Bittersweet Baking Finalist #6: Exquisite, Virtuous Vegan Parisian Chocolate Mousse Cake

The sixth and last finalist in our Bittersweet Baking contest is Janet with her delicious mouthful of a cake: Exquisite, Virtuous Vegan Parisian Chocolate Mousse Cake.

We had to put this up there with our best finalists, partly because we didn't believe it was vegan! We read carefully through the ingredient list and were so impressed. This isn't a compromise of a cake, or a health food attempt at fine pastry. It's an elegant and silky mousse cake with all the virtue of a vegan bakeshop.

Read the recipe for yourself below - plus more photos...

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From Janet:

Bittersweet is how I sometimes feel when serving my cakes. While I derive great satisfaction from the pleasure and happiness my baking brings to others, I also feel a tinge of remorse serving people conventional desserts made with butter, eggs, sugar, etc. I don't profess to being a vegan by any means, but I would like to incorporate healthier ingredients in every possible way.

This recipe is an experimental, culinary collage culled from various photos and recipes (the assembly process is vaguely that of a French style entremet, the inspiration for its physical appearance and components comes from epicurious.com, the cake recipe is adapted from a class I took with vegan pastry chef Fran Costigan). The cake incorporates bittersweet chocolate on three levels and layers: cake, mousse filling, and ganache. It has a hint of coffee flavor, with espresso powder as an ingredient, and is laced with hazelnuts and orange zest. This is a rather involved cake, but can by all means be simplified. Either the mousse or the cake frosted with ganache can be eaten on its own.

Check out Janet's baking blog: Pretty Tasty Cakes. Our judges will make all the final decisions - watch for them the next three days! Good luck Janet!

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Exquisite, Virtuous Vegan Parisian Chocolate Mousse Cake

Chocolate Mousse
2 12 ounce boxes silken firm tofu (such as Mori Nu)
10 oz finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons agave (or maple syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Cake
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup, grade A, dark amber
1 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon espresso powder dissolved in 2 teaspoons of water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
4 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 toasted hazelnuts, skins removed, chopped

Ganache Glaze
8 oz finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 cup soy creamer
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier

Decoration
Chocolate shavings
Candied orange zest (store bought or homemade)
Whole hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed
Chocolate transfer sheet

Prepare mousse:
Melt chocolate 10 ounces of chocolate over double boiler. Drain water from tofu. Place tofu, agave/maple syrup and melted chocolate in food processor and mix until well combined and smooth. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm. (This turned out to be very rich and dense. I think I would add some soy milk next time).

Prepare candied orange zest, if making your own.

Prepare cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9x3" cake pan and line with parchment paper. Toast hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes (watch carefully) and rub with kitchen towel to remove skin. Chop and set aside.

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and stir with a whisk. Stir in chocolate, orange zest and hazelnuts. Mix wet ingredients and whisk until well combined. Pour wet into dry ingredients and mix until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cake tester/toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Invert the pan onto the wire rack, peel off parchment paper, invert again and let cool completely.

Prepare ganache:
Bring soy creamer just until boiling. Pour over chopped chocolate and let sit for minute. Stir slowly until chocolate is melted.

Assemble cake:
I used a bottomless 8x2 inch cake ring as a mold. I'm sure there are alternative ways of assembling this (such as using a springform pan), but this method is what I came up at the time. I cut out the cake to fit inside the ring, using the ring as a guide. Then I filled it with mousse. Make sure you press mousse to the edges (which I didn't do). I left a little room on top for the ganache. Pour ganache and move the cake around to allow it to flow to the sides in order to cover the surface of the top. Let the ganache set in the refrigerator. Once set, remove the cake from the ring (you should have a support under the cake, such as a cardboard circle). Top with chocolate shavings, candied orange zest, and hazelnuts. Now you could stop here and end up with exposed sides of cake, mousse and ganache, but since I didn't press the mousse all the way to the edges, and had some gaps where the cake and mousse met, I spread ganache on the sides, as well. I thought it needed something else, so I used some chocolate transfer sheets I had on hand to decorate the sides. This isn't something I would recommend since it isn't the easiest thing to do and really not necessary for this cake. But in case you're interested, a chocolate transfer sheet is a plastic sheet imprinted with a pattern made with cocoa butter (which is I think is by-product of the cocoa bean and therefore still vegan). I melted chocolate and spread it over the sheet in a thin layer with an angled spatula. Before the chocolate fully set, I cut triangular shapes in the chocolate. Once set, I peeled the chocolate from the sheet and was left with triangular shards of chocolate imprinted with the cocoa design. I then arranged my chocolate triangles onto the sides of the cake and finally called it done!

Thank you Janet!