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Dessert Palour for Your Consideration, Please?

After graduating from high school, I had the opportunity to become independent by waitressing part-time at a cafe located downtown. It was truely a humbling experience, having to learn everything from scratch. I found out working was tough and wished I could just go back to school but luckily my best friend, who was working there too, kept me sane! That stint was a blessing in disguise, for I earned enough keeps to have the means to eat more 'upscale' and discovered the most wonderful chocolate mousse cake. Of course 'upscale' is relative but at that point in my life, it meant an establishment with someone showing you the table, a place that charged a service fee, oh, just somewhere different from a food court. Don't get me wrong though, I still enjoy eating at food courts, but to be able to go to an upscale restaurant without my parents really meant a lot to me.

The said cake was found at Marche, a French marketplace-type concept chain restaurant, and can still be found there today. The dessert had an ideal ratio of chocolate sponge cake to a slightly bittersweet mousse of just the right consistency. Notice I used "wonderful" and not stronger adjectives like "amazing" or "heavenly" etc. The cake was deliciously good, heck, above average good and consistently good, as I found out after my 5-year hiatus, upon my return from the US. But to bring me to heavenly heights, I need to see the full works. But the presentation, or rather lack-of, was simply a slice of cake onto a plate. But then again, for less than $5 a portion, what can I expect? Anyway, after J and I got together, I introduced him to my favourite mousse and instantly made him a fan too! Ok, I'm drooling as I blog this, so maybe I should make a trip to Marche soon!

Back on topic. February marked two of my long-time friends' birthdays and the usual bunch of us decided to hold a mini celebration for them. Of course, given my track records, yours truely had been requested to make a birthday cake for the occasion. I pondered, just a tad while, and decided to make a chocolate mousse cake. Using the recipe found here, I embarked on the first step towards creating my own signature mousse cake. I did make a few mistakes changes here and there, and unashamingly share those with you folks out there.

I had little time so I decided to prepare the cake in several stages. First the cake. The change was that I replaced 1/3 cup of white flour with cocoa powder to intensify the chocolate flavour. I also baked it for nearly 45 minutes. Everything was going smoothly until I tried to remove the parchment paper off the bottom. I am ashamed to admit, given my experience with the oven, but I failed to butter the parchment paper, which resulted in me having to slice off the paper stuck on the bottom. The cake was a bit too dense, which could be a result of the sugar settling at the bottom. So it became rather cookie-like, instead of a light sponge.

The syrup came next. Nothing really special there except I used rum instead of whisky just because I did not have any at hand.

Then came the mousse. To save time, I wanted to shave the chocolate curls while whipping the cream. Bad move because I had failed to monitor the development of the whipped cream and found that 'Hey, I made butter!' the next time I looked around. Luckily, I had another pack available, but it was a 200 ml pack and in light of lack of time to purchase another, I just went for it. As a result, the mousse could have been heavier than desired. I chilled it overnight before assembling the cake.

Assembling the cake was a challenge. That was the first time I tried layering a cake and managed to slice it into 3 uneven layers. I used the syrup generously, not wanting to waste the alchohol and also an attempt to soften the cookie-like cake a little. After spreading on the mousse, I refrigerated the cake for about 6 hours til I came home before the party. Due to lack of time, I skipped the chocolate bands and chose to throw more chocolate curls all around the sides as well as the top.

The mousse don't seem to hold up very well so it was melting by the time I got to the party. I was frantic that my cake was falling apart and got myself quite stressed. Looking back now, I would just lightly brush on some whisky on the sponge and use the right amount of cream for the mousse. Perhaps, I should have gotten help from a bit of gelatin to extend the holding power. But would I make the recipe again? Not really, since I have another recipe waiting to be tried and tested.

The final deliverance, for me, came after we did the usual birthday routine of gathering people around, sing the birthday song, take pictures, blow candles and finally, cut the cake. The friends oohed and ahhed, 'begging' me to consider opening a dessert palour soon, all the while non-stop spooning more of my love into their mouths. That was good enough to relief any stress from my mousse-making experience and was encouragement for me to press on towards being a better dessert chef.

Maybe soon, my dear friends, real soon.


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