Belle Foley’s Chocolate Cake & Jacques Pépin’s Chocolate Mousse

I realized far too late that I would be away for Mike’s birthday on Tuesday. I caught the date in time, and stumbled upon a caramel apple cheesecake I decided to make for a pre-birthday dinner. I even had the foresight to pick up cream cheese. I was on the ball. It happens sometimes.

And then this morning I made an enormous apple pancake for elevenses, and didn’t notice until 3:30 that the cheesecake had to chill for a few hours, preferably overnight. D’oh.

But I had a chocolate cake tucked away in my mental file – Belle Foley’s chocolate cake, which had spurred a goosebump-inspiring comment string, reuniting long lost family members over at Food52. It was one of those stir-together cakes made with baking soda stirred into boiling water, the kind Mike’s mom used to make way back when she made the occasional cake. These types of cake are also typically low in fat – only 3 tablespoons of butter in this one, yet it’s very moist. I used to find them in old cookbooks and make them for my dad.

I made it, quick. I planned to serve it in warm wedges topped with whipped cream – easy. No need to decorate. I love wedges of dark, damp chocolate cake that aren’t too sweet, especially when they get me off the decorating hook. The result was plain, not as deep and chocolatey as I envisioned (next time I’ll go for 1/2 cup cocoa) but very moist – my mom asked if it was a zucchini cake.

It occurred to me that this whole scenario could be improved upon with chocolate mousse. Yes – chocolate mousse dolloped on chocolate cake wedges. Why have I not thought of this before?

The mousse is from the brand new Essential Pépin – over 700 recipes from his life in food. Which I have decided I must own now that I’ve met him in person. Of course I name-drop that one at every possible opportunity. Then there was that time I was chatting with Dorie Greenspan and Jacques came over to say hi…

Although Jacques may disagree, the cognac is optional – I left it out.

Jacques Pépin’s Chocolate Mousse


October 23, 2011

Made with a warm emulsion of egg yolks and sugar, and finished with cream, this is the most classic of chocolate mousses. Cognac works well with chocolate, but it can be replaced by dark rum or Grand Marnier for a different flavour. From Essential Pépin.

  • Makes: Serves 6.


1/3 cup sugar

4 large egg yolks

10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted

2 cups heavy cream

2 teaspoons cognac


1Reserve 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and combine the rest of the sugar with the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl in a skillet of hot tap water (or use a double boiler), and whisk the mixture for 3 minutes, or until it is fluffy, smooth, and at least doubled in volume.

2Beat the reserved sugar with the cream in a large chilled bowl for a few minutes, or until soft peaks form; do not overwhip. Transfer about 3/4 cup of the whipped cream to another bowl to use as a decoration, and refrigerate.

3Using a rubber spatula, combine the melted chocolate with the yolk mixture and the cognac. If the mixture starts to seize or break down, immediately stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of the whipped cream to smooth out the mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until incorporated. Transfer the mousse to a decorative bowl, cover, and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours.

4At serving time, whip the reserved 3/4 cup whipped cream until stiff peaks form. Spoon the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and decorate the top of the mousse with the cream, or spoon dollops of the cream onto the top of the mousse. Serve.


(Or 2 if one of them is me.)


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12 comments on “Belle Foley’s Chocolate Cake & Jacques Pépin’s Chocolate Mousse

  1. Jill
    October 23, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    It seems like the world is divided into two types of people: those who love smooth, pudding-y desserts (tapioca pudding, rice pudding, mousse, chocolate pudding…) and those who dislike them. I am firmly in the LOVE so much camp and it’s late at night and I’m studying with no good treats in the house so the picture of this chocolate mousse looks like heaven right now.
    Anyways, thanks for the inspiration. I’ve never tried making mousse before and now, I really really really want to.
    Do you think it would work if one left out the booze, Julie?

  2. Laurel
    October 24, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Looks and sounds amazing. I am often one for last minute desserts-fruit empenadas made from some wrinkly piece that has spent too much time on the counter, but quick breads are another favorite and this looks delicious!

  3. Nurse Jenn
    October 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    YUMMY! I’m been inspired to make this cake! I needed a chocolate infusion and this will hit the spot. I might frost it with the chocolate mousse because I love frosting the cake (get to lick the bowl after).

  4. lovetocook
    October 24, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Just how much chocolate and cream do you keep on hand? I keep hoping for a 5-ingredient-or less, good-for-us dinner entree!

    • JulieVR
      October 24, 2011 at 8:54 pm

      Hey, it was a birthday cake. Dinner itself was far more simple (pork, Brussels sprouts, rice) but I figured this part of the meal was more interesting.

  5. molly
    October 24, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    dang-it, this is a TWO-fer!

    sounds like the perfect quickie chocolate cake for an after school snack. (i never make cake for an after school snack. but i always mean to. isn’t that just the vision, homework + warm choco cake + milk mustache? here i come…)

    AND chocolate mousse?! with no raw egg whites?!!

    you rock. the end.

  6. Gina Wilson
    October 24, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog. And, I love the LOTR reference. It made my day. The cake and mousse look awesome!

  7. jenna
    October 25, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Hi Julie, My family has a similar chocolate cake recipe which has been our traditional birthday cake since 1973!! The ingredients vary a bit – more butter, sugar and eggs (it likely makes a bigger cake plus, who was worried about fat content in 1973!?) – but the big difference is that there is a cup of oatmeal in it which gives it a wonderful chewy, moist texture and an almost nutty flavour. If you are interested, I’ll send you the recipe. We call it “Herforth-Madsen Chocolate Cake” after out great neighbours in Victoria who introduced it to us back in the day!


  8. Jaya
    October 25, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Julie! I am still ruminating over all of the delicious pies at your pie party, and now you do and do this? I’m not even much of a chocolate person, and this cake and mousse look heavenly to me! Oddly enough, these hot water/cocoa chocolate cakes are the only ones I don’t find intimidating, so another point for this recipe! Thanks for sharing.. yum yum yum!

  9. Lesli C-Kellow
    October 26, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I love how you make things so quick. Pure inspiration.

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