Chocolate Mousse Cake – an Epic

Chocolate Mousse Cake – an Epic

This post is going to be very…cakey. This means, lots of sugar, lots of butter, lots of all sorts of very unhealthy stuff. So be prepared.

I mentioned this cake in the post about Mr.Blab’s birthday and did say I will have to get back to it in a separate post. Why, you will  find out in a minute. First, a bit of prelude.

We have a show here that is kind of like Survivor, but what the contestants need to overcome are difficult recipes, surprise ingredients and hungry crowds – Masterchef. We love watching it. All of us, kids included (especially the Junior Masterchef, which was a big success in the house).  There is a segment in the competition, where the budding cooks have to recreate a difficult recipe by a well renowned chef. Its called the Pressure Test.

When it came down to choosing a cake to make for Mr.Blab, I knew I wanted something more special than the usual ones I make. I needed something with a wow factor, so I went looking at the Pressure Test recipes on the Masterchef site. And I found it, I found the cake that answered all the requirements – hard, rich with lots of chocolate.  And this is how I came to making


Adriano Zumbo’s

Chocolate Mousse Cake

The recipe for the cake can be found on the Masterchef site, and the cake is supposed to look like this:

image: MasterChef website

By now you are aware that my result looked very little like its original, intended way, other that it ended up brown with something on top.

I am not a baker, which makes this undertaking even more bizarre. Take that as a disclaimer for how I am going to present to you the process that went into this monster.

Reading other people’s experiences with making the cake, I get an idea that it takes about 4, or so, hours. I can only work at night and decide to split the time in two and make few layers the first day, and finish the rest the next.  I chose the ones that need to be well chilled/frozen and get on with the cooking.

Night 1

Everyone says that the given quantities are too much, except for the chocolate mousse, so I cut the recipe in half (except for the mousse) and set off to make the

Texture apple tatin insert

2   granny smith apples, peeled & diced
175g   caster sugar
90g   butter

1.5   granny smith apples, peeled & diced
5g  butter
0.5   orange zest
3g   fresh ginger (leave in large bits)
25g  caster sugar
5ml   calvados
(I didnt have that, so I used vodka)

Those are supposed to be pretty straight forward to do, that is, if you have ever melted butter, which I had not. Months ago I tried to make an upside down apple something that involved making a caramel and gave up. Now it was time to go for it again.

I put a bit of sugar in the pan and hoped that something will happen.

Got busy with peeling and cutting the apples.

And eating the last bits of the baklava sitting next to me. Making this middle-eastern delight has been the latest tool in my cooking skill-set. Dreadful for the waist.

And then my patience was rewarded with the glossy brown bubbles coming from the sides of my sugar pile. Eureka!

That was not the end of it, though. I had to keep on adding sugar to this until the whole quantity became caramel. This may sound easy to the bakers out there, but to this novice, the whole process was a bit of a stressful monitoring and worrying that the whole thing is burning.

Once the caramel is all melted, I added the butter, which cause a big angry bubbling to happen and then the apples went it too. This looked delicious.

Part one was ready.

This second bit made me suspicious from the beginning, just didnt sound like something I would like to eat, but trusting the genius of Mr.Zumbo , I ventured forward.

1. Peel & dice the apples. Add butter, orange zest, & ginger to a pan and cook until aromatic. Add sugar & apples. Cook over high heat for 1 minute, add calvados & flambé. Cool mixture.

Yep, I flambe-d! But that was the extent of my excitement with this mixture. I was still not sure how this could possibly be nice and very reluctantly mixed the two apple mixtures together, poured the result in the silicon shape and sent it to the freezer.


Salted Caramel Layer

150g caster sugar
30g glucose
60g water
110g cream
3g gelatine leaves
60g butter unsalted
1g sea salt flakes

I found no gelatine leaves, so I followed the suggestions of other people and used 5g of gelatine powder, which I dissolved in a bit of hot water first.

This step involved more caramel making. Just a different kind. The sugar, water and glucose melted together nice and quick and started slowly bubbling…and bubbling…and bubbling. I wondered if this thing will ever turn color. And then something happened, and I had caramel!

The smell! Whatever your stance is on sugar, the smell of caramel is irresistable. Mr.Blab was commenting from the other room and then I heard him sniffling through the crack of the door. Its not easy to be on the other side of the caramel door.

To that mixture, I added the cream. Because I didnt warm it, it again caused a violent bubbling, but it worked and after some good mixing, I had a delicious looking creamy caramel.

Add the gelatine, cool a bit, add the butter, mix well, pop in a silicon mould, grate some sea salt on top and wham in the freezer.


