Thursday, January 27, 2011

Joconde aka: the best chocolate dessert I've made in ages

Diary of Jackie's Joconde

January 1, 2011: Get excited

Like every first of the month, I anxiously went to, logged in the forums, and read my Daring Bakers challenge for the month: "The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert."

My first reaction: ??? Joconde? Entremet?!? What the @#$% do these words mean??

As I read on, I learn that joconde imprime is a decorative design baked into a thin and light sponge cake. Entremets are ornate desserts with many layers of cake and pastry creams prepared inside a mold. So the joconde imprime serves as the outside cake wrapper of the entremets dessert.

Like this:
No, this photo was not stolen from the internet. I MADE this myself. 
And I couldn't be more excited.

Come to mama...

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Because the photos above were taken on January 22, and a lot happened between the 1st and the 22nd. Let's recap, shall we??

January 2-9, 2011: Obsess about the dessert

The only requirement this month was baking the decorative sponge cake (joconde) that wraps around the dessert. But the filling, the filling was up to us. Fruit, cream, cake, mousse, gelatin, marshmallows, cheesecake, pudding, nuts, dacquois, fruit, chocolate... the possibilities were endless!

On top of the filling, I also had to think about the pattern for the joconde. Sure, I could have taken the easy way out and just used a frosting scraper for the pattern, but I'm a cake decorator dammit, I also had to try something different.

So I had not just one, but two things, to obsess about. And I'm the type of person who spends 30 minutes picking out a stupid b-day card, so you can imagine how much time/energy I spent on this...

January 10-16, 2011: Obsess about the dessert, part deux 

The first thing I tackled was the joconde pattern. A while back I had decorated a cake using a mehndi pattern, so I wanted to do something similar. After a few hours on Google, I had enough ideas to roll with.

To make the joconde, the first thing you do is prepare the decor paste. You can color it with food coloring or au natural with cocoa powder (like I did).

Option 1: Pipe out the paste into a pattern on a silicone baking mat
Isn't it purty?

Extreme closeup

Option 2: Spread a thin, even layer of the paste on a silicone baking mat and pattern it using a knife, spatula, pastry comb, or your fingers.
I used a pastry comb to get these straight lines

After you've made your chocolate pattern, freeze for 30 minutes. Then start preparing your joconde sponge cake. Pour the sponge on top of the pattern and spread it thinly to cover the whole pattern.

Once it's done baking (this only takes a few minutes) it'll look something like this:

Sprinkle with some powdered sugar to prevent it sticking when you flip it over

Then just flip it over and it'll look like this:

If you overcook the edges like I did it's not biggie. You can't use the overdone parts though, because the overbaked cake is hard and inflexible.  So just trim them away (and shove them in your face).

Your joconde sponge is now ready to be cut, fit into a mold, filled, and assembled. But you have to figure out your filling first...

January 17- 21, 2011: Obsess about the dessert, part tres

Once I had my general pattern for the joconde figured out I could start finalizing my ideas for the filling.

I managed to catch an episode of America's Test Kitchen (aka Cooks Illustrated) where they made a triple chocolate mousse cake.  Combine that with a recipe for mocha bavarian cream from Martha Stewart and my dessert was set.

Dark chocolate mousse with mocha bavarian cream inside a mini joconde cake

January 22, 2011: The BIG day!

OK, all those days of obsessing and Googling and thinking and planning and wondering if my recipes for the filling would be enough I was finally ready to throw caution to the wind and tackle this behemoth of a recipe.

And I say behemoth because it took me about 5 hours from start to finish for this dessert. Yes. 5 hours. Why that long?

- Everything was made from scratch
- I'm slow
- I had to bake two separate batches for the joconde because I cut the recipe in half but actually needed the full amount
- There was a lot of dish washing to be done in between recipes
- I'm slow. Did I mention that?

Sure, it took a while. But it was seriously worth every minute. And the next time I make it I'm sure I can whip it out a lot faster after learning what to (not) do. Plus, this isn't your everyday dessert. It's a rich chocolate mousse with a melt-in-your-mouth bavarian cream encased in a gorgeous sponge cake for a decadent and fancy dessert.

I think this cake would be wonderful to bring to a wine and cheese party. Or to a fancy dinner party. Or for seducing impressing a date.

Wanna see what I ended up with after my 5 hour baking extravaganza??

1. A 7" cake, with a different pattern on each half

I misjudged the height of the cake so I had to trim off a considerable amount from the top. For the recipes provided, the proper height should have been ~3". See what they looked like before cutting?

2. With the cake scraps, I was also able to make three little mini cakes. Each under 3" across.

Depending on how you cut the joconde, your stripes can go 
vertical, horizontal, or even angled.

Make your dessert extra fancy-schmancy by using melted 
chocolate to pipe out a random pattern on wax paper. 
Once cooled, pop it on top of your cake. Insant high-class look!

Make sure to put another piece of joconde cake at the bottom of your dessert. 
That will contain the mousse and filling nicely in your cake.

