Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

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This is by far the most labor intensive and complicated recipe I have ever made.

But I wanted to try!

I needed to try.

It was me vs. recipe.

I think the recipe won… at least, in the appearance department!


Its supposed to look like this. Click on the video to watch… they make it look so easy!! 

(Link goes to Cooks Illustrated website.  I signed up for a free trial and stumbled upon this recipe… I think if you signed up you would find some amazing recipes as well!  I am not sure you can view picture without doing that… so sign up for the sake of all that is good! P.S.  They dont know me, I am just a huge fan of them.  Almost stalker status.)

Its gorgeous!!  Ugh.  Mine sooooooo did not look like that… it just never got the height it should have.

I think it tasted pretty amazing though!

Here is the recipe, followed as closely as I could, from Cooks Illustrated.


Bottom Layer

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into six pieces

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

3/4 tsp instant espresso powder (I used a strong dark coffee)

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 large eggs, separated

1/3 cup packed  light brown sugar

Middle Layer

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

5 tablespoons hot water

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream

1 tablespoon sugar

pinch salt

Top Layer

3/4 tsp powdered gelatin

1 tablespoon water

6 ounces white chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream



You will need a springform pan with 3 inch sides. I added that you can use a hand held mixer in most of the directions, simply because I do not have a stand mixer, but I do believe it is part of the reason I didn't get the height I wanted.  If you use a handheld mixer, I would try doubling the recommend mixing times.


To begin, heat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter interior of pan.

Melt butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool for about five minutes. Get your egg yolks and vanilla, and whisk them in until incorporated.

With a hand held mixer or stand mixer,  beat egg whites and salt at medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add half of brown sugar and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add remaining brown sugar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, about 1 minute longer, scraping down sides halfway through.

With a whisk, fold one-third of beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten. Now get a rubber spatula and fold in remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. 

Gently pour batter into springform pan.

Bake until cake has risen, is firm around edges, and center has just set but is still soft,13 to 18 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. (Cake will collapse as it cools.)

Do not remove cake from pan.


Combine cocoa powder and hot water in small bowl; set aside.

Melt chopped chocolate in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

Remove from heat and cool slightly, 2 to 5 minutes.

Using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer with whisk attachment, whip cream, granulated sugar, and salt at medium speed until mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds.

Whisk cocoa powder mixture into melted chocolate until smooth.

Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture to lighten. Gently fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain.

Spoon mousse into springform pan over cooled cake and gently tap pan on counter 3 times to remove any large air bubbles; gently smooth top with offset spatula. Wipe inside edge of pan with damp cloth to remove any drips. Refrigerate cake at least 15 minutes while preparing top layer.


In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water; set aside for at least 5 minutes.

Place white chocolate in medium bowl. Bring ½ cup cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; add gelatin mixture and stir until fully dissolved. Pour cream mixture over white chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes (mixture will thicken slightly)

Using a hand help mixer with whisk attachment or stand mixer, whip remaining cup cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds.  I actually did this for about 2 minutes to get soft peaks.

Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. With rubber spatula, fold remaining whipped cream into white chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain.

Gently pour white chocolate mousse into pan over middle layer. Return cake to refrigerator and chill until set, at least two hours.

To serve cake, run thin knife between cake and side of springform pan; remove side of pan. Run cleaned knife along outside of cake to smooth sides. Cut into slices and serve.


Easy right?  

Well, not so much.  But worth it!  

This dessert really made me re-think the word decadent.  I have used it many times before, but never really understood its meaning!  One bite of this luscious dessert made groan outloud.  Its that smooth, that fine, that delicate in its complexity.  

I thought I was going to swear off baking forever after attempting it, but now I just want to bake more!

And next time I try this, I think I will make it in individual portions… like mini round cakes… it could be so beautiful!




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  1. Brittany says

    This looks 100% worth the effort! It looks so professional and delicious. In fact, it reminds me of those Chocolate Barvarian Desserts we used to buy when I was a child.
    Thanks for sharing! I look forward to seeing more of your recipes throughout 2011.

  2. says

    Things don’t always turn out the way they look in the photos. (I always think….Photoshop. :)
    But if it tastes great, that’s 3/4 of the battle!

  3. Andrea says

    I think it looks beautiful! Don’t compare, just take it for what it is! I think just the appearance, let alone the taste, should receive an award!

  4. SMITH BITES says

    and now this? TWO POSTS IN A ROW LIKE THIS ONE??? i think there are rules about forgiving pregnant women, right?

  5. says

    Wow… That is an amazing cake. I think yours looks pretty stunning. I once attempted a cheesecake recipe that was similarly complicated. I started it around 8pm not realizing that I had to let it chill for a few hours in between each of the three layers. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night. And, it cracked on the third layer. Figures.

  6. says

    This looks AMAZING!!
    Seriously…If you lived close by, I’d be over for a piece in a hot second.
    Actually, I just booked a flight. I’m on my way. You don’t mind, do you?? 😉

  7. Marcella Vander Eems says

    I made this for Christmas Day and it was delicious. I did get the height :-). So good. It just is a bit time consuming and you need to wash your double boiler a lot. But so so so good. I recommend to everyone. Delicious.

  8. Stylist says

    Very Nice for the incredible efforts of this dessert — Cooks Illustrated is highly overrated — just a few too many liberties

  9. says

    Your layers are so perfect! I have been on the hunt for this mousse cake – so glad you made it! I used to be a waitress a million years ago, and we served a cake like this. I doubt it was half as good as yours! I intend to make it myself to find out!
    Thanks for the post – you’ve been Stmbled!
    Oh – those peeking baby cookies & cupcakes? TOTALLY stealing that idea! :)

  10. says

    Your pictures are to die for and your sites are amazing! What can I say? I’m speechless!
    I made a similar cake for my daughter’s birthday 2 weeks ago. It’s not the same recipe (it has 3 layers plus the base) and maybe you’d like to take a look at it, because it’s somewhat simpler to make.