Mousse, Puddings, and Souffle

The Pastry Queen's American Beauty Cake

Today is the very last Project Pastry Queen challenge. Over 2 years ago, Ashley and I met up in Austin to attend a cooking demo with The Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather. I’d forgotten about several great recipes in the book and decided that I’d cook and bake all the way through the book.

100-ish recipes later, it is my most used, most stained, and most beloved cookbook.

The final challenge is pretty representative of the book: an involved, multistep, Texas-sized, show-stopping dessert with 9 eggs, 26 ounces of chocolate, 2+ sticks of butter, and 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream. Y’all…

The Pastry Queen's American Beauty Cake

It’s an intensely rich, dense, flourless chocolate cake that’s topped with a semisweet chocolate mousse, and then coated in a chocolate glaze. The Pastry Queen calls it The American Beauty Cake. My husband calls it The PMS Cake.

It’s similar to the Chocolate Overdose Cake but has one less component. And it’s one of those recipes that require you to read all the way through first because there’s an overnight step. One I missed last night but welcomed the “quiet time” in the kitchen this morning for a little baking therapy.

The Pastry Queen's American Beauty Cake

The cake is meant to be served from the freezer, so if – like me – you were born with a negative amount of will power, there’s still hope. I cut the cake into wedges, placed it on a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet, and froze the slices solid (~2 hours) before individually wrapping them in more plastic wrap.

Check out the other PPQ members’ take on American Beauty Cake. Thanks to all those who’ve baked and followed along with the project over the last couple of years. It has been fun.

I’ve already started to work up a fun twist for Project Pastry Queen, Part Deux. Stay tuned :)

American Beauty Cake

An intensely rich flourless chocolate cake, topped with mousse and a chocolate glaze.

Ingredients

  • For the cake:
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum or liqueur of choice
  • For the mousse:
  • 4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) butter
  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • For the glaze:
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • For serving
  • Fresh fruit, like raspberries (optional)

Instructions

  1. Make the cake:Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line the bottom of a 9-inch sprinform pan (outside wrapped with a triple layer of foil to protect from leaks in the waterbath) with a parchment round and lightly spray the bottom/sides with baking spray.
  3. Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave in a large bowl, on 30-second intervals until melted.
  4. Whisk in the eggs and sugar until well combined.
  5. Stir in the vanilla and liqueur and then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Place the pan in a larger pan (like a 13x9) and fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come up level with the batter.
  7. Bake 35-40 minutes, until firm to the touch, and then remove from the oven (but let cool completely in the waterbath).
  8. After the cake cooled, I cut ~4-inch wide strips of parchment and lined the sides of the springform pan, pushing the parchment down between the cake and sides (shrinkage made this possible). This helped with removal later.
  9. Make the mousse:Melt butter and chocolate in the microwave, stirring until smooth; set aside to cool.
  10. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth and then whisk in the chocolate mixture.
  11. Using a mixer, whisk the whites until stiff peaks form.
  12. Fold the egg whites in 3 batches into the chocolate. Once an addition is almost completely incorporated, add the next. The texture will look completely questionable but keep going. It gets better.
  13. Place the cream into the mixer bowl and whip that just until soft peaks start to form.
  14. Fold the whipped cream into the mousse mixture until the texture is uniform - you'll fold this much, much more than a more traditional mousse.
  15. Spread the mousse over the cooled cake, wrap the top with foil, and freeze overnight (at least 6 hours).
  16. Make the glaze:In a small sauce pan, bring corn syrup and cream just to a boil.
  17. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla and chocolate.
  18. Whisk until smooth and then let sit in the pan for 30 minutes to cool and thicken.
  19. Remove the cake from the freezer and turn it out onto a rack set on a baking sheet or on a cake plate, mousse-side on top - remove the ring and peel off the parchment sides.
  20. Pour the glaze into the center of the cake, letting it flood the top and run down the edges (it won't cover the sides completely).
  21. I put the cake in the fridge to set the glaze and then cut pieces for the freezer.
  22. To freeze the whole cake, chill the cake to set the glaze and then wrap with plastic wrap and freeze.
  23. The cake is recommended as best-served just minutes out of the freezer.

