Pastry School Recap | Unit 5/8 – Cakes

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Cakes were my main interest prior to pastry school, and probably still are the basis of what I like to present as my “craft”. The amount of time and labor that go into them sometimes make other quicker pastries more attractive. However, I will always have a respect for and fascination with cakes.

I made this salted caramel mousse cake earlier this year for my new niece Madelyn. Although the cake is not listed on the website for Extraordinary Desserts (my favorite cake shop), it is the Versailles cake featured on the cover of Karen Krasne’s Extraordinary Cakes recipe book.

The cake is made with almond joconde sponge, soaked with some rum simple syrup, and layered with drizzled salted caramel and salted caramel mousse. The outside is pressed with praline (caramelized pistachios and almonds).

Then the top is coated with a gelatinized salted caramel.

Finally, salted caramel macaron halves (homemade!) are pressed against the sides and decorated with a ribbon (not necessary to hold on the maracons, but definitely helpful for stable transportation). Et voilà!

I wasn’t thinking clearly about the occasion when I used a spiked simple syrup when assembling this cake for a newborn baby . . . but at least the adults got to enjoy.
A few of my favorite cakes from Units 5 & 8 of pastry school:
Special Occasions cake for midterm: passion fruit bavarian cream filling with fondant decorations, dedicated to my parents’ 35th anniversary
(This is what my parents consider “posing with the cake”):
Lemon Chiffon Cake:
Marzipan Peach Cake:
Fraisier Victoria: sponge cake, creme mousseline, fresh strawberries
Flourless Chocolate Cake: with chocolate hazelnut mousse and chocolate meringues
(Here’s the inside):
Chocolate mousse cake: the outside is a decorative biscuit d’amandes cake wrap
Charlotte Royale: a dome of jelly rolls with pistachio mousse filling!
Unit Exam: genoise cake with buttercream and toasted almonds
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Dame Chocolat – Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse Cake

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A birthday cake for my office neighbor!

This bittersweet chocolate mousse cake is another one from Extraordinary Desserts. According to  Extraordinary Desserts’ website:

“This cake is the Grande Dame of chocolate tortes. Dark and intense chocolate mousse sits atop a light layer of flourless chocolate cake creating a richly irresistible chocolate experience.”

I was fairly stressed about all the components to this cake and the execution of the assembly, but I’m happy that it all worked out in the end. Two chocolate genoise cake layers are soaked with a semi-sweet cocoa simple syrup, and topped with bittersweet chocolate-rum ganache and bittersweet chocolate mousse. The surface finish is a chocolate miroir (see description and recipe below), and I used fresh gladiolus flowers for decoration. This is a death-by-chocolate sort of cake (which fortunately was the birthday boy’s wish) that is moist and decadent, and oddly both light and dense at the same time.

The cake layers are flourless, and bake like a giant souffle (including the tendency to collapse). After realizing that I was not going to perfect the souffle in my first couple attempts, I decided to just make two cakes instead of splitting one cake into two halves. Although the cake is flourless, it is actually an airy genoise that holds up well when brushed with a syrup.

The cake is baked in a pan with a removable bottom to allow for easier handling. After baking, the edges of the cake are trimmed to reduce the diameter. Each cake layer is brushed with the syrup, topped with the ganache, and then covered with mousse, which spills over into the outer rim between the trimmed cake and the cake pan. After the cake sets in the freezer, a ganache layer is spread on top, and then a chocolate miroir is poured on to create a glossy, smooth finish.

What is chocolate miroir you ask? I describe it as a chocolate ganache with gelatin added for shine and texture.

Dark Chocolate Miroir


  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 gelatin sheet (or about 1/3 packet gelatin powder)
  • 1 tablespoon glucose or light corn syrup


  1. Combine the sugar, cocoa powder and heavy cream with 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat.
  2. While the sugar is cooking, place the gelatin in cool water to soften and bloom. Squeeze out or drain excess water. Add to hot sugar mixture along with the glucose (or light corn syrup) and mix well to combine.
  3. Use immediately (pour over cake and spread evenly with a large offset spatula).

Dear readers: I no longer possess an SLR camera, so the photography work on this blog will suffer briefly while I use a camera phone and whatever other resources I have within reach during my random baking hours.

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