Servings: 10 Prep: 30 mins Cook: 30 mins Total: 2 days
In a world without sugar and flour, including the fruit sugars that come about when using real fruits, an interesting array of sweet treats often seems challenging and difficult. While it’s fun to come up with ways to build a dessert around a small amount of actual fruit, or even use artificial flavors, there are a few ingredients which are quite common as a sweet and don’t lend much to the bottom line: vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and nuts.
Here, I’ve combined all 4 into a single layered treat!
This has a layer made from extraordinarily strong coffee, a vanilla cream layer, a silky chocolate layer, and finally a chocolate almond cake, to lend some texture to an otherwise thoroughly soft and jiggly dessert.
While this recipe is attractive, sweet and well balanced, it has a few hidden lessons lurking within its wobbly walls. There are two oversights I made when making this. While I could’ve remade this cake, or pretended that I didn’t boo-boo, I tend to believe people learn more from their mistakes than their victories. In this case, you all get to learn from mine!
Each of the top layers are a flavored gelatin. I create a liquid layer, then chill for about 8 hours. Then, a new liquid layer, following by another 8 hours stretch of chilling and solidifying. This is done 3 times, with a cake being released to float on the final layer, as it chills.
Boo-Boo 1: Froth.
Anything that is whipped will ultimately make a few bubbles. Something like a whipped and gelatinized cream can actually be a lovely thing, along the lines of a supple ambrosia. However, unplanned gelatin bubbles can present a problem. The first layer in my treat was a gelatinized coffee. When I whisked and poured it into my mold, the surface had a thin layer of coffee bubbles. I didn’t think much of it, assuming the bubbles would all quickly pop. I placed my mold in the fridge to cool and went about my day. Several hours later, I checked in on it and saw a consistent layer of gelatinized coffee froth all along the top of my first layer. “Drat! Well… it’ll taste good and no one will see it. It’ll be hidden by the vanilla cream”, I rationalized.
So, I set about creating the gelatinized vanilla cream. I brought my warm base down to room temperature, then poured it into the mold, concealing the coffee layer (or so I thought).
Boo-Boo 2: Poor estimation of dimensions.
The next morning, I went to bake my chocolate cake layer. Before I began mixing my batter, I measured my cake pan and my gelatin mold. My cake pan is a standard 9-inch (22.5 cm) cake page. My gelatin mold has a 10-inch diameter (25 cm). This suggests a cake base of 9-inches should easily fit. In fact, it should leave a bit of jiggle room! However, I made an assumption. I noticed that the edges of my mold are fluted. This suggest that my inner diameter is less than 10-inches. “But, there’s still room!”, I assumed.
Here’s where my big mistake occurred. Not only were the edges fluted, but the edges also quickly tapered in at a strong angle, meaning the diameter at about 1-inch (2.5 cm) in depth is about 8-inches (20 cm). Furthermore, the dips of the flute don’t reach the same elevation as the creases between flutes, suggesting I can’t even fill it to the top without some overflow. These final two details were observed, but overlooked and ignored.
I made my chocolate pudding base, allowed it to cool, then poured it on the vanilla layer. Alas, not all of it fit. Some of it oozed over the edge through the dips, between flutes. I still needed to slip my cake in there, too!
I laid my cake on top of the pudding, but the inner edges of the metal mold obstructed my ability to lay it flat. Instead, the outer edges floated above the pudding, while the center of the cave dipped and concaved into the chocolate, like an overturned frisbee. This pushed bit more chocolate ooze up and through the flutes. “DURNIT!”
Knowing that none of this is a barrier to flavor, and having come this far, I had no choice but to chill it down and hope for the best.
The next morning, I pulled it from the fridge, warmed the mold in a hot water bath and flipped it onto a plate. “UGH!”
Here’s where my two foibles became instantly clear. The frothy coffee separating the coffee and vanilla cream layers mixed, creating an inconsistently blotchy line, looking almost exactly like a scar surrounding the entire dessert. Additionally, the weight of the gelatinized treat pushed down on the center of the concaved cake, flattening it, diminishing the voluptuous bulbous top. My round mound has lost some mound. “Mehhhh…”
I warmed up a knife and sliced through it. I put a slice on the cake and saw the layers all steeply pointing towards the center. Looks like I completely forgot my level!
Learn from my mistakes, my friends! If I had scraped those bubbles off and used a larger mold, or baked a cake with a smaller diameter… it would’ve been PERFECT to bring to a potluck!
Instead, I just sat with a long-handled spoon and enjoyed it, all sad and alone, pouting during an old episode of Parks and Rec. Gotta love that Ron Swanson!
Coffee Note: In order to make the coffee strong enough for the taste to balance within this dessert, I boiled 1 1/2 cups (360 mL) hot water and added 10 Starbucks VIA packs. This suggests each slice contains 1 cup of Starbucks VIA coffee.
Servings Note: Use a gelatin mold that holds upwards of 12 cups (2.9 L). This will serve about twelve 7-ounce (200 g) servings.
