It’s been a few months since I’ve managed to make the CSB cake, but I’m back on track!

This month’s cake presented some challenges.  The cake recipe itself came out very moist, almost wet – which made it a bit of a handful to work with while decorating.  The white chocolate mousse failed entirely the first time around (mostly because I misread and added all of the cream to the chocolate – hence the white chocolate ‘sauce’ you’ll see in a later pic), but I made  a milk chocolate mousse the second time around (being out of white chocolate) and it was still really soft – the extra chocolate liqueur should have helped it hold up more, but others reported soft mousse as well, so if I were making this again I’d use some other mousse recipe.  The frosting came out fine, although it took longer to set up for the final coat than I’d like, and it was un-pipeable.  I wanted to do something more interesting for decoration, but it really wasn’t going to happen with this frosting.

The taste was great, though – the cake was soft and flavorful, the frosting was dense and fudgy, and the mousse had soaked into the layers enough to make nice gooey mess.  Incredibly rich – I’ve had two parties now with this cake and still have some left over.  Help!

Slice of cake with some white chocolate 'sauce'

Slice of cake with some white chocolate ‘sauce’

Recipe: Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake
(from the Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes cookbook)
Makes a 9″ triple layer case – serves 16 to 20


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour [I used White Lily]
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder [I used Ghirardelli]
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups hot, strongly brewed coffee
2 eggs
1 cup mayonnaise (use real mayonnaise and not a low fat or fat-free version or anything labeled “salad dressing”)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar

White Chocolate Mousse (recipe below)
Sour Cream Chocolate Icing (recipe below)

Finished layer


1. Heat oven to 350F. Butter bottom and sides of 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment or wax paper and butter the paper.

2. For batter, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside the dry ingredients.

3. Put chopped chocolate in heat-proof bowl. Bring milk to a simmer. Pour the hot coffee and milk over the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Let the mocha liquid cool slightly.

4. In a mixer bowl, beat together the eggs, mayonnaise, and vanilla until well blended. Gradually beat in sugar. Add dry ingredients and coffee liquid alternately in 2 or 3 additions, beating until smooth. Divide batter among pans.

5. Bake 25-28 minutes, or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans on wire racks 10-15 minutes. Unmold cakes. Peel off paper lining and cool completely, at least 1 hour. (The layers can be baked a day ahead, wrap well, and refrigerated)

To Assemble the Cake:

1. Place one cake layer flat-side up on cake stand. Cover top with half the white chocolate mousse, leaving 1/4 -inch margin around edge. Repeat with second layer.

2. Set third layer on top and pour half the sour cream chocolate over the filled cake. Spread all over the sides and top. Don’t worry if cake shows through. The first frosting is to seal in the crumbs which is whey professinal call it a “crumb coat”. Refrigerate cake uncovered for at least 30 minutes to allow the icing to set. Cover the rest of the icing and set aside at room temperature.

3. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing, which should have the consistency of mayonnaise. If the icing becomes too soft, chill briefly. If icing becomes too stiff, microwave on high 2 or 3 seconds to soften, and then stir to mix well. Use an offset palatte knife or the back of a spoon to swirl the frosting decoratively around the cake.

White Chocolate Mousse:

4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg white
1 tablespoon sugar

For mousse, melt white chocolate with 1/4 cup cream in a double boiler or in a small metal bowl set over a pan of very hot water. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

When it has cooled, beat the remaining 3/4 cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. In another clean bowl, whip egg white with sugar until fairly stiff peaks form.

Fold the beaten egg white into white chocolate cream. Then fold in the whipped cream just until blended (do not overwhip or your icing will split).

[I tried this with milk chocolate and it was still too mushy; after refrigerating for an hour, I was able to get some of it into the middle of the cake using the big gaps made by the sunken cake bits to hold it in.  Still, it was tasty.]

Egg white awaiting folding into ganache

Egg white awaiting folding into ganache

Sour Cream Chocolate Icing:

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup half-and-half, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Melt chocolate with butter and corn syrup in a double boiler over barely simmering water or in a heavy pan over very low heat. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth.

