I was in a petulant mood when I went to Whole Foods on Friday morning. It was the third grocery store I'd gone to in my search for blackberry tea, and I was irritated at myself for spending so much time tracking down an ingredient that was, after all, only going to flavor 1/4 cup of liquid. I was sure the tea wasn't crucial, but I wanted to find it. And I didn't really know how I felt about making the last cake in this project. But I found the tea--at least I found black raspberry, and I decided that was close enough.
And I also found some nice chocolate: a hunk of Callebaut and some Cordillera 59% discs (it's a chocolate I'd never heard of--made in Colombia and very good).
When the nice young woman at the checkout counter was ringing up my purchases, she looked at the chocolate, cream, and blackberries, and said, "It looks like you're making something fancy."
"I am," I allowed.
NYW: "What is it?"
Me: "A sort of chocolate-blackberry mousse cake."
NYW: "That sounds amazing!. Where did you get the recipe?"
Me: "Rose's Heavenly Cakes. It's by Rose Levy Beranbaum...I don't know if you're familiar with her,..."
NYW: "Of course I am. She's famous! Is the tea for this too?"
Me: "Yes--I've been looking all over for it."
NYW: "You'll have so much fun making this. I know it will be fabulous!"
Her enthusiasm helped remind me of the general awesomeness and fabulousness of the project and the cakes and the bakers, and I was actually whistling a happy tune by the time I got home.
A good thing because I spent the rest of the afternoon making the blackberry mousse and dirtying every pot, pan, and bowl in my cupboards. The mousse is made in two parts: the blackberry sabayon and the rest. A sabayon, kissing cousin to the Italian zabaglione, is characterized by beating a lot of egg yolks and sugar over simmering water.
Since this involves about 10 minutes of constant whisking, if you made a sabayon every day, your whisking arm would probably become quite toned.
This sabayon also contains the elusive blackberry tea (one-quarter cup; drink what's left in the cup), some chocolate, and a little cream.
Put the sabayon aside to cool, and on with the rest of the mousse. The first step to making a smooth blackberry puree is to whirl the blackberries in the food processor.
See all the seeds whirling about? That means that the next step is one of my least favorite things to do: pressing the berries through a sieve so the puree becomes seedless.
Heat the puree with gelatin.
Melt more chocolate in more cream.
Whip still more cream.
Then mix everything, including the sabayon, together, and pour it into the purple silicone mold that you've borrowed from Woody.
Put it in the freezer, and you're done for the day. Simple enough, right? I was trying to figure out why it took me so long when it really wasn't that complicated. I realized that there was a lot of cooling time involved. Also a lot of recipe reading--I must have read every paragraph two or three times. I didn't want to have to admit screwing up my final cake!
Woody said he'd come over to watch (over) me as I completed My Last Cake, so I waited until he finished his Saturday t'ai chi class before making the cake. Nothing to it! Just a little flourless mousse cake. Woody discombobulated me by suggesting that the instructions in my book were wrong. "I think the oven rack should be in the middle, not the lower third" he said.
"Woody! Are you saying that Rose is wrong?" I was shocked.
"No, I'm just saying you should check the actual book--not the proofs you're using."
I sighed my martyr sigh and checked the "real" book. Ha. The recipe says that the rack should be in the lower third. I kept it there and started chopping and melting more chocolate. How much chocolate is in this cake? I count a total of 11 ounces plus nearly 2 ounces of cocoa for the glaze. Chocolate has become a staple in my house now, along with butter and cream.
My last picture of the miraculous transformation of sunny yellow egg yolks into this creamy mixture:
I love it when that happens. For some reason, it amazes me more than the transformation of egg whites into meringue.
The egg-yolk/chocolate mixture is pretty solid, so it takes some muscle power to fold the egg whites into it, but it ends up being a smooth batter that pours neatly into a parchment-lined half-sheet pan.
Done in just 12 minutes. To satisfy Woody, who is always complaining that I don't take sufficient notes from my baking, I cross out "15," and write a big "12" in the margin of the book. He beams. I expect him to start calling me grasshopper.
We take a break while the cake is cooling and watch Rose on Martha Stewart's show. We like the part where Rose gives Martha permission not to measure the vanilla.
Back to work. I've done a lot of searching for the right-sized circular object to use as my cake template. It turns out to be a lid from a set of Ikea plastic storage bowls.
I ask Woody why we have to make so much cake to get one lousy circle. He doesn't really know, but after I taste it, I stop complaining. It's really good--moist and seriously chocolatey. I don't mind having all those scraps.
More waiting while one of the cake rounds cools and firms up in the refrigerator, so it must be time to make the final component: the black lacquer glaze. Of course, this is the fourth time we've made the lacquer glaze, so it's not quite so wondrous as it was the first time. It turns out just about perfect, and all I have to do is let it cool.
Woody, bless his heart, has brought a bottle of champagne to celebrate the successful completion of the project, but he refuses to let me break it open until I finish making the glaze. I think he's afraid I'll get too snockered to do it.
The front pages of the cookbook finally fall off. They'd been hanging by a thread for the last month or so, and finally gave way. I hated to use my real book for all these recipes--I like the way it's still in pristine shape.
Cheers! Here's to Rose, Rose's Heavenly Cakes, and all the Heavenly Cake Bakers!
The frozen mousse came out of the mold without a hitch.
Just a few remaining steps--pour the cooled glaze over the bombe. It seems extra glossy this time.
I think I'm being unusually careful, but it still turns out that there are a few spots that I've missed. Oh well. If I wanted perfection, I'd pay somebody else to do it.
There's more waiting until we can cut into the cake and try it. As usual, I'm impatient, and can't wait the full two hours, so the mousse is still a little frozen. If you eat slowly and patiently, there's time for the outer edges to warm up so the mousse is the proper consistency. But it's still delicious even if it's frozen--like a fabulous grown-up fudgsicle.
Wow--what a great cake to end with! Although it's time-consuming, it's really not difficult (transferring the glazed cake to the platter was the hardest thing about it). And such great flavors--the thin layer of cake on the bottom tastes like pure chocolate. The mousse is more subtle, both in flavor and texture; the marriage of blackberries and chocolate is one made in heaven; and the rich cocoa glaze adds a third dimension. It's a good thing I broke my one-piece rule long ago.
Jim: "I like the slight berry taste with the chocolate, and the different chocolate flavors. And it was also very pretty. The glaze stayed shiny without the hair dryer."
Karen: "Really rich, but really, really good."
Woody: "Rapturously good--that means it's uplifting. A fitting finale to two years of baking."