There's something about winter that sets off an unabiding lust for chocolate in me. I mean good quality, silky smooth, buttery chocolate that melts on the tongue that makes you forget the cares of the world outside, even for a few seconds. Escapism via palate. And this cake was borne out of playing around one day. It has a chocolate dacquoise base, a chocolate mousse dome and it is covered with chocolate meringue straws. I called her Freya.
This cake started off because I had two egg whites and I wanted to use them up. I started making meringue sticks and then built a cake from there. It's a rich cake but I like to think that it's well balanced with the hazelnuts, dark chocolate and the sweet element from the meringue.
People always ask me where my cakes go. I usually cut one slice and that's a taster. Then the rest of the cake goes to either my parents, Mr NQN's work or to an event or the Asylum Seeker's Resource Centre where we volunteer to make and serve lunch once a month. In the case of this cake that is where it went.
I walked in on the Friday laden down with goodies including a chickpea, spinach and red lentil curry, nori & sesame rice, beef curry puffs, cookies, candies and this cake. I was surprised to see the new kitchen that was finally completed. The old kitchen wasn't quite up to scratch. The microwave sort of plodded on as if performing on 20% power. The stovetops took forever to heat up and the oven was temperamental. We resorted to making all our things at home and heating up there if we couldn't avoid doing it at home.
Through donations they completed the new kitchen and it was fantastic. It was a proper commercial kitchen with stainless steel benchtops, warmer displays, cooling displays and the best thing, a dishwasher that took 2 minutes to complete a cycle.
Serving was a busy time-there were around 50 people but all were friendly and said thank you with broad smiles. When dessert came out they all wanted one of everything and I tried to cut the cake into as many pieces as I could so nobody would miss out.
With the transition and the new kitchen some of the clients didn't know that they still had to scrape their plates and put them in the dishwasher so there was extra cleaning for us so we were a bit tired after it. But it was all worth it when a lady came up to us at the end said, "This was the best meal I've had in 6 months. Please come back!"
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your favourite brand and type of chocolate? Do you eat more chocolate in winter?
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? Share your creations by tagging @notquitenigella on Instagram with the hashtag #notquitenigella
Chocolate Mousse Meringue Cake
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 60 minutes plus 1 hour setting time
Cooking time: 60 minutes
For the hazelnut dacquoise layer
- 80g/2.8ozs eggs (weighed in the shell)
- 50g/1.7ozs. caster or superfine sugar
- 65g/4ozs. ground hazelnuts
- 25g/2.3ozs. flour
- 20g/0.7ozs. melted butter, cooled slightly
For the meringue
- 2 egg whites (around 80g/3ozs.), room temperature
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 80g/2.8ozs. caster or superfine sugar
- 80g/2.8ozs. icing or powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
For the chocolate mousse
- 1 teaspoon gelatine powder
- 2 tablespoons water
- 200g/7ozs. dark chocolate
- 1.5 cups cream
Step 1 - First make the dacquoise base. Line a 15cm/6inch springform tin with parchment on the base and sides and preheat oven to 180C/350F. Whisk the eggs and sugar until quite thick and pale about 4-5 minutes; you don't want it too runny. Then fold in hazelnut meal, flour and butter. Spread into tin and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly toasted in colour. Cool and wrap. This can be done a couple of days ahead.
Step 2 - Make the meringue straws. Preheat oven to 130C/260F and draw lines on two sheets of baking paper at least 1 inch apart. Fit a piping bag with a 9mm plain tip. Whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Then add the caster, powdered sugar and cocoa powder gradually until you get stiff peaks.
Step 3 - Fill piping bag with the meringue and pipe lines. Bake for 40 minutes and then cool in the oven. You can do this the day ahead.
Step 4 - Then make the mousse. Sprinkle gelatine over the water and then microwave for 20 seconds or until melted. Heat 1/2 cup of the cream until almost boiling and then add the gelatine mixture. Pour over chocolate and stir to melt until it becomes smooth. Cool until lukewarm in temperature.
Step 5 - In a mixer, whisk the remaining cup of cream until you get soft peaks. Fold in the chocolate and keep folding until streaks disappear. Oil a bowl and spoon the mousse into the cover. Cover and allow to set for 1 hour.
Step 6 - Place the cake on a serving plate and then place the mousse bowl right side up and serving plate upside down and invert. The mousse should slide off. You should still be able to spread the mousse too so I take it all the way down the sides of the cake with an angled spatula (or you can leave it as it is).
Step 7 - Using a palette knife, release the meringue straws from the parchment and break and place on top of cake. Sift icing sugar on top and serve.