What do you think about at night as you fall asleep? Lately, my thoughts during those last few moments of wakefulness have been occupied by vampires (of a non-sparkly variety), since I recently began Elizabeth Kostova's premiere novel, The Historian. It's good so far, but may ruin me for the first Twilight book, which I have coming in the mail. I teach 6th and 7th grade Language Arts -- how have I not already read the Saga everyone's either raving or raging about?
Don't let that charming, pillowy exterior fool you -- there's a sultry surprise inside.
Though my bedtime thoughts have been rather sanguine of late, I usually try to dwell on something happy and hopeful before I drift off. More often than not, this tends to be baking related. Instead of counting wooly ruminants, I develop ideas for new desserts, visualize the photo styling of my next dish, and ponder new flavor combinations.
It was during this twilight of consciousness a few weeks ago that I first developed an inexplicable craving for angel food cake with cherry cream. (That's one thing I can already say I dislike about the Twilight Saga -- it's taken a lovely word out of commission. The phrase "twilight of consciousness" probably afflicted over half of you with visions of Taylor Lautner's werewolflike scowl or Robert Pattinson's, uh, vampirical eyebrows?)
Perhaps the sudden onset of a cake-n-cherry-cream craving seems normal to you, but it was surprising to me. I haven't had a cherry in literally years. I haven't had an angel food cake in even longer. Why all of a sudden did I want to combine the two in a big creamy cherry-rific sandwich o' love? Ah, the ways of the heart are mysterious -- and in this case, spot on. Go heart!
Surprise! A tunnel of love.
My previous experiment with a heart-shaped tunnel of lemon mousse inside a cake left me wanting to tunnel some more, so I decided to use that presentation here, too. It's relatively simple to do. It also seemed like more fun than simply dolloping a swoosh of mousse on top of a piece of cake, but you're welcome to do that instead, if you're not the tunneling sort. Personally, my mole-like tendencies took over.
After cutting the freshly baked and cooled angel food cake in half using ye old dental floss trick, I used a 1-inch square cookie cutter and a serrated knife to mark off the location of my tunnels. I then carefully carved and scooped until I had a tunnel in each layer of the cake. Scooping the luscious cherry mousse into the tunnel, reuniting the layers, and slathering the entire confection with mascarpone whipped cream was a joyful experience.
But not quite as joyful as eating it. The angel food cake is a cloud of toasty, sweet almond flavor -- almost like eating airy cotton candy. The tunnel provides the perfect cake-to-cream ratio, so each bite of cloud is accompanied by a tuft of bright cherry mousse. The fluffy mascarpone whipped cream is stable due to the addition of the mascarpone cheese and gelatin, but still has all the subtle sweetness and creaminess of a regular whipped cream frosting.
This cake has it all: it's creamy, it's pluffy, it's moist, it's fantastic. Mike's dad commented that it was impressive something so tasty seemed so light, and that really is the magic of both angel food cake and mousse. Putting the two together is a dream.
. . . a dream that I might've had 4 slices of, give or take a slice. It's very easy to keep shoveling forkfuls of this light dessert into your mouth. Pace yourselves, young padawans. I hope you'll make this angelic summer dessert and serve it cool, right from the refrigerator, some nice, hot evening.
Angelic Cherry Mousse Cloud Cake with Mascarpone Whipped Cream
Recipe by: Adapted from Betty Crocker (Angel Food Cake), Paula Deen (cherry mousse), and Bon Appétit (frosting)
Yields: one angel food cake, or about 10 servings
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups egg whites (12), room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cherry Mousse Ingredients:
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
1/3 cup boiling water
2 cup heavy whipping cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup bing cherries, pitted and chopped
3 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice or cherry pie filling juice
Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting Ingredients:
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon gelatin
3 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon hot water
Make cake: Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 375ºF. Mix powdered sugar and flour; set aside. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until foamy. Beat in granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, on high speed, adding vanilla, almond extract and salt with the last addition of sugar. Continue beating until stiff and glossy meringue forms. Do not underbeat.
Sprinkle sugar-flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, over meringue, folding in just until sugar-flour mixture disappears. Push batter into ungreased angel food cake pan (tube pan), 10x4 inches. Cut gently through batter with metal spatula.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cracks feel dry and top springs back when touched lightly. Immediately turn pan upside down onto heatproof funnel or bottle. Let hang about 2 hours or until cake is completely cool. Loosen side of cake with knife or long, metal spatula; remove from pan.
Make the mousse while cake is cooling: In a small bowl, soften gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. Let stand 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup boiling water, stirring until gelatin dissolves. Let this cool almost entirely.
In a medium bowl, beat whipping cream with an electric mixer until foamy; gradually add sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Gently stir in gelatin mixture, cherries, and juice. Cover and chill until cake is ready to fill.
Make frosting: Sprinkle teaspoon of gelatin over the cold water. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add hot water and stir to dissolve. Let cool while you mix the other ingredients.
Place mascarpone, whipping cream, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar in a bowl and mix to soft peaks (do not overbeat or mixture will curdle). When gelatin mixture is cool, add it to the cream mixture and mix until combined. Place frosting in refrigerator until you're ready to frost the cake.
Assemble the cake: Trim brown outside crust off of cake if you prefer. Use unflavored dental floss to slice the angel food cake in half. Use a serrated knife and spoon to gently cut a tunnel in the top and bottom of the cake (see photos below). I measured here and there to ensure that these would line up. Be sure to leave a 1-inch cake border on all sides of the tunnel. Fill the tunnel with cherry mousse and place top layer face down on bottom layer. Frost cake as usual. Keep refrigerated. Will hold up nicely for 2 days in refrigerator. Use a large, serrated knife to carve this cloud-like cake.
P.S. Many more Secret Garden recipe and craft posts coming soon!