licking good!)

Black Olive Sourdough Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: Buttermilk Cluster

THREE YEARS AGO: Farfalle, Farfalle