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Triple Chocolate Red Velvet Raspberry Mousse Layer Cake

Serves:  An army 
I won’t lie.  I ‘improvised’ this recipe from this recipe to suit metric measurements and ingredients available in Ireland.  In other words, I glanced over it and did my own thing to suit the containers I bought my ingredients in.  Mainly cream.  There are three ½ litre cartons of cream in this recipe.  I also changed the brownie layer recipe completely because I didn’t trust the science or logic behind her quantities or method.  I also made it into a ‘mock’ red velvet layer.   In truth, you can use just about whatever cake you want for the base, as long as it is not too crumbly. 
For your sanity, I have compiled all of the ingredients into one list instead of all the different layers.  Think of it as four cakes and a topping.  There is one cake layer at the bottom and three layers of mousse on the top.  This means you will have to start making it the day before or very early in the morning. 
In fact, I made this gluten free cake for a significant birthday of a very good friend last Friday night.  It was therefore delivered in secret to the restaurant (Seapoint in Monkstown). Chef kindly let us store the cake in the massive walk-in fridge.  I caught him gazing in confusion at my thick and monstrous looking ganache from the corner of his eye, wondering if intentional or not.  I confessed my error and after enquiring about my quantities (correctly 1:1 choc:cream) he shared a tip to which I am grateful: add in a spoon of glucose into the ganache and it will keep its gloss.   Others say butter will also do the trick.  I’ll just have to make it again.
You can substitute ordinary self raising white flour if you don’t need it to be gluten free.  

1 length of thick acetate
1 25cm diameter spring form tin
Greaseproof paper
Free standing electric mixer (seriously, there is too much beating in this recipe and you don’t want to be all day doing this).  
120g Doves farm gluten free self-raising flour blend
65g unsweetened cocoa powder
3 sachets of powdered gelatine (I used Dr Oetker’s)
600g white chocolate
600g Dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids
150g butter
250g sugar
3 eggs
3 pints of cream or 3 x 500mls carton of cream plus one 150ml carton. 
4 x 125g punnets raspberries
1 pod of fresh vanilla
Red food colouring
Baking powder


For the Mock Red Velvet layer

1.              Preparation:  Line the tin with parchment paper by taking the circular disc out of the tin and drawing a circle on the ‘rough’ side of the greaseproof paper with a pencil.  Cut out this circle.  Cut a long length that just goes up the side of the tin.  Grease the tin and put the two pieces of greaseproof paper in place.  Preheat oven to 170°C.   Adjust your oven shelves. 
2.              Sieve together the following:  120g self raising flour, 65g unsweetened cocoa powder, ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp baking powder. 
3.              Melt 150g butter over a basin of hot water or in the microwave.  Do not let it burn, bubble or boil. 
4.              Using an electric mixer, beat 3 eggs and 250g sugar together until thick and creamy.  When you can make a figure of eight with the beaters, you are then ready to add the melted butter in at the side of the bowl.  Continue to beat after every addition. 
5.              Using a spatula, add a fifth of the dry mixture with a tablespoon of red food colouring.  Add another fifth and another tablespoon of red.  Carefully add the rest of the mixture to the sponge and don’t knock out all of the air.   Make it very red. 
6.              Pour the mixture into the tin, cleaning the bowl out with the spatula to avoid waste and to provide for uninvited guests. 
7.              Bake for 30 minutes until you can smell cake and the mixture is firm to the touch. 
8.              Remove the cake using an oven glove.  Leave in tin for three minutes and then cool on a wire rack.  Be careful not to put a really hot cake on a wire rack or it will stick to the grids. 
9.              Clean out the tin while the cake is cooling down.  Line the tin with the acetate length so it comes up 16 cm from the base.  The acetate should be as long as the circumference of the tin.  You may tape a few pieces together if necessary but they must overlap.  Tape in place so it holds.  Place the red velvet sponge into the tin and prepare the first mousse layer. 

