An Amatueur Entremet: Pumpkin Mousse Cake / by zhaophotography

Pumpkin Mousse Cake (entremet)

Grown men. Bawling uncontrollably. Over failed pastries.

Is that what happened to Jared this week?  I half wish it was true because it would have made for a great story, but alas no.  I speak of none other than our first inspiration for this cake challenge- Kings of Pastry, the incredible documentary that followed several contestants as they prepared, practiced and competed tirelessly for the ultimate title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF).  While many other international competitions such as the World Pastry Cup have been aired on television, the quest for the MOF has never been filmed before, giving the audience an exclusive window into this intense competition.  If you haven't seen it yet, check here to see if there is still a small screening at a theater near you.

While this documentary did not have us running to join The French Pastry school, we certainly gained a deep respect for those in the business of pastry, especially finely hand-crafted french pastries.  Lucky for us we have yet another source of masterful French pastry craftmanship in Chicago.  Dimitri Fayard (part of the World Pastry Champion team 2008, also a finalist for the 2011 MOF competition!) and his wife Keli, run Vanille Patisserie.  Here, we discovered and fell in love with the most delicious pastry on the planet: the entremet (mousse cake).  We aren't normally big on desserts, but we can't stop talking about these entremets.  And every chance we get, we make a trip to their little shop in Lincoln Park to pick up a couple favorites as well as any new seasonal entremets they've dreamed up.  I've never met an entremet at Vanille Patisserie I did not love.  Seriously.

Vanille Patisserie Entremets Some of our favorite entremets from Vanille Patisserie

When realized we made into the 8th round of Project Food Blog, Jared immediately thought of attempting an entremet.  Now, I don't typically like to send praises his way, but I was truly impressed with the amount of work, patience and thought that Jared put into this project. We certainly aren't a household of bakers.  Heck we rarely even toast bread. And then for a while we thought we could just get by this challenge with something a lot simpler.  But seeing that we were this far into the competition thanks to all the love and support of our tiny number of dedicated readers (we're pretty sure we can count them all on one hand, hi Mom!), he did not want to disappoint them.  He spent hours pouring over recipes, coming up with different layers of pumpkin and practicing his sponge cake before he got the right density.  And what he ended up with was a gorgeous entremet filled with heavenly layers of pumpkin.  This is his first and probably last ever entremet, so let's just call it his pastry pièce de résistance!

Sugar and Kabocha Pumpkins

Sugar and Kabocha Pumpkins

The mousse cake starts with a moist sponge cake on the bottom.  You can also use a graham cracker crust to give it some extra crunch.  The layer directly above the cake is a kabocha pumpkin gelee.  The kabocha variety has a deeper pumpkin flavor than a sugar pumpkin, so Jared chose that as a platform for the gelee.  The gelee adds a chewy texture right over the sponge cake.  The third layer is the vanilla bean poached sugar pumpkin.  And surrounding everything is a luxuriously rich pumpkin spiced mascarpone mousse.  The light fluffy mascarpone cream is not overly sweet and goes perfectly with the light flavor of the pumpkin.  And finally, a white chocolate glaze is dyed with a tiny bit of orange color to continue with the pumpkin theme and is drizzled over the mousse cake to help hold the shape.  And to top it all off, roasted pumpkin seeds are placed on the top to add both a crunchy texture and a bit of salinity.

Pumpkin Mousse Cake, Entremet

the anatomy of jared's pumpkin entremet (mousse cake)

Vanilla Sponge Cake Recipe

3 large eggs, room temperature 65g sugar 40g cake flour 20g unsalted butter, melted 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


  1. Line a 8" square jelly roll pan with parchment paper, set aside. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Using a hand mixer, whisk eggs and sugar on HIGH speed for about 5 to 7 mins, until the batter has doubled in volume and is ribbon-like. Turn to LOW speed and whisk for another 1 to 2 mins. This helps to stabilize the air bubbles in the batter.
  3. Sift the cake flour into the batter in 3 separate additions. With each addition, use a rubber spatula and gently fold in the flour until well blended. Be careful not to deflate the batter.
  4. Add the melted butter and vanilla extract, fold with spatula until well blended.
  5. Pour the batter into the tray. Spread and smooth out the batter evenly. Bake for 10-15 mins, until the surface turns golden brown or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Remove the tray from oven. Remove sponge layer from tray (with parchment paper still in tack), and leave it to cool.
  7. Once cooled, use a ring mold to cut out the cake
  8. Slice the cake in half (lengthwise) and set aside

Vanilla Sponge Cake

vanilla sponge cake, and what looks to be a product photo of his new whisk :)

