You know, the kind you make from the best organic berries with long stems that is then enrobed in the best French dark and white chocolates. It’s seductive, it’s sweet and beautiful; it’s dark, but it’s also light—the same qualities that describe her best portrayals of Verdi’s great heroines (her Forza Leonora!).
To transform that voluptuous voice into a cake, I took Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Strawberry Maria and enhanced the contents of that sexy dessert. Rather than just being a chocolate genoise filed with strawberry mousse, I create a bilayer cake consisting of a chocolate genoise with a white chocolate strawberry mousse and a milk chocolate mousse core that you stud with some sliced strawberries for a little surprise (see diagram below).
You shroud the cake in a lattice made from dark chocolate, and place decorations like leaves, strawberries, anything you want on top. Like Anna, it’s a little extra, and very seductive and voluptuous in flavor.
Author’s note: I made this cake around the same time that I was taking a course in nanophotonics at Illinois, which requires an understanding of quantum mechanics. When photographing the finished cake, I placed the Anna Bellezza on top of a table filled with textbooks, one of which is a quantum mechanics reference text used to teach physics.
Chocolate Genoise (Same as Stemme Divine base):
- 40g clarified butter
- 30g unsweetened cocoa (dutch-processed) powder
- 60g boiling water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs
- 88g sugar
- 75g sifted cake flour
Cake pan: 9 inch springform, buttered, lined with parchment, buttered again, and floured
Whisk cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Add vanilla
Beat 5 eggs with sugar for 5 minutes until triple in volume using a kitchen aid mixer at high speed
Whisk two cups of the egg into the cocoa mixture, fold well.
Fold the cocoa mixture into the remaining egg batter along with the flour and the clarified butter.
Pour into the pan and bake at 350 fahrenheit or 170 C for 30-35 minutes.
Invert and cool
Chocolate Sabayon Mousse:
- 75 g dark chocolate 70%
- 2 egg-yolks
- 1 whole egg
- 50g sugar + 2Tbsp (20g) water
- 100g heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
- 3 grams gelatin, soaked in ice water and drained.( Microwave a few seconds to liquify right before pouring into the sabayon.)
- 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries (reserve for later)
Melt chocolate and keep warm at 45 C.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip heavy cream to soft peaks; transfer in bowl.
Clean up the mixing bowl and put eggs and yolks in; beat on medium speed.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, cook sugar and water to 128 C.
Increase speed to high and pour in thin stream – add gelatin and beat until it cools down; for about 10 minutes.
Transfer egg mixture in a large bowl and set aside.
In the melted chocolate, whisk in a couple of tablespoons of whipped cream – fold in sabayon and then, add the remaining whipped cream; chill the mousse until cake is ready to assemble.
- 1 kg frozen strawberries
Thaw over a colander and juices collected.
Press juices out until most strawberries are dryish.
Microwave the collected juices in a large glass bowl until you have about 1/3 cup left
Add 1 tsp. lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Add the concentrated juice
Strawberry mousse cream:
- 80 g white chocolate good quality, melted with 1/2 cup heavy cream. Chill slightly to set
- 3.5 cups heavy cream, very cold
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 15 g gelatin, melted with a bit of water
- 3/4 cup concentrated strawberry puree or more to taste
Whip heavy cream with sugar until stiff peaks form, and add white chocolate ganache, puree, and gelatin. Chill until ready to assemble
Buy strawberry butter or a nice strawberry preserve like Darbo (American Spoon used to carry them but it might be a seasonal product.)
Make a chocolate lattice by tempering dark chocolate and piping it on parchment using a random pattern. The parchment needs to be slightly larger than the circumference of the cake. You will need about 250 g chocolate to make a full lattice.
- Assemble by slicing the genoise in half
- Layer 1: add a 6-inch cake ring in the center to hold the chocolate mousse. Stud the chocolate mousse with sliced berries. Eat what remains of the chocolate mousse. Freeze, then surround with strawberry mousse
- Cover a bit more with strawberry mousse, about 1.5 cups
- Spread a bit of nice jam or strawberry butter on the bottom part of the top chocolate cake layer. Invert the cake layer with the jam side down on top of the mousse. cover with second layer of chocolate cake
- Pipe the strawberry mousse on top
- Arrange lattice around the cake to shroud the Anna Bellezza
- Add decorations on top as you wish. Embellish a little.
- Sing arias from Adriana Lecouvreur or Aida.
Header photo: Todd Rosenberg