Whisk in half-and-half and sour cream. Use while soft.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart

I am big with the love for Rose Levy Beranbaum. Her Cake Bible has been an invaluable reference to me over the years (especially when making enough cake to feed 500 people), her Bread Bible has made Jeff a very happy man… but I haven’t done much with the Pie and Pastry Bible until now, although it’s been on my shelf for a few years, among the other pie and pastry books.

(Yes, I have a cookbook Problem. Comes from being a librarian for so many years. Books just sort of accumulate. And they’re organized. Right now the baking books are sort of taking over – it used to be 50/50 with the baking/cooking, but no longer. The chocolate section alone takes up nearly a whole shelf.)

Mostly, I think that’s because I’ve never been a real big pie baker. Which is funny, because I love pies a lot more than I love cake. I think it’s probably because I mostly bake for other people, mostly for special occasions, and they like cake. It just seems to fit.

However, with the business and trying to find the right things to make for the coffee shop/wine bar, pies are back on the menu, and so I need to do a lot of testing!

Today’s recipe was the further attempt to make the ultimate indulgence for those who can’t get enough of peanut butter and chocolate, and if Jeff is any indicator, I’ve hit it right on the nose.

(I let him have his sample slice, and he finished it before I wrapped up the rest of the tart to put back in the fridge and then stood there making puppy dog eyes at me and asking winsomely for another slice, please? I said no. I am cold-hearted and cruel and want him to be healthy and live to be 100.)

Me, I’m not a fan of peanut butter (another reason I’ve never made this before). I didn’t like it as a kid, and while I can tolerate it now, I just don’t really like it. But I had a bite, and the crust is delightfully chewy (it uses a PB cookie recipe), the peanut butter mousse fluffy and peanut-buttery, and the chocolate ganache topping perfectly chocolatey. We won’t discuss the decoration I attempted to pipe on top with milk chocolate – obviously, I’m going to need to work on that idea a little longer (and no, I’m not posting it and you can’t have it for Cake Wrecks, as I didn’t sell this to anyone. 😛 Someday I aspire to get into Cake Wrecks, but it’ll for something a heck of a lot more fantastic than dribbly piping.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Tart
From Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible

Makes 1 large or 8 small tarts

Sweet Peanut Butter Cookie Tart Crust
[I doubled this recipe – made measuring things easier, and it freezes forever, so I just put half in the freezer so I could make tartlets later]

Makes one 9.5 x 1 inch tart, or 8-10 four inch tartlets


1/2 cup Bleached All-Purpose Flour (I used Lily’s)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/16 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons sugar, preferably superfine (I used regular)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably Jif, at room temperature
1/2 large egg (beat before measuring)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

Into a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine well.

In a mixing bowl, beat both sugars until well mixed. Add the butter and peanut butter and beat for several minutes or until very smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl. At low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture just until incorporated.
[Can be stored unbaked, refrigerated up to 1 week; frozen about 1 year]

Press into pan, or roll out between two sheets of waxed paper into an 11″ circle and gently press into tart pan. Make sides about 1/4″ thick and trim even with the top of the pan.

Line the pan for blind baking using parchment or a coffee filter and pie weights. I would also highly recommend putting some foil liners over the edges of the dough, as it sort of went nuts and explody and crisped a lot when I blind-baked it.

Bake at 425F for 5 minutes, then lower to 375F and continue baking for 15-20 minutes until set. Lift out the weights with the parchment (you’ll lose some dough, this is normal), prick lightly, and continue baking 10 to 15 minutes more until it’s light golden brown. Cool completely.

I had my serious doubts about this crust, at this point. It looked burned on the edges and undercooked in the middle. Apparently, this is correct. Jeff says that it was perfect, although perhaps a bit crisp at the edges (which is why I recommend the foil covers).

You can see the crust better, here.

You can see the crust better, here.

