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Chocolate Mousse Torte

Serves 6 to 8.

Note: This recipe must be prepared in advance. "Of the many recipes that were born in my kitchen, this was one of the most exciting because it became the New York Times 1972 Dessert of the Year," wrote Maida Heatter in "Happiness Is Baking." "It starts with a chocolate mousse mixture. Part of it is baked in a pie plate. When it cools, it settles down the middle, leaving a higher rim. Then the remaining unbaked mousse is placed over the baked mousse. And it is topped with whipped cream." Use a chocolate bar, not chips. Some of the mousse will be uncooked, so for food safety, use pasteurized eggs. Adapted from "Happiness Is Baking" and the New York Times.

For mousse:

• Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan

• Fine dry breadcrumbs or cocoa powder, for dusting

• 8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

• 1 tbsp. instant espresso or coffee powder

• 1/4 c. boiling water

• 8 large pasteurized eggs, yolks and whites separated (see Note)

• 1/3 c. granulated sugar

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1/8 tsp. salt

For whipped cream:

• 1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

•1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1/3 c. powdered sugar

• Coarsely grated semisweet chocolate, for garnish (optional)


To prepare the mousse: Adjust rack to the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch ovenproof glass pie plate. Dust it with breadcrumbs (or cocoa powder). Set aside.

Place the chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler set over gently simmering water. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant espresso (or coffee powder) in 1/4 cup boiling water and pour it over the chocolate. Cover and cook over low heat, whisking occasionally, until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove from heat and continue to whisk until smooth. Set aside and allow chocolate mixture to cool slightly.

(Alternatively, place chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl. In a small bowl, dissolve the instant espresso in the boiling water and pour it over the chocolate. Cover bowl with a plate or kitchen towel and let stand for 5 minutes. Vigorously whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. If there are still bits of unmelted chocolate, microwave in 15-second bursts, whisking between, until smooth and fully melted.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg yolks until they are pale, thick and lemon-colored, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue to beat at high speed for 5 minutes more, until very thick. Reduce speed to low, add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and the cooled chocolate mixture, and mix to combine, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl.

In the bowl of the electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the egg whites with the salt and beat on high speed until the whites are stiff but not dry. Gradually, in 2 or 3 small additions, gently fold half the whites into the chocolate, then fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining whites just until no whites show. Handling as little as possible, gently reserve about 4 cups of the mousse in a separate medium bowl; cover and refrigerate.

Transfer the rest of the mousse into the pie plate; it will barely reach the top. Using a spatula, gently level the mousse and bake for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, then leave the mousse in the oven for 5 minutes more. Remove from oven and transfer the plate to a wire rack to cool (the mousse will rise during baking and then, while cooling, it will sink in the middle, leaving a high rim).

When the baked mousse is completely cool, remove reserved mousse from the refrigerator. Handling as little as possible, transfer the chilled mousse to the center of the baked mousse, mounding it slightly higher in the center. Refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours.

To prepare the whipped cream: In the chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a chilled whisk attachment, whip the cream, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and powdered sugar on high speed until it holds a defined shape. Spread whipped cream over the unbaked part of the mousse, excluding the rim. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Coarsely grate some semisweet chocolate over the top before serving, if desired, and serve chilled.