10 layers of moist chocolate cake with alternating layers of rich, creamy chocolate and caramel mousses. Can you say, birthday cake?!
A couple weeks ago I turned 38. Real talk? I can no longer round down to 30. It’s round up to 40 time, people. Honestly – I’m OK with it. Turning 40 in a couple of years is no big deal. Because I look good, dammit. And let me tell you, in these almost 40 years of life I’ve lived through lots, and learned loads.
Can I share some of my “Almost 40” wisdom with you?
In no particular order, flow with me.
- Never purchase anything full price. If you wait long enough, it will always go on sale. Always.
- Your life needs a soundtrack. Get on that.
- If you want to sing out, sing out. And if you want to be free, be free.
- There is nothing wrong with watching cartoons.
- Beauty fades. Don’t use it to get by on life.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. You were brought into this world with certain gifts. Embrace those. Excel on what the universe gave you, not the universe gave your friend.
- Nature really does want to please you. Don’t take it for granted.
- No matter how old you are you will be immature. At least several times a year. It’s OK. You always find your way back.
- On that note, being a grownup blows chunks sometimes.
- Wrinkle creams don’t really work. Wanna know what you’re going to look like in a few years? Look at your mama and stop stressing your age.
- Marriage takes work. If you marry someone thinking life will be a fairy tale and you will always get along – Think again, homie. Marriage is like an onion, with its many layers and ability to make you cry. Marriage is about trust, compromise, honesty, love, humor, and allowing your partner space to evolve. If you can’t handle that, you ought to be single for a while. And when I say single, I mean buy a plant and don’t date. Anyone. Until you sort your life out.
- Your kids WILL hurt your feelings. They don’t mean to. But they do. And it hurts. And you want to get even by strolling into their classroom in rollers and bunny slippers. Resist the urge. They’re just going through their own thing. Wish them a kid just.like.them. And wait. The apology will come.
- If you don’t like where you live, where you work, how you feel, how you dress, or if you’re almost certain that spending one more day with your partner will lead you down a path where every day attire is an orange jumpsuit – Change it. All of it. Life is too short to be unhappy; a statement made truer once you approach middle age.
- Live in the present. Yesterday ain’t shit and tomorrow ain’t here yet.
- Play with your kids. There will come a time when they will think they’re too old to share your space.
- Take time for yourself. Do something, anything without the kids or your significant other. Individual interests keep you sane and help you grow. Plus it gives you something to talk about with your partner. ‘Cause um… Sometimes marriage is monotonous as hell.
- If you’re jealous or insecure – Let that shit go. These emotions are a manifestation of your own shortcomings. Make changes and stop the nonsense. It’s a sin and shit.
- Always wear deodorant. Seriously. This is key.
- Find at least 10 reasons to laugh out loud. Every single day.
- Do not attempt to control, manipulate, or change your significant other. It strains the relationship and causes major, major resentment.
- Did someone piss you off? Let it go. It isn’t you. 97.3% of the time it’s them.
- Smile at a stranger. That one smile will change their entire outlook on life.
- Find a way to extend happy moments.
- Play practical jokes on your family. It keeps you young.
- There will come a time when your kids will publicly declare you terribly uncool. It’s a lie. Don’t believe it. They think you’re cool as hell. But they will never say it to your face.
- Love hard. Love often.
- You are more amazing than you give yourself credit for.
- Bake yourself a cake. A big one. And eat it.
Seriously. This is the first time I’ve ever baked myself a cake and honestly – I don’t know what took so damn long. Even if your birthday falls on a weekday, you need to bake yourself a cake. I woke up early birthday morning and made this beauty I’ve been bombarding you with. This cake is 10 delicious alternating layers of chocolate cake, caramel and chocolate mousse.
Will it be hard to make? Nah. Take the time to reflect on your years, boo. Oh, and if you don’t already own one, I suggest you purchase a springform pan. You’ll need to give this cake some height, so line that sucka with parchment paper.
Now flow with me, we’re making a boatload of cake layers. The process of this layer cake is a bit time consuming – But trust – It’s totally worth it. You begin by making a caramel mousse. It’s basically just burnt sugar, heavy cream, butter, vanilla bean paste, and gelatin. You make a caramel then allow that situation too cool completely. Then you fold cold whipped heavy cream into this silkiness and allow to set for a couple of hours in the freezer.
Next you bake a chocolate cake. I found this recipe in the Joy of baking. It is dark, luscious, and so so moist. It’s my “go to” chocolate cake situation. I baked it in three pans because it’s easier to cut in half.
As the cake bakes you whip up a chocolate mousse. The chocolate mousse comes together very easily – It comes together well before the cake finishes baking.
Now, comes the assembly. I cut these 3 cake rounds into five layers and no shame whatsoever, ate the final layer. It was my birthday, dammit! I started with chocolate cake and alternated between chocolate mousse, caramel mousse, and cake until I ended with a nice thick layer of chocolate mousse. Then I placed it in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.
When I finally unmolded this cake – It was on like effing Donkey Kong. Was it perfect? No. Was it delicious? Ask my son who cut a huge hole into it in the middle of the night.
