Thursday, June 07, 2007
Happy Birthday Dad!
You will kindly notice that my celebratory offering for my dad's 60th birthday was a rather humble-looking affair. This is for a few reasons. First, I'm too uncoordinated to even attempt sugarcraft. More importantly, my father doesn't really go in for things that are show-offy or complicated desserts. He prefers substance. (So it's a good thing he married my mother!)
With that in mind, I made a simple but rich cake. I scoured my many cookbooks for weeks before the big day and in the end, I chose...
a chocolate mousse layer cake.
Basically it was a chocolate sponge (Le Cordon Bleu Home Collection 'Chocolate') layered with chocolate mousse (Donna Hay) and covered with chocolate ganache. I was actually going to use the "chocolate coating" recipe from the Cordon Bleu book, which was a ganache with sugar syrup added, but it turned out way too liquid and wouldn't have set in time, so I whipped up the ganache very last minute. We decorated it with white chocolate numbers and leaves. To make the leaves, you get clean leaves from the garden, use a pastry brush to paint melted white chocolate on the leaves, wait for them to set, and carefully peel the leaves away. For the numbers, I just cut out a crude stencil from baking paper, lay it flat on a baking tray, and painted the white chocolate over. Easy!
I'm not in the habit of publishing recipes on my blog, but for this special occasion I think I will.
The chocolate mousse needs to be made at least a 3 hours in advance, but preferably overnight, to get the delightful light and moussy texture. Without sufficient refrigeration, it just ends up gloopy and crap.
200 g dark couverture chocolate, chopped (I used a wonderful 55% single-origin Cuban cocoa chocolate made by Lindt - perfect for a not-too-heavy mousse)
75 g butter, chopped (for goodness' sake use unsalted, or it will taste minging)
4 eggs, separated (they will be raw, so use free range, and make sure they're super-fresh!)
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
Place the chocolate and buter in a saucepan over low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl and stir until melted and smooth. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating until well combined. Set aside.
Place the cream in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Set aside.
Place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Sift over the icing sugar and whisk unitl the mixture is thick and glossy.
Gently fold the cream through the chocolate mixture, then fold the egg whites through. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (Overnight is better).
This recipe ended up making a rather massive bowl, so I spooned some into these cute little Pillivuyt souffle dishes I recently acquired for mid-week snacking.
120 g (4 oz) castor sugar
80 g (2 3/4 oz) plain flour
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a large square tin (25cx25cm) with baking paper. Put the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and place over a pan of barely steaming water. Whisk with electric beaters for 5-7 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and creamy, and has doubled in volume. The mixture should never be hot, only warm. Remove the bowl from the pan and and whisk until cold. Sift the flour and cocoa together, and carefully fold into the egg mixture. Stop folding as soon as the flour and cocoa are just combined. Pour into the tin and bake on the middle shelf of the oven until springy and shrinking from the paper. Turn out onto a wire rack. Put another rack on top, turn over, remove the top rack and leave to cool, then peel away the paper.
200 g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
200 ml cream
Heat cream in a saucepan until it reaches boiling point, but before it bubbles. Pour it over the chocolate, and stir until smooth.
Slice the cold sponge into 3 pieces horizontally. Spoon a generous amount of chocolate mousse between each layer. The layers should go: cake, mousse, cake, mousse, cake. Spread the ganache over the top and sides of the cake, and decorate with awesome white chocolate leaves and numbers. Serve to your father and his friends with pride.
I found the sponge a little dry, but that was probably because I'd used a different sized pan to the recipe, and misjudged the baking times. I didn't think of it at the time, but a sprinkle of liqueur between the layers would have been a nice touch. The cake got better after a day, after all the layers had melded together more seductively.
Happy Birthday Dad!