Well folks, sorry I didn't take more pictures of the entire process, but hopefully I shared enough for you to get an idea of the process. It's probably not a dish most people will take on, but honestly, it really wasn't that hard and the result is SPECTACULAR!

Buen Provecho,

For all the recipes and directions, click below

Before I give you the recipes, let me give you some tips/steps on how to tackle this project:

Baking the joconde

1. Prepare joconde decor paste (I'll call this paste from now on). Use either cocoa or food coloring to color the paste.
2. Pipe/spread out your paste pattern on a baking mat or parchment paper (placed in baking sheet). Stick it in the freezer for ~30 minutes.
3. Preheat your oven to 400˚F.
4. Start making the joconde sponge recipe (I'll call this sponge from now on).
5. By the time you're done with the sponge, 30 minutes should be up. Remove the paste from the freezer, pour the sponge on top, and gently spread the sponge to cover the entire paste pattern. (An offset spatula is pretty money here.)
6. Bake for 4-7 minutes. Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes, and place some powdered sugar on top. Gently flip the baking sheet over, remove the silicone mat/parchment paper, and marvel at your purty design.

Preparing the joconde mold

1. Using a springform pan or small metal rings, line the inside with parchment paper. This way the cake doesn't stick to your mold.
2. Trim your joconde to line the edges of the mold. Overlap the edges and gently press them together to seal.
3. Make sure that your pattern is on the OUTSIDE (i.e. facing the mold, not the inside).
4. Cut out a circular piece to fit inside the mold. Make sure that your pattern faces DOWNWARD.
5. Set aside while you make your fillings

That's basically what you'll do for any joconde cake you make. The layers of fillings are up to you. What I did this time was:

Filling the joconde

1. Prepare chocolate mousse.
2. Place inside the mold. Use an offset spatula to make the top/edges as smooth as possible.
3. Stick the cake in the fridge while you continue with the fillings.
4. Make the bavarian cream. Place on top of the mousse.

Note: in my case, the filling went to the top of the joconde sponge cake. But if you're using mousses and fillings that set, your filling can actually go over the top of the joconde (as long as the height of the mold is taller than the joconde cake).

5. Decorate the top of your joconde. I made little chocolate decorations. Feel free to top with cocoa or a layer of ganache or whatever.

Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste, from Daring Bakers

Yield: Enough paste for two baking sheets


4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
57 g/ (~1/2 cup) Confectioners' (icing) sugar
2 large egg whites (57 g)

1/2 cup cake flour, sifted (63 g) [for paste that you color]
                 ~ or ~
~1/3 cup cake flour (48 grams) + 17 g cocoa, sifted together [for chocolate colored paste]


1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand)
2. Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously. (Note: mine looked very curdled at this point. I just kept beating it, maybe for 5 minutes or so. The curdled look never really went away, but once I added the flour it seemed to be fine...)
3. Fold in sifted flour or flour/cocoa mixture.
4. Tint batter with coloring to desired color if not making cocoa variation.

5. Pipe onto silicone baking mat or parchment paper lining a baking sheet and freeze for ~30 minutes.
6. Alternatively, spread a thin layer (1/8- 1/4" thick) and pattern it using your fingers, pastry comb, dull knife, etc.
7. Stick it in the freezer, and continue with the sponge recipe.

Joconde Sponge recipe #1, from Daring Bakers

Yield: Two baking sheets


¾ cup/ 180 ml/ 3oz/ 85g almond flour/meal - *You can also use hazelnut flour, just omit the butter
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 ml/ 2⅔ oz/ 75g confectioners' (icing) sugar
¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 1 oz/ 25g cake flour (I'm sure regular flour would work fine too)
3 large eggs - about 5⅓ oz/ 150g
2-3 large egg whites - about 3 oz/ 90g
2½ teaspoons/ 12½ ml/ ⅓ oz/ 10g white granulated sugar sugar
2 tablespoons/ 30 ml/ 1oz / 30g unsalted butter, melted


1. In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks (see pics blow). Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
2. Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)
3. On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition (1-2 minutes). After all the eggs have been added, beat for an additional 4-5 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and light. 
4. Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
5. Fold in melted butter.

Note: to test if your egg whites are done, take your whisk, dip in the egg whites, and flip the whisk over. If the tip falls it's a soft/medium peak. If it stays straight up, then it's firm. Beware not to overbeat your egg whites.

Soft peaks (not what you want). But watch the eggs carefully at this point, 
they go from soft peaks to firm peaks very easily.

Firm peaks. YES!

Joconde Sponge recipe #2, from website that I can't remember now
Very similar to the DB one, just a slightly different proportion of ingredients.


2 oz almond flour, sifted
2 oz powdered sugar, sifted
2 oz bread or regular flour, sifted
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites
1 oz white sugar
1 oz butter


1. Mix together the almond flour, powdered sugar and flour.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing for 1-2 minutes after each addition. After the whole eggs have been added, mix on high for 5 minutes until batter is smooth and light. Add egg yolk and mix.
3. In separate, clean bowl, whip egg whites with sugar to soft/medium peaks.
4. Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. 
5. Add the melted butter and mix gently. 
6. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.

