Salted Caramel Apple Mousse Cakes

Life is full of frightening things.  The world we live in is overrun with people full of hate and empty of all light, those we love are capable of causing hurt, and we spend our whole lives fighting demons of our own.  But sometimes, we can find that the thing we feared, if we just go for it, may not be the frightening thing we imagined, and may end up bringing so much happiness and enjoyment.

This dessert was one of those things for me. I would read words like "mousse," and they made me want curl up in the fetal position and realize that I wasn't good enough.  Or at least, that's what I assumed, because it seemed like something that needed to be perfect. And I'm so very far from perfect in anyway, shape or form, with my baking and cooking following suit.  

But I've started to just go for it.  Make the mousse, and maybe it'll be a soupy mess, maybe it'll be a cube of jello, but just do it.  Stack your mousse in layers on cake, and enjoy the fact that you created something that tastes good, even if it's not a masterpiece.  And enjoy the process, no matter what.  Enjoy creating and loving others in the process.

And you know something?  These weren't perfect.  My mousse was the right consistency (yay!), but the layers weren't completely even or as distinct as I wanted, and the apple roses didn't look like they had been perfected by a pastry chef.  But you want to know something else?  They were enjoyed together with friends, and the flaws weren't seen, ignored, or were forgotten in the fun of good company.  And that's how good food should be, don't you think?

Don't be daunted by the number of elements and steps in these.  None of them are individually that hard, so take it one at a time, and it'll all come together.  You can even do it over the course of several days (Cookies can be baked ahead and even frozen), and they will keep overnight in the fridge to make serving as stress-free as possible. 

Salted Caramel Apple Mousse Cakes

Apple Spice Cake

  • 1 Cup + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 Cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 6 Tbsp. applesauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup of peeled apple, very finely chopped

Salted Caramel Mousse

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. soft butter
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream at room temperature
  • 1/2-1 tsp. Coarse Sea Salt
  • 1.5 tsp. powdered plain gelatin
  • 2 Tbsp. cold water
  • 1.5 cups cold heavy whipping cream

Vanilla Mousse

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeded, or two teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. powdered plain gelatin
  • 3 Tbsp. cold water
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold

Shortbread Cookies

  • 8 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1/4 Cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla

Apple Roses & Caramel for Topping

  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, and sliced as thinly possible
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1.5 Tbsp. soft butter
  • 3-4 Tbsp. whipping cream at room temperature
  • a pinch of coarse sea salt

For the Apple Cake: Preheat oven to 350, and grease a jelly roll pan well.  In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder & soda, and spices and whisk until well combined.  

Place brown sugar in a mixing bowl, and make sure there are no clumps.  Using a hand mixer, or by hand, stir in oil and applesauce.  Next, mix in eggs and vanilla.  Add 1/2 of the flour until well blended, then stir in the milk.  Stir in the rest of the flour and mix until well combined.  Fold in the chopped apples.

Spread the mixture onto the pan, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until done.  Remove from oven and allow to cool, then use a 2.5" biscuit or donut cutter to cut twelve cake circles.

If you have pastry circles, you can use those, but if you don't have them (like me!), use flexible plastic sheet (such as folder sleeves) and tape them around the cake circles to make molds for the mousse to set in.  Make sure to very lightly spray either plastic sheets or pastry circles.

For the Salted Caramel Mousse: Place 1 cup of sugar in a medium sized, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat.  Whisk continually until the sugar has melted, then swirl the pan until the sugar has reached 350 degrees and is a light amber color.  Remove the sugar from the heat and immediately whisk in the butter.

Add the 1/2 cup of cream to the pan, and whisk to combine. Cool, then add in the salt to the desired flavor.

Stir cold water into the gelatin, and allow to soften for one minute.  Whisk into the caramel mixture until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream until it reaches stiff peaks.  With a spatula, fold in the salted caramel until combined.  Spoon or pipe mousse onto the apple cake, into the molds, smoothing out the tops.  Place in the refrigerator until the mousse has set, approximately 2 hours.

For the Vanilla Mousse: In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of the whipping cream with the vanilla seeds and pods, if using.  Allow to steep for 15-20 minutes.  In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they are light yellow and smooth.  Slowly whisk in the warm cream.  Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan, and cook over medium-low heat while stirring constantly until mixture has thickened, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add the vanilla extract if using.  Prepare an ice water bath.

Stir the gelatin into the cold water, and allow to soften for about 1 minute.  Stir into the egg and cream mixture until the gelatin has completely dissolved.  Strain into a clean bowl through a sieve, then place the bowl into the ice water bath and whisk until the mixture thickens and cools.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream until it reaches stiff peaks.  With a spatula, fold in the egg and cream mixture.  Pipe or smooth onto the top of the caramel mousse, and place in refrigerator to set up, about 2 hours.

For the Shortbread Cookies: Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth, then add vanilla, salt, and flour.  Mix to create a dough.  Roll out to about a 1/4 inch thick and cut in rounds a bit smaller than the mousse cakes.  Prick with a fork and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly golden.

For the Apple Roses and Caramel Topping: Peel and slice a Granny Smith apple as thinly as possible (no really, thinner).  Place five slices in a row on a baking sheet, overlapping them half way on top of each other.  Repeat 12 times.  Bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes, just until the slices are tender but still firm.  Roll each  section of five slices as tightly as possible and secure with a toothpick.  Refrigerate overnight.

For the caramel topping, place 1/4 cup of sugar in a medium sized, heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat.  Whisk continually until the sugar has melted, then swirl the pan until the sugar has reached 350 degrees and is a light amber color.  Remove the sugar from the heat and immediately whisk in the butter.

Add the 3-4 Tbsp. of cream to the pan until the consistency is caramel like and not runny, and whisk to combine. Spread over the tops of the cookies, and place an apple rose in the center of each while the caramel is still warm, removing the toothpicks. Place the cookies with roses on the tops of each mousse cake, and serve with much love.