Chocolate blackberry sabayon mousse

Blackberry ganache
125g blackberry pulp
12g inverted sugar
50g caster sugar
6g caster sugar
3g pectin nh
200g 64% dark chocolate
35g butter

Sabayon mousse
60ml liquid strained black tea
50g sugar
50g egg
145g blackberry ganache (see recipe above)
60g 64% chocolate
400g whipped cream soft peaks

No, I didnt find inverted sugar, nor did I bother making it, which one can, apparently.  I just used glucose. Not sure if that made any difference, but the mousse worked, so at least it didnt ruin it.

To get the blackberries, I had to buy two boxes of frozen mixed berries and pick the big juicy fruits from there.  Then the fruits went into the pan and melted into a mush to which I added the first batch of sugar. After a bit, I added the pectin (since the pectin I found was mixed with sugar, I didnt add the second bit of sugar). The warm red liquid is poured on top of the chopped up chocolate and mixed well. Then butter is added and you are supposed to whizz it with a hand mixer. I have none of those, so I just mixed it well by hand.

The second part of the mousse was much less clear. I made one batch of the sabayon mixture on top of the water bath. The mix kept on changing on me – liquid, frothy, glossy frothy, less frothy, until it became like a glossy cream. I kept on waiting to feel when is the right time to take it off, but I felt nothing except confusion.

So I left the pan on the counter and went on to find out what in the world is sabayon meant to look like. I find a few videos and get a general idea of what exactly I am after.

I start off again and whip a new sabayon (zabaione).

Whip the cream and then mix it all up. It looks horrid as I mix, the chocolate doesnt really mix well with the cream, the ganache doesnt make it any better…but I mix. Then I plop in the sabayon and things just magically come together and make a wonderful chocolate mousse.

I cover the bowl with wrap and send it into the fridge.

The kitchen is messy, but not too bad.

I feel accomplished, clean up and take pleasure in crossing off the layers I managed to make and go to bed.

Night 2

The second night I start from behind. During the day I get out the caramel layer from the fridge and find out that its too gooey, it will be impossible to move it when I need to assemble the cake. Miss Fab helps me scrape (and lick a lot) the yummy sticky mess into a bowl, which I plan on using with the new batch I will be making.

I am now a pro and whip up the creamy caramel without a glitch, mix the old one in it while its still hot and let it cool.

Then I prepare the rented pan. I decide to achieve the dents on top of the cake with caps, but since I dont want to use glad wrap to cover them I find three nice smooth ones and plop them in the bottom of the pan.

I put down a layer of mousse, which is by now nicely set. I would say too nicely, as I found it a bit hard to spread smoothly and evenly. I put the mousse layer in the fridge for a few minutes, because I need it hard for the next step.

Then I set off to make the jaconde, aka. almond sponge cake.  And here is where the nightmare of a night starts for me.

I have seen cut up pictures of the original cake and dont remember seeing white layers through it. Reading the recipe it sounds like this step is basically making the decorative side part of the cake (the one with the light swirls).

Biscuit decor jaconde

Cigarette decor paste
52ml cream
25g egg white
25g icing sugar
15g plain flour
10g cocoa

Biscuit jaconde
30g plain flour
20g butter melted
100g almond meal
100g icing sugar
3 eggs
90g egg whites
45g caster sugar

I am not sure what exactly, but I mess something up and have to start over. The decor paste is very easy and straight forward to make, just mix the ingredients. I spread it on the back of a pan with indented bottom I have, make the decorative swirls on it with a finger and plop it in the freezer for a minute.

The biscuit jaconde is fairly simple as well. Whip the eggs, icing sugar and almond meal. In a separate bowl whip egg whites and sugar til stiff peaks and fold those into the almond mixture while putting in the flower and butter slowly as well.

The chocolate layer is hardened by now and I pour the almond mixture in a thin layer on top. Then into the oven.

A few minutes later I check on the jaconde and shock-and-horror, its dripping everywhere. Its hot, I am trying to save it, to prop the pan with something so its level…finally pull out the pan and look at the disaster that it is.

Clean it up, use some ingenuity and its ready to be going back in the oven to finish baking.

Then I quickly make the biscuit base in the food processor.

Pate sable cinnamon

160g cold butter cubed
95g caster sugar
190g plain flour
1/2 egg
1g ground cinnamon
1/4 scraped vanilla bean

This happens quick and I am not really sure how. Everything gets whizzed in the machine, and then the egg goes in at the end. Quickly put together on the counter and then I shaped it into the silicon mould and it was ready for the oven.

By now the kitchen is starting to look unpleasant. But this is not the end of the story.

The decorative jaconde is not looking great. Because of the mess up, the swirls are not clear, actually, they are barely visible. But the thing itself tastes nice, so I dont worry about it.

The first layer of mousse is more than ready by now. So I get it out, I put the jaconde on the sides of the pan and cover the rest of them with more mousse. Now I have mousse all over the bottom, and the sides are made up of the sponge cake and more mousse. I pour the caramel next. I have given up on the option of putting it in as a manageable layer. Now with its sides and bottom two layers, the pan is back in the fridge.

