Dairy and Gluten Free Five Layer Cake
My dairy and gluten free five layer cake was many weeks in the making. When I first saw the Wilton 5 Layer Cake Pan Set in Sur la Table (where I work part-time), I was intrigued. The thought of making a cake that is smaller in circumference than regular cakes but has more layers sounded like a great way to go. But the problem with cakes is always – if I make one, who will eat it? I can remember in years gone by making cakes and then pretty much being the only one who ate any of them, eating a slice a day until what was left was stale.
Then I mentioned that I might make a gluten free cake, and my co-worker Monica said if I made the cake, she would at least eat one slice. So that was enough to tip the scale in favor of making the cake.
The next hurdle was deciding what to put in between the layers. I thought it would be fun to do chocolate mousse (which I’ve made many times) and raspberry mousse (which I’ve never made) and then cover the cake with chocolate ganache (which I used to make all the time years ago).
I used Barbara Kafka’s chocolate mousse recipe as the inspiration for that, and also found recipes on which to base the chocolate ganache and raspberry mousse.
For my cake, I went with King Arthur Gluten Free Flour Chocolate Cake Mix. I’d used their gluten free brownie mix previously, and loved it, and I’ve also used their gluten free flour. The only complaint I have with their product is that sometimes there’s a grittiness to the flour that gives cookies, for example, a slightly unpleasant texture.
The mousses and ganache all need time to chill, so I started the day before. My order of operations was:
Day One: make ganache and raspberry mousse and chill them in refrigerator overnight
Day Two: morning – make chocolate mousse and chill in refrigerator for 4-6 hours (or as long as you can keep it in there)
Day Two, late afternoon: bake cake, then while cake is cooling take ganache out and whip it into frosting, then assemble cake
As for equipment, I would say you need as many mixing bowls as you can find. I have 8 and I used most of them at one time or another (I will track below how many you need at a minimum). Also, it helps to have a good hand mixer. Those purists who would want to do all of this with a whisk and their elbow power have my undying admiration (but I also think you’re a little crazy).
One more thing. Let’s talk about the coconut milk. You refrigerate the cans for 24 hours because all you want from them is the cream. After refrigerating, you can extract the cream simply by turning the can upside down, removing the lid (which was formerly the bottom), and then pouring off the liquid (save that: it’s great for making coconut rice). What is left is your coconut cream, which is awesome for making mousse and many other things.
Dairy and Gluten Free Five Layer Cake with Mousses and Ganache
(makes 8 slices/servings)
Chocolate Cake with Raspberry and Chocolate Mousses and Chocolate Ganache Frosting
2 cans of coconut milk, refrigerated for at least 24 hours
7 whole eggs
1 egg white
12 ounces of chocolate, chopped
King Arthur Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix (1 whole package)
2 pints, raspberries
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. agar agar flakes, mashed in mortar & pestle
2/3 cup plus one tbsp., vegetable oil (for cake mix)
1-1/3 cup water (for cake mix)
3 tsp. vanilla
Day One: make chocolate ganache and raspberry mousse.
Let’s start with the ganache. Take one of the cans of coconut milk and extract the cream (see above if you are not familiar with this operation). Melt 8 ounces of the chocolate in a double boiler (BOWL #1). Put the coconut cream in a mixing bowl (BOWL #2). Pour the melted chocolate over the coconut cream, and whisk the two ingredients together. The coconut cream will melt, but don’t worry. Put it in the refrigerator.
Now we will tackle the raspberry mousse. Take the second can of coconut milk and extract the cream, placing the cream in a mixing bowl (BOWL #3). In a saucepan, bring 2 tablespoons of water to a boil and add the agar agar, and cook it for a minute. Then add the raspberries and 2 tablespoons of sugar, mix them it all together, and let it cook for 2-3 minutes, mashing the raspberries with a spoon, until it is fairly thick and the raspberries seem well broken down.
Add the brown sugar to the coconut cream and, using your hand mixer, beat the cream until peaks form.
Add the raspberry mixture to the coconut cream, and whisk until well-mixed. You could cool the mousse in the fridge right in this bowl, but I transferred it to dessert dishes so that it would cool faster.
Day two: prepare chocolate mousse, bake cake and assemble cake.
After the breakfast dishes have all been cleared away, it’s a good time to make the chocolate mousse. I made half of Barbara Kafka’s recipe, because I am only making enough mousse for the cake. Take two mixing bowls (BOWL #4 and 5) and separate 3 eggs into them. Add the extra egg white to the bowl of whites. Whisk the egg yolks thoroughly.
In a double boiler (still yesterday’s BOWL #1, presumably), add 4 ounces of chocolate, 2 tablespoons of water and one tablespoon of water, and melt the chocolate, stirring to incorporate with the water and oil. Remove the chocolate from the heat and let it cool, just for 5 minutes. Now whisk a tiny bit of the egg yolk (maybe about 1/2 a yolk at a time) into the chocolate at a time, until it has all been used up. Finally, whisk in a teaspoon of vanilla. Set the chocolate mixture aside.
Turn to the egg whites. Using a hand mixer on a medium setting, beat the whites until they are quite stiff.
Finally, fold the whites into the chocolate a spatula-full at a time. Be gentle, but make sure the whites are well-incorporated into the chocolate (i.e., you shouldn’t see any white showing). Put you mousse into the refrigerator to cool.
In the late afternoon, a couple of hours before you’re going to make dinner, say, prepare your cake using the instructions on the box (BOWL #6). I will tell you that for most of the mixing, the mixture was quite rubbery and stuck to the beaters on my hand-mixer; but as I kept adding the water, eventually it softened and came loose.
When I transferred the 5 pans of cake to my cooling racks, it smelled so good that my wife wanted to taste it right then and there. But I was firm! and made her wait until the cake had been assembled.
Layers of Cake Cooling
As the cake cooled, I took the ganache out of the fridge and let it warm up for a while. When it was looking like it had a bit of softness to it, I took my hand-mixer and frothed it up for about a minute. The color of the frosting lightened to a medium brown and it became a bit airy and light in texture.
Finally, when the cake had definitely cooled, I assembled it. I alternated chocolate and raspberry mousse twice, and then started icing the cake with the ganache.
Adding a Layer of Raspberry Mousse
My intention was to cover the entire cake with ganache; but when I got the top covered with icing, that seemed like enough. So I sliced the cake, and presented Therese with the first piece. She had been so patient, waiting until the cake was done, and this was her reward!
Slice of Dairy and Gluten Free Five Layer Cake
The rich dense cake was a nice contrast with the light airy mousses and icing. A thorough success, I would say!