May 15, 2011

Zach's La Bomba

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!

Day Two:
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."


Katya said...

can't start mine until tomorrow night because I have to deal with graduation festivities, but what a wonderful heavenly graduation for you

Marie said...

I hadn't thought of it as a graduation, but now that you said it, that's just what it was--and, yes, quite heavenly.

Melinda said...

You are the bomb, Marie! Congratulations on all the beautiful cakes and friends you have made on this baking odyssey.
You are incredible. But I knew that a long time ago!

Vicki said...

It is a sad day in La Bombaville. I honestly won't know what to do on Sundays without your hilarious write ups and Jim's great photo's. Have to admit I'm dragging my feet with chocolate bomb. Your's looks perfect. FYI, my book fell out of the cover completely a month ago. The cake strips are deteriorating.

NancyB said...

Three cheers for your last RHC! It was indeed a good one to finish on, as it's very much a typical Rose cake on the complex end of the spectrum.

Mine's baked but not blogged yet--I hope to have the La Bomba post and one with thumbnails of all the cakes up tonight or tomorrow.

Monica said...

Oh wow.. you have come to the end?!?!?! when did that happen? boo hoo, like Vicki, I'm so going to miss your write ups (even thought I get them when you post for Gutsy cooks, but still .....!) It has been a pleasure to bake alongside with your this past year and half!

Your last cake looks beautiful, I got sick over the weekend and just resurface, I have a WF in town and that was going to be my frist pit stop for the tea, I'm going to try my hardest to make this over the week.

Lois B said...

Congratulations,Marie. What an accomplishment! This is such an encouraging group that a friend (who writes a baseball blog) asked if I paid you all for those wonderful comments. :D

Mendy said...


Oh my Gosh! You really did it! Congratulations! I'm going to have to try and join in for this one.

Marie said...

The bomb--I love it. That's what I should have titled the post. We've followed each other's baking exploits for many years. Now that this project is done, it must be time to reinstitute the Lazy Bakers.

I've never had a cookbook get so much use, with the possible exception of The Bread Bible.

Thumbnail sketches of all the cakes? That sounds like a huge project itself--can't wait to read it!

Marie said...

I'm so sorry you got sick! You must try this cake--I know how much you love the seven-page recipes!

Don't let people knowmthat I paid for my trip to France by extracting payment for writing compliments. It's really pretty easy to compliment people who deserve compliments.

NancyB said...

Thumbnail pictures, actually. Much easier than sketches!

Marie said...

Unpack those boxes and bake this cake! We miss you.

Tamar said...

I have loved following this blog. I wish I had joined you! Thanks for all of you have done. I hope it was a delicious process.

jini said...


it looks amazing and sounds pretty tasty. berries and chocolate, what could be wrong??

Rose Levy Beranbaum said...

wow, marie!!! you sure ended with a explosion of excellence! it couldn't have looked more perfect.

i'll be posting something on the blog this week.

Lots of love and congratulations to a great baker (you!)

Zach said...

Hello! So glad you enjoyed it and maade it did a great job and how nice to see someone conquer it. The cake was originally called Manjari because I use Valrhona Manjari 64% cacao which is perfect for a blackfruit pairing of the chocolate and tea due to its blackfruit undertones. If you can, try it with Manjari.

Also, to answer your question, I make a half sheet of cake circles because I usually make more than one cake at a time for my purposes. However, if wrapped well they will freeze for a really long time or they are great with a dollop of ice cream on top if you feel you won't be using the remainder.

It takes some practice to master getting both the sabayon and the mousse to stay well aerated, and even more so when folded together so that they filling fills the mold nearly to the top.

Congrats! Zach

hector said...

Marie and friends, happy graduation! mine is yet to achieve...

Marie said...

It's not too late to join in! Jenn will be leading the catch-up club.

No leftovers, alas. I took a big chunk to a friend of mine with two kids. I wasn't sure if the kids would like it, but they did. If only I'd had a camera to get the picture of adorable two-year-old Nora with a big grin and a blob of chocolate on her nose.

That's a very tactful way of saying my mousse wasn't quite high enough. :-) I'll have to try it again with the Manjari chocolate--but it's hard to imagine that it could have tasted much better than it did.

If only you had more bad-weather baking days in Honolulu.

Zach said...

Marie, I did say that because I noticed the mousse in the la bomba mold was a bit lower than usual, but like I said, it takes some practice with the folding.

Definitely sabayon by hand can be difficult. A hand mixer works great and is super easy, the speed can be controlled and your arm is spared. The time goes by much faster that way, plus you get better aeration because folding the chocolate and cream into the sabayon obviously results in some deflation, so the the fluffier the sabayon the better - but great job!

evil cake lady said...

Zach! I was thinking about cheating and using the hand mixer but now you've convinced me that's the way to go! I'm so glad you said that.

Marie! Congratulations on your perfectly wonderful Bomba, what a way to complete this bake-through! I am happy for you, and yet so sad for myself, as I, like the others, will be missing your bi-weekly posts. What will you do now?

I'm still trying to find the time to make my bomba--the cake is made (and the scraps are delicious frosted with nutella), just gotta do the other 90% of the cake. Hopefully tomorrow.

NancyB said...

Zach--thanks for the great hints, because I had the same experience as Marie: long hand-beating on the sabayon and not getting the mold that full. If I try it again I'll hunt for the Valrhona Manjari chocolate, use a hand mixer, and work on keeping the mixtures better aerated.

However, it was a wonderful dessert even in my flawed execution. Thanks for sharing it!

Marie said...

Any baking credit has to go to you!

Best cake scraps ever--I took a little overnight trip and when I got back, they were all gone. Jim liked them too.

Andrea said...

Marie, your cake looks perfect! Thanks for allowing me to bake and blog along with you (at least part of the time). One of these days I will make it through all of the recipes in this book. I did bake the cupcakes last weekend, but I just haven't had the time or energy to sit down and blog about them. It's amazing how much energy pregnancy takes from me. :)

doughadear said...

This is a lovely bomb for the last cake of the project. Congratulations!

Nicola said...

Oh wow. This is actually making me cry.

A beautiful finale.

I can't believe you have finished.

Thank you so much for being such a gracious, inspiring and tolerant hostess!

I was kind of hoping that the Wholefoods checkout chick said something along the lines of how she slavishly read your blog and had been amazed to meet you in the flesh.

What next Marie?

Anonymous said...

De-lurking to applaud your achievement! I have enjoyed reading up on your accomplishments for over a year now. Brava!

Kate said...

What a fabulous way to end!

One sign that this blog's been sticking with me is that I keep noticing when the ingredients you were searching for show up someplace.

Coffee & Tea Ltd in Linden Hills has black tea flavored with blackberry as well has herbal blackberry tea. Did Rose specify which she meant?

They also have black teas flavored with black current or raspberry. They won't be cheap but there's a good bet that the flavor will be present rather than washed-out.

Avianti Jewelry said...

This cake looks delicious, I love the shape of it, so different!

Luther King said...

Awesome and just good as the Cake looks and Magnificent work on the Cake