Happy Halloween, guys! I know your social feeds must be flooded with hot dogs carved into fingers and ghoulish dry ice cocktails, but you won’t find any of that here. Here we’re going to keep it classy, decidedly less fun and exceptionally more difficult. Are you sorry you stopped by yet? Well, take heart because these Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Cakes with Burnt Caramel are definitely worth the effort.
Yeah, these Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Cakes may not have gummy worms growing out of them, but man, are they delicious. Way more delicious than the O Henry’s and Sour Patch Kids you’re bound to steal from your kid’s stash. On top of that, look at them! They’re stupid pretty, like way prettier than candy corn, and you’re not liable to eat an entire bag of them before you realize what you’re doing. I’m not trying to be a curmudgeon, but heck, we’re grown ass people we deserve a grown-ass Halloween treat. Who’s with me?!
When I was a kid I loved Halloween. But honestly, when I aged out of trick-or-treating, the day kind of lost its appeal. Of course, I did the usual drink-your-face-off Halloween parties in my university days. But honestly, I never enjoyed squeezing myself into vaguely Halloween-related corsets (why?) in order to down black vodka (why?) with people I didn’t really like. So, after I left university, I sort of left Halloween alone. Maybe I’d watch a scary movie or something and eat a mini chocolate bar or two (eight), but nothing substantial.
But now that I’ve left the apartment life behind and moved into a house, I’m starting to enjoy Halloween again. I get to engage in the aspect of the night that I was always super keen on, trick-or-treating. While it’s a little disappointing to be on the other side of the candy exchange, it does give me the chance to relive a little of my childhood vicariously. So, for the first time in many years, I dress up and carve a pumpkin and do all the things that I loved as a kid. It’s kind of awesome!
The one thing I do struggle with is exercising restraint around the candy bowl before the kids arrive. My parents did not accurately illustrate just how hard this aspect of Halloween can be. Sure, you’re in control of the candy bowl, a kid’s dream, but you don’t want to eat too much and not have enough when it’s go-time. That’s how you wind up being labeled the “stingy house,” which will get you egged somewhere around midnight. Or that’s what kids used to do when I was among them. Kids still egg houses, right?! So, how do I keep my greedy mitts off of the Twizzlers? Easy! I distract myself with these Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Cakes.
Okay, before we get too far into these Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Cakes, I think you should know these guys aren’t a walk in the park. Sure, each component of this dessert is pretty manageable, but putting it all together…I’ve only recently relaxed enough to start breathing again. These babies are not for the faint-of-heart. But hey! Neither is Halloween, so they work within the theme.
To make these Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Cakes you’ll need two sets of these silicon molds. I’ll admit they’re a bit pricey but think of them as an investment in your dome cake future. Who doesn’t want a dome cake related future?
Once you have the molds, it’s time to make the caramel. Making caramel is a quick but intense affair, particularly when you’re making burnt caramel. For those of you who don’t know, burnt caramel is caramel that is slightly overcooked. When it’s overcooked, the caramel takes on a slight bitterness that provides an excellent contrast when paired with other sweets. Making burnt caramel can certainly test your nerve. You have to let it cook just long enough but not too long. Remove the caramel from the heat the moment you get a whiff of burning sugar but not a moment before. You’ll want to pull it off the heat before it’s ready but you have to fight that urge.
After the caramel comes the mousse. The Pumpkin Mascarpone mousse is a decadent affair laced with pumpkin spice and the gourd itself. It has the consistency of Cool Whip (in a good way) and freezes beautifully if you feel the need to make it ahead of time. This mousse is the first thing that goes into the mold, followed by your cooled caramel. The two are held together by a rich Oreo-esque cookie base and frozen solid before being covered in a glossy chocolate mirror glaze.
At this point, you can dress the Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse Cakes any way you wish. I opted for cape gooseberries because they remind me of tiny pumpkins. But hey, that’s just me, the world is totally your oyster – or mousse cake – you do you. But heads up, I don’t think candy corn would be out of place. 😉
Have a spooktacular Halloween everyone!
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 227g (8oz) mascarpone cheese
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup cold water, divided
- 2 envelopes (1 1/2 tablespoons) powdered gelatin
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 115 g (4 oz) semi sweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 pint gooseberries
- 1 cup toffee bits
- 1 vial edible gold luster
- Pour sugar in a large skillet and place over medium-high heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves and turns a deep amber, swirling the pan occasionally. Remove the skillet from the heat the moment you start to smell burnt sugar.
- Immediately stir the butter and heavy cream into the sugar. Take care because the caramel will bubble aggressively.
- Let the caramel cool for 10 minutes before transferring it to a heat safe jar. Store in the fridge until ready to use.
- Place the butter and the sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together into a large bowl. Whisk to combine.
- With the mixer set to its lowest setting, start adding the dry ingredients to the wet. Beat until a firm cookie dough forms.
- Transfer the dough to floured surface and form into a log. Wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
- When ready to bake, unwrap the dough and place on a floured surface to thaw for 15 minutes.
- While the dough is thawing, preheat the oven to 350F.
- Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch to 3 inch cookie cutter, cut out 12 cookies and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
- Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Let the cookies to cool completely before using.
- Place mascarpone in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Set the mixer to its lowest setting and slowly pour in the heavy cream. Mix until well-combined.
- Increase the speed of the mixer and whip until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, start adding the sugar in 1/4 cup increments followed by the brown sugar, pumpkin spice and pumpkin puree.
- Continue to whip the mixture at a high speed until stiff peaks form. Transfer the mousse to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Spoon 3 tablespoons of pumpkin mousse into 12 silicon dome molds. Smooth the mousse to coat the inside of the molds.
- Place a tablespoon of the burnt caramel on top of the mousse and sprinkle with good quality sea salt.
- Cover the caramel with an additional 3 tablespoons of mousse and press a cookie on top of that.
- Freeze the molds for 4 hours or overnight.
- Place 1/2 cup of the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over top. Set aside to gel.
- Pour the remaining water into a saucepan and add the sugar. Place the pan over medium-high heat and boil the mixture until it reaches a temperature of 219F.
- Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir in the cocoa powder and heavy cream and whisk until smooth.
- When the mixture drops to a temperature of 140F, stir in the gelatin. Stir until completely dissolved.
- Fit a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and strain the glaze into the bowl.
- Blend the mixture briefly using an immersion blender and strain the mixture again into a pour-able vessel.
- Let the glaze drop to a temperature of 82F before using.
- Place a cooling wrack on top of a baking sheet. Place 12 bottle caps on top of the cooling wrack, taking care to ensure they are evenly spaced. Pop the cakes out of their molds and place them on top of the bottle caps.
- Pour the chocolate mirror glaze evenly over the cakes.
- Using a palette knife, carefully remove the drips from the edges of the cakes. Transfer the cakes to the fridge and chill for 1 hour.
- Decorate the cakes with toffee bits, gold luster, gooseberries and sage leaves if desired. Serve chilled.