Here’s a birthday cake strictly for adults, a luxurious liqueur-flavored mousse on a foundation of chocolate génoise — no candles necessary! Holland America Line’s Master Chef Rudi Sodamin has suggested Grand Marnier to flavor the mousse, but you could substitute cherry liqueur, framboise, Frangelico, or another of your favorites just as easily.
Yield: one 9-inch cake
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2/3 cup superfine sugar
1/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sifted unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1. Clarify and brown the butter: In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter starts to look clear, watch carefully until the solids drop and begin to brown. When they become deep brown, pour the butter immediately through a fine strainer or a strainer lined with cheesecloth into a small bowl. Transfer 3 tablespoons of the butter to a medium bowl. Add the vanilla and set aside.
2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch round cake or springform pan, line it with parchment or wax paper and butter and flour it.
3. In a wide saucepan, bring about 1 inch of water to a bare simmer, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain it. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large heatproof mixing bowl big enough to sit on the pan. With an electric mixer, beat until the mixture is pale in color, stopping two or three times to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the eggs are lukewarm (105°F).
4. Turn the heat off and remove the bowl from the pan, but leave the pan on the stove. Continue to beat the egg mixture at high speed until it is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
5. Place a sheet of wax or parchment paper on your work surface and sift the flour and cocoa powder together over it three times. Put the flour mixture back into the sifter or sieve and sift about a third of it over the egg mixture. With a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture quickly into the eggs gently until combined. Fold in half of the remaining flour mixture in the same way and then the remaining flour mixture.
6. If the reserved butter mixture has cooled, briefly set it over the pan of water on the stove to remelt it. Place the bowl of butter on your work surface and add about a cup of the egg batter to it. With a rubber spatula, fold them together and then scrape this mixture back into the remaining egg batter and fold. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and level the surface.
7. Bake the génoise for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake begins to shrink slightly around the edges and the top springs back when pressed with your finger. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan on a rack. To unmold it, run a small knife or offset spatula around the edges and invert it onto a rack. Remove the parchment and turn the cake right side up. (The génoise can be stored, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.)
1 pound semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup sugar
10 large eggs, separated (see note)
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish
6 to 8 strawberries, hulled and cut into 3 or 4 wedges each, for garnish
Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate shavings, for garnish
1. Lightly butter the sides of a 9-inch springform cake pan and line the sides with a strip of parchment cut exactly to fit. Cut a 1/2-inch-tall layer of the chocolate génoise and place it in the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Set aside. Save any remaining génoise for another use.
2. Place the chocolate in a large bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and 1 cup water and place the pan over medium heat. As soon as the sugar has dissolved and the syrup begins to boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let the mixture rest briefly, to melt the chocolate, and then whisk until completely combined. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until they are fully incorporated. Beat in the Grand Marnier.
3. Place the egg whites in the very clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a clean whisk attachment, or in a large, clean mixing bowl. With the stand mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. Use a large rubber spatula to transfer about a third of the whites to the bowl with the chocolate and fold them together, to lighten the mixture. Very gently fold the remaining whites into the chocolate, taking care not to deflate them too much.
4. Pour the mousse mixture into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top. Place the pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator until it is fully chilled. Cover it with plastic wrap and keep it refrigerated until you are ready to serve.
5. To serve, remove the side from the springform pan and gently remove the parchment paper. Put the whipped cream into a pastry bag and pipe rosettes on top of the cake. Garnish with the strawberries and shaved chocolate.
Note: You can eliminate the small risk of exposure to salmonella contamination in raw egg preparations by using pasteurized-in-the-shell eggs.
This recipe is from Holland America Line’s new cookbook, “A Taste of Celebration.”