I wowed my Christmas dinner guests with this decadent chocolate mousse dessert. It’s an elegant dessert comprising three layers – a biscuit base for crunch, a berry compote layer for sharpness, and a rich, silky-smooth chocolate mousse on top. And as a final (slightly over-the-top) touch, it’s crowned off with a golden raspberry.
Yes, it looks magnificent, but what my guests didn’t know was how simple it was to put together.
In the past years, I’d always done my Christmas dinner desserts family-style because it’s much easier to feed a large group of people that way. One year I made a pear and chocolate sponge cake. Another Christmas I made a chocolate pavlova.
I don’t know what made me decide to make individual portions this year. Maybe it was because I’d bought these cute cups from Ikea (from the toy section) a few years back but never got a chance to use them. Maybe I wanted to set myself a challenge this year. Maybe I’d lost my mind.
Whatever the reason, I designed this dessert by combining inspirations from several sources. The idea for a crushed biscuit layer came from making New York-style cheesecakes. It’s salty and crunchy, a perfect counterpart as most desserts are sweet, soft and smooth. The berry compote layer was added because I felt like I needed something sharp and fresh.
The chocolate mousse is not a conventional mousse. It’s a recipe I’ve always used from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express because it doesn’t involve raw eggs and sets really quickly. And for the golden raspberries, I learnt that from Raiza Costa, an amazingly talented Brazilian YouTuber and food blogger. (Here’s her original recipe which uses the golden raspberries.) I love watching her videos because they’re shot so well and so stylishly. Raiza is also just so bubbly and funny, and she is such a talented amateur chef.
60g digestive biscuits
340g frozen/fresh berries
50g caster sugar
2 tbsp water, divided
1 tbsp cornstarch
150g mini marshmallows
50g unsalted butter
250g dark chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids), chopped
1/4 cup water
1 tub (284ml) double cream or whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 punnet fresh raspberries
Edible gold dust
Makes 18-20 individual-sized portions.
Part 1: Making the Biscuit Layer
Stick the biscuits in a resealable plastic bag and bash up with a weapon of your choice. (I used a wooden rolling pin.)
Part 2: Making the Berry Compote Layer
Put the berries, sugar, and 1 tbsp of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until the berries begin to disintegrate. (This should happen quite quickly.)
Combine the remaining 1 tbsp of water with the cornstarch to create a “slurry.” Stir that into the berry mix and continue simmering until your compote has thickened. Remember, the compote will thicken further as it cools, but if you want it even thicker, just add more cornstarch mixed with water and heat. (Don’t skip making the slurry or you’ll get lumps.) Cool first before using.
Now, you can leave the compote as it is with some fruit bits still visible. I wanted something much smoother and more refined, so while my compote was still hot, I used my stick blender to blend up all the berries, then passed the compote through a fine metal sieve to take out all the seeds and gritty fruit parts. Again, it’s an unnecessary step, but it does leave you with a more polished looking end product.
Part 3: Making the Chocolate Mousse
In a saucepan, heat the marshmallows, butter, dark chocolate, and water over medium meat. The marshmallows will take a little while to melt, but have patience and keep stirring them into the warm mixture.
If you happen to overheat the mixture, the fat from the chocolate might separate, leaving an oil slick over top. When that happens, do not panic! Just keep stirring to melt the marshmallows. Once that is done, leave the oily mixture to cool for about 20 minutes. Then, either whisk the mixture briskly or stick it in an electric mixer. Beat until the fat melds back with the rest of the mixture and you should get something very thick, smooth, and glossy. The fat separation doesn’t always happen, but it’s good to know what to do if it does strike you.
In a separate bowl, whip up the cream and vanilla extract either by hand or in your mixer until thick and stiff. Your chocolate-marshmallow mixture should be cool by now, so fold it gently into the whipped cream.
Your mousse is ready to used, but I wanted to be able to pipe it. So, I poured my mousse into a piping bag with a largish star tip. (Use a hair clip or something similar to clip the bag near the tip so the mixture doesn’t run out.) Then, I put the bag into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to let it set to a piping consistency. Again, this isn’t a necessary step because you can simply just spoon the mixture, but I was aiming to impress.
Part 4: Making the Golden Raspberries
In a small dish, put a couple drops of vanilla extract. (It has to be real extract because you need the alcohol content.) Then pour in some edible gold dust to create your gold paint.
With a clean paintbrush, gently paint your raspberries gold. Make sure the raspberries you paint don’t have any soft spots or they’ll leak their juices and dilute the paint. I stuck each raspberry on the end of a chopstick to hold them up while I painted them.
Part 5: Assembling the Dessert
Begin with a layer of crushed biscuits.
Next, plop on your berry compote.
Then, spoon or pipe the chocolate mousse over top.
And finally, top it all off with a golden raspberry.
As you can see, this recipe is mostly just heating things up and assembling things. I will admit, however, that painting the raspberries was a bit of a pain, so if you’re not up to it you can simply leave it out.
In fact, this recipe is so flexible, there are so many different ways of changing it up and making it simpler. For instance, you can use any sort of berries you want for the compote. Use one kind only or mix them up however you like. Or, you could even just use jam in place of the compote, but look for a good jam that is nice and sharp rather than sweet.
You also don’t have to use plain digestive biscuits. Ritz crackers work nicely as well. Crushed almond thins will be sweeter but have a nice nutty flavour. You can also replace the water in the mousse with orange juice for a chocolate-orange mousse.
Or, if you want to go family-style, you can put together a biscuit base similar to my chocolate hazelnut mousse tart, just leaving out the cocoa. Then, layer on the berry compote and refrigerate to let it harden a bit. Top it off with the chocolate mousse and a ring of the golden raspberries. Hm, I just might do something similar one day!