Monday, August 13, 2012

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Cherry Compote

This is probably the best dessert I've ever made. It's from "Desserts" by Michel Roux and although a bit time consuming it's well worth it!

It's basically a Genoese cut in half, each half imbibed with cherry syrup, chocolate mousse in the middle with poached cherries, chocolate mousse on the sides and top with chocolate flakes. Serve with some reserved cherries from the compote and ice cream if you like.

The verdict for those who don't want to read the recipe and just live vicariously through others' cooking. As I was making it I said "Ohh, my GOD!" several times which I am not in the habit of doing. First after I tasted the cherry syrup, then when I tasted the mousse, then when I tried a bit of mousse with syrup and of course after serving.  

Whenever I had a slice of Black Forest Cake I was expecting something more than it is. This is what I had always wanted but had never known existed.

Make it, beg your friends, family to make it, whatever, but find a way to eat this cake! 

You need to make:
  • Genoese sponge
  • chocolate mousse (which means making a creme anglaise for this one)
  • cherry compote

20cm chocolate Genoese sponge

If you've got your own favourite recipe for this then use it. I'd never made one before so I used Michel Roux's with a couple of tweaks in the method only.

butter for greasing cake tin
75g plain flour
50g cocoa powder (I used Van Houten's)
4 eggs at room temp
125g caster sugar
30g butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm

Preheat oven to 190°C and butter and lightly flour your 20cm loose based cake tin.
Whisk eggs and sugar together until at least tripled in volume and mixture is pale like cream and leaves a trail in the mix (ribbon stage).
Shower in the flour and cocoa and fold in with a balloon whisk or spatula.
Mix a cup of the mixture with the melted butter to enable the butter to be more easily incorporated.
Then fold in the butter mixture into the rest of the mixture. Don't overwork.
Pour into the pan and bake for 30 minutes or until springy to touch. If your oven cooks unevenly then turn the pan 180° after 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and pan and invert onto a wire rack. Remove the paper the tin and paper.
Turn upright onto another wire rack and allow to cool
Allow your friends and family to drool over the cake and beg you for a slice while you patiently say, "Not until tomorrow!"

While that's baking you can start on the...

Cherry Compote
400g ripe black cherries, stoned 
150g caster sugar
pared zest of an orange (not grated because you'll want to remove it later)
2 cloves

Put the cherries in a saucepan, cover with water and add sugar, zest and cloves and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until the cherries are soft. They shouldn't fall apart like plums so there's not real risk of over-poaching them.
Remove from heat and let cool in syrup. 
Drain the cherries and remove zest and cloves.
Further reduce 1/3 of the sugar juice until syrupy.
Mix with 1/3 of the cherries. (This is for serving with the cake).

Chocolate Mousse
I'd never made a mousse this way before and I think I will be again! One of the benefits is you have excess creme anglaise you can add a bit of cream to and put in the ice cream mixer!

200ml creme anglaise
200ml double cream or creme fraiche
200g dark chocolate, 60-70% cocoa, chopped

Creme anglaise
6 egg yolks
500ml milk
125g caster sugar (I used 100g)
1 vanilla pod, split

Scrape vanilla seeds and 2/3 of the sugar into the milk in a saucepan and put the whole pod in as well.
Bring to boil slowly while you whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Whisk till light ribbons appear when you lift the whisk.
Slowly pour boiling milk into the egg yolks while you whisk. (You might like to have your bowl on a silicon mat or a wet towel to stop it from sliding around.)
Pour back into saucepan and heat slowly stirring all the time with a wooden spatula (so you can get in the edge of the pan) until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spatula. The texture will noticeably get glossier and the strokes of the spatula will leave a different wake as the viscosity increases.
Strain through a fine sieve and use 200ml in the chocolate mousse recipe. Put remainder into a jug and cover with clingfilm touching the surface to prevent a skin forming.

Back to the chocolate mousse...

Pour the hot creme anglaise over the chocolate and stir. Mix with a whisk until smooth. Should be just warm depending on the initial temperature of your chocolate. 
Whip the cream to ribbon stage in another bowl and fold into the chocolate custard.
Reserve for assembly of the cake. (I needed to put mine in the fridge to make the consistency right for spreading on the cake.)

Assembly (almost there)
Split the sponge in half and place cut side up on a piece of greaseproof paper.
Use a brush to apply the cherry syrup all over both halves.
Place the top half of the sponge cut side up on a large white plate.
Place a 22cm circle mould over it. (I cut a little off the rim of the sponge and then used a 20cm springform tin for my mould.
Apply a thick layer of mousse over the sponge and between the mould and the sponge.
Press all the cherries in lightly into the mousse.
Place the second sponge half cut side down on top. Spread thin layer of mousse over the top and right down the sides. Smooth the top with a palette knife (doesn't have to be perfect because you'll cover it with chocolate shavings or curls.
Refrigerate for several hours preferably overnight for so the flavours meld in the sponge.
After a couple of hours you can remove the circle mould with a blowtorch or hot towel.
Sprinkle chocolate shavings all over the cake and put back in the refrigerator.

Cut with a hot blade and serve with a couple of cherries from the compote and a spoon of cream or ice cream if you like. (My wife likes the ice cream but I like it neat.) Hold back on the syrup or you may get an uncomfortable sugar taste in the throat. 

Serves between 8 big -12 polite but sufficient slices

Always use scales for your baking. If you don't like using metric get used to it. I can convert in my head from American recipes, you can too with practice. 450g is a pound, 30g is an ounce (roughly). 1 litre of water is 1000g and measuring cups are notoriously unreliable for volume measuring.
I used Valrhona's 61% dark chocolate.
I use creme fraiche because I can get it fresh. If I use cream it has to be UHT! 
The cherries I used were ripe but weren't the best I've had, just full of flavour, only some were soft.
I used a low protein flour for the genoise but I don't think that's crucial.

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