Nov 23, 2012

Pumpkin Mousse & Spice Cake Parfait

Ok, so yes I'm giving you a Thanksgiving dessert recipe the day AFTER Thanksgiving, but that is only because I had to make these for the holiday.  And unlike typical trifles, these are eaten immediately, and do not need to be chilled over-night.  But I am positive you've made something amazing for Thanksgiving (or at least bought something that looks amazing and put it in your own dish, voile!...I have no beef with that, it's our little secret). 
However, let's clarify something about pumpkin.  Pumpkin-inspired recipes are synonymous with autumn.  Which is totally unfair to this gorgeous gourd.  It's like saying chocolate is only for Valentine's Day...ludicrous if you ask me.  And if I remember clearly, I heard on the Today Show....yes the Today is no longer passe to wear white after Labor Day.  So there.  Pumpkin and white trousers year round.  Whoo-friggin-hoo.
This recipe, like most other pumpkin dessert recipes calls for canned pumpkin.  Fortunately nowadays pumpkin of the canned-variety is available all year long.  Most chef's and cookbook authors will agree (I know because I googled it) canned pumpkin is much tastier, consistent in texture, and down right easier to work with than hacking up and peeling/cooking a fresh one.  Who has time for that? 
Finally, I let my husband be the first to sample these parfaits, and his exact words were 'isn't this for breakfast?'  I guess he has just gotten used to my overly-laden with butter/sugar/heavy-cream-soon-to-give-you-clogged-arteries-but-it's-kinda-worth-it desserts that he doesn't recognize a lightened-up treat when he tastes one.  So yes, this dessert is very, very, light.  Like eating pumpkin air.  Mostly due to the addition of whipped cream in the pumpkin mousse.  But I would think after devouring a heavy meal like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, this would be a welcoming treat.  Or, just eat it for breakfast.
Pumpkin Mousse & Spice Cake Parfait
makes 6-8 single serving parfaits, depending on your glass size

For the pumpkin mousse:
1 envelope (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin powder
1 (15 ounce.) canned pumpkin
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups well-chilled heavy cream

For the spice cake:
4 tbsp. (2 ounces or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the pan
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cake flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

For the brandy syrup:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brandy or cognac (I used Cointreau which went beautifully with the pumpkin)

For the toasted pecans:
½ cup pecan pieces (I used slivered almonds since I wasn't able to find pecans.  They were just 'ok' would definitely recommend using pecans though)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the topping: (I topped with fresh, whipped cream.  However you can also top with ice cream, your preference)

whipped cream:
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1 pint caramel ice cream


To prepare the mousse, put 1/4 cup cold water in a small heat-proof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the water.  Be sure to actually sprinkle the gelatin and not just dump it in to avoid clumps. Set aside for 10 minutes for the gelatin to soften.


Meanwhile, set the bowl of softened gelatin over a pan of simmering water and cook until the gelatin is clear.

Immediately whisk the hot gelatin mixture into the pumpkin mixture.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.

Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin/gelatin mixture. Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To prepare the spice cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and then line bottom of 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang at each end. Grease the paper with butter.  I use a plastic baggie as a glove to make things easy.

Line a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth (I used a coffee filter, also works great). In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 1/4 cup butter. Do not stir, but watch carefully. Eventually, solids will drop to bottom of pan. When they are dark brown, remove butter from heat.  

Strain through cheesecloth (or coffee filter) into a medium bowl. 

*If you're using a coffee filter you might notice the butter will s l o w l y make its way through the filter, this is normal. I gave the filter a gentle twist once it was almost empty to push the last of the butter through. 
Set aside and let cool until lukewarm.

In the metal bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together eggs and sugar to combine. Set bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and whisk constantly until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to touch, about 3 minutes.

Return bowl to mixer base. Using whisk attachment, beat at high speed until mixture has tripled in volume and has consistency of softly whipped cream (about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on mixer).

While eggs are being beaten, sift cake flour, salt and spices into a bowl.

Whisk to combine, and set aside.
When eggs have tripled in volume, turn off mixer and remove bowl from stand. Sift one third of flour mixture over eggs and use a rubber spatula to fold in gently.
Sift and fold in remaining flour in two more additions. Stir 1 cup of batter into browned butter.  Quickly fold butter mixture into remaining batter until just combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula.

Bake in middle of oven until top is browned and cake shrinks away from sides of pan, about 12 to 15 minutes. Invert onto rack, peel off parchment and cool. 

To make the brandy syrup, in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir sugar with ¼ cup water until sugar has dissolved. Add brandy. Let cool and refrigerate, covered.

To prepare pecans, in a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter.

Add pecans and cook, stirring, until toasted, about 3 minutes.

To prepare the whipped cream topping (skip this step if you will top them with the caramel ice cream) pour whipped cream into a well-chilled metal bowl of a stand-up mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk on the highest speed until soft peaks form.  Turn off mixer, add sugar and vanilla.  Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

To serve, trim 1/8 inch from around edges of cake. Cut cake into 16 squares. Put 1/4 cup mousse in bottom of each of 8 glasses and spread slightly. Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon pecans over mousse and add a square of cake. Brush cake with brandy syrup. 

Repeat one more layer as before; mousse, pecans, cake, brush with brandy. Repeat for remaining glasses.  Top with either caramel ice cream or freshly whipped cream.


Recipe slightly adapted from Elle Decor

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