Notes

Yields: 14-16 slices

Source: The Pastry Queen

Estimated time: 8 hours

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Individual Tiramisu

Tiramisus?

I’m playing catchup with last week’s Project Pastry Queen challenge: Tiramisu with Homemade Ladyfingers, chosen by Sarah of 20 Something Cupcakes.

Homemade ladyfingers are one of those things that deserve to be on everyone’s Baking Bucket List. They’re softer, more tender, and much more flavorful with a healthy dose of vanilla. They would really make a dessert like a Charlotte shine. But when making tiramisu, their job really is “just” to absorb the flavors of the espresso and mascarpone fillings. Here, the store-bought, nearly flavorless cookies do just fine.

But make them one, cross them off your list, and feel super, super accomplished. And then sweep up the half bag of powdered sugar you dropped on the kitchen floor.

And the console yourself with a glass full of tiramisu.

Individual Tiramisu

The recipe got “it’s good, but…” reviews from some of the other PPQ members last week. Having the advantage of listening to those reviews, I mostly abandoned the recipe for the soaking syrup and filling, opting to strip them down for a minimalist approach instead. The full recipe, in all it’s gigantic, boozy (Kahlua! Rum! More Kahlua!), 9×13 glory is over at 20 Something Cupcakes. It’s a doozy!

I stayed true to the recipe for the lady fingers and ended up with 5 dozen cookies (enough for 10 individual servings; I only used ~2 dozen for 4 servings and then froze the rest). The cookies are much softer than their store-bought counterparts so you have to be quick when dunking the cookies. Because I was assembling the cookies vertically, I found it better to only dunk the top half of the cookie, and then let the espresso slowly work its way down the entire cookie while the dessert is chilling in the fridge. This worked better than dunking the entire cookie because most of the espresso from the cookies that line the edge of the glasses ended up at the bottom after day 2 in the fridge while the half-dunked cookies were perfect.

The presentation with of the individual servings, while more work, is much nicer than family-style – you can see the striated layers of mascarpone and espresso-mascarpone through the sides of the cup. And the “individual” servings are actually quite generous – and amazingly, wonderfully rich. Consider sharing them with a friend.

Or not. I won’t judge.

Individual Tiramisu

Individual servings of tiramisu with alternating espresso and mascarpone fillings. And if you want - homemade ladyfingers!

Ingredients

  • For the soaking syrup:
  • 1/2 cup strongly-brewed coffee or espresso
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • For the filling:
  • 8 oz reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 8 oz mascarpone
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp strongly-brewed coffee or espresso
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • For assembly:
  • 4 8-oz clear plastic cups or ramekins
  • 24 ladyfingers, purchased or homemade
  • 1 oz semisweet chocolate, grated

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, mix espresso and sugar, stirring until the sugar has disolved.
  2. Set aside to cool.
  3. With your mixer, cream the mascaropone, cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar on medium-high for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. The mixture should feel smooth (not gritty) when rubbed between your fingers.
  4. Remove half of the mascarpone mixture and transfer it to a smaller bowl.
  5. Add 2 Tbsp of espresso and mix well.
  6. Add 2 Tbsp milk to the remaining filling and mix (this is just to thin the filling, the type of milk - whole, skim, etc - does not matter) well.
  7. Trim the ladyfingers so that they come just below the top rim of the cups. Reserve the excess pieces. (The trimmed ends of the cookie are "the bottoms," the rounded uncut ends are "the top.")
  8. Working with one ladyfinger and one serving at a time, quickly dunk the top half of the cookie into the soaking syrup and place in the plastic cup coffee-end (top) up.
  9. Repeat with 3 more lady fingers, arranging them around the cup (if your ladyfingers are thin, you might need to use more than 4).
  10. Place one of the reserved trimmed ends of the cookies into the bottom, followed by a spoonful of the espresso filling, the plain filling, and top with more ladyfinger pieces (when you run out of trimmed pieces, tear additional ladyfingers into small pieces to fit the next layer). Repeat 2 more times to fill the cup.
  11. Sprinkle grated chocolate over the top.
  12. Repeat the process for the remaining servings.
  13. Loosely cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

