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A Slice of the Action – Masterchef Chocolate Mousse Cake

Adriano Zumbo's Chocolate Mousse Cake as seen on Masterchef.

I was fortunate enough to have won the opportunity to buy the chocolate mousse cake pictured above. Yes, won the opportunity to buy the cake. If you don’t already know, you’ll see what I mean when you read on.

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the chocolate mousse cake. It was initially introduced as a challenge on Masterchef Australia presented by the now infamous Adriano Zumbo. Then there was the charity auction, whereby you had the chance to bid for a slice of the action, costing up to $125 for a single slice (1/8 of the cake). Between the screening of the Masterchef episode and the auction, a lot of demand was generated for the chocolate mousse cake. This lead to the lottery, which would draw 100 lucky winners from a pool of over 4000 entrants, who would win the chance to purchase the cake at the value of $90, of which 5% would go to the Childrens Hospital, Westmead.

While all that was happening, you had bloggers attempting to replicate the mousse cake by recipe, with varying degrees of success (personal favourite was by Linda from eatshowandtell). Celebrities, such as Kate Ritchie, were also getting a slice of the action as well.

As I said, a lot of hype.

Having been fortunate enough to have been drawn as one of the winners one question I was sure to be asked, and I was asking of myself was whether the cake lived up to the hype, whether it was worth the $90 and how did it actually taste?

Individually signed & numbered cake box.I’d picked up the cake, as instructed by email, one Saturday afternoon directly from the Zumbo kitchen. I was handed an individually signed and numbered box (my number was 6), had my name marked off a winners list and I was on my way.

Well, almost on my way.

As precious as the cargo was, and knowing how I drive (I’m Asian, if that helps paint a picture), I’d taken to shooting photos of the cake box and cake before I’d gotten into my car. You know, as an insurance policy in case it never back in one piece.

I must have looked like a right fool, taking photos of a cake on the boot of my car in the middle of an industrial car park. More so when a motorist pulled over to ask for directions. He too had won the opportunity to purchase the infamous mousse cake and was looking for directions to the factory kitchen to pick up his own prize.

What are the odds, huh? :)

Pide, fatoush & hommusOk. So you might be thinking to yourself, “What the hell is this? This is not cake!”

You’re right, this is not cake. What you do see before you is the modest dinner that I’d whipped up for the occasion.

“What occasion?”

Well, the way I see it, there’s a little more to winning a lottery to have the opportunity to buy a $90 cake than, well, a $90 cake. Sharing is caring, so I’d invited a small group of friends interested in seeing what all the fuss was about with this Masterchef cake that they’d heard about.

The meal consisted of some pide bread from the Bucket Cake Shop (67 Rawson St, Auburn; awesome, freshly baked pide!), fatoush salad and hidden away behind the salad was some homemade hommus.

Chicken, lamb & potato skewers.There’s also a barbecue platter that consists of skewers of lamb, chicken & kifler potato.

Yes, you read right. Potato.

I know. Potato on a stick seems somewhat odd. However, I had a bunch of spare bamboo skewers which I’d pre-soaked, which I didn’t want to go to waste.

The lamb was seasoned simply with salt, pepper and lemon juice. The chicken consisted of a spice rub of mild paprika, onion powder and oregano and then dusted with flour for extra crunchiness. Everything tasted reasonably nice but the simple flavours of the lamb won me over. Hidden away behind the platter was a tub of creme fraiche with chives and lemon juice, which was a classic pairing for the roasted potatoes.

The video of the chocolate mousse cake in action. Thanks to V for being the lovely knife model.

She was quite nervous about the whole thing. You see, there was the hype. Then, there was my little spin, which consisted of a verbal summary of the hype to date, as well as a screening of the relevant Masterchef episode when the mousse cake was first brought to our attention. Then I’d gotten her to cut the cake, knowing full well that this would be put up the video on the Internet.

Really, no pressure at all…

She did quite well and I’m quite please with how she handled the whole situation. I believe it was her first encounter with a food blogger, so it was probably somewhat of experience for her.

V’s wonderful work aside though, this video doesn’t really do this cake justice.

A slice of mousse cake. Frankly, nor does this photo.

You see, the cake is made up of layers. However, the layers of (starting from the bottom) cinnamon sable, blackberry chocolate mousse, jaconde, two textured apples, mousse, jaconde, salted caramel, a final dose of blackberry chocolate mousse and then the chocolate spray, as shown in the above image, are not the layers I’m referring to.

When you open up the cake box for the first time, you’re hit with its visual presence. The texture of the chocolate spray, the decorative elements including the wonderful sheen on the brushed white chocolate curls, which I’ve heard from a reliable source was something that was worked on a couple of years in prep for the 2003 Pastry World Cup.

Then you’re hit with the aroma. Oh the aroma! That wonderfully sexy perfume of chocolate; a sirens call to the olfactory senses that compels you to not just savour, but to devour.

