Another Birthday, A Whole Lotta Chocolate

A week after we celebrated Tova’s 1st birthday we celebrated Ella’s 9th birthday. I let Ella look through my baking cookbooks and decide what cake she wanted me to bake for her birthday. Her choice? The Mississippi Mud Pie (B)/Muddy Mississippi Cake from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented.

This version of the classic Mississippi Mud Pie layers a flourless chocolate cake with chocolate pudding and whipped cream, all inside a chocolate cookie crust. I knew this cake would be very time-consuming to make (which it was) and very rich (which it was), but the birthday girl gets what the birthday girl wants!

Because there are so many steps, including time in the fridge, I started this cake two days before serving it. I made the cookie crust and the cake one day and then covered it well and put it in the fridge. The next evening I made the pudding and let that sit in the fridge overnight. About an hour or so before I wanted to serve the cake I spread the pudding over the chocolate cake, and put it back in the fridge while I whipped the cream. Then I just had to spread the cream over the whole thing, sprinkle in some gold stars and disco dust, and serve!

Like I said, this cake was really rich, but it was so, so good! And each of the components would be fantastic on their own, too.

(Note: After the flourless chocolate cake cools, the sides end up being a lot higher than the middle of the cake. I removed the higher parts in order to flatten out the cake to an even thickness.)

Mississippi Mud Pie (B), AKA Muddy Mississippi Cake

For the Chocolate Cookie Crust:

16 ounces chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, crushed

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Flourless Chocolate Cake:

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

6 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 70%), chopped (I used 72%)

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1/4 cup strong coffee, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar, divided

For the chocolate Pudding:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Extra Brute)

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large egg yolks

2 1/2 cups whole milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 70%) (I used 72%)

For the Whipped Cream:

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

To Make the Chocolate Cookie Crust:

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper and lightly spray the parchment and sides of the pan.

2. In a food processor, grind the cookies to a very fine crumb. you should have about 3 1/2 cups. Put the crumbs in a small bowl. Pour the melted butter over them and mix with a rubber spatula until well combined.

3. Turn the crumb mixture into the prepared pan and press it into the bottom and up the sides, leaving about 1/2 inch between the top of the crust and the top of the pan. Use the back of a large spoon to get an even layer of crust. Place the pan in the freezer and let the crust set for about 10 minutes.

4. Bake the crust in the oven until it is dry to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool.

To Make the Flourless Chocolate Cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Using a double boiler or microwave, melt the butter and chocolate together. Set aside to cool.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the espresso powder, coffee, salt, and vanilla. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until the mixture is light and has almost doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix on low speed for 5 seconds. Add the coffee mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on low for 5 seconds.

5. In a clean bowl fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a non-plastic bowl, using a whisk or hand mixer), beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually increase the speed to high and add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

6. Scoop 1 cup of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the egg whites. After about 30 seconds of folding, add the remaining egg whites and continue folding until they are almost completely combined. Do not rush the folding process, work gently, and take care not to overmix. Pour the batter into the cooled cookie crust and bake for 38 to 42 minutes, until the cake is set but still jiggles slightly. It might not appear to be completely cooked. Transfer it to a wire rack and cool completely. As it cools, the cake will deflate in the center and look sunken. Tightly wrap and refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To Make the Chocolate Pudding:

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk until combined. The mixture will look like a thick paste. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, whisking constantly to prevent it from burning on the bottom of the pan. Boil for 30 seconds, then transfer it to a medium bowl. Add the butter, vanilla, and chocolate and whisk until combined. Continue to whisk for a few more minutes to cool the mixture slightly. Let the pudding stand for 15 minutes at room temperature. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming, and chill it for at least 3 hours.

To Make the Whipped Cream:

Pour the cream into a chilled metal bowl and beat with a chilled whisk for about 1 minute or until soft peaks form. Sprinkle the sugar on the cream and continue whisking vigorously until stiff peaks form.

To Assemble the Cake:

Stir the pudding to loosen it, then pour it on top of the cake, making sure to stay inside the cookie-crust border. Use an offset spatula to spread the pudding into an even layer. Return the cake to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the whipped cream topping. Spread the whipped cream across the pudding layer, all the way out to the sides, unmold the cake, and serve it immediately.

The cake can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

*Adapted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito

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My Cupcake Challenge Entry

This is the cupcake that I entered into Willow Bird Baking’s Cupcake Challenge (it is also the other cupcake that I brought to our friend’s birthday party):

Chocolate Cupcakes with Guinness Chocolate Pudding and Caramel Buttercream

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup dark cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry extra dark)

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup strong black coffee (can be hot)

1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil cupcake liners. In bowl of electric mixer sift all dry ingredients. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients, and with the paddle attachment on mixer, mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. Pour into prepared cupcake pan until cups are 2/3 full (or just less). Batter will be liquidy.

2. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a toothpick or skewer comes out with just a few crumbs (try not to overbake). Cool on wire racks in pans for 5 minutes, then gently turn cupcakes onto racks until completely cool.

Makes 24 standard cupcakes

*Adapted from Sweetapolita

Guinness Chocolate Pudding

4 large eggs yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup Guinness Stout

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

4 ounces high-quality bittersweet (70 to 72%) chocolate, finely chopped

1. In a large non reactive mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar.

2. Pour Guinness and cream into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and whisk to combine. Set over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until bubbles just begin to form at edges. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and whisk until smooth.

3. Slowly pour hot chocolate mixture into eggs, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Return mixture to saucepan and set over moderately low heat.

4. Cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens (at least 15 minutes). If mixture looks separated, blend in blender for one minute. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled and set.

*Adapted from Epicurious

Caramel Buttercream

 Note: You will need to double the recipe in order to generously frost 24 cupcakes.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup heavy cream

12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

4 large egg whites, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook, undisturbed, until caramel is dark amber. Remove from heat and slowly add cream, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. Let cool.

2. Beat butter with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Place white and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160°F on a candy thermometer.

4. Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add beaten butter, 1 cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla.

5. Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add caramel, and beat until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

*Adapted from Martha Stewart

To assemble:

Using a small knife (or an apple corer, if you have one) cut a hole on the middle of the cupcake.Fill with some of the pudding, and then top with the frosting (I piped it on with the French Giant Pastry Tip from Bake it Pretty).