For the Chocolate Mousse

Step 1.                        Place 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small dish and sprinkle on the sachet of powdered gelatine.  Gelatine must be added to the water and not the other way around.  Leave the gelatine and water mixture to one side.
Step 2             Place 200g of dark chocolate in a microwave proof bowl.  Estimate a similar volume of cream from your 500ml carton and add to the chocolate (about 150mls).  Melt this chocolate and cream gently.  It’s a good idea to remove the chocolate before fully melted because it will fully melt in the residual heat.
Step 3             Beat the remaining 350mls of cream until soft peaks form.  Leave to one side.
Step 4             When the chocolate mixture has cooled slightly, heat the bowl of gelatine in the microwave for a few seconds.  DO NOT BOIL or the thickening qualities of the gelatine will be destroyed. 
Step 5             Add the liquid and no longer grainy gelatine mixture to the chocolate mixture and combine well with a spatula. 
Step 6             Fold in the beaten cream into the chocolate and gelatine mixture.  Spoon over the red velvet layer and leave to set.

For the Raspberry Mousse

1.              Blitz one punnet of the raspberries with a hand blender.
2.              If desired, strain through a sieve so you are left with a puree.  Personally the seeds do not bother me. A lot of the raspberries will get stuck to the sieve and this is wasteful.   I think they add texture and flavour.  Do as you wish here. 
3.              Follow steps 1-5 for the chocolate mousse above but using 200g of white chocolate instead. 
4.              Fold in the raspberry puree and another punnet of whole raspberries to the white chocolate mixture and then fold in the cream as for step 6 above.  Add a few drops of food colouring if you want for extra pink. 
5.              Spoon the white chocolate and raspberry mousse over the dark chocolate layer and leave to set. 

For the White Chocolate Mousse

1.              Follow steps 1-6 for the chocolate mousse but use 200g white chocolate instead of dark. 
2.              Cut a length of a vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the chocolate mixture after step 5.  Reserve the empty pod to infuse another recipe at another time if you desire. 
3.              Fold in the cream and place on previous raspberry mousse layer.  Leave to set.

For the ganache and to finish.

1.              Break 200g dark chocolate into little pieces.
2.              Heat 200mls cream until very hot but not boiling.
3.              Add the hot cream to the chocolate.  Stir until melted. 
4.              When cooled but still viscous and liquid, pour over the cake. 
5.              Decorate with fresh raspberries, chocolate shavings and perhaps a few sprigs of mint. 

So, that’s it.  It will cut into 40 thin slices and half of everybody will leave it behind because it is still a lot of cake. 

Photographs © John Wiles

Connemara house renovation- part 1

This week, we were renovating a one hundred year old house in Connemara at the foot of the Maam Turks with stunning views of the Twelve Bens.  It’s been uninhabited for 15 years so there is quite a lot of rot, woodworm and debris.  We planned on doing one room at a time but it took one day to remove rubbish, rot and efflorescence that had built up in the kitchen alone.  This included a medium sized bird skeleton that could be mistaken for a baby dinosaur.  Sheep roam around the house and we plan on fencing it off.  There is a small lake decorated with lily pads, and surrounded by rushes, only five metres from the back door.  There is a bigger lake over the hill nearer to the mountain for swimming and boating near Honey Fitz’s house.  Dishes were washed in boiled lake water on a portable stove this week and china dried on the rocks. Much time has been spent removing the old grape vine and honeysuckle that had taken over the conservatory.  They attract millions of insects and I got bitten alive on the face and hands.  The kitchen was purpose built for a very tall man. While Peter will be happy with the ergonomics, I will spend much time stepping up and down an Ikea footstool until we have the funds to replace it. The antique furniture that was there will need to be treated or destroyed due to woodworm. This will significantly delay my plans to set up my piano there.  It is the perfect place to write and record.   As far as the décor goes, the main living area and bedrooms will have the original stonework exposed and whitewashed.  In contrast to this, I decided to take an experimental approach to painting the kitchen, painting the units all different primary colours, including the doors, while keeping the walls white.  The curtains are all torn and moth eaten and need to be replaced (I have a bail of fabric from the 1970’s that will do the job fine).  Much time was also spent trying to fix the burnt out water pump.  After much trial and error, we finally had a smooth flow of brown lake water coming out of the kitchen tap.  I really dislike using plastic bottled water (be honest now, are the bottles really recycled?) and have yet to look into other drinking water options.  After all that grueling labour, we chickened out of pitching our tent, and found a B & B at the last minute.  When we returned the next morning, two French world travellers called Elise and Ewen, had pitched their tent up in the front garden.  They didn’t feel the need to lock their very expensive recumbent bikes.  They’d saved up, sold all their furniture and given up their jobs, to cycle around the world for four years.  We got to practice our French.  My Irish was also tested by one of the locals.  I need to work on it.  We’re back in Limerick now, packing boxes and resting up for another week of renovating on Monday.