Peanut Butter Mousse


7 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter, preferably Jif, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 liquid cup heavy cream, softly whipped

In a mixer bowl, preferably with the whisk beater, beat the cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar until uniform in color. On low speed, beat in the vanilla. Beat in 1/4 cup of the whipped cream just until incorporated. With a large rubber spatula, fold in the rest of the whipped cream until blended but still airy. Scrape the mousse into the prepared tart shell and smooth the surface so that it is level. Refrigerate the tart while preparing the ganache. [I refrigerated overnight with no problems]

Pie sans ganache

Pie sans ganache

Milk Chocolate Ganache Topping


3 ounces milk chocolate (I used Guittard 38% soleil d’or, amazing stuff)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Callebaut 70% thick)
1/3 liquid cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make chocolate very small. Bring the cream to a boil. Pour cream over chocolate, let sit for a minute, then stir until emulsified (you can use an immersion blender if you like, or do this in a food processor). Add vanilla. Let cool to room temperature (I cooled to lukewarm. I am impatient).

Pour the ganache over the peanut butter mousse in a circular motion, so that it does not land too heavily on any one spot and cause a depression (if you’ve refrigerated overnight ,this isn’t really an issue). With a small metal spatula, start by spreading the ganache to the edges of the pastry, then spread it evenly to cover the entire surface. Refrigerate the tart for at least 2 hours to set.

Store at room temperature up to 1 day, refrigerated up to 5 days, frozen up to 3 months. (Wrap after freezing to preserve shiny coating on ganache).

The slice Jeff had. Pay no attention to the blob. It doesn't exist.

The slice Jeff had. Pay no attention to the blob.

Mmm.  Yes, this is going into the repertoire!

This is the last time, I swe… oh, who am I kidding. I love pumpkin. There will probably, between now and the New Year, be more pumpkin bakery, because I just love pumpkin.

Tasty Pumpkin Chai Latte Cake

Tasty Pumpkin Chai Latte Cake

The premise of Sweet Tweaks is that you take as an ingredient some particular thing (last month it was caramel popcorn, yum), and… tweak it. Make it special. Own it. This month, the secret ingredient is: Pumpkin Sponge Cake.

I recently managed to get some PVC rings… no, there’s a story.

You know how you’re always seeing chefs say, “oh, to save money, don’t buy metal cake rings, just go to the hardware store and have them cut you 2″ sections of PVC pipe!” and it seems all effortless and cool… well, it’s not that easy. First off, I wanted to start with a set of 3″ rings. I go to my local big-box hardware store, and I can find 2′ chunks of PVC, no problem, but when I find Da Guy to cut it, he pulls out a handsaw and starts sawing away. And sawing. And sawing.

and… sawing. After switching saws twice, he complains that it’s not usually this hard, tries to go find a machine to cut it on, but it turns out that none of the machines can cut anything that big around – you need a drop saw for that.

He ends up cutting me three pieces before giving up. So, I start Jeff asking people at work (they have a whole mess o’ industrially crafty people in the basement whose jobs are to Make Cool Stuff), and while he’s doing that I hit the Other Big Box store in the neighborhood. Same procedure, although older guy. He makes better progress – cuts me eight pieces total, at which point I take pity (it’s been half an hour) and say that’ll be fine. He informs me that the machine can cut pieces 1.5″ or smaller in diameter, but not larger. (That whole drop saw thing again)

Still, 8 will do. I have to do some sanding to get the edges smooth, but they’re rings. yay. I won’t think about how much time went into making something that will only be a mold (you can’t put them in the oven, not with food involved), versus buying something metal.. that way lies madness. For now.

I line the rings with acetate strips and put them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

So, I now have these cool rings and have been wanting to try them. So I was thinking something layered. That goes with pumpkin. Chai is good, I like chai, but what can make them really special?

Then I recall Jeff telling me that pumpkin chai latte is, like, the most popular ‘coffee’ flavor at Starbucks right now, and I know what I have to do.

