Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chocolate death

My pal Eddie announced a few weeks ago that he was turning 40 and was having a little get-together to celebrate. I'd been wanting to impress Eddie and his boyf David with a cake for quite some time, so this naturally seemed like the perfect opportunity. After they poo-poo'd my peanut butter Butterfinger cake (Eddie doesn't like peanut butter - understandable), David suggested something chocolate, with a "mousse layer or something like that - you get the idea."

A challenge.

I've never made or worked with mousse at all, so this seemed like a great excuse to try. Of course, not content to just make a chocolate mousse cake, I decided to up the ante and really go WAY over-the-top. I opted to use this recipe from It calls for 3 pounds of chocolate. Here's what just one pound of chocolate looks like:

It also has the requested mousse layer, but what appealed to me most was the use of "chocolate transfer."

I've always wanted to try printing patterns on chocolate. I think it looks so special, like someone really took a lot of time to make something so pretty, but the process was a complete mystery to me. The reviews on said it was pretty simple, though most people opted to leave the transfer step out and just use extra ganache or mousse to frost the cake. Lazy-ass bastards.

I had to buy some new equipment for this cake - 10" cake pans, a large offset spatula (why on earth hadn't I bought one of those already?!), some new boxes and supports to help transport the thing, and of course, chocolate transfer paper. I found everything I needed at New York Cake and Baking Distribution, like I usually do. It's my mecca. The people that work there are extremely rude and unhelpful. The guy that rang me up was inhaling some variety of hoagie, with lettuce and mustard falling out onto the sales counter. Hi-klass. But I digress - I don't shop there for exemplary customer service.

I started the cake 2 days in advance. I did the baking a day before New York was hit with a major heat wave. Like, I'm talking record heat. Heat indexes of 108 degrees. You know - just
perfect weather for working with chocolate (I jest). But I was determined not to let my kitchen control me. I am in control of my kitchen, gosh darn it, so I installed the AC and blasted it all day and all night. My roommate will probably shit a 50%-post-consumer-recycled-repurposed brick if he reads this, but whatevs. I needed it to be very cold, and he was out of town. Sorry, Steve!

On Friday, I began by baking the cakes, first buttering the pans and dusting them liberally with cocoa-powder.

These baked up nicely, following the recipe exactly, and they didn't sink like some people said in the comments. In fact, they were pretty level and flat, which is a good thing for decorating.

The next day (the first day of crazy heat), I made the ganache and the mousse. I love ganache. It's so forgiving. You just:

1. Pour heated cream over a bowl of chopped chocolate and let the chocolate melt a bit:

2. Give it a good stir:

3. Then after a few minutes - voila! Ganache!

Having never made mousse, I was pleasantly surprised that it's basically just more ganache folded into stiffly whipped cream.

Simple! I was a little weirded out that the mousse called for corn syrup as the sweetener, but I don't know enough about working with chocolate to deviate from this recipe too much. After a few minutes of gentle folding:

Both the ganache and mousse chillaxed in the fridge over night. I wish I could have joined them. It was seriously like 85 degrees that night.

The next morning, despite the AC being on, my kitchen was still uncomfortably hot, so yes, I assembled a lot of this cake in my underwear. And no, I'm not apologizing.

Each layer of filling had to chill before the next one could go on, so the assembly was pretty time consuming, with a lot of waiting around. First, a layer of de-seeded raspberry jam, then chill, then a layer of ganache, then chill:

Then a layer of mousse, then chill:

And repeat:

Ha ha! Gross!

This recipe only called for three layers of cake, but I had four, so whatever. On it goes, then the whole thing is frosted in a thin layer of ganache, which really helps give it structure and rigidity. My biggest concern was that all the chocolate layers were going to melt in the heat and slide around and be a big ol' doo-doo lookin-mess, but the ganache really held it all together very well.
And yeah, that's a level.

So here's the cake without any decoration:

And now it was time to get busy with the chocolate transfer. I selected a wood grain pattern to go around the cake, thinking it would look pretty cool, but I bought two other patterns in case the first attempt didn't work. I had to cut the sheet in half length-wise to make it long enough to wrap around the cake, and it
still came up an inch short.

Then it's all pretty simple. You just melt some chocolate in a double-boiler, spread it out over the transfer sheet into a thin layer.

The chocolate sets on the strip and firms up a bit:

Then you just wrap it around the cake and let it chill and set in the fridge. At this point, I stopped taking photos because I got SO nervous and anxious that the transfer wouldn't work. I forgot to keep documenting. My heart was beating really hard when I peeled the plastic off, but I was elated to see the pattern was there! Amazing!

I topped the whole thing with tons of fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, and, well, here it is:

And a close up of the wood grain chocolate transfer.

We all sang and watched Eddie blow so hard he probably lost a year off his life span.
(Does Charles ever NOT have his phone to his ear? Geez.)


This cake was a total showstopper. The owners of the place, Zipi Zape, were literally gushing. One of the ladies even said she and her husband are good friends with Jacques Torres and that she's never had a cake as flavorful, moist, and well-presented as mine. THAT made me blush. The staff was all so nice, and the food was excellent!

I know this looks menacing, but I think someone was trying to take my shot of Patron. Eddie got the first cut of cake, of course.

After this we all fell into a sugar coma, but it was lovely. There was an intense afternoon storm, then we all enjoyed Eddie and David's central AC at their new place, then finished up the night at Metropolitan. You can see all the birthday pics HERE. And there's a funny video of his dog Larry HERE.

I'm very proud of this cake. It's the most ambitious one I've ever tried, and it worked out beautifully. It proved several things to me I really am improving at baking, and that I really CAN control my kitchen, heat wave or not.

Thanks for reading.

Order a cake!



Mike said...

i knew i tasted a chest hair in that cake!

Snake Nation said...

Wish I could order my wedding cake from you!

KingSizeStar said...

that cake looks so tasty...
i luv chocolate



Stencil1 said...

This was the best cake i've ever had and the sweetest thing on earth you could do for me, thanks so much. Now open a bakery! love, eddie

staceys said...

that cake is STUNNING!