Mocha Latte Panna Cotta CakePrint Rate
Coffee Gelatin Layer
- 1 1/2 cup SUPER strong coffee
- 1/3 cup 'Swerve' or other sugar replacement
- Dash salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 packet (about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 tsp, total) gelatin powder
Vanilla Panna Cotta
- In a small sauce pan, add or make your coffee (I used 1 1/2 [360 mL] water and 10 Starbucks VIA packets). Add sweetener and a dash of salt. Bring up to a simmer.
- While waiting for the water to boil, pour the water into the bottom of a small mixing bowl.
- As evenly as possible, sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface of the water. This will allow it to “bloom” (the gelatin granules will swell in size, absorbing water, helping it to dissolve in the hot coffee you’ll add). Spreading it evenly helps to prevent clumping. Allow it to bloom for at least 5 minutes.
- Once the coffee has boiled and the gelatin has been allowed to bloom, pour the hot coffee into the gelatin bowl and whisk until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
- Pour the coffee gelatin base into the 12-cup (2.9 L) gelatin mold. If there is any kind of coffee foam on the surface, use the edge of a spoon to remove it. The surface of the coffee should be flat, clean and clear. Place the mold into a refrigerator and allow the mixture to chill for at least 8 hours.
- Now, before continuing to the next step, make sure that your coffee is completely solid and chilled all the way through.
- In a small sauce pan, place the cream, 1 cup (240 mL) of the almond milk, sweetener, vanilla and a dash of salt on the stove and bring it up to a point just below a very low simmer.
- While waiting for the cream mixture to heat up, place the remaining 1 cup (240 mL) almond milk into a mixing bowl.
- As evenly as possible, sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the surface of the almond milk. Allow the gelatin to bloom for 5 minutes.
- Once the cream is hot and the gelatin has bloomed, pour the hot cream mixture into the bowl with the gelatin and whisk until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Set the warm gelatin mixture aside and allow to come down to room temperature. Whisk every once and again. The idea is, if your mixture is too hot and you pour it on top of the coffee layer, it will melt the surface and create a bit of a murky layer between the two layers. By allowing the temperature to drop to room temperature, you’ll get a clean line between the two layers. However, if you put it in the refrigerator, the gelatin will start to firm. The goal is a room temperature well mixed gelatin base. (If you’re really in a hurry, you can put the bowl inside a larger bowl filled with ice water, keeping the cream gelatin bowl floating on top. Careful not to get any water in the gelatin, you can whisk it inside the chilled bowl until the temperature drops to room temperature. This will likely happen in 2 to 3 minutes. Just don’t let it get too cold.)
- Once the gelatinized cream is room temperature, gently pour it over the coffee layer in the mold and place back in the refrigerator to chill for a further 8 hours.
- At some point while your progressing treat is chilling, start the cake layer. Pre-heat your oven to 350 F (177 C).
- Grease a standard 9-inch (23 cm) cake pan. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, coconut flour, sugar replacement, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
- With a whisk or a fork, combine the dry ingredients so they are evenly mixed and distributed in and amongst one another. Add eggs and almond milk to the dry ingredients. While whisking to combine, pour in warm melted butter.
- The batter should be like a thick pancake batter. These ingredients tend to be a bit inconsistent from brand to brand and grind to grind. You may need to add a little more liquid to thin it out (just not too much!).
- Once the batter is well mixed, pour into the cake pan and bake for 18 to 23 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature on a cooling rack.
- Once the coffee and vanilla layers are solidly chilled through and the chocolate cake has been baked, start the chocolate pudding layer. Combine cream and 3/4 cups (180 mL) of the almond milk in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat.
- At the same time as you add your milk to the stove, in a medium sized mixing bowl, add your 1/2 cup (120 mL) remaining almond milk.
- Sprinkle the gelatin powder evenly over the surface of the almond milk. Allow it to bloom for about 5 minutes.
- Into your hot milk mixture, add and whisk the sugar equivalent, cocoa powder, and a dash of salt. Whisk until the cocoa is fully absorbed, lumps are gone, and the sugar equivalent has fully dissolved.
- Once the mixture begins to simmer (but not boil), whisk the hot mixture into the blooming gelatin bowl. Whisk until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
- Cool the chocolate pudding layer to room temperature, whisking occasionally to keep the cocoa powder from drifting to the bottom.
- Once the chocolate base has cooled, gently pour mixture over the vanilla layer, in the mold.
- Remove the cake from the cake pan and gently float it on top of the chocolate pudding layer, pressing it into the liquid until you can see the pudding around the edges.
- Place the dessert into the refrigerator to chill for at least 8 hours.
- Once the Mocha Latte Panna Cotta is chilled all of the way through, remove it from the fridge and VERY carefully submerge the base of the mold in a large bowl or sink filled with hot water. DO NOT let the water flow over the rim of the mold, but you do want as much of the mold submerged under the water, as possible. The goal is to melt the very thin outer layer of gelatin, by warming the surface of the mold. This will take about 30 to 90 seconds, depending on the thickness and material of the bowl. Test by pushing down on the edge of one side of the gelatin. You should see it easily separate from the edge of the mold.
- Once the gelatin and cake easily separates from the edge of the mold, place your serving plate, upside down, over the top of the mold’s base. Quickly flip the platter and mold upside down, then gently wiggle and lift the mold off the dessert. It should slide easily out of the mold onto the platter.
- Slice and serve!
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