I bake the sponge cake as directed, and let it chill overnight. Then, using a process that would have been much simpler if I could find the 3″ ring cutter that I JUST BOUGHT, I cut out twelve three-inch discs of sponge cake, freeze them until they’re a little more solid (this cake is very gummy), then horizontally slice them in half. If you’re following along at home, you now have 24 cake discs.

Then, I make a big ol’ batch of mousse, flavoring half of it with Kashmiri Chai tea, and the other half with Espresso. This goes fairly well.

Then it’s one layer pumpkin, pipe a layer of chai, another pumpkin, layer of coffee, end with layer of chai with decorative bobble on top. The mousse is pretty soft, so it’s not as decorative as I’d have liked, but hopefully it’ll firm up in the fridge.

The cakes in their pvc rings

The cakes in their pvc rings

In the fridge they go – four hours later, mousse is still totally squishy. Hrm. Tasty, incredibly tasty (Jeff says – I hate coffee so I only eat the chai mousse parts), and totally like drinking a pumpkin chai latte. Win! But still, squishy mousse. So now they’re in the freezer, where hopefully they’ll firm up.

Oh, and you’ll have lots of leftover mousse. What to do, what to do….Mousse cups! Circle on the bottom of Chai (since you have less of that), and then fill and top with espresso mousse and a chocolate-covered espresso bean.

Mousse cups

Mousse cups

Pumpkin Sponge Cake

– makes 1 eleven-by-fifteen-inch sheet of cake –

This cake can be very sticky, so working with it on the sugar-dusted towel is the key to success.


3 large egg yolk
3 large egg whites
1 cup sugar, divided (210g)
2/3 cup pumpkin puree (homemade or canned, 160g)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (90g)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Confectioners’ sugar (as needed)


1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease an 11-by-15-inch baking sheet (jelly roll pan) and line the bottom of the pan with wax paper or parchment. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Whip on high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until mixture is very light and thick.

3. Mix lemon juice with pumpkin purée, and gently mix into yolk mixture.

4. Sift together flour, baking powder and spices (I usually recommend whisking over sifting, but in this case, sifting is the best bet). Add to yolk mixture and mix until homogenous.

5. In a medium, immaculately clean metal or glass mixing bowl whip the egg whites until foamy, then add a pinch of the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Continue whipping the whites, adding the remaining sugar little by little until firm peaks form.

6. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture until well incorporated.

7. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until cake springs back to the touch.

8. Allow cake to cool completely. Dust a clean kitchen towel liberally with confectioners’ sugar (I used a towel, but skipped this step). Loosen the cake around the edges of the pan with a paring knife. Invert the tray over the dusted towel. Carefully peel the parchment or wax paper off of the cake.

Chai and Espresso Mousses

I adapted a recipe to make these that originally called for both lemon juice and water by replacing the liquids with either chai tea or espresso. Since I knew I wouldn’t need two full batches of mousse, and because I am a cook who likes shortcuts, I did everything in this recipe together that I could, and separated what I had to. Which will make more sense in a sec.

4 eggs
½ cup (125ml) strong chai tea
½ cup (125ml) strong espresso (I used 2 tsp of espresso powder in 1/2 cup boiling water)
1 cup (200g) sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups (500ml) cream, double
A pinch of orange rind
About a teaspoon of chai spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg)

[All together]Beat egg yolks and sugar with electric mixer for about 10 minutes, until pale and creamy.

[Starting two bowls, here]

In one bowl, combine espresso, 1TB cornstarch, and orange rind.

In another bowl, combine chai, 1TB cornstarch, and chai spices.

Divide sugar/egg mixture in half and ‘fold’ into liquids (I’m not sure how you do that, I ended up having to whisk, as it just made lumps. That could be where my mousse went wrong.)

Pour each bowl into a separate saucepan and cook over a low heat until mixture thickens.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.

[together]Whip cream until stiff, divide in half, and fold it into each mixture.

[together]Beat egg whites with 1 tablespoonful of sugar until they form stiff peaks, divide in half, and gently fold them into each mixture.

At this point you now have two bowls of mousse. I found it easiest to pipe them into the molds; you could just spoon and smooth. Chill for 3 hours.