Let me just say that I did not stumble upon this desire single-handedly. I did not wake up today and decide that it is time to take up the one form of culinary art I have notoriously written off as box fair or worse, have reserved for companies like Bindi to graciously supply my tiramisu. Quite frankly, the prospect of composing a cake without a box and premade mix is terrifying but all the more reason to endeavor to do away with store bought dessert in one form or another.
I want to go by Nicolette after my recent introduction to the fabulous Eric Ripert and the dinner I ate at Boston’s beautiful Mistral Bistro. I admit that my newfound obsession with everything David Lebovitz leads me to this evening’s Orange and Rum Chocolate Mousse Cake complements of his Great Book of Chocolate. I rationalize that any dessert that calls for dark spice rum cannot prove haphazard even if its creator is slightly tipsy hovering over her apartment’s not-so easy bake oven; the oven typically a makeshift pantry for baking dishes on any given night I customarily abandon in favor of casserole dishes and roasting pans; but I am suffering a breakup here.
Call it caviar wishes or temporary insanity but I have to do something to keep my mind off of the “thing” we’re not talking about and since David and Molly are on my bookshelf, and I cannot consume a vat of potato salad for fear of my Italian roots uprooting, I opt for the measuring cups, for good measure.
The verdict’s still out. If it smells like a cake and it looks like a cake, you need to still take a taste; believe you me. I really should give myself more credit but when you are raised in a household where the closest thing to homemade dessert includes a box of J-E-L-L-O pudding mix, you’re not exactly conditioned to turn your nose up to a red Duncan Hines box if it means dessert is served.
I still remember classmates’ parents preparing baked goods to drop off for the holiday parties and begging my mom to assemble a cake like the cake Katie Miller’s mom whipped up for the third grade Halloween party. Ever the negotiator, my mom tells me that Katie Miller’s mom is a “stay at home mom” and that if Little Debbie’s are not good enough for the third grade Halloween party, I can always go empty-handed or worse, not at all. All these years later, still not above Little Debbie’s, I cannot justify unwrapping those prepackaged pastries in my apartment where I readily compose fresh sauces and chicken marsala late night with hardly any effort. At some point, we all graduate, with a little luck I can finally separate myself from boxed mixes.
Currently, the mousse cake sits in the middle of the bottom oven rack surrounded by a bath of warm water beneath it; David takes his cake making seriously, I will give him that. I yearn to churn out a flawless tart as effortlessly as his memoir eludes a tart can be prepared. Regardless of whether or not the chocolate mixes with the butter mixes with the sugar and eggs, I must say this endeavor proved as therapeutic as any other cannellini recipe I’ve shared; even if hovering over measuring cups is not as natural to me as it is to others.