Cooking Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400˚
2. Remove the paste from the freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde sponge batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.
3. Bake at until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approximately 4-8 minutes. (Don't let the sponge get too browned, otherwise it'll be overdone and no longer flexible.)
4. Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.
5. Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)

To use
Line mold with platic wrap/parchment paper.
Line mold with the joconde cake, pattern facing outward.
Fill with fillings of your choice

Chocolate mousse, from Americas Test Kitchen
Enough to get ~1/3 way up a 7" springform pan lined with a joconde cake.


2 TBSP cocoa powder , preferably Dutch-processed
5 TBSP hot water
7 oz bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine (see note)
1 ½ cups cold heavy cream
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1/8 tsp table salt


1. Combine cocoa powder and hot water in small bowl; set aside. Melt chocolate in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly, 2 to 5 minutes.

2. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream, granulated sugar, and salt at medium speed until mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds.

3. Whisk cocoa powder mixture into melted chocolate until smooth. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon mousse into springform pan over cooled cake and gently tap pan on counter 3 times to remove any large air bubbles; gently smooth top with offset spatula. Wipe inside edge of pan with damp cloth to remove any drips. Refrigerate cake at least 15 minutes while preparing top layer.

Bavarian Cream, from Martha Stewart
Makes about 4 cups, enough to fill the rest of your 7" joconde-lined springform pan

Note: mine wasn't lumpy after step 3, but the whipped cream didn't mix in totally smoothly, so there were some minor lumps. Couldn't really tell by tasting it, but you could see them. Not sure how to fix the problem, perhaps I let it thicken too much before folding in the whipped cream. Just wanted to warn you in advance- but it tasted sooo freaking amazing anyways!

3 tablespoons cold water
1 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cups Chocolate-Espresso Creme Anglaise, room temperature (see below)
1 teaspoons coffee extract or 3 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tsp hot water
2 cups heavy cream, whipped to medium peaks


1. Prepare an ice-water bath. Put the cold water into a heatproof bowl, and sprinkle with gelatin. Let soften 5 minutes.
2. Set bowl of gelatin over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until dissolved. Add half the creme anglaise, and whisk to combine. Whisk in remaining creme anglaise, and then coffee extract.
3. Place over the ice-water bath, and whisk constantly until slightly cooled and just starting to thicken (do not let it become lumpy). Remove from the ice-water bath and set to the side.
4. Whip the cream with 1/4 cup sugar
5. Whisk in a third of the whipped cream, then fold in remaining whipped cream in 2 batches. For piping, immediately transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip. Use immediately

Crème Anglaise
Makes about 1 cup (exactly enough for the recipe above)


1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cups whole milk
1/9 cup espresso beans, coarsely ground or 3 tsp coffee instant powder
1/6 teaspoon coarse salt
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, melted


1. Bring cream, milk, espresso beans, and salt to a simmer in a pan. Remove from heat. Cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. (If using the instant coffee powder you can eliminate the 30 minutes and just go straight to step #2)
2. Prepare an ice-water bath. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar.
3. Pour cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into another saucepan, and then return to a low simmer. Add 1 cup cream mixture to yolk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking to combine. Add remaining cream mixture, whisking to combine. Return cream-yolk mixture to saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and registers 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 8 to 10 minutes. Whisk in melted chocolate.
4. Pour through a sieve into a bowl set in the ice-water bath. Let cool, stirring often.

Creme anglaise can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature and whisk before using.


Ms. Humble said...

I've been having borderline-obscene cravings for Bavarian cream for weeks now. WANT.

In addition to being ridiculously hungry, I'm also envious of how completely marvelous these look. Gorgeous.

Renata said...

You did a stunning job! Your designs are so detailed and gave your Entremet a very unique look. Also love the perfection of the little versions. Great job!

Zodelicious said...

Jackie - I have to agree, your results were spectacular, well done. :)
I really enjoyed reading your post too, I can totally relate to the days and days spent obsessing.

Aparna said...

Everything looks gorgeous, from your piped designs to the finished entremet.

Kiwi the Fruit said...

wow! your design is so detailed, your piping skill is so good!

ButterYum said...

This is fabulous!! The minis are soooo cute, but I really like the henna one too. Beautiful job.


Deborah Hauser said...

I'm so lucky to have found this link with the recipes!!! Last night I had a mini-cake...actually called a "Love Cake"from a local bakery for Valentine's Day. I had never seen the sponge cake joconde filled with chocolate mousse. This Joconde Sponge had small pink hearts around it ( made from beet juice) and somehow it had an almond flavor...almond paste? This was the best dessert I've had in a long time. Next special holiday...I will make this!!! Thanks again for sharing your expertise and humor!!!!

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