Ooooh yes, you read that right. Mocha. Mousse. Filling.
But back to the chocolate…
A darling friend of mine called me up to tell me that she and her husband were coming to the city to celebrate his birthday. We started making plans, which included a birthday cake for him, so I had to ask, “what kind of cake would he enjoy?”. Her answer was “chocolate on chocolate on chocolate.” Of course that was her answer. Did you see her birthday cake last summer? She then added, “he really loves coffee, too.”
YES! Do you know how well coffee and chocolate pair together? It’s incredible. And it’s a great way for me to differentiate between his cake and her cake (although I don’t think anyone would have complained about a replica of her cake).
I’ve made chocolate mousse a few different ways in my time, but the way I made it this time was so simple, quick, and delicious - but sometimes intimidating. Usually I make whipped cream or meringue and fold it into my chocolate to make my mousse for serving on its own as a dessert (like these ancho chile chocolate mousse cups). But this time I used gelatin and coffee to make the fluffy stabilizing base of the mousse instead of whipping air into one ingredient and folding the mixtures together.
The difference is that the other types of mousse making that I described tend to deflate quickly and the cream reverts back into a liquid, so you have a separated bowl of ingredients instead of mousse after a few days (for those of us who don’t lick the bowl clean in a day). Gelatin adds structure to the ingredients so that it holds onto the air longer and is generally a stronger substance - strong enough, say, to hold up several other layers of cake.
I know, I know, I’m not making any sense. Let’s break it down. Gelatin is a stabilizing and strengthening ingredient for desserts like marshmallows and mousses. It’s the reason your Jello firms up when you make the box mix of brightly colored powder into a hot liquid, pop it into your fridge for a few hours, and then eat wiggly sweets.
To use gelatin packets, you must “bloom” the gelatin first - simply put, you add cold water to the powdered substance and let the powder absorb the water. BLOOM.
When it does this, it becomes a solid mass that really isn’t useful until you melt it back into a liquid. Instead of microwaving the gelatin to heat it, I poured hot coffee onto the gelatin to melt it, then whisked it together to fully incorporate the two ingredients.
As the coffee/gelatin cooled off, I started whipping my heavy cream and added the
coffee/gelatin mixture so that the heavy cream would have a robust coffee flavor, and as the air whipped into the heavy cream, it would be a stable structure to hold up to the weight of cake layers.
Clear as mud, right?
I thought so.
Listen, all you really need to know is that if you need a stable structure for your mousse, be sure to add gelatin. If you’re serving it on its own within the next day or two, you don’t need to stabilize it with gelatin.
Back to this coffee mousse. Knowing how much they love chocolate, I figured adding chocolate into the mousse wouldn’t be such a bad idea anyway, so I changed the mousse from just coffee to mocha and it really paid off. When he arrived, he was so excited that he took a photo of the cake and said that he had never had a professionally made cake before, which made me 10 times happier that I could surprise him with this cake!
I also topped the cake with birthday cake flavored macarons, coffee macarons, and some of my salted chocolate chip cookies, along with a big sparkly topper that proclaimed “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”! (Every man’s dream, really.) Before I snapped the photos, he was already pulling macarons off the top to snack on, which I had no problem with because hey, they’re his cookies!
To continue the birthday celebrations, we went out for dinner and margaritas, came back to my apartment for cake and wine, wine, wine, then grappled with some hangovers the next day before packing up the cake and sending it home with them for prolonged enjoyment.
Happy eating, y’all!
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