Kabocha Pumpkin Gelee Recipe

½ Kabocha Pumpkin heavy whipping cream 2 tablespoon sugar 2g gelatin powder


  1. Cut the kabocha pumpkin into quarters, remove the seeds and roast at 350°F for 20 mins or until the flesh is soft enough to scoop out
  2. Scoop out the flesh and simmer in a pot of heavy whipping cream for another 20 mins
  3. Soak the gelatin in some cold water to help it dissolve
  4. Strain the pumpkin and reserve the cream.  Using a hand held blender, blend the pumpkin until a creamy puree is achieved.  Add a little bit of cream at a time to help with the blending.
  5. Add the sugar and gelatin and mix until all the gelatin has dissolved
  6. Pour it into a shallow container and let it set in the fridge until firm
  7. Use the same ring mold as the cake and cut the gelee out

Vanilla Poached Pumpkin

1/2 sugar pumpkin 1 cup water 1 vanilla bean 3 tablespoon sugar


  1. Remove the skin from the sugar pumpkin and cut into large chunks
  2. Add the pumpkin, sugar and water into a small pot
  3. Split the vanilla bean length wise and scrape the seeds from the pod.
  4. Add the seeds and bean into the pot
  5. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce the heat to a low simmer.
  6. Simmer for 30 mins or until the flesh is soft

Pumpkin Spice Mascarpone Mousse Recipe adapted from our favorite sweets blogger Venus Wei

Mascarpone Mousse Filling

240ml whipping Cream 185g mascarpone cheese 120g granulated sugar 3 egg yolks 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 8g powdered gelatine


  1. Soak the gelatine in some water to help it dissolve.
  2. Add water to a small pot and bring it to a simmer.  Place a heat proof bowl on top and add the egg yolks and sugar.  Using a hand mixer, beat until the egg mixture is pale yellow and slightly thickened.
  3. Add the gelatine and mix until dissolved
  4. Add the mascarpone cheese and mix until it is incorporated
  5. In another bowl, whip the cream until you reach a soft peak.
  6. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture.  Follow by folding in the rest of the whipped cream.
  7. Spoon the cream into a piping bag.
  8. Since there is gelatin in the cream, DO NOT LET IT SIT as it will set.

White Chocolate Glaze adapted from our favorite sweets blogger Venus Wei

240g quality white chocolate, finely chopped 200g whole milk 80g corn syrup 7g gelatin leaf orange icing color


  1. Soak the gelatin, set aside
  2. Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl then place it over a pot of simmering water, stirring constantly until completely melted
  3. In another pot, bring the milk and corn syrup to a boil over medium heat.
  4. Pour the hot milk into the chocolate and stir
  5. Add the gelatin and mix until fully dissolved
  6. Take a toothpick and dip it into the orange icing color.  Add coloring to the chocolate mixture and mix well.
  7. Remove the chocolate from the pot and stir with a rubber spatula until the desired glazing consistency.

Pumpkin Mousse Cake, White Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Mousse Cake, White Chocolate Glaze These shots of shaving white chocolate bring back memories of running a truffle business many years ago.  But that's a very long story for another time...

Pumpkin Mousse Cake, White Chocolate GlazeTempering Chocolate - Getting the right consistency for this glaze is not an easy job!

Assembling the Pumpkin Mousse Cake

  1. Using the ring mold previously used for the cake, place the cake at the bottom
  2. Brush the cake with the poaching liquid
  3. Add the gelee layer into the mold, over the cake
  4. Remove the poach pumpkin and cut into thin slices.
  5. Add the pumpkin into the mold over the gelee and using a small spoon, press down to pack the pumpkin in
  6. Remove the ring mold and place a large diameter ring mold around the cake
  7. Carefully pipe the mascarpone mousse around the cake and above the cake.
  8. Using a offset spatula, level out the cream
  9. Refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
  10. Remove the ring mold by wrapping a warm paper towel around the mold for a few seconds.  Carefully lift the ring mold off.
  11. Cut a disk from cardboard slightly smaller than the ring mold and slide it under the cake
  12. Refrigerate the cake and make the white chocolate glaze
  13. Once the glaze is of the right consistency (like syrup), remove the cake and place it on a cooling rack.  Place the rack in a sheet pan.

Glazing the entremet (mousse cake)

  1. Carefully pour the glaze over the cake and let it run off to the side.
  2. Lift one side of the pan and gently drop it.  This will cause the glaze to smoothen out at the top and remove any air bubbles.
  3. Do not touch the top, use a spatula to fill in the side if necessary.
  4. Refrigerate the cake until the chocolate outer layer has hardened.
  5. Carefully remove the cake from the cooling rack and remove the cardboad underneath the cake
  6. Decorate the cake with chocolate curls, roasted pumpkin seeds and a dusting of cinnamon

Pumpkin Mousse Cake, Entremet

Chef getting a taste of the whipped cream

Pumpkin Mousse Cake

Enjoy your hard work as it is well worth it.  But in Jared's case, this reminds him of a saying of those who climb Mount Fuji (which he has actually climbed!).  A wise man climbs Mount Fuji once in his life; only a fool climbs it twice. ;)

Pumpkin Mousse Cake, Entremetentremets (mousse cake)- a labor of love

one last gratuitous photo
* Photography sidenote: We've been experimenting with a new made up lighting technique this week, but rest assured these are all taken via natural light. *