This post is inspired by the three-layer chocolate mousse cake I had at my friend Dave’s house last weekend. Our friend Doug was in town to celebrate his last pre-30s birthday, and his brother’s awesome girlfriend made him this gorgeous cake as a special birthday treat. And let me just say that, although I’ve only met this girl once, based on this case alone she’s my new favorite person in the world. It. Was. AMAZING.
Picture (and taste) this: two gorgeous, thick layers of airy mousse on top of a rich chocolate cake base that’s so moist and fluffy that it’s almost mousse-like in consistency. You take a bite and it just melts in your mouth – but, not before the distinct yet complementary flavors of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate wrap themselves seductively around your tongue. You take another bite. Bliss. And another. Heaven. If there were ever a time to compare eating to sex, this is it.
Which is why I had originally planned to make this cake for my Valentine’s Day post. But, V-Day is three weeks away, and this cake has been haunting my dreams all week, so obviously I bit the bullet and made it this weekend. Fabulous decision. So much happiness, all around, for everybody. I’m sure I’ll come up with something else for Valentine’s Day….
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1-1/4 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli’s 60% Cacao Bittersweet Baking Chips)
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp chocolate extract (If you don’t have this, skip it and just go with 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
- ½ to 1 tsp salt (Note - some readers have commented that 1 tsp salt here and in the middle layer below seems like too much, as the original recipe only calls for a pinch. I personally always use a little more salt than is required in baking recipes, but use your own judgment/taste here if you don’t – taste the batter/mousse after a pinch and see what you think. In case you’re wondering though, 1 tsp salt did not make this cake taste salty at all – everyone who tasted a piece said it was delicious!)
- ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder (I ran out of cocoa powder, so I substituted 1 tbsp for Ovaltine)
- 5 tbsp hot water
- 1-1/4 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1-1/2 cups cold heavy cream
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp water
- ¾ tsp flavorless powdered gelatin
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
- 1-1/2 cups cold heavy cream, divided
- Chocolate curls, to garnish
- Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray a 9-1/2 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Add the butter, and chocolate chips to a large heatproof bowl. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring after each, until the mixture is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine the egg whites and salt in a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer (with whisk attachments) on medium speed until frothy. Add half of the brown sugar (crumbling it with your fingers to make sure there aren’t any lumps) and mix until combined. Then, add the remaining brown sugar (again crumbling with your fingers) and increase the mixer to high speed. Beat until soft peaks form.
- Whisk your extracts and egg yolks into the slightly cooled chocolate mixture.
- Gently fold one third of the egg white mixture into the batter to lighten it. Add the the rest of your egg white mixture and continue folding gently until there are no more white streaks.
- Pour your batter into the prepared pan, making sure that it spreads out in an even layer.
- Bake for about 15-18 minutes, or until the center of the cake is just set (it’ll be soft, but should spring back if gently pressed with your finger.) Set cake aside to cool, inside the pan.
- Whisk your cocoa powder and hot water together in a small bowl then set aside.
- Add your chocolate chips to a large heatproof bowl. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring after each, until the mixture is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add the heavy cream, sugar, and salt to a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture begins to thicken. Increase to high speed and beat until the mixture forms soft peaks.
- Add your cocoa powder/water mixture to the bowl of slightly cooled melted chocolate and whisk until smooth.
- Carefully fold one third of the sweetened whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Add the rest and use a rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture until there are no more white streaks.
- Scoop the mousse to your springform pan, spreading it into an even layer on top of the cooled cake. Gently tap the pan on the counter a few times to remove any large air bubbles (smooth the top of the mousse again if necessary).
- Wipe up any large drips of mousse from the inside/sides of the pan.
- Refrigerate the cake for at least 15 minutes while you make the top layer.
- Add your water to a small bowl, then sprinkle the gelatin powder over the top. Set aside for 5 minutes.
- Add white chocolate chips to a medium heatproof bowl.
- Heat ½ cup of the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the gelatin mixture until it is completely dissolved.
- Pour the simmered cream mixture over your bowl of white chocolate chips and whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes, stirring every few minutes to keep the mixture liquid/smooth.
- Add the remaining cup of heavy cream to a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until the mixture begins to thicken. Increase to high speed and beat until the mixture forms soft peaks.
- Carefully fold one third of the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture to lighten it. Add the rest of the whipped cream and use a rubber spatula to gently fold the mixture until there are no more white streaks.
- Spoon the white chocolate mousse into your springform pan and spread it in an even layer over the chocolate mousse layer.
- Refrigerate the cake until set, at least 2½ hours.
- Garnish the cake with chocolate curls before serving.
- Run a thin knife between the cake and the sides of the springform pan before removing the pan. To keep your layers clean with each slice, wipe down your knife between slices.
(Slightly adapted from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures)
Maybe you’ll just HAVE to make it again for V-day…you know, for the sake of the holiday;) I’ll take a slice too, please.
I like the way you think, lady 😉
Your cake is gorgeous! If we ever meet, want to make me one? 😉
Ummm, definitely yes 😀 Come visit DC!
it looks delicious!
That cake looks heavenly! It almost looks like tiramisu! 😀
Are you planning to do anything for Chinese New Year’s? Happy year of the Horse!!! XD
Happy year of the Horse to you too! I’m not doing anything in particular for the new year – maybe making fortune cookies though! What are you up to?
Cool! Fortune cookies are a neat idea!
My family is going to make a traditional feast. Kung Pao chicken, fish, meatballs, etc. I can’t wait!
After making the first two layers it seems 1tsp of salt per layer is too much. I looked at a Cooks Illustrated recipe online (very similar) and it has a pinch of salt for each layer. Please verify that these are correct amounts–thanks!
Hi Kristen. Yes – 1 tsp salt is what I used when making my layers. I always use more salt in baking recipes than the original recipes call for, as I find it adds more depth of flavor/contrast. The layers did not at all taste salty – I brought several pieces to work and my coworkers said they were fabulous 🙂
Just so I know I’m reading this right, there is not flour in the cake base, correct?
That’s right! No flour 🙂
Coco Chen says
Hi, thanks for the recipe! I just tried making this and added 1 tsp of salt into both the bottom and middle layer because I thought that the end result would not taste salty like you said. But it turned out to be super salty and inedible 🙁 I wish I had read the comments more carefully.
I’m sorry this turned out too salty for you!!! This is definitely one of those “salt to taste” situations 🙁 Hopefully you’ll give the recipe another chance (with less salt!) and that’ll turn out better!