chocolate mousse and a cake failure

This baking disaster was 8 months in the making.

The road to disaster started at last year's birthday dinner. My mom and her husband, Ron, invited me and the kids over for a beautiful meal of beef tenderloin wrapped in bacon and grilled rare. It was one of my top five best meals I have ever eaten. That piece of meat was a thing of beauty.  Angels wept.

It was like eating a stick of meat butter.

In the best possible way.

I'm not going to explain myself.

(hmmm.... Meat Butter, a great name for a band)

So good in fact that in the middle of dinner I told them, "We need to have this for Christmas dinner. We need to have a totally over the top, luxurious, calories be damned meal.'

We did. We had roasted peel and eat shrimp with cocktail sauce, stuffed mushrooms, beef tenderloin, potatoes sliced thinly and cooked slowly with an obscene amount of butter and garlic (the texture and taste is similar to this), spinach salad with bacon, blue cheese and a vinaigrette from Bouchon cookbook, and this bread. Dessert was lemon tart from the Bouchon cookbook, cheesecake, and a chocolate mousse layer cake.

And that's where things went wrong.

I spent all Christmas Eve day baking, piecing together, sweating over a cake. This was after I had spent the whole week baking cookies, treats, and going through about 15 pounds (more like 20 pounds after rereading this) of chocolate for truffles. I thought everything was going well. The mousse was great which was the main component I felt that I was going to have issues with. I thought after I made the mousse and it turned out well everything else would be a piece of cake.

Piece of cake... my ass.


I made the cake. Doubled the recipe because I wanted to make two cakes 'just in case'. Batter tasted fine almost like chocolate pudding.

Baked the cakes, cooled them, sliced them, frosted them, made the chocolate curls and decorated the cake.

So far, so good. Went to my mom's, ate a wonderful dinner, sliced the cake and took a bite. Cue tumbleweeds and spaghetti western music.

Dry. Cake was dry. Mousse was great but the cake was DRY. Like imagine it sitting in the grocery refrigerated case for weeks DRY. Like scrape the mousse off, eat that and throw the cake part away dry.

(insert f-bomb here)

Like... throw the whole cake away bad. I retraced my steps and I know exactly where I screwed up. When I doubled the cake recipe, I didn't double the vegetable oil in the recipe.

The extra cake at home was dry too.

(insert another f-bomb here, actually a lot of f-bombs... think world war II and the blitz type bombage)

(i should have known when the pictures turned out bad that this going to be another fine mess)

What a waste.

Anyways, this has been haunting me since Christmas. I haven't made another one yet because I am not ready to look at more chocolate for another month or so but damn it I will own this cake.

Can I stress that the mousse was really good and the cake was entirely my fault?

chocolate mousse: fine cooking sweet cakes 2009

*This recipe contains uncooked egg whites. Don't eat if you have a compromised immune system. If you are concerned about eating cooked egg whites, you can substitute pasteurized egg white product.

2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
13 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or 1 to 2 tablespoons brandy or Cointreau
pinch table salt
7 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Set up an ice bath by partially filling a large bowl with cold water and some ice.

Combine the cream and cocoa in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a full boil, whisking occasionally to blend in the cocoa. Slide the pan off the heat and immediately add the chopped chocolate and the butter; whisk slowly until melted and smooth.

Scrape the chocolate mixture into a large bowl. Add the vanilla and salt. Set over the ice bath and stir constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping the sides very frequently, until the chocolate cools to room temperature (don't stop stirring or lumps will form) Remove the bowl from the ice bath.

Put the whites in a large clean bowl. Whip with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until very foamy. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the whites form very loose, soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar. Continue beating until the whites are shiny and form floppy peaks.

Working quickly, scoop about a third of the whites into the cooled chocolate mixture and fold together with a rubber spatula until blended. Scrape the remaining whites into the chocolate and fold together gently but thoroughly.

If you make the cake: Before chilling the mousse, scoop out about one cup of mousse into a bowl, cover, and chill for touch-ups.

chocolate cake:

Vegetable oil or pan spray for the pan
cocoa for the pans
1 1/2 cups cake flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup water

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x2-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment, and flour the sides with cocoa (but not the bottom).

Sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended. Measure the oil into a 1-cup liquid measure, add the egg and vanilla, and mix with a fork to blend. Add the egg-oil mixture to the dry ingredients and then add the water. Whisk until the dry ingredients are just moist, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 32 to 34 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Lightly grease a wire rack, invert the cake onto it, lift off the pan, peel off the paper, and let the cake cool completely. The cake can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for a day. 
Set the ring of a 9-inch springform pan on a large, flat cake plate. To cut the cake into layers, it helps if the cake is slightly chilled. Set the cake bottom side up on a parchment-lined work surface. Cut into three equal layers. Set aside without separating the layers.

Gently flip the top cake layer (really the bottom) upside down and center it in the springform ring so the mousse can flow over the edge to frost the sides; handle the cake carefully, if it breaks, just piece it together. Scoop about one-third of the mousse (a heaping 2 cups) onto the cake layer in the ring and gently spread to cover. Flip the next cake layer (the center) on top of the mousse and press gently to level it, if necessary. Scoop half of the remaining mousse over the layer and spread gently. Flip the remaining cake layer upside down and set it on top of the mousse. Press gently to level it. Spread on the remaining mousse and smooth the top; the cake should fill the ring (don't worry if a little mousse leaks out of the bottom).
Refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours up to 24 hours before decorating so it will hydrate from the mousse and the layers will set.
To finish, run a long thin knife under hot water and dry it well. Slide the warm knife between the chilled cake and the springform ring, pressing the knife against the ring. Carefully release the springform clasp; gently pry it all the way open. Lift off the ring and clean the plate edge. Mold strips of foil around the cake plate to keep it clean as you decorate. If the cake's sides have bare patches, use a small spatula to touch them up with some reserved mousse. Chill.

Decorate with chocolate curls or shards. Once decorated, keep the cake refrigerated and serve within 8 hours. Remove it from the refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Check out the Mayberry Magpie's much better non fail version of this cake.


tamilyn said...

Meat Butter....I barely got past that. All I want is a piece of meat butter now....

oneordinaryday said...

Oh I hate when that happens!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

OOh. That would just burn my butt if I realized that cake badness was totally my fault and that I couldn't just blame the recipe. It's like the time I neglected to put one of the two cups of sugar required for a brownie. Sorry. :-(

I still wish I had gone to Christmas dinner at your place though. Bacon-wrapped tenderloin sounds orgasmically good.

Lisa@ButteryBooks said...

This may sound gross, but when I have dry cake (okay, usually it is old cake that I refuse to throw away) I pour french vanilla coffee creamer on it. You end up with a tres-leches-esque cake. Better than throwing a cake away (which I consider a sin).

Mayberry Magpie said...

Kate made that cake a while back and it was unbelievable. I agree the mousse was superb. Thankfully, she didn't try to make TWO cakes so it came out fine.

Doesn't it just piss you off when you do something like that? Kind of like the time I put baking soda in my chicken and noodles. You know, I still have made noodles from scratch since then, and it was well over a year ago. A fail in the kitchen can be so heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

You can always douse the cake in a sugar syrup or booze to moisten it up...

Or douse it and then use in a 'trifle' type dessert.

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Cali ʚϊɞ said...

sorry about your cake doll!! i've done that with muffins before... it sucks :(

btw, i really like the pic of the eggshells.