Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mango Mousse Cake: How To Fool People Into Thinking You've Done A Lot Of Work

Some recipes produce food that tastes amazing but doesn't look like something you'd ever want to put in your mouth.
This is something called "chicken bog" and while it's supposed to taste good, you won't catch me trying it.
Some recipes produce food that looks amazing but doesn't taste very good or is difficult to eat because of the presentation.  This is my personal pet peeve: I don't care how lovely it looks on the plate if I can't eat it.

Somebody made Stonehenge out of lettuce and toasted bread.  To eat this, you need to take the bread off, knock the lettuce over, slice it up, put it and the tuna tartar on the bread, and possibly slice that as well.
The magic recipe results in food that looks and tastes amazing.  The absolutely best recipes on the planet are magic recipes that are also easy to make.  When you've found one of those, never loose it.  It's the baking equivalent of a flying unicorn that draws rainbows across the sky.

Mousse cakes are almost always "magic recipes".  There may be a small amount of baking involved, but the mousse itself is made by mixing whipped cream with a flavored, stabilized base which is put in the refrigerator to chill and solidify.  That's it.

The complications in a mousse cake only come from how fancy you want to make it.  A mousse with three or four different flavors?  A mousse cake with five layers?  A mousse cake with differently colored cake layers?  All these are options that may make the cake better but certainly aren't required.

The key to making an amazing mousse cake is to use well-flavored ingredients.  If you're going to make a chocolate mousse cake, don't use low quality chocolate.  Hershey chocolate bars are wonderful for s'mores but terrible for cakes.

My personal favorite mousse cake is mango mousse cake because I love mangoes that much.  Unfortunately it can be difficult to get quality mangoes on the east coast, especially if it's not mango season.  Trader Joe's sells bags of frozen mango chunks during mango season.  If you've got enough freezer space, I recommend storing 2-4 bags of mango chunks so you can have them at hand year-round.  I don't have enough freezer space to do this, but I would if I could.

This recipe was adapted from three different mango mousse cake recipes that I found online on websites that are now dead.  The original sponge and mousse recipes show up here; they claim that the recipe is originally from Bon Appetit Magazine (July 1992).

Frosting is never an appropriate topper for a mousse cake (because I said so, that's why) so I like to use a mirror or fresh fruit instead.  A mirror is the mousse without the whipped cream, so it's somewhat opaque and looks amazing when you take the cake out of the springform pan.

Tips: A springform pan has a removable side (called the ring).  The ring clips around the bottom, and the bottom sits in an interior lip in the ring so that batter cannot escape.  If you want to make this recipe without a springform pan, bake the cakes in regular cake pans.  Take them out of the pans and let them cool.  Place one cake on a flat plate.  Wrap and secure a 6-inch strip of parchment paper around the cake and pour the mousse into the "bowl".  Follow the rest of the recipe using this "bowl" instead of the springform pan.

Not all springform pans have a textured bottom.
To get the cake out of the springform pan to serve it, run an offset spatula or a butter knife under hot water for 1-2 minutes, until it's warm to the touch.  Then slide it around the edge of the pan (all the way to the bottom) to loosen the cake and mousse away from the walls of the pan.  Open the ring and lift it up, over the cake.

This recipe uses gelatin as a stabilizer but you can use a vegetarian version if you want.  I don't know of a vegan substitute for the eggs and dairy.

Mango Mousse Cake

Appears to come from Bon Appetit, July 1992.


1/2 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Mango Mousse
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1 package unflavored gelatin
2 1/2 pounds large ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, chopped *
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup chilled whipping cream

Mango Mirror
1/2 packet gelatin
1/4 cup orange liquor
2 tablespoons sugar (or more, to taste)
1 cup pureed mangoes *

* Two bags of frozen mango chunks from Trader Joe's should get you the right amount of mango puree.  Make sure you defrost them completely or they won't puree in a food processor.

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Butter 2 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of cake pans with waxed paper. Butter paper and dust lightly with flour.

Sift flour and baking powder into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and yolks in large bowl until frothy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until pale yellow and slowly dissolving ribbon forms when beaters are lifted, about 4 minutes. Fold in flour mixture. Fold 1 heaping tablespoon batter into melted butter. Fold butter mixture back into batter. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake until cakes are just golden brown around edges and toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Cool cakes completely in pans on rack.

For mousse:
Pour liqueur into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over. Let gelatin soften 10 minutes. Puree mangoes in processor. Measure puree and return 2 1/2 cups to work bowl of processor (reserve remainder for garnish). Add sugar to mango puree in processor and blend well. Set bowl of gelatin in saucepan of simmering water. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Add gelatin mixture to mango in processor and blend. Whip cream in large bowl to soft peaks. Fold in mango mixture.

Transfer 1 cake layer to 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Spread mango mousse over cake. Place second cake layer atop mousse. Press lightly. Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate at least 4 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.)

For mirror:
Pour 1/2 packet gelatin into liquor, let sit 5 minutes to bloom.  When dark and solid, microwave for 10-15 seconds to liquefy.  Pour gelatin mixture into 1 cup mango puree.  Add sugar to taste.  Pour mirror on top of solidified mango mousse - the mousse and cake need to have been in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours or until the mousse is quite firm to the touch.  When you pour the mirror on top, be sure to pour from a low height so the mirror liquid doesn't make a dent in the mousse.  Put the cake back in the fridge for another 4 hours or so.

This is what "forming ribbons" looks like.  Eggs and yolks beaten with sugar until the imprint of the stream is visible when you lift the (turned off) beaters.

Fold the flour carefully into the batter.  You don't want to beat out all of the air from the eggs.

Yes, you really should do the step where you mix batter into the melted butter and then mix that into the rest of the batter.  It helps the melted butter be incorporated evenly without loosing air from the eggs.

Batter ready to pour into prepared pans.  If you have a large serving spoon, use that to evenly divide your batter instead of picking up the large bowl and pouring.  One spoonfull in one pan, one spoonfull in the other pan means that the batter really is evenly divided and you skip the mess from pouring out of the bowl.

The batter should have visible air bubble when you put it in the oven.

Blooming gelatin: the powder has become more solid, darker, and has soaked up some of the liquid.

Mixing the mango puree with the whipped cream to make the mousse.

What the mousse should look like.  Remember to do a taste test here because you can't add anything once it's been chilled.

Cake on the bottom of the springform pan with all of the mousse on top.  It will seem like you have too much mousse but it will only fill up two-thirds of the pan.
Chilled mousse has had the second layer of cake and the mirror poured over it.  Now it goes back in the fridge for at least 4 hours.  I usually make this cake the day before I need it and refrigerate it overnight.

Four layers: cake, mousse, cake, mirror.  Ignore the blueberries.

No comments:

Post a Comment