I go back to read the recipe and realize that I most definitely dont have enough mousse for all the layers. Holy cow!

Then I read more and I am still suspicious about the jaconde. Look around, see what other people’s cakes look like and realize that, yes, indeed, I do need two layers of it for the cake itself. Double holy cow!

Luckily, I had baked the rest of the extra mixture of the almond cake in a pan, just because it looked like too much of a waste not to. It was thicker than I needed and in the wrong shape, but beggers cant be choosers.

I make more mix – both the chocolate and the almond part. By now I am barely measuring things, the plan is escaping me and the night is progressing fast. I still dont even know if that cake will stay upright when I turn it over. Holy cow!

The biscuit and the jaconde wait for me to catch up with the happenings.

In the mean time, I quench my sorrow with some chocolate-almond jaconde left overs dipped in some caramel left overs. It almost does the trick.

Its frantic. You get no pictures, because this was the last thing on my mind.

I have no more blackberries, so I quickly figure out that I can make a chocolate mousse without the ganache. Figure out implies that I knew it will work, which is not the case. I hoped, thats all. I really hoped.

So I basically whipped 200g of cream and then mixed in with 100g of melted dark chocolate. I made a new sabayon and mixed that in with the first mixture….It looks good. I taste…and it tasted great. That is enough for me. I have enough mousse to finish the monster.

The cake pan is filling up.

I pile in the layers, press nicely to make sure there are not big air pockets. And then I put it in the fridge for a minute to settle a bit.

I wrestle with the kitchen and all the unpleasantly dirty remnants of the late night cook-off.

Then it was time to turn the cake over.

I will be lying if I said that I was not worried. I was very, very worried. Very. I flipped the thing upside down and gave the pan a bit of a push up. It didnt budge. I pulled a bit harder and part of the pan started lifting up, but not all. With a lot of tugging and heart racing, I finally free the cake from the pan.

Its a bit messy and some parts are flopping over, but nothing that a bit of a knife smoothing doesnt fix. The smooth caps that were supposed to lift off easily, are stuck and leave wonky holes when I take them off, but I am happy. The cake is standing and is not looking horrible, just messy.

The recipe calls for an air gun to cover the cake in tempered chocolate. The newbie baker that I am, I had no gun on hand, so that was out. I needed some kind of cover though, as the mousse just didnt quite cut it. I decide to go for cocoa cover, which should give that matte look and hide some of the low quality finish. The top is easy, I just sift it on. The sides are more tricky, but I just use a bowl and then hold it to the sides and lightly blow in it, which send cocoa everywhere, but it get to the intended surfaces, so I dont mind the clean up.

The last part of the recipe are the tempered white chocolate decorations on top of the cake. I wasnt sure I was going to do them, but looking at my not so amazingly looking cake, I decided it could definitely use with some beauty works and decide to give it a go.

I have no thermometer, so I read around for a more straight forward way of getting tempered chocolate. Then I try a few. I warm slowly the choc until its just melted, just. Then I smear a bit of it on a baking paper and put it in a shape around a cup and put it in the fridge. I do the same another time. Then I try a different way, which is basically melting the choc, then adding to it cold chopped up one and mixing it in to melt. Make a few more smears.

Surprisingly, most of them work and I have something to work with.

And then the cake is officially finished!

The recipe is looking exactly as I am feeling – battered.

The time of birth is:


The Verdict

Thank goodness, the cake tests wonderful. Even with my modified mousse and extra fat jaconde layer. Look at the top four layers – blackberry mousse, salted caramel, jaconde and mousse again – they were divine. The apple layer didnt do it for me, as I expected. The ginger apple just rubbed me the wrong way. The biscuit took a day to soften up, so I am not sure if my hurried preparation was to blame. Still it tasted very nice and was Little B’s favorite.

The cake was gone in two days.

If I ever make this again, and the chances are very low (close to none), for a 10inch cake:

– I will make double the original quantity of mousse;
– the rest of the quantities are fine to be halved, as I did, although the caramel could probably stay at its original quantity – its too good;
– I will leave out the ginger apple part, definitely; out of my cake;
– I will make sure the jaconde cakes are thin;
– I will make sure that I have a hand whizzer to smooth out the blackberry ganache and will find or make the inverted sugar – maybe it will keep the mousse less stiff. Although this was good for eating, but it was not good for making a smooth cake.

Even though it was hard, I found this was a very nice learning experience. I now know how to make caramel, sabayon, almond sponge cake, blackberry mousse and tempered chocolate.

Whether I will put those skills into use any time soon.. is another question. There is only so much sugar a person can take at one time.

I am thinking of making Croquembouche for Christmas…