Dessert is a serious Thanksgiving affair in our family. The turkey, stuffing and sides are nothing but a prelude to the orgy of desserts to follow. Every year, our list of desserts grows, covering every inch of the dining room table.
This year, contributing to Thanksgiving dinner was hard. I didn’t want to disturb my mother in law in her final preparations in her kitchen, but I didn’t know how I could keep things cold for the nine hour drive. I ended up baking carrot souffle, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie in Ohio and keeping them in insulated bags with plenty of ice packs for the ride. Nine hours later, the ice was still cold and the pies were still looking good.
But there was one dessert that would not travel, and it just happened to be my most popular contribution. My family talks about this dessert all year long, and I make it year after year, even though it is a huge undertaking. My brother in law calls me to make sure I’m making it weeks in advance of Thanksgiving, and I’m a total sucker for a request.
The cake is called the Concorde. It is intensely chocolaty yet very light because it is made up of layers of chocolate meringue and chocolate mousse. The recipe below is from the first cookbook I ever owned, a French pastry cookbook by Gaston Lenotre. I am translating it into English and have adjusted the measurements to American units, but you will need a scale to make this cake.
This year, my husband’s cousin turned to me, one bite into the cake and said, “this sounds like something I should be eating at a really fancy five-star restaurant, not here in the middle of New Jersey.”
For the French chocolate meringue
5 egg whites
150 grams (5 oz) of powdered sugar
35 grams (1 oz) of cocoa powder
150 grams (5 oz) of granulated sugar
For the chocolate mousse
9 egg whites
60 grams (2 oz) of granulated sugar
375 grams (13 oz) of bittersweet chocolate
6 egg yolks
225 grams of butter
150 grams (5 oz) of powdered sugar
To make the meringues:
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix the cocoa powder and the powdered sugar.
- Whip the egg whites until stiff (about 5 minutes). Halfway through, add 60 grams of granulated sugar to help them keep their shape.
- When stiff, add the remainder of the granulated sugar at low speed.
- Fold in the cocoa sugar mixture with a spatula gently.
- Prepare two cookie sheets with silpats or wax paper.
- Spoon half of your meringue batter into a pastry bag or a ziploc bag with the corner cut off.
- Pipe your meringue batter onto a cookie sheet in three ovals 6 inch long and 4 inch wide.
- Fill the other cookie sheet with long straight lines of meringue batter.
- Cook in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, until the meringue is hard but not burnt. Check the meringue frequently to ensure it does not burn.
- Remove from the oven, and when cool, cut the long strips into one inch long pieces.
To make the mousse:
- Melt the chocolate in a water bath.
- Remove from the heat and beat in the butter (room temperature, not melted). The consistency should be like pudding. Fold in the powdered sugar.
- Add the egg yolks, making sure the mixture is relatively cool so that it is ready to be mixed with the egg whites.
- Beat the egg whites until stiff, adding 20 grams of sugar half-way through to keep them firm.
- Pour the chocolate mixture on top of the egg whites, and fold it carefully together, rotating the bowl a quarter turn after every fold. You want to be very gently to maintain as much of the air as possible.
- Put the mousse in the fridge for an hour to chill.
To assemble the cake:
- On a serving dish, lay one oval meringue disk.
- Cover the meringue disk with chocolate mousse.
- Lay another meringue disk on top of the mousse.
- Cover it with more mousse and repeat with the last meringue disk.
- Cover the entire cake with chocolate mousse and then decorate it to fully cover most of the mousse with the inch-long meringue pieces.
- Dust with a little powdered sugar.
- Refrigerate before serving. The cake tastes best if made the day before.