The next layer is that of textures. The smooth blackberry chocolate mousse. The momentary texture of the outer layer of chocolate spray which melts away into nothingness in a heart beat. The salted butter caramel that has the tendency to draw itself out into long, gooey strands. The texture of apples and the soft, sponge-like jaconde biscuit layers. The firm but yielding cinnamon sable biscuit base.

Finally, the layer of taste. The chocolate mousse is phenomenal! Absolutely phenomenal! It’s the second best mousse I’ve ever had. Blackberry chocolate mousse is superbly rich with notes of bitterness due to the coat of chocolate spray, which acts to temper the richness of the mousse somewhat. The salted butter caramel has a wonderfully buttery caramel flavour that was also a hit for me. The rest of the cake for me were the filler acts; nothing that was particularly interesting on their own, though overall a necessary component of the show. The apple layers were required to not only offer a contrast in texture but also to act as a foil to the sheer richness of the blackberry chocolate mousse. On their own however, they felt somewhat lacking. Like there should have been more to them but weren’t able to quite deliver. The biscuit base has a nice hit of cinnamon without being overbearing.

So, onto the million dollar question. Well, $90 lottery questions.

Does the cake live up to the hype? For the most part, yes in my opinion. There are elements that could have been better overall but there’s a lot of good things that this cake delivers on that makes it so worth the while. Though I’m by no means the first to have either tried the cake or to blog about how it was, I feel fortunately all the same for the experience, even if I had to be lucky enough to be drawn as a winner to then to only have the privilege to pay for it.

Was it worth the $90? Yes. If I had my way again but with the knowledge of how the cake tasted, I would still do it. However, the reason for my answer has everything to do with the experiences surrounding the cake and not the cake itself.

Would I buy it again if it were available? Unlikely. This might seem like an odd thing to say considering what had just come before. However $90 for a cake for me is quite a steep price to pay. As a first experience, sure. As an ongoing one, I don’t see enough value in it to warrant the cost. Now, bear in mind that this has nothing to do with how the cake is presented or how it tastes. However, it has everything to do with the amount of disposable income I have at hand to spend on such luxuries.

If, on the other hand, I was offered a tart or a smaller cake which consisted of just the blackberry chocolate mousse, the chocolate spray coating and the butter caramel, I’d snap them up as often as I could reasonably afford to.

There you have it. The cake. The hype. The verdict. I’d love to hear about what you thought of the cake and all the hype surrounding it. Do you think that it lives up to the hype and do you think it’s worth the asking price?

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{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Linda August 25, 2009, 10:22 am

    OMG That is awesome! You’re soo lucky.. LOL I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the experience.
    I think what you should do is attempt to make the cake, and see if it tastes the same =D

    I Love the video of the cake being cut, soo sexy.

  • fooderati August 25, 2009, 10:31 am

    Great story dude! Glad you managed to be one of the few that won the lottery…cake party…I love it!

  • Steph August 25, 2009, 10:54 am

    That is one sexay video, it’s nearly NSFW! I’m salivating and very very envious. I think it sounds like was totally worth the price tag!

  • Rilsta August 25, 2009, 11:03 am

    Wow, what an awesome review and lucky you for winning the “lottery”. Lottery is a loose term since you still have to fork out money! :)

    Laughed out loud about you taking photos of the cake in the boot of your car! Typical foodblogger behaviour! :P

    Though $90 is a lot of money for a cake, I would pay it for the hype of trying it once. If I could somehow get the cake to Melbourne, I would sell off the other slices for $90 and get to try a slice for free! Hehe!

  • Iron Chef Shellie August 25, 2009, 11:06 am

    Woah. I really want to try it still! All of those different flavours and smells…mmmm!

    I thought $90 was probably a reasonable price. Mind you I never actually buy cakes, I generally tend to make them. But the price some cakes go for is ridiculous!

    thanks for sharing, now I’m drooling :P

  • Belle@OohLook August 25, 2009, 11:27 am

    Fantastic review, Simon. It felt like we were there with you, peering into the car boot, opening the box and tasting the cake. Loved the soft (food) porn music on the video, too.
    As to whether I’d spend $90, well, yes, maybe just this once. I suppose you’d pay about $14 a slice in a restaurant for it, so it might be worth it.

  • Helen (Grab Your Fork) August 25, 2009, 11:57 am

    The second-best mousse you’ve ever had eh?

    Often the theatre of food, or its anticipation is half the fun. You’re not just eating a slice of cake, you’re eating a piece of Masterchef history! lol

  • Simon Food Favourites August 25, 2009, 4:27 pm

    congratulations on winning a chance to buy the cake. great video. i wish i had a chance to pick one up too. :-)

  • Zina @ tastedbytwo August 25, 2009, 8:34 pm

    Sooooooooo jealous you got to buy this! I would totally pay $90. The way I look at it, you could probably get 10 cuts of the cake and each slice would be $9 each, which is a similar price to Zumbo’s other desserts. :D

    You were wise to take a photo before you got in the car, the last time I went to Zumbo, my little box of desserts rolled off my lamp and onto the floor. Needless to say, the whole thing was ruined.

