Published November 1, 2009.
To rate a perfect 10, this triple-decker confection would need to lighten up and lose its one-note texture.
With overpoweringly rich flavor and homogeneous texture, layered mousse cake can be more a spectacle than a tasty treat.
By finessing one layer at a time, we aimed to create a tri-layered cake that was incrementally lighter in texture—and richness—with each layer.
For simplicity’s sake, we aimed to build all three layers, tier by tier, in the same springform pan. We knew we needed a bottom layer that was solid—with the heft to support the two upper tiers. For this, we settled on a cake that would stand up to the chilling process without turning gummy or stodgy. We opted for a variation of flourless chocolate cake. It shares the same ingredients as mousse (butter, chocolate, eggs, and sugar) but gets cooked in the oven instead of on the stove, for a dense yet velvety texture. To preserve its lightness even after being chilled, we used just the whites instead of whole eggs. We whipped them to soft peaks and folded them into the batter. Espresso powder added complexity to the chocolate without overpowering its delicate flavor, as did replacing white sugar for light brown sugar, which contributed a hint of smoky molasses flavor.
For a middle layer that really held its own, we began with our dark chocolate mousse recipe, which relies on bittersweet chocolate, cocoa powder, and a splash of water for a mousse that’s a standout by itself: silky and chock-full of chocolate flavor. The texture was perfect, but its deep chocolate flavor was almost indistinguishable from the bottom layer. To avoid this uniformity, we reduced the amount of chocolate, lost the eggs (a rich fat source), and increased the whipped cream. These changes resulted in a mousse that was light, chocolaty, and creamy—noticeably different from the rich base.
For our crowning layer, we wanted a silky mousse with a sweet, milky, buttery white chocolate flavor. Keeping it light yet maintaining structural integrity wouldn’t be easy because the chocolate was completely cocoa solid-free. We folded whipped cream into the melted white chocolate, and added gelatin for structure. The only jewels this crown needed were a few wispy curls of chocolate.list of recipes