This is my birthday cake. At least, I think I can call it a cake. It's sort of a cake, sort of a pie. It's part pudding. All delicious, though. And decadent. I mean, just look at the thing. Chocolate, on top of chocolate, smothered with even more chocolate. Love!
It all starts with a chocolate cookie crust. The original recipe has you grind up a bunch of Oreo cookies and turn them into a cookie crust (oh, did I mention that the original recipe is from the Baked Explorations cookbook? Yeah. So I knew I was in good hands with this one.). However, I actually prefer the flavor of chocolate graham crackers, so I made my crust with those instead. It was a wise decision; I mean, the cake has enough sweetness (and calories!) without adding Oreo cookies to the mix. And those chocolate graham crackers are tasty.
So, once you have assembled and baked the cookie crust, you're ready to make the next layer: a flourless chocolate cake. Could you just die? It's an amazingly rich, gooey, almost molten cake. It closely resembles a brownie, actually, but I think it's even richer. It's very delicate, too, and it cracks on top while it's being baked. Then, while it's cooling on your counter, it deflates and sinks. It looks pretty cool, when all is said and done. So, once you have cooled your flourless cake layer, it's time to stick it in the fridge and let it set up for a few hours (overnight works even better, as it allows the coffee flavor to mellow out some).
Next, you make a dark chocolate pudding, and that is supposed to go on top of the flourless cake. Now, maybe I messed up on the pudding (and that is most likely what happened), but the pudding layer turned out very runny, at least the first night we ate the cake. I got a phone call while I was stirring the pudding over the stove, and I think the distraction proved to be my undoing. The pudding tastes phenomenal; rich, sweet, yet delicate. It just wouldn't set up and form a solid layer for me. So, as you can see below, as soon as we cut the cake into slices the pudding ran all over the place. An avalanche of yumminess. It was still totally edible. And addictive. And by the next evening, the pudding was much sturdier and held up on top of the cake very well.
The book suggests a whipped cream layer to go on top, but I decided that it was going to be good enough with just the three layers I made. I know it seems ridiculous given the sinfulness of this dessert, but I figured I really didn't need a fourth layer comprised pretty much completely of heavy whipping cream! Call me crazy. This cake is a chocoholic dream. It is not for the faint of heart, and it does take a bit of time to put together. However, I guarantee that you will absolutely love this cake if you are a huge fan of chocolate. It is worth the effort!
Mississippi Mud Pie (B), aka Muddy Mississippi Cake
adapted from Baked Explorations
makes one 9-inch round cake
For the Chocolate Cookie Crust:
24 full sheets chocolate graham crackers, broken into pieces
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg white
For the Flourless Chocolate Cake:
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
6 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 70%), chopped
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/4 cup strong coffee, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
For the Chocolate Pudding:
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Scharffen Berger)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
4 large egg yolks
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 70%)
For the Simple Whipped Cream (which I omitted):
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Make the Chocolate Cookie Crust: 1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees 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 graham crackers to a very fine crumb. You should have about 3 cups. With the food processor running, stream in the melted butter and the egg white. Continue to blend until the liquids have mixed in.
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 (the bottom of a heavy glass works, too) 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.
Make the Flourless Chocolate Cake: 1. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Using a double boiler or microwave, melt the butter and chocolate together. Set aside to cool.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the espresso powder, coffee, salt, and vanilla. Set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until the mixture is light and has almost doubled in volume, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the chocolate mixture to the yolk mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom 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.
4. In a clean bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, 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.
5. 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 white and continue folding until they are almost completely combined. Do not rush the folding process, work gently, and take care not to overmix.
6. 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 to cool completely. (As it cools, the cake will deflate in the center and look sunken. Do not despair, this is just the way it settles.) Tightly wrap and refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours or overnight.
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. Place the saucepan over medium heat on the stove and 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.
3. 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.
Assemble the Mississippi Mud Pie: 1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Remove the cake from the fridge and 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.