This post may contain affiliate links, for more information please read my disclosure policy.
As the holidays approach, I gather all of my old favorite recipes together, but I am always excited to create and share something new. This year, I consulted my niece, Heather–a terrific cook and baker–about Thanksgiving Day desserts. She chatted with me about a recipe that she found for a Pumpkin and Chocolate Tiramisu. Pumpkin and chocolate definitely have an affinity for each other. I began to think about a light, silky pumpkin mousse containing mascarpone, a fudgy river of dark chocolate ganache, and Italian ladyfingers brushed with rum, all layered in an elegant cut-glass bowl. And, there you have it–Pumpkin-Ganache-Tiramisu Trifle!
My husband’s birthday falls within a few weeks of Christmas, and this year, he requested a classic chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting. So, I turned to an old Martha Stewart favorite recipe for Devil’s Food Cake. When I thought about the icing, I decided that it was time to attempt Italian Meringue Buttercream, that silken, luscious buttercream that is an essential reason why we all love quality wedding cake so much! Last year, I took a pastry-making class from a Master Pastry Chef, and this icing was one of our assignments in his commercial kitchen. It is a bit labor intensive and a fussy process, but I decided to follow my favorite advice from Julia Child and to be fearless in the kitchen. Although I was creating this for John’s birthday, I decorated it in a way that would be suitable for a holiday table–some fresh mint leaves and red candied cherries!
adapted from a recipe for Gingerbread-Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Trifle by The Smart Cookie Cook blog
- 14 ounces of imported Italian Ladyfingers ( I used Vicenzi Vicenzovo ladyfingers, imported from Italy, found at the local Italian market)
- For the Mousse
- 15 ounces pumpkin puree, not pie filling
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
- 2 cups heavy cream chilled
- 1 and ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- For the Ganache
- 16 ounces of dark, semisweet chocolate, chopped
- ½ cup heavy cream
- You will need an attractive large glass bowl for best presentation.
- This dessert is best made 24 hours prior to serving and stored in the refrigerator.
- First, make the ganache. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until it just comes to a boil.
- Place the chopped chocolate in a large, heat-proof bowl, and pour the hot cream over it.
- Stir the chocolate and cream until all of the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. Set is aside.
- Make the Pumpkin Mousse.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the mascarpone, the pumpkin the spices and salt until well combined and smooth.
- In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
- Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture, folding it in gently so that you do not deflate the mousse.
- The Assembly
- Brush the ladyfingers with rum or brandy.
- Place a layer of lady fingers on the bottom of the bowl to cover and then stand ladyfingers on end around the perimeter of the inside of the bowl.
- Add one-third of the Pumpkin Mousse. Add a layer of rum-brushed ladyfingers. Drizzle with ganache in rivers, allowing it to flow down the sides of the bowl between the ladyfingers.
- Add another third of the mousse, additional ladyfingers, and ganache.
- Add the last portion of the mousse, and drizzle with ganache.
- Chill at least 6 hours prior to serving.
This dessert is festive in appearance, and our guests loved it on Thanksgiving Day! They enjoyed the traditional flavor of pumpkin and spices, but in a new form. The lady fingers soften and absorb the rum and some of the mousse filling. The Mousse is light, creamy and warmly spiced, very silky in the mouth. The rivers of ganache are dark, luscious chocolate and pair beautifully with the Pumpkin Mousse.
This is one of those recipes that I love so much, because you can create other flavors using this basic technique for a Tiramisu Trifle. For Christmas, brush the ladyfingers with Limoncello, omit the pumpkin puree, and flavor the Mousse with vanilla and lemon zest. Layer the Tiramisu Trifle with fresh, sweetened raspberries and raspberry sauce. Perhaps just a drizzle of dark chocolate ganache on top! Let your creativity go, and create your own original!
Chocolate Devil’s Food Cake with Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream,
adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook, pages 517 and 559. The recipe is paraphrased by me here, with just a few little alterations.
When you want a decadent, class chocolate layer cake for a special occasion, whether it is a birthday or Christmas, this is it! The end result is a tall layer cake, tender and moist with rich chocolate flavor, with silky, incomparable Italian Meringue Buttercream. I used a bit more melted chocolate–bittersweet–to the cake batter recipe, and I added 5.3 ounces melted and cooled bittersweet chocolate to the buttercream as the final step.
You will need 3-9 inch cake pans. I actually used 1-9 inch cake pan and 1-9 inch, deep springform pan out of necessity–I was missing one cake pan! Butter the pans and set aside.
Preheat eh oven to 350 degrees F, and place the rack in the center of the oven.
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used 5.3 ounces bittersweet)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour sifted (I used Fine Cake Flour)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven and butter the pans.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water and set aside.
Pour the boiling water over the baking soda in a heat-proof bowl. Add the melted chocolate. Set aside to cool a bit.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light, pale yellow, and fluffy in a medium bowl.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
Alternately add the buttermilk and the flour to the butter/eggs mixture in small amounts, incorporating well after each addition.
Add the melted chocolate and the vanilla and stir well.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth well.
Bake for 30 minutes or until a tester placed in the center comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in the pan for a few minutes, and then invert onto racks to cool thoroughly.
Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
6 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
5 sticks of salted butter, room temperature ( 1 pound plus 8 Tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons Grand marnier or brandy
Combine the sugar and water in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a boil without stirring, covered, for 3-5 minutes.
Uncover it and boil until it registers 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer, or until a drop of in in cold water forms a soft ball.
While the syrup is cooking, beat the egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
Drizzle 1/4 of the sugar syrup into the egg whites, a few drops at a time, beating at high speed as you add the syrup.
Gradually add the rest of the syrup, drizzling it in a fine stream as you continue to beat at high speed for 8-12 minutes.
The meringue will cool down as you beat it. This is essential, because next, you will add butter.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy.
Add the butter, just a few tablespoons at a time to the meringue, beating well after each addition, until all butter has been incorporated.
The mixture will be very thick and creamy.
Add the cooled melted chocolate, if you are flavoring with chocolate. Fold gently until it is incorporated.
If the icing does not seem thick enough, place it over a bowl of ice and stir–the ice will cool the butter and the meringue, and it should thicken nicely.
Place a layer on a clean surface and brush the top with brandy. Then, apply a thin crumb coat of buttercream on the layer.
Repeat this crumb layer with the other layer or layers.
Place the layers in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.
Place a layer on the serving plate. Ice the top generously.
Place the next layer(s().
Apply the buttercream to the sides smoothly.
Apply the buttercream generously to the top.
Garnish as you like. I used fresh mint leaves from my herb garden and candied red cherries.
Italian meringue buttercream does not freeze well, so share this cake with friends and family, ad refrigerate any leftovers. Best if eaten within a day or two.
This cake has tender, moist crumb, a rich, dark chocolate flavor, and makes a tall beautiful layer cake. Brushing a brandy or rum or liquor on the layers is certainly optional. The Italian Meringue Buttercream is decadent, lush and silky in the mouth, light, creamy, dreamy! It is almost light whipped cream. Once you have this buttercream. other types of icing are not so appealing!
16 days until Christmas Eve! What decadent, traditional, or new desserts will you serve? Share your favorites in the Comments box, as well as any questions or comments about this post.