Posted by Grace Massa Langlois on Friday, 2nd August 2013
Mini cakes are the perfect way to wow your guests and because they can be made ahead of time they’re perfect for entertaining. I turn to these types of desserts more often than not because I don’t want to have too many things on my plate the day of. Too often we over complicate things and instead of spending time with our guests we’re stuck in the kitchen getting everything prepared.
Serving any type of cheesecake is perfect because cheesecakes should chill for two days for best flavouring and texture. Cheesecake is a crowd pleaser too. If you haven’t noticed already most restaurants have some type of cheesecake on the menu.
Adding a layer of mousse makes these cakes extra special. The cheesecake is dense and velvety where the mousse is light and airy. I took my caramel a little bit further this time to offset the sweetness of the dulce de leche. The wafer crust provides a textural contrast but I also wanted to add a nutty, crunchy element so I’ve garnished the cakes with hazelnut praline.
I’ve been meaning to make homemade dulce de leche (it’s suppose to be out of this world delicious) but sadly I cheated again and used sweetened condensed milk. Dulce de leche is basically a milk jam.
The preparation is a simple one with only a few ingredients, whole milk, sugar, vanilla and bicarbonate of soda but the preparation is time consuming, the mixture must cook at barely a simmer on low heat for about two hours until a sticky toffee sauce consistency is reached.
When I first started researching its origins I came across an interesting story about its creation, apparently it was a mistake gone good. It’s believed to be created by a maid in 1829 in Cañuelas, Buenos Aires where two opposing leaders, Governor Juan Manuel de Rosas and General Juan Lavalle, were meeting to sign a peace treaty.
Governor Manuel de Rosas was absent from the camp when Governor Lavalle arrived. Governor Lavalle was very tired from his long journey so he decided to take a nap and since Governor Manuel de Rosas was absent from the camp he decided to take his nap in his tent.
While General Lavalle was napping the maid was preparing “la lechada” for the camp. La lechada is prepared by heating milk and sugar (my mother used to make this for me as a child when I had difficulty falling asleep, I still enjoy it occasionally). The maid went to speak with Governor Manuel de Rosas but when she entered the tent she discovered the enemy.
She was unaware of the treaty that the two men were about to make, so she ran to alert the soldiers. Governor Manuel de Rosas returned to the camp minutes before the soldiers arrived and stopped them from storming the tent and waking his guest. In the chaos, the maid forgot all about la lechada and by the time she remembered, the milk and sugar mixture was transformed into a thick, dark brown sticky mixture, dulce de leche.
I enjoy reading the stories. When I’m reading about the origins of different Italians desserts and pastries it’s not uncommon to find differing opinions and you’re left wondering which story is true. Some are so exaggerated it leaves you wondering if any of them are true but it makes for wonderful reading. I’m sure the truth lies somewhere in between.
Don’t be surprised to see an updated version of this recipe in the future because one of these days I am going to get around to making homemade dulce de leche and like everything else that’s homemade it’s going to taste so much better, using the simple option will no longer be an option.
Caramel Mousse and Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Mini Cakes
Makes one 18 cm (7-inch) cake plus six 8 x 5 cm (3 x 2-inch) mini cakes or twelve 8 x 5 cm (3 x 2-inch) mini cakes
- Dulce de Leche
- Graham Wafer Crust
- Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Filling
- Caramel Mousse
- Hazelnut Praline
Dulce de Leche
I used the new Eagle Brand Dulce de Leche flavoured sweetened condensed milk to make these cakes. I found it added wonderful flavour but in the past I’ve used the regular sweetened condensed milk and it’s wonderful too. Reserve the leftover dulce de leche for decorating the cake. Reheat dulce de leche over low heat add ½ to 1 tablespoon heavy cream (to thin it out to piping consistency), stir to combine. Transfer to squeeze bottle and allow sauce to cool slightly.
- 300 ml (about 10 ounces or 1 can) sweetened condensed milk
Graham Wafer Crust
- 243 g (8½ ounces) graham wafer biscuits (36 individual biscuits)
- 14 g (1 tablespoon) caster (superfine) sugar
- 70 g (¼ cup + 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 180° C (350° F). Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with nonstick baking paper. Cut one 23 cm (9-inch) baking paper square and six 10 cm (4-inch) baking paper squares then cut one 25 cm (10-inch) aluminum paper square plus six 13 cm (5-inch) aluminum paper squares. Place the large aluminum paper square in the centre of one rimmed baking sheet and place the large baking paper square on top. Place 18 cm (7-inch) ring mould on the centre of the baking square and then wrap both papers tightly around the sides of the mould making sure that the paper square is flat and taute. Arrange the smaller squares of paper (aluminum and baking paper) on the other rimmed baking sheet in the same manner and then wrap papers tightly, again, make sure the baking paper squares are taute. Space the moulds evenly apart. Cut nonstick baking paper collars and line the sides of the moulds. Make sure collars extend 2½ cm (1-inch) higher than the rims of the moulds. (If making twelve mini cakes, arrange six moulds per baking sheet.)
- Crush biscuits with your hands into food processor bowl; add sugar and process to fine crumb.
- Gradually add butter through feed tube and process until crumbs are evenly moistened.
- For small ring moulds, spoon 2 tablespoons crumb mixture into the base of each mould. Using tart tamper (or small glass with flat bottom), press the crumb mixture evenly on the base of each mould. Transfer the remainder of the crumb mixture into the larger ring mould and press crumb mixture evenly on the base with the tart tamper.
- Transfer to oven and bake, 8 minutes. Remove from oven, transfer to wire rack and let stand until cooled completely.
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Filling
Makes 1474 g (about 6½ cups)
- 750 g (3 cups + 2 tablespoons) cream cheese, soft but cold
- Seeds from 1 vanilla bean
- 225 g (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 60 ml (¼ cup) heavy cream, 35%
- 300 ml (1¼ cup) dulce de leche sauce
- 24 g (3 tablespoons) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
- Preheat oven to 160° C (325° F).
- In bowl of stand mixer, beat cream cheese at medium speed until smooth, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl, and paddle attachment occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the vanilla seeds and gradually add the sugar; beat until smooth, scraping down sides, bottom of bowl and paddle attachment as needed.
- Add the eggs one at-a-time, beating to just combine after each addition (about 30 seconds – don’t over mix, over mixing or mixing at high speeds can cause surface cracks), and scraping sides, bottom of bowl and paddle attachment after each addition.
- Add the cream, dulce de leche sauce, and flour and beat at low speed until just combined.
- Strain the filling through a fine sieve into large pourable container.
- Fill each mini mould with 120 ml (½ cup) filling. Reserve the remainder of the filling. Transfer mini cakes to oven and bake until edges are set but the centre jiggles slightly when moulds are gently shaken, 18 to 22 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack, let stand until completely cooled.
- Transfer the remainder of the filling into the larger mould, transfer to oven and bake, again, until edges are set but centre jiggles slightly when mould is gently shaken, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack, let stand until completely cooled.
- Transfer cakes (in moulds), loosely covered with sheet of nonstick baking paper, to refrigerator. Chill overnight.
- 170 g (¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 90 ml (¼ cup + 2 tablespoons) water, divided
- 1 teaspoon unflavoured gelatine
- 720 (3 cups) heavy cream, 35%, divided
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Heaping dash Kosher salt
- Prepare ice water bath, half fill large bowl with ice and cover with cold water.
- Reserve 2 tablespoons water. Combine sugar and the remaining 60 ml (¼ cup) water in heavy bottomed 4¼-litre (4½-quart) pot (it’s important to use a large pot because when the cream is added the mixture will bubble up ferociously). Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, without stirring occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides of the pan with pastry brush dipped in water until caramel reaches a medium to dark amber colour.
- Meanwhile, pour the reserved 2 tablespoons water in small bowl, sprinkle gelatine over top, and set aside to bloom.
- Reserve 240 ml (1 cup) cream. In small saucepan, heat the remaining 480 ml (2 cups) cream over low heat until warm.
