Another Day In Paradise
Normally I’m a very confident cook. People like my food. Ju-Boy says I shouldn’t get too cocky. Yes, that’s the word he uses, cocky. I’ll make something and when I finish putting it together I might take a small taste, and if it’s worked out well I might just punch the air, do the Happy Happy Joy Joy dance and say, “I rock!”
“Don’t get too cocky,” Ju-Boy will almost always reply. If he’s not there, I will play both parts.
I love desserts. Actually, I love every course, from soup to nuts, as they say. But I have a special place in my heart, stomach, psyche, for dessert. I could be that once upon a time my Magyar father told me that it’s a Hungarian custom to eat dessert first. My Lithuanian mother would then say it’s only because Hungarian Jews are slaves to their sweet tooth. They would be worried about pogroms, so they would save the best for first. Makes sense to me.
Ju-Boy, amazing cook that he is, is not a patissier. He makes a decent trifle (Brits appreciate understatement, so he knows this should be a compliment). He can serve up a pretty plate of fruit. But beyond that, his talent lies with meat and potatoes, not sugar and spice, everything nice. So as you can imagine, when I joined the Ju-Boy family, my dessert skills, along with my pastry bag and collection of sprinkles, were quite welcome… with the exception of Optimus Prime.
I would bring out pretty bowls of chocolate mousse and he would decline to partake. I would serve up ice cream cake with praline topping and he would decline to partake. I would bring out a bowl piled high with chocolate-covered profiteroles and he would decline to partake. This kid was starting to give me a complex. It didn’t matter that everyone else at the table was begging me to induce a sugar coma, Optimus was not interested in my desserts. My balloon of contentment was starting to deflate.
One night we all went out to dinner to celebrate a bunch of birthdays. Dessert was chocolate mousse cake replete with whipped cream and birthday sparklers. You can just imagine my surprise and horror when Optimus cut himself a piece of cake and ate it! Okay, that’s it! I’m angry now!
My anger soon evolved into smug bitchiness. It wasn’t long before Optimus started to groan. “Urgh, I feel sick! Dad, why did you let me eat that piece of cake? You know what sugar does to me! That’s why I never eat dessert.” As much as I wanted to hold a gun to his head, I obviously hadn’t, he had eaten that chocolate bombe bomb fully compