"Because dessert is the final thing people eat," says Mary Copeland, "it really has an effect on how they feel about the whole meal that they've eaten." With desserts, more than any other course, she says that "you really need to consider what's left in your mouth when the taste is gone."
Copeland graduated from Hopkins with a degree in earth and planetary sciences, but says she "couldn't imagine working in the field." Instead she enrolled in culinary arts school and quickly found her niche. Now an instructor at the Cooking School of the Rockies in Colorado, she teaches a class of 12 students for six months at a time, one month of which is spent with them cooking in France.
"Whenever I'm coming up with a new dessert," Copeland says, "I ask myself, By the sixth or seventh bite, am I still enjoying this? Is there enough variation? With a big wedge of cheesecake, for instance, you get bored about three bites into it. There's nothing to keep you interested."
Not so with her Tri-Color Chocolate Cake (recipe at right). "For me, the interest here is both visual and textural," she says. "When it's finished, you see a dark stripe, a white stripe, and a milk chocolate stripe--you don't see the sponge cake at all, so it's very clean in an architectural way." Texturally, says Copeland, the eater is treated to a nice contrast between the crumbiness of the cake and the cool creaminess of the mousse layers. The flavors of the layers work well together, as well: "The white chocolate is very sweet in a simple way, while the dark chocolate has a more complex taste, and the milk chocolate is somewhere in between."
"When I make this for myself at home, I often put something else in for additional interest," says the pastry chef. "For instance, I might sprinkle in a handful of raspberries before one of the mousse layers."
Suggested wine: Copeland suggests skipping wine entirely in favor of coffee or cognac, since "the palate is overwhelmed by chocolate and can't taste the subtleties of a good wine." Ham Mowbray couldn't agree more. "There may be some red wines that could handle chocolate, but it would probably be a wine (full-bodied and full of tannin) that wouldn't be drinkable with anything except chocolate," he says. Such as? He pauses a moment, then allows with a grin, "Oh, a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance."
1. Preheat oven to 375ø F. Butter a deep (2 inches or deeper) 9-inch cake pan and line it with a circle of parchment or waxed paper.
2. Combine the butter, water, and vegetable oil and set aside.
3. Beat the eggs with the buttermilk and the vanilla until combined. Set aside.
4. Sift together the remaining ingredients into a large bowl. Whisk, stir, or resift the ingredients so that they are well mixed.
5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the first set of liquid ingredients in and stir until combined. Follow this with the second set of liquid ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until springy, 50-60 minutes.**
7. Cool on a wire rack 10-15 minutes, unmold and cool completely.
**This quantity of batter is the maximum that a 9-inch pan will hold. In some ovens it may overflow slightly during baking. The resulting cake will be the same, but a cookie sheet placed on the rack below the cake pan will save a messy clean-up. Of course, one could also remove 1/2 cup of batter and make a single cupcake with it.
Fillings and assembly:
1. Using a long, sharp, serrated knife, slice the cake layer into three layers of equal thickness.
2. Place each of the chocolates in a separate medium-sized bowl and place each over warm, not hot, water until melted and fairly warm.
3. Whip the heavy cream with the liquor until it holds its shape.
4. Place one slice of the chocolate cake in the center of the bottom of the ring mold.
5. Remove the semisweet chocolate from its water bath and, working quickly, whisk in one-third (by weight or volume) of the whipped cream just until smooth. (Do not whip the chocolate into the cream, or the result will be chocolate chip cream.) Pour this dark chocolate filling into the mold and smooth it to make an even layer, being sure to completely fill the space between the edge of the cake layer and the ring mold.
6. Top this with a second chocolate cake layer.
7. Remove the white chocolate from its water bath and, working quickly, whisk in one-half (by weight or volume) of the remaining whipped cream just until smooth. Pour this white chocolate filling into the mold and smooth it to make an even layer, being sure to completely fill the space between the edge of the cake layer and the ring mold.
8. Top this with the last chocolate cake layer.
9. Remove the milk chocolate from its water bath and, working quickly, whisk in the rest of the whipped cream just until smooth. Pour this milk chocolate filling into the mold and smooth this to an even surface.
10. Chill the cake at least four hours and preferably overnight before unmolding. (Chocolate curls or shavings can be used for a decoration if desired. This cake is nice when accompanied by a simple raspberry puree.)
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