It was amazing. Perfectly imperfect.
The beauty of this cake is – Much like life – Is there is No right or wrong to these layers. It’s not perfection. It is cake. It is all the good things in the world rolled into one. It begs to eaten, enjoyed, savored, lived, and loved. Like life.
And again, much like life – You need to take a bite of this situation.
For The Caramel Mousse
- 1 ½ teaspoons Unflavored powdered gelatin I used Knox
- 2 tablespoons Cold water
- 1 cup Granulated sugar
- ½ cup 1 stick Unsalted butter at room temperature, chopped into pieces
- 1/2 cup Heavy cream at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla bean paste
- 1 1/2 cups Heavy cream cold
For The Chocolate Cake
- 4 ounces Bittersweet chocolate chopped
- 3 tablespoons Unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
- 1 cup Hot coffee
- 2 ¼ cups All-purpose flour spooned then leveled
- 2 teaspoons Baking powder
- 1 teaspoon Baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1 cup 2 sticks Unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 ¼ cup Granulated white sugar
- 1 cup Firmly packed light brown sugar
- 3 Large eggs at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
- 1 cup Whole milk
For the Chocolate Mousse
- 2 cups Semisweet chocolate chopped
- 4 ounces 1 stick Unsalted butter
- From 6 large eggs Egg yolks
- Scant 1/2 cup Granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons Vanilla bean paste
- 2 cups Heavy cream cold
Make the caramel mousse:
- Add water and powdered gelatin to a small bowl. Mix until combined and set aside.
- Sprinkle sugar in one even layer over a 4-quart saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and allow the sugar to melt. When the edges of the sugar begin to melt and darken, using a heatproof spatula, quickly begin pushing the melted sugar towards the center of the pan to help the mixture.
- Continue pushing the edges this way until all the sugar has melted evenly and is a nice amber color. Once this color is achieved, quickly remove from heat and immediately add the butter and vanilla bean paste (be careful – It will pop and spit). Slowly pour the room temperature heavy cream, followed by the gelatin mixture and whisk until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool completely.
- Once the caramel has cooled, add the cold cream to a large mixing bowl fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk on high until it reaches stiff peaks. Gently fold the heavy cream into the caramel until combined and no white streaks remain. Transfer the mixture to a medium sized bowl and cover. Place in the freezer to set, about 2-3 hours. While the caramel mousse sets, bake the cake.
- Makes enough mousse for 2 layers.
Bake the cake:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, three - 8 x 2 inch deep round baking pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and set aside. Add height to your springform pan by lining it with a ring of parchment paper about 2-3 inches deep and set aside.
- In a small heatproof bowl, place the finely chopped unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder. Add the hot coffee and stir until the mixture is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- To a medium bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir quickly with a fork to combine.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment (a hand mixer works here as well) over medium/high speed, beat the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer to low/medium speed. Add the vanilla extract and melted chocolate mixture and beat to combine. The mixture should look sort of billowy, like a mousse.
- Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but be sure not to over mix or the cake will be tough.
- Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans. Bang the pans on your counter to smooth out the batter and remove any air bubbles. Place in the oven and bake for about 30 - 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake starts to separate from the sides.
- Remove pans from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 8-10 minutes. Carefully invert the cakes (one at a time) over the wire rack and lift the pan. Remove the parchment paper and then, to prevent cracks, reinvert the cake onto a wire rack so that tops are right side up. Allow the cakes to cool completely and then cut each layer in half. What you’re looking for is 5 layers of cake rounds. Reserve the final slice for later use. Or eat that situation right then and there. No one is judging you.
- As the cakes bake, make the chocolate mousse.
Make the chocolate mousse:
- Place chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water stirring occasionally until melted. Once melted, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Combine the yolks, sugar, and vanilla bean paste in the bowl of an electric mixer, or a medium sized bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until very warm and thickened. Once thickened, remove from heat, place in electric mixer and whip until cold and very thick. If you don’t have an electric mixer, just bust out a whip and give it some arm action. Set aside.
- In a bowl of an electric mixer using a whisk attachment or using a hand mixer, add the heavy cream in a stream and whip until it holds stiff peaks. Set aside. Working quickly, add the melted chocolate to the thickened yolk mixture and fold thoroughly. Add the heavy cream to the yolk/chocolate mixture and fold quickly, but gently until no white streaks remain.
- Place in the freezer to chill for about 30 minutes.
- Makes enough mousse for 3 layers
- Grab your collared springform pan. Begin by placing a slice of chocolate cake on the bottom. Alternate between layers of chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and caramel mousse until you reach the very top, ending with the chocolate mousse. Smooth out the layers of chocolate and caramel mousse so they drape over and cover the chocolate cake layers. Cover the top of the springform pan with a round layer of parchment, smooth the parchment, then cover the parchment paper with plastic wrap. Place in the freezer to set completely, about 2-3 hours. Remove from the freezer and place on your counter for about 10 minutes or so to soften. Slice and serve that bad boy.
- Serves about 12.
- Chocolate cake recipe adapted from: Joy of Baking
- Caramel Mouse adapted from: Design Sponge