- When caramel reaches colour, carefully add the cream and whisk constantly over medium heat until the caramel is smooth. Add vanilla and salt and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Remove caramel from heat. Transfer half of the caramel to medium bowl, add the bloomed gelatine and stir to well combine. Add the remaining caramel and stir to well combine. Strain caramel through fine mesh sieve into medium bowl. Place bowl over ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally until cold. Transfer caramel in ice water bath to the refrigerator. Let stand in ice water bath in refrigerator, stirring occasionally, 1 hour 30 minutes.
- In bowl of stand mixer fitted with whip attachment, beat caramel cream mixture until medium peaks form.
- Meanwhile, in medium bowl using electric hand mixer beat the reserved 240 ml (1 cup) cream until medium peaks form.
- Using large flexible spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the caramel cream mixture.
- Strain the mixture through fine mesh sieve into medium bowl. Transfer to large piping bag fitted with large plain tip.
- Remove cakes from the refrigerator. For mini cakes, pipe the mousse flush to the rim of ring moulds. Using small offset spatula, or back of demitasse spoon, smooth mousse evenly to edges. For larger cake, pipe 2½ cm (1-inch) layer of mousse over the surface of the cake. Using offset spatula, smooth evenly to edges. Return cakes to the refrigerator allowing mousse to set, about 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator and transfer cakes to freezer to allow them to firm up, about 20 minutes. (Popping the cakes in the freezer for a short time will make the task of removing the collars much easier and it will also make for best presentation. By the time you’ve removed collars, plated and decorated the cakes they will be at the perfect temperature to enjoy.)
- 113 g (¾ cup) hazelnuts
- 169 g (¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 60 ml (¼ cup) water
- Preheat over to 180° C (350° F). Place hazelnuts on rimmed baking sheet, transfer to oven and roast 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and transfer to clean kitchen towel and wrap tightly. Let stand, wrapped in kitchen towel, 5 minutes. Rub the nuts together to remove skins. Transfer skinned hazelnuts to baking sheet lined with nonstick baking paper.
- Combine sugar and water in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook without stirring occasionally swirling pan over burner and washing down sides of the pan with pastry brush dipped in water until caramel reaches medium amber colour.
- Pour the caramel evenly over the hazelnuts. Let stand until caramel hardens.
- Transfer praline to resealable plastic bag and using rolling pin, smack the praline to coarse crumb. (I left a few hazelnuts intact to garnish the piped swirls on the larger cake.)
To Decorate Cakes
- Caramel sauce or leftover dulce de leche (see dulce de leche recipe note)
- Sweetened whipped cream
- Hazelnut praline
- Remove cakes from freezer, immediately remove ring moulds and paper collars and transfer small cakes to individual dessert dishes and transfer larger cake to cake stand or plate.
- Pipe caramel onto surface of cakes.
- Transfer whipped cream to large piping bag fitted with decorative tip like Wilton 1M Swirl tip.
- For small cakes, pipe large swirl of sweetened whipped cream in the centre of each cake. For large cake, pipe swirls of whipped cream around edges of cake.
- For small cakes, drizzle caramel over top of piped whipped cream swirl. Garnish swirls on small and large cake with coarsely crushed hazelnut praline.
- Buon Appetito!
Tags: after school treat, afternoon tea, cake, cakes, cakes for entertaining, caramel, casual entertaining, cheesecake, dessert, dessert garnishes, desserts, desserts for entertaining, dulce de leche, entertaining, food, food photography, food photos, holiday entertaining, individual dessert, individual desserts, layered cakes, layered desserts, mini cakes, mousse cakes, mousse recipes, pudding, small cakes
Posted in Baking & Pastry, Baking Mise en Place, Basics, Cakes & Cheesecakes, Custards, Creams & Mousses, Dolci al Cucchiaio, Fillings, Frostings & Dessert Sauces, Mini Desserts, Pastry Doughs & Batter, Piccola Pasticceria, Recipes, Ricette di Base, Spoon Desserts, Torte