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Lynda Balslev: Have your mousse cake and eat it too

The beauty of this dessert is that for all of its chocolate intensity, it is creamy and smooth without the density and darkness of a traditional flourless chocolate cake.
Photo by Lynda Balslev

The name of this dessert is potentially misleading. It’s not exactly a cake, nor is it a bowl of fluffy mousse. But imagine the two concepts combined in a sublime chocolate confection that literally melts in your mouth. It’s flourless, too, which is wonderful for gluten-free diets, Passover, and frankly, for those chocolate fanatics who prefer their chocolate straight up — or chilled in a springform pan, as it were.

The beauty of this dessert is that for all of its chocolate intensity, it is creamy and smooth without the density and darkness of a traditional flourless chocolate cake. This is thanks to the mousse component with its addition of whipped cream and egg whites. It’s also a convenient do-ahead dessert, since it should be prepared one day in advance of serving. You can prepare it in a loaf pan or a terrine; however, I like to use a 6-inch springform, which allows the dessert to release easily from the pan. While a 6-inch cake might look small, I assure you that each slice is rich and just the right amount of chocolate to finish a meal without knocking you over (if that’s ever possible, that is).

When ready to serve, simply cut it into wedges or slices. Serve as is, or with whipped cream, or with fruit. I had some time on my hands (don’t we all?) and repurposed a bag of frozen raspberries and a pint of kumquats into two fruit garnishes, which happen to complement each other magnificently while embellishing the cake. No pressure, though — a simple sprinkle of confectioners’ sugar will do just fine, too.



Chocolate Mousse Cake

Active Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time



Yield: Serves 6 to 8

Neutral vegetable oil for the pan

9 ounces dark (70%) chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

3 large eggs, separated

3 large egg yolks

3/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder

Pinch of sea salt

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Lightly oil a 1-quart baking dish, loaf pan or springform pan. Line the dish with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang for easy removal. If using a springform, line the bottom with plastic wrap or parchment.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool to lukewarm.

Add the 6 egg yolks to the chocolate and stir to combine.

Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and salt and stir into the chocolate mixture.

Beat the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Transfer to another bowl and refrigerate while you beat the egg whites.

Clean the mixing bowl and then beat the 3 egg whites with the granulated sugar until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the whipped cream.

Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to two days.

To serve, remove the chocolate from the pan. Slice into wedges. Serve with whipped cream or raspberry coulis and/or candied kumquats (recipes below), or simply dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Raspberry Coulis

Makes about 1 cup

10 ounces frozen raspberries

1/4 cup sugar

Combine the raspberries and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Heat until the sugar dissolves and the raspberries release their juices, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes. Cool and serve as is or strained through a fine-mesh sieve.

Candied Kumquats

Makes about 1 cup

2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup water

6 ounces kumquats, rinsed and sliced 1/4-inch thick

Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the kumquats and simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is syrupy and the kumquats are translucent, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool and store the kumquats in the syrup.

Note: Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs may increase the risk of food-borne illness.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area.


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