Frozen Mocha Cake with Chocolate Ganache Glaze and Holiday Party Recap

This year I changed up my approach to our holiday party menu. I tried to focus more on items that could be made ahead (baked goods, confections, and frozen and chilled items) and hoped to reduce the amount of time I would have to spend on à la minute food preparation during the party. I did this primarily by reducing the amount of hot and savory items I planned to serve. Thankfully, my husband always handles a lot of the savory offerings, including this year when he put together an extensive spread of cheese and charcuterie, several types of meatballs, a beef tenderloin, and my new favorite umami bomb -- mushroom farro. During the party itself, I successfully outsourced almost all of the cooking to my incredibly capable party helper. He made a delicious tomato soup, produced a steady stream of perfectly browned and melty miniature grilled cheese sandwiches, and cranked out decadent smoked salmon croque monsieur.

Chilled and frozen items are always popular at our party, but I'm limited by refrigerator and freezer space. So this year there were only two frozen desserts: Chocolate Caramel Frozen Parfaits and Frozen Mocha Cake with Chocolate Ganache Glaze. My favorite of the two was the cake. As another time-saving measure I had decided to serve the frozen and chilled items without any sort of sauce or garnish, because garnishing or saucing all of the desserts is just another time suck during the party. The parfait isn't that interesting without a sauce (it's tasty, but not all that different from eating a scoop of chocolate-caramel ice cream), but the frozen mocha cake is a complete dessert.

It consists of two layers of flourless chocolate cake sandwiched around a layer of frozen espresso-chocolate chip mousse, covered in chocolate ganache. To make the cake, you combine chocolate with a little water and melt it in a double boiler; cool the mixture slightly and whisk in egg yolks; and gradually fold in egg whites that have been beaten with sugar to stiff peaks. You divide the batter between two parchment-lined pans and cake, to end up with two very thin cake layers.
The cake filling is a mousse you make by beating egg yolks, sugar, and Kahlua in a double boiler until the mixture reaches 140 degrees; removing the mixture from the heat and beating until cool; folding in whipped cream that's been beaten with espresso powder until it reaches stiff peaks; folding in egg whites that have been beaten with sugar to stiff peaks; and incorporating miniature chocolate chips.

To assemble the cake, I placed a cardboard round in the bottom of a 9-inch cake ring, placed one of the chocolate cake layers on top, spread over all of the espresso mousse, topped it with the other cake layer, and put the cake in the freezer for a day. Then I unmolded the cake and covered it with a glaze made from Kahlua, whipping cream, corn syrup, and chocolate. The glaze hardened quickly on the frozen cake, so I wasn't able to get a smooth finish. I put the cake back in the freezer to set the glaze and cut it into slices before the party.

You could definitely serve this cake with additional sauce, but it's very good as is. Coffee is my favorite flavor of ice cream, and I loved the mousse filling -- especially with the crunch from the miniature chocolate chips. The frozen mousse tastes just like premium ice cream. The two layers of chocolate cake are thin, but I think they add a lot to the dessert. And the fact that they were flourless meant that guests who can't eat gluten could enjoy them. The cake kept well for a long time after the party, although the leftovers developed some ice crystals on top (as you can see in the photo above, which I took about a week after the party); I had stored the cake in a Cambro container with a lid that wasn't airtight.

As is the case every single year, the sweet and salty brownies are always the first thing to go at the party (I made eight dozen this year), followed by the salted chocolate chip cookies. Other big hits this year were the butterscotch pudding, the chocolate hazelnut crunch bars, the peppermint meringues, and the butter mints. The tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches were super popular; next year I'm going to have to find a way to facilitate mass grilled cheese production. My own personal favorite was probably the chicken liver pâté. Oh, and next year I think I might just make the filling for the smoked salmon croque monsieur and serve it as a spread with crackers -- frying the sandwiches takes a lot of time, but the filling works great as a spread and requires so much less effort. The complete list of recipes I used is below.

Baked Goods:
Previous Holiday Party Coverage: 2015 Holiday Party Recap; 2014 Holiday Party Recap; 2013 Holiday Party Recap; Holiday Spice Cake with Eggnog Buttercream (2012); Stump de Noël (2011) and 2011 Party Recap; 2009 Party Recap; 2008 Party Recap Parts I, II, and III.