Alice’s Chocolate Mousse Cake with Cajeta!

Chocolate mousse cake with cajeta recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I made this chocolate mousse cake with cajeta as an assignment for Target. The store where I buy everything from school supplies to Riedel wine glasses. My friend Betsy Nelson is a food stylist for Target and she asked me to do some of the baking for a photo shoot. As inspiration she brought over the book Bittersweet by Alice Medrich to show me the style of cake they were going for.

The thing I love most about working with Betsy is that she’s a chef and insists the food not only be gorgeous for the photo, but delicious enough to eat after the shot is done. I made a large version of the chocolate mousse cake for Target, but couldn’t resist using the leftovers to create individual cakes for my own pleasure, pairing it with a rich cajeta and freshly grated nutmeg.

Fast forward a couple of days and I’m at the BlogHer Food conference in San Francisco. I met so many people I admire and who have inspired me as a chef and a blogger. It was incredible to put faces, voices and laughter to the people I’ve known only virtually. I promise I will get back to the cake, but let me just spend a second introducing you to just a few of the fabulous folks I met.

Helen from the exquisite site Tartelette, Diane and Todd from White on Rice Couple (who gave me a much needed photo lesson during the cocktail party), Shauna, Danny and Lucy from Gluten-Free Girl, Tea from Tea and Cookies, Elise from Simply Recipes, Ree from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Jaden of The Steamy Kitchen, Heidi from 101 cookbooks, all generously willing to share their experiences and secrets to their success. 

The reason I brought up BlogHer Food in this post is because I also met Alice Medrich, the “First Lady of Chocolate” at the after party hosted by Elise, Ree and Jaden. Alice is a true master of her craft and I have considered her one of my pastry mentors. Here are her wonderfully smooth and perfectly simple mousse recipes, the key to success is really fine chocolate.

Chocolate mousse cake with cajeta recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Makes about 10 individual or 1 8-inch cake:

Graham Cracker Crust (Betsy wanted to a Graham crust to fit in with the caramel colored theme of the Target photo and I’m so glad she did. It added a wonderful texture and flavor to the cake):

11 graham crackers

3 tablespoons brown sugar

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch salt

Alice Medrich’s Mousse Cake from Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate:

Gianduja Mousse layer:

9 ounces Gianduja or Milk Chocolate, finely chopped (Gianduja is a combination of milk chocolate and hazelnut paste – think nutella) I used Gianduja from Cacao Barry

6 tablespoons water (or half water and half eau-de-vie, brandy, or other liqueur)

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

White Chocolate Mousse layer:

9 ounces White Chocolate, finely chopped

6 tablespoons water (or half water and half eau-de-vie, brandy, or other liqueur)

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Cajeta – a rich Mexican caramel made with goats milk. It is fantastic with the chocolate but also a natural fit with apples or coffee ice cream. I put the pot of cajeta on the table and let people add as much as they liked.

1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped softly for garnish

Nutmeg, freshly grated for garnish

Chocolate mousse cake with cajeta recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

To start you will need to set up 10-12 3-inch mousse ring molds with acetate on a parchment lined cookie sheet. (The ring molds I have are fashioned out of PVC pipe. They were made by the plumber who built the kitchen in a restaurant I worked in. If you know a plumber or just someone who is handy, you can make your own.)

To make the Graham Cracker Crust: Place the Graham crackers in a food processor, pulse until fine crumbs. Add the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt. Pulse until the crumbs are evenly coated with the butter.

Distribute the Graham cracker crust into the ring molds so that they are about 1/4-inch thick. Pack it into the mold, I used a marble pestle. Refrigerate to set the crust, while you prepare the first mousse recipe.

Chocolate mousse cake with cajeta recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

To make the mousse: The gianduja and the white chocolate mousses are prepared in exactly the same way. make the gianduja first.

Place the gianduja chocolate and water in a heatproof bowl. Set it over a double boiler with gently simmering water under it. Immediately turn off the heat and allow the residual heat to melt the chocolate, stirring gently until it is completly melted and smooth. Remove from double boiler and allow to cool to just above room temperature. Whip the cream to a very soft peak, it should just barely hold its shape, almost pourable.

