The previously un-considered dilemmas that arise with small children can be unexpected and tricky. For example, explaining Nazis to a 4 YO who loves The Sound Of Music. Or why the singer in Jace Everett’s Bad Things wants “to do bad things to you” (that was a hoot of a conversation–“Mommy, this is NOT a nice song!!!!!”). Less significant in the long run but similarly weird is the idea that one celebrates one’s birthday on a different day from the birthday itself. Toddlers do not get that.
Because my kids’ birthdays are far apart, each sister gets extremely excited immediately after her sister’s birthday, and then spends the next 4-8 months totally revved up for her own birthday. So by the time October rolled around this year Sammy was at fever pitch. Unfortunately, unlike Alex’s birthday in June, Sammy’s family birthday celebration (always held on the weekend for out of town guests) was scheduled for after her actual birthday. As the day approached it became apparent to me that Sammy was not going to understand us telling her Happy Birthday on Tuesday without an accompanying celebration.
So we decided to give her her presents on Tuesday (she’ll get plenty from relatives on the weekend) and make a little celebration of it. I pan seared some steak, made homemade bread (this recipe), and Sammy and I made the mousse cake that I had meant to make for my own birthday before illness intervened.
We made the cake while Alex was at preschool, which was both a blessing and a curse. Blessing because Sammy and I had a blast–as I have observed she gets to help more when Alex is not there. Curse because I cannot help but wonder if the complete meltdown that Alex had later in the evening over wanting to play with Sammy’s brand new dollhouse might have started with her feeling left out of the cake making mommy-daughter bonding experience.
This is the 2nd big time winner mousse cake/pie I have made from Tish Boyle. Her Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cloud Pie (taken from a Lisa Yockelson cookbook but Boyle’s recipe) remains the best peanut butter mousse pie I have ever made and the only one I will ever make. This mousse cake was not only amazing, but so, so easy. I whipped it up with a toddler and it took us about 45 minutes, max.
1 1/2 cups (180 g) chocolate cookie crumbs–she recommends Nabisco Famous Wafers, which I did use
4 T (2 oz/1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Filling
1 lb bittersweet (70%) chocolate, chopped (I used Guittard discs to save time)
3/4 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
1 t instant espresso
2 pinches of coarse salt
1 1/2 t vanilla
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
whipped cream, lightly sweetened
crumbled chocolate wafers
First make the crust: Butter the bottom of a 9X3 springform pan (I forgot but mine is nonstick). In a food processor, make the cookie crumbs. Then drizzle in the butter and pulse several times. Toss and rub with your fingers to make sure the butter is distributed evenly and then press into the bottom of the buttered pan. Refrigerate while you prepare the mousse.
Heat the chopped chocolate briefly in the microwave in a large bowl, about 2 minutes on 30% power, stirring once in the middle. You just want it warmed/softened a little. Set aside.
Combine the milk, sugar, espresso powder and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring. Pour through a sieve onto the chopped chocolate. Whisk the melting chocolate smooth, adding the vanilla as you whisk. When it is totally smooth, set aside to cool (or let your kid keep whisking).
When the chocolate mixture is room temperature, whip the heavy cream into soft peaks. Boyle does not emphasize this, but remembering Alice Medrich’s instructions for chocolate mousse made with whipped cream, I was careful not to over whip but rather whipped just until the soft peaks had formed but the cream still slid from side to side of the bowl when tilted. Pour 1/3 of the whipped cream into the chocolate and fold it in. Then add the rest of the whipped cream, folding gently into the chocolate mixture until it is completely mixed. Pour the mousse into the prepared springform pan, using a small offset spatula to smooth the top. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours. Serve garnished with whipped cream and chocolate cookies.