The chocolate mousse of my childhood (well, almost)

To end this year's Christmas dinner, I really really wanted a chocolate mousse cake from Red Ribbon bakery. It's one of their oldest and most popular products and I've loved it since I was a child. But the Red Ribbon bakery in South San Francisco is almost an hour's drive away, so I decided to try and make my own.

I searched the internet for an easy chocolate mousse recipe and layered it with chocolate cake and whipped cream. Turns out it would have been quicker (and easier) to drive to Red Ribbon and back -- even though I cheated and used boxed cake mix, it still took over 4 hours to prepare and assemble the whole thing. Okay, it would have taken less time had I used an electric mixer instead of beating the egg whites and cream by hand (my wrist and forearm still hurt; now I know what I want for my birthday). But the result is worth it.

1) Prepare a box of devil's food cake mix according to instructions. Pour into two 9-inch round cake pans. Once the cake is done, cool and remove from the pans. You can save 1 of the rounds for something else (or eat it all by yourself, no one will know). Cut the rounded top off the second cake round and place in a 9-inch springform pan (line the sides with parchment paper).

2) While the cake is baking, melt 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips and 4 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over low heat.

3) Separate 3 eggs (keep the whites for later). Beat the egg yolks slightly and add them to the melted chocolate. Remove from heat and refrigerate till cool.

4) Beat the 3 egg whites till they form stiff peaks. Beat in 3/4 cup heavy cream. Fold into the chocolate mixture.

5) Pour the chocolate mousse mixture over the devil's food cake. Chill in the freezer for at least 1 hr.

6) When the chocolate mousse layer is firm, beat 1 egg white (or 1 Tbsp meringue powder and 1 Tbsp water) and 1/2 pint whipping cream in a chilled bowl till soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar to taste. Pour the sweetened whipped cream mixture on top of the chocolate mousse layer and return to the freezer until ready to serve.

7) Remove from the freezer about 5-10 minutes before serving. Release and remove the sides of the springform pan. Peel off the parchment paper. If you have any sweetened whipped cream left, use it to decorate your cake. Not that it needs any decoration; the taste speaks for itself.

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