Johns Hopkins Magazine - September 1996 Issue Mary Copeland '82
Pastry chef and instructor at the Cooking School of the Rockies

"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."

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