Chocolate Mocha Cake with Strawberry Mousse and Chocolate Ganache

“This recipe is pretty involved, and may not be for the novice baker,” says chef Travis Anderson of Upstairs in Montclair. “But I think it is worth the time and effort. Don’t think of it as a challenge, but as a learning experience. It’s a super cake.”

Photo by Laura Moss.

“If strawberries are unavailable, you can make the purée from almost any other seasonal fruit.”

Serves: About 15

For the Cake
3 cup + 3 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup cocoa powder
4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup canola oil
2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups hot brewed coffee
4 large eggs
4 cups sugar

1.    Sift the first 5 ingredients into a mixing bowl.
2.    Mix the next 4 ingredients in a separate bowl until incorporated.
3.    In the bowl of a mixer on medium speed, whip the eggs and sugar until mixture changes color and almost doubles in volume.
4.    Add half the wet mixture and mix until incorporated.
5.    Add half the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
6.    Add the other half of the wet mixture and mix.
7.    Add the other half of the dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
8.    Line 3 12×18 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spray the parchment with a non-stick cooking spray. Divide the batter among them and smooth with a spatula into an even layer (about ½”).
9.    Bake in a convection oven at 325 degrees for 9 minutes or in a conventional oven at 350. 
Note: Keep an eye on them. They are done when a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.
10.    Set cakes aside to cool.

For the Mousse
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3 sheets gelatin
1 lb. ripe strawberries, roughly chopped. (If the berries are not as sweet as they should be, or as you’d like them to be, add 1 tb. sugar)
1 oz. cognac
1 qt. heavy cream


1.    Put the chopped strawberries (and the 1 tb. sugar, if needed) into a blender and process until smooth. Set aside. There’s your purée.
2.    In a bowl of cold water bloom (soften) the gelatin sheets.
3.    In a bowl over a double boiler whip the eggs and yolks over medium heat until the mixture reaches 115 degrees F and has turned frothy.  Remove from heat.
4.    Remove the gelatin from the water and add to the egg mixture.  Mix until it is dissolved.
5.    Add the strawberry purée and cognac and mix until incorporated.
6.    In a mixer whip the cream to medium peaks.
7.    Fold 1/3 of the cream into the egg mixture at a time, folding carefully until there are no white streaks visible.
Note: You need to be gentle. If you beat rather than fold in the cream the mousse will be flat and not airy.
8.    Refrigerate the mousse.

For the Ganache
8 oz. quality bittersweet chocolate
8 oz. heavy cream
1.    Chop the chocolate into small pieces using a large chef knife or pulsed in a food processor.
2.    In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream to just below boiling.
3.    Turn off the heat and add 2 oz. of chocolate at a time, mixing until smooth before adding the next 2 oz.
4.    Set aside and keep warm

1.    On a large cutting board or serving tray, carefully flip one of the cakes upside down onto the cutting board.  Remove the parchment paper.
2.    Place a little less than ½ the mousse onto the center of the cake and smooth into an even layer with a spatula.
3.    Carefully flip another cake layer on top of the mousse, lining up the edges as best you can.  Remove the parchment paper.
4.    Repeat with another layer of mousse and top with the last layer of cake.
5.    Chill the cake in the refrigerator for about ½ hour.
6.    If the edges of the cake are uneven, trim them with a knife.
7.    Cut the cake into desired portions using a sharp knife.  Make sure to wipe the blade clean with a paper towel between cuts.
8.    Place cake on a plate and drizzle the chocolate ganache over the top.  Place a dollop of the remaining mousse on top of the cake.

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