Notes

Yields: 4 servings

Adapted from The Pastry Queen

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Grapefruit Creme Brulee

This week’s Project Pastry Queen challenge was selected by Sarah of 20 Something Cupcakes: Espresso Creme Brulee.

With a broken oven and no one else in the house on-board with a coffee-flavored dessert, I was going to take a pass. But then my oven came in a week early. So we celebrated. With Grapefruit Creme Brulee.

Creme Brulee is not hard to make. Not at all. And Sarah can prove it – she has a video posted to go along with the recipe.

I at least stuck to the spirit of the challenge this week… but I’m afraid not much else :)

Grapefruit Creme Brulee

I scaled the recipe down by 2/3 to accommodate a generous 2-serving dessert, and then adjusted some of the odd-ball measurements. Like 2.33333 egg yolks. Because that was just not going to happen.

I infused the custard with citrus flavor by heating grapefruit zest with the cream and letting the mixture rest. And then I rubbed a little grapefruit zest with granulated sugar and used that for the bruleed topping. The resulting creme brulee has pronounced citrus and grapefruit notes without the overwhelming bitterness of the fresh fruit. Although, I happen to adore fresh grapefruit.

And I’m so glad I didn’t make a full batch! After calculating the nutritional information, we ended up splitting a dessert for 2 nights instead of eating it all the first night :)

Grapefruit Creme Brulee

Creme brulee infused with grapefruit. Use your favorite variety of grapefruit. If you are so lucky to have Texas grapefruit in your produce department, grab one!

Ingredients

  • 1 grapefruit, zested (and segmented, if desired)
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup + 4 tsp sugar

Instructions

  1. Reserve a pinch of grapefruit zest (~1/2-1 tsp), and put the rest in a small sauce pan along with the cream and sugar.
  2. Heat until very hot and steaming (but not boiling).
  3. Remove from heat and let rest while oven is preheating to 300.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
  5. Reheat the cream mixture until very hot (again, don't boil).
  6. Strain 1/4 cup of the cream mixture into the egg yolks, while whisking (this will temper the eggs and prevent scrambled eggs).
  7. Strain the rest of the cream mixture into the yolk mixture and whisk thoroughly.
  8. Divide custard between two 6 oz baking dishes and place in larger pan.
  9. Carefully pour very hot water into the pan, taking care not to splash water into the custard, until it comes halfway up the creme brulee dishes.
  10. Transfer to the oven and bake ~35 minutes, until set - the center should jiggle but not be fluid.
  11. Remove baking dishes from the water bath and let cool for 20 minutes, before transferring to the fridge uncovered to chill thoroughly.
  12. Preheat broiler.
  13. Massage the reserved grapefruit zest with the remaining 4 tsp sugar.
  14. Evenly sprinkle over the baking dishes and broil for 1-2 minutes, until the sugar has melted and caramelized (a kitchen torch can accomplish the same task).
  15. Serve garnished with chopped grapefruit segments, if desired.

Notes

Yields: 2 servings

Heavily revised from The Pastry Queen

Estimated time: 3 hours

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Dark Chocolate Mousse

Soft, creamy, chocolate mousse. Smooth, almost pudding-like, chocolate mousse. Rich, super chocolatey mousse. If you’ve never tried it, it’s unbelievably easy to make at home.

You crack some eggs. You melt some chocolate. You whip some cream. You have a fantastic dessert that’s perfect for date night, Valentine’s Day, or my favorite reason: just because. Continue Reading…

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