I am not a fan of strawberry desserts in February. They make exactly zero sense. We’ve got months before fresh berries are worth eating! That doesn’t seem to stop everyone from wanting them for Valentine’s Day though.
As a blogger, I can either resist or lean into situations like this. It’s safe to say that, in the case of this Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Mousse Cake, I’m leaning all the way in—all the way. With my favorite flourless chocolate cake base, a thick layer of strawberry mousse in the middle and a rich ganache topping, this is a Valentine’s Day dessert even I can’t resist!
This recipe looks fancy, but is actually very simple. The flourless chocolate cake base is a one-bowl whisk & bake situation that turns out fudgy and decadent every time. With a texture somewhere between an excellent brownie and the center of a chocolate truffle, this cake is fantastic all on its own, but today, it’s just the beginning.
Next up: the strawberry mousse—the star of the show! It’s airy and creamy, but still stable enough to layer thanks to a tiny bit of cream cheese and a whole lot of pulverized freeze dried strawberries. Why freeze dried? Because unlike February strawberries, they have a super-concentrated flavor and are delicious year-round. I buy mine at Trader Joe’s and Target, but I am sure there are plenty of places to procure them online.
You’ll notice that I introduce heavy cream into the mousse in two phases. First, I add a cup of liquid cream to the strawberries and cream cheese to help them become one mass. Then, I whip two more cups of cream and gently fold them into the strawberry mixture until it’s mousse. This may seem like a lot of fuss, but it results in a super light texture, which is exactly what we want. Layer the mousse on top of the cake, smooth it to the edges of the pan, and refrigerate for a few hours to set.
The last step in making Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Mousse Cake? Making the chocolate covering, of course! In this case, it’s just a soft ganache (mix of dark chocolate and heavy cream) that is poured over the mousse, then coaxed over the edges so that it drips down to the cake layer. I am sure there is some very fancy and precise way to do this, but I like it a little irregular.
Once fully assembled, the cake needs to be refrigerated just a little longer so that it slices well. I threw some styrofoam-flavored February strawberries on mine for flair, but feel free to decorate (or not) however you like. This thing is going to look gorgeous and taste like chocolate-strawberry magic no matter what.
Would you look at those layers? They’re a thing of beauty! And that’s to say nothing of the flavor, which is outstanding. The rich chocolate and creamy strawberry mousse balance each other perfectly, and are truly irresistible. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t like fruit with chocolate anytime of year.
Yeah, I know. I’m no fun. But I’m leaning in.
Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Mousse Cake
makes one 9-inch round cake
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
7 ounces unsalted European-style butter*, cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (natural or Dutch process)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 ounces (1/4 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese
2 1.2-ounce packages freeze dried strawberries, pulverized
1 1/3 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups heavy cream, very cold, divided
8 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
fresh strawberries, if desired
READ THE ENTIRE RECIPE BEFORE PROCEEDING.
Make the cake. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter. Set aside.
In a double boiler or the microwave, melt dark chocolate and butter together, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Whisk in sugar. Allow to cool slightly.
Whisk in one egg at a time, combining completely after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Whisk in cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center jiggles just slightly when the pan is jostled. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack, about 90 minutes to 2 hours. Do not remove the springform. Cake may be made up to a day in advance.
Make the mousse. In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat cream cheese until fluffy (1-2 minutes). Add pulverized strawberries, confectioner’s sugar and salt, and mix again. It will be very powdery. Add 1 cup heavy cream and mix on high until combined.
In a separate mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to whip 2 cups heavy cream on low for 30 seconds before whipping on high for 1-2 minutes, until stiff peaks form.
Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the strawberry mixture. Working with 1/4 at a time, gently fold remaining whipped cream into the strawberry mixture, until very fluffy with no white streaks remaining.
Pile the mousse on top of the cooled cake (still in the pan). Spread it into an even layer and tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any large air bubbles. Stick a layer of plastic wrap to the surface of the mousse. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Remove cake from the refrigerator. Remove plastic wrap. Run a thin, flexible knife dipped in warm water around the edge of the pan before removing the springform. Smooth the sides of the released cake as needed. Refrigerate if not topping immediately.
Make the ganache. Place bittersweet chocolate in a small bowl. Pour heavy cream into a small saucepan over medium heat. When it just barely starts to boil, remove it from the heat and pour the cream over the chocolate. Once the chocolate looks soft (2-3 minutes), stir it together with a fork until you have a smooth chocolate sauce. Let cool 10 minutes.
Place a cooling rack over a rimmed sheet pan. Top with the cake. Gently pour ganache over the top of the cake, then use an offset icing spatula (or the back of a spoon) to coax the chocolate over the edges.
Lift the cake off the cooling rack and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with fresh strawberries, if desired. Serve cake.
For clean slices, dip the knife in warm water and wipe dry between cuts. Leftovers will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator, though fresh strawberries may degrade over time.
I give into the strawberry allure in February as long as they actually smell and taste like strawberries!