Fold the cream into the chocolate, it will be quite soft, seemingly too soft, but it will set up in the refrigerator. Allow this layer to set for about 20-30 minutes before beginning the white chocolate layer. This will give you time to clean all your bowls and beaters.

Chocolate mousse cake with cajeta recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the gianduja layer is somewhat set, repeat the directions but this time using the white chocolate.

Allow them to set at least a couple of hours or overnight. If leaving them overnight, be sure to cover them with plastic wrap so they don’t develop a skin on the top.

Chocolate mousse cake with cajeta recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Unmold the mousse cakes, top them with the soft whipped cream, a drizzle of cajeta and grate a touch of nutmeg over the top. Absolutely indulgent!

This was the plate right before I licked it clean!

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32 thoughts to “Alice’s Chocolate Mousse Cake with Cajeta!”

  1. Looks absolutely terrific, but I have one question: whenever I melt chocolate together with water over a bain-marie, the whole thing becomes a sticky mess and will never ever reach a smooth consistency. What am I doing wrong?

  2. Hi Rachel,

    Especially with White and milk Chocolate it is important to turn off the heat under it while it melts, or the chocolate will cease up. Also if you let the water and chocolate sit, undisturbed for about 30 seconds, to warm up with each other it is often easier to combine them well. The water to chocolate ratio will also make a difference.

    I hope this helps! Zoë

  3. My favorite part? That you used PVC pipe for ring molds – totally what I’d do too! But how cool was it to meet Alice Medrich? So exciting!

  4. First of all, those cakes are absolutely lovely.

    And secondly . . . THANK YOU!!!!!

    I will be making all kinds of Aebleskivers soon! I can’t wait!

  5. I absolutely love Alice Medrich’s recipes, & this dessert is heavenly Zoe. Oustanding & beautifully made. WOW!! I love doing individual servings & you did it brilliantly. The flavours are singing to me!

  6. How do you get the cakes to release from the ring molds?

    The acetate part I “get” (peel it off)….but I’m concerned about scrambled mousse instead of little “cakes”.


  7. Hi Helen,

    The mousse never touches the ring molds, just the acetate. If you are doing this without the acetate then you will have to run a knife around the edge and slightly heat the metal rings to slide them off the mousse, a much trickier adventure.

    Does this answer your concern?

    Thanks, Zoë

  8. Goodness gracious this looks good. This is definitely one of those “hide-it-from-the-kids-cause-they-could-never appreciate-it-like-an-adult-would” kinda desserts. It would be regarded as pudding around here – imagine! Although my 14 year old daughter is quite the food connoisseur – probably more than me. So maybe I’ll get her to help with the prep.

    Thanks for being so detailed with the directions too.

  9. Zoe,

    What a lovely website! I’ve recently become a convert to your carrot cake after years of claiming I didn’t like carrot cake – it turns out I had not found the right one! Where, may I ask, are the small jam jars from which you used to display the cajeta in the above photo? They are so lovely! Also, I am not so familiar with cajeta; having grown up on dulce de leche, I assume it’s much the same and would be a good substitute?

    Thank you!

  10. Wooooow,such an amazing desserts,Looks yummmy.
    I have a Q : If i don’t have
    Acetate Strips what other thing that i can use ?
    Second Q :
    How do you get the mousse release from the ring molds?
    By the way i’ve searched everywhere store for the Acetate but know one knows about it 🙁

    Thanks so much

  11. Hi Lubayna,

    Yeah, it is tough to locate unless you have a shop that specializes in baking supplies. I link to it on Amazon and that may be the easiest way to find it.

    You can try using parchment paper. Just coat the paper very lightly with oil first. I’ve never tried this, but it may just work.

    If you use the acetate or the parchment you won’t have the worry about the mousse releasing from the molds, it will just slip out.

    Thanks, Zoue

  12. Please warn people not to use PCV for anything that comes in contact with food. You use the acetate as a barrier, which is probably sufficient, but at least one poster asked about going without.

    PVC contains chlorine (that’s the C — chloride — in PVC) and is stabilized with any of a number of heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium — you name it). Nothing you’d want infusing into your otherwise good eats.

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