Anyone out there hosting Thanksgiving this year? If so, I got two things to say to you.
One: Mad props. Until I started spending significant time in the kitchen, I don’t think I ever had the slightest idea of how big of a task hosting Thanksgiving dinner was. Even when I’m just having a handful of people for a regular Saturday night dinner, it still takes a pretty decent amount of time, effort, planning, and moolah to make everything come together. But change a handful of people to ten…twelve…twenty?…people? And change regular Saturday night dinner to longstanding American tradition rife with complex and conflicting expectations? Oof! I tip my hat to you, hosters-of-Thanksgiving. I would be lost.
Second thing: avert your eyes. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving and responsible for turkeys and stuffing and mashed potatoes and candied yams and all those traditional, important, and expected things, there’s definitely nothing helpful I can say to you.
But. If you’re not hosting Thanksgiving, but rather attending someone else’s Thanksgiving and expected to bring a dessert or side dish — then I’ve got the dessert for you. This takes some time, some effort, and more dirty dishes than I really cared to do, but the end result was a total show-stopper. Gorgeous, elegant, decadent, delicious. And if someone is going to all the trouble of hosting you for Thanksgiving, the least you can do is bring a show-stopping dessert right?
TRIPLE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE (recipe from Annie’s Eats)
Ingredients for the bottom layer:
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces (plus more to grease pan)
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (a little more than 1 cup)
3/4 tsp instant espresso powder (I wasn’t going to pay $15 for espresso powder, so I finely ground up instant coffee granules)
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
Ingredients for the middle layer:
2 tbsp cocoa powder
5 tbsp hot water
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (again, a little more than 1 cup)
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Ingredients for the top layer:
3/4 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin (found in baking aisle)
1 tbsp water
6 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped (1 cup)
1 and 1/2 cups heavy cream
chocolate curls or cocoa powder, for garnish
[Quick note before you start – I used the same stand mixer bowl, whisk, rubber spatula, and saucepan for all three layers here — I just washed them in between. That’ll cut down on your total dirty dishes, but sadly not on your time.]
1. To make the bottom layer: Butter bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan and preheat oven to 325. Combine 6 tbsp butter, bittersweet chocolate, and espresso powder in large heatproof bowl set over simmering water. Stir occasionally until the mixture is smooth (I just used a medium saucepan set over the lowest possible heat, watching it carefully to make sure it didn’t burn). Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla and 4 egg yolks. Set aside.
2. In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add half the brown sugar, crumbling with your fingers to remove any lumps. Beat until incorporated (10-15 seconds), then add remaining brown sugar and continue beating on high speed until stiff peaks form (another minute or so). Using whisk, mix one-third of the beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture. Once incorporated, fold in remaining egg white mixture gently with rubber spatula until no streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared springform pan, smoothing top with spatula.
3. Bake until cake has risen, is firm around edges, and center has just set but is still soft, about 14-18 minutes (mine took 15). Remove cake from oven and cool completely, at least 1 hour (do not remove the cake from pan. If you’re not making the second layer right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready).
4. To make second layer: Whisk together cocoa powder and hot water in small bowl; set aside. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Once melted, remove from the heat and let cool slightly, 2-5 minutes.
5. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 1 and 1/2 cups cream, sugar, and salt on medium speed until mixture begins to thicken (30 seconds). Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds. Add cocoa powder mixture and whisk until smooth. Using whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream mixture into chocolate mixture, then fold in remaining whipped cream gently with rubber spatula until no streaks remain. Pour mousse on top of cooled cake in springform pan and tap gently on a few times to remove air bubbles. Gently smooth top with a spatula. Wipe inside edge of pan to remove any stray drips and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes while preparing top layer.
6. To make top layer: Sprinkle 3/4 tsp gelatin over 1 tbsp water in small bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in medium (heatproof) bowl. In small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup cream to boiling. Remove pan from heat, add gelatin mixture, and stir until dissolved. Pour hot cream mixture over white chocolate and let stand about 1 minute. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool to room temperature (5-8 minutes), stirring occasionally.
7. In clean bowl of stand mixer (ugh, I know, again) fitted with whisk attachment, whip remaining 1 cup cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 30-60 seconds. Using whisk, mix one-third of the whipped cream to white chocolate mixture, then fold in remaining whipped cream gently with rubber spatula until no streaks remain. Carefully spoon white chocolate mousse into pan over bottom and middle layer of cake. Smooth top with spatula, then return cake to refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2 and 1/2 hours. If you want to cover your pan, I suggest using aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap, as the plastic wrap will ruin the pristine top layer if it touches it at all).
8. Before serving, top with chocolate curls or sprinkle with cocoa powder.
Ahhhh yeah. Guaranteed Thanksgiving winner…or anytime winner, really. I made this one night when we had some friends over for dinner, and I was not at all sad to have it in my fridge the rest of the week…though perhaps my waistline was…