Green & Black's Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake
Friends in Melbourne have built up their expectations for my weekly chocolate desserts. Recently, I was committed to appear, dessert-in-hand, at the house of a man I'd only met once but whom I suspected held everyone up to the unwavering standards of his own homestyle Italian-Australian kitchen. My dessert had to be good. The problem was that, between meeting various deadlines, placating my rebellious computer, and jumping in the shower before we had to leave for dinner, I only had about an hour and a half to prepare a (hopefully-soon-to-be-declared-) legendary cake. With one hand on my laptop keyboard, I used the other one to haphazardly grab the Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes book off the shelf. I tossed it at my boyfriend and asked him to pick a quick recipe that would impress. He chose the following chocolate cake, which turned out to be velvety, intense, and somehow a complete departure from the standard flourless chocolate cake.
Dark Chocolate Mousse Cake with Gold Dust*
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30-45 minutes
Use: 20cm or 23cm (8in or 9in) cake tin with removable base or a similar-sized tart tin
1 tablespoon ground almonds plus extra for dusting tin
300g (101/2oz) dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids
or 200g (7oz) dark chocolate and 100g (31/2oz) Maya Gold Chocolate,
or other good-quality dark orange chocolate, broken into pieces
275g (10oz) caster sugar
165g (51/2oz) unsalted butter
pinch of sea salt
5 large eggs
icing sugar or gold dust
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Brush the tin with a little melted butter and dust with the ground almonds, shaking off any excess.
Melt the chocolate, caster sugar, butter and salt in a heatproof bowl suspended over a saucepan of barely simmering water, then remove from the heat.
Whisk the eggs with the ground almonds and fold into the chocolate mixture. The mixture will thicken after a few minutes. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes.
Remove the sides of the tin and leave the cake on the base to cool, then dust using a fine sieve with icing sugar or brush with edible gold dust.
In her foreword to this recipe collection, company co-founder Josephine Fairley proudly explains that Green & Blacks was both the first certified organic chocolate in the world and the first product full stop to be officially granted Fairtrade status in the UK. Those are outstanding reasons to use their chocolate. However, Green & Blacks is not commonly used by chocolate professionals, for two other very good reasons. The first is that in 2005 (after the book's first publication), G&B became a wholly-owned subsidiary of candymaking giant Cadbury; while the sustainable practices of the Green & Black's production line may remain sound, the profits now support a company that is not primarily concerned with small farmers or natural ingredients. Second, the word on the street among chocolatiers and pastry chefs is that no organic chocolate (whether produced by a collective or a conglomerate) has as complex and rich a taste as the best couvertures on the market, simply because the trees producing organic cacao are not old enough. I did not, in fact, use Green & Black's chocolate, although it is readily available in Australia. One of the strengths of this sensationally photographed book is that it does not read like an oversized advertisement by insisting that you use the brand-name product. I hope that the forthcoming revised edition takes the same stance.
I didn't have any gold dust on hand, but the striking ingredient can be obtained (by anyone who plans far enough ahead) at baking-supply shops or gourmet food superstores. For a more homey and equally impressive presentation, stick with the icing (confectioners') sugar.
*Caroline Jeremy, Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes (London: Kyle Cathie Ltd., 2003), 153.