01 February 2012

American Beauty Cake - Project Pastry Queen

It is my turn again to be the host for this week's Project Pastry Queen. Looking through the remaining recipes, I chose the American Beauty Cake. Since Valentine's Day is just around the corner. The cake can be made ahead and kept frozen for up to 3 weeks. (At this point in my life, I need all the "do-ahead" recipes I can find!)

It's also similar to another cake I've made that my family LOVES, Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake (TCMC) from America's Test Kitchen, and I wanted to see how it compared. They both start with a flourless cake that is very dense, but oh so delicious. The top layer for this cake is a light and airy milk chocolate mousse. The middle layer of the TCMC is a little denser and it also has a third layer that is a very light, white chocolate mousse.

Since my TCMC recipe called for using a 9" spring form pan, I decided to use that for this one as well - instead of the 9" cake pan the recipe called for. I'm glad I did because the sides of my spring form pan are taller and I only had about 1/8" to spare once both layers were in there. It was also much easier removing the cake in order to glaze it. There was no need to invert it onto a plate and invert it again to my serving plate.

  Before and After Glazing

I was pleased with how the first layer turned out. With the TCMC cake, it always pulls away from the sides of the pan no matter what I do. The instructions for this cake called for baking it in a water bath, so perhaps that was the difference. One other big difference is this cake is served frozen, where the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake only needs to be refrigerated.

Cooking Notes:
  • Your prepared pan will need to fit into a larger roaster or baking pan that will be filled with water.
  • Melt the milk chocolate over simmering water NOT BOILING, or it will seize up on you. You must watch it constantly, and even then mine seemed a bit thick but it was fine once I stirred in the egg yolk mixture.
  • You need to plan ahead because the cake must be frozen for at least 6 hours before you can glaze it.
  • When removing the cake to glaze, first run a knife around the outer edge to free it from the sides. Dip the bottom of the spring form pan into hot water to loosen. THEN release the spring on the side of the pan and the cake should come free.
I'm sure this cake is delicious because of the sampling I did before cleaning my pans. The true test will come on Valentine's Day . . . if I can wait that long!!

Be sure and check out the other members' version of the cake here:

I melted white chocolate and piped the swirls onto some
parchment paper. They were easy to remove and place on the cake.

AMERICAN BEAUTY CAKE: (yields 14 to 16 servings)
Adapted from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
12 ounces premium-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons dark rum, such as Myers's or the liqueur of your choice, such as Kahlua or Grand Marnier (optional)

Milk Chocolate Mousse:

1/4 cup unsalted butter
10 ounces premium-quality milk chocolate
3 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

Dark Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces premium-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


TO MAKE THE CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottom of a 9" spring form cake pan with a parchment paper round and coat evenly with cooking spray. Melt the butter and chocolate in a metal bowl set over a medium saucepan with 2 inches of simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove the bowl from over the saucepan. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a separate large bowl. Whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until well combined. Stir in the vanilla and rum.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and place it in a larger roasting or baking pan. Fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The cake is done when it is firm to the touch. It will rise while baking and settle down to its original size when removed from the oven. Cool the cake COMPLETELY in the pan on a rack.

TO MAKE THE MOUSSE: Melt the butter and milk chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Set the chocolate mixture aside to cool. Using a mixer or whisk, beat the egg yolks and sugar until smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Combine the egg yolk mixture with the chocolate mixture. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until shiny, stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, one-third at a time, using a large rubber spatula. Using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the cream on high speed just until soft peaks start to form. If you beat the cream more, the mousse will get lumpy. Gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture.

Spread the mousse over the cooled cake, filling the pan to the top. Wrap with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and freeze at least 6 hours and preferable overnight.

At this point the cake can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.

TO MAKE THE GLAZE: Place the chocolate in a medium mixing bowl. Combine the corn syrup, cream, and vanilla in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Immediately pour the cream mixture over the chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Keep the glaze at room temperature to ensure that it will pour. If the glaze is too thick, add more cream.

To assemble the dessert, remove the cake from the freezer. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan. Dip the bottom of the pan in hot water to loosen, then release the side. (If using a regular cake pan, invert the cake onto a plate, then invert again onto a serving plate so that the mousse is on top). Pour the glaze over the mousse, making sure it covers the sides. Let the glaze set at least 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until ready to serve. The dessert is best when removed from the freezer just a few minutes before cutting. if left at room temperature, it will begin to melt.

TIP: It is easiest to separate eggs when they are cold, but egg whites whip up best when beaten at room temperature. separate the eggs as soon as they come out of the refrigerator, then let the whites sit on the counter until they reach room temperature, abut 10 to 15 minutes. NOTE: the very young, the elderly, and anyone immuno-compromised should avoid eating raw eggs.