    PS – Absolutely devo I haven’t received an email telling me I won…

  • yas @ hungry.digital.elf. August 25, 2009, 8:46 pm

    Woohoo you won!
    If I was asked to pay $90 for a while cake (from any place), I might not do that. But to have a slice of masterchef experience + mousse by Zumbo + charity donation, I think it’s pretty good deal!

  • Lex August 25, 2009, 9:17 pm

    yes I agree it was the best $90 you’ve ever spent; worth shouting you a hot dog and coke for haha mmmmmm….. hot dog and choc mousse…

  • Fiona August 25, 2009, 9:58 pm

    As a fellow Zumbo cake winner (and party thrower) I commend you for this post! Can’t wait to taste the goodness. :D

  • Moya August 25, 2009, 10:13 pm

    Congratulations! This is a fantastic post. I agree it was worth the $90 for a one off chance at culinary history, I would have done the same too! And the clever way you built up the tension by making us wait – haha!

  • FFichiban August 26, 2009, 4:44 pm

    Ahh thanks heaps bro that was a very tasty cake indeed! Awesome description as well man and that bbq platter I wannntt! haha

  • deeba August 27, 2009, 2:57 pm

    Whoa…was that some cake! Loved the video & the walk throught he cake. YUM!! Love the spread you laid out to celebrate too! Briiliant post!!

  • Simon August 27, 2009, 9:34 pm

    Hi Linda! I was hoping that since you’re already an expert with making the cake, you could make one for me to compare :P

    Thanks! The cake was plenty sexy without the music :)

    Hi fooderati! Thanks dude. Thanks for organising the lottery :)

    Hi Steph! Wow, learned new acronym :P

    Thanks! Certainly worth it the first time around :)

    Hi Rilsta! Yeah, lottery is a bit of a funny word to use in this context.

    Very mercantile of you to sell off cake minus one slice for the price you would have paid :)

    Hi Iron Chef Shellie! I’ve seen some expensive cakes in my time but this is certainly the most expensive one I’ve put money towards.

    Hi Belle! Glad you enjoyed the ride! :)

    If a restaurant sold that cake, I’d sure they’d charge something like $20 for it, just because they can.

    Hi Helen! Now looks who is paying close attention to the post…? :P

    Yes, it was the second best. It’s a little underwhelming to put it that way, sure. However, you have no idea how brilliant the best mousse was. I’ll probably be telling that story to grand children. Poor little guys…

    To be fair, Zumbo does come close.

    Eating a slice of history? What are you, George’s script writer?

    Hi Simon! Thanks :)

    If I was a part of the first batch to pick up and not the last, you may have a shot at getting your hands on the cake if there is any last minute cancellations, like when I’d gotten mine.

    Hi Zina! Sorry to hear that you’d not heard back yet, as well as the lost cakes. I’m glad mine made it home in one piece. It was the slowest and most anxious drive home ever.

    Hi Yas! Like I said in the post, it was worth it the first time around. Beyond that I agree with you. If I had more disposable income though… :)

    Hi Lex! Yours was the best free hotdog and coke I’ve ever had! Glad you enjoyed the cake. Had a lot of fun that day! :)

    Hi Fiona! Oh hey! Nice work! :)

    I’ve love to know what you thought of the cake, either here or on twitter.

    Hi Moya! Thanks! Glad you liked the post :)

    Hi FFichiban! Props to you for coming with myself and Lex. Eventually…

    See what you would have missed out on if you didn’t cave to incessant pestering?

    Hi deeba! Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it :)

    Yes, that cake was something special :)

  • Trissa September 2, 2009, 10:03 pm

    90 bucks for the whole cake is not bad… I spent 100 for a slice! But hey, it was for charity so I was happy to do it! :)

  • Maria@TheGourmetChallenge September 8, 2009, 2:27 pm

    If the zumbo mousse was the second best mousse that your EVER tasted, I’m curious to know what was the BEST?

    That is a truly incredible cake, and your pretty luckily to have tasted it. I would swap you in a heartbeat if I could!

  • Simon September 8, 2009, 10:00 pm

    Hi Trissa! When you look at it that way, $90 doesn’t sound half bad :)

    Hi Maria! The best mousse that I’ve ever had was one of those once-in-a-lifetime sort of occurances. Something that cannot and will likely ever not repeat itself again. I was just fortunate enough to know the right people, and happen to be at the right place at the right time.

    I won’t go into too much detail here but suffice to say the restaurant was short lived, the chef (once a household name) I don’t believe is doing restaurant work anymore and this mousse was only ever made once in the fashion that I had it.

    Perhaps material for a post on mousse? I’ll save the details of the full story until then :)

    Though the mousse cake isn’t going to make a comeback for a while (if at all) keep an eye out for anything Zumbo makes with a blackberry chocolate mousse. Who knows, it could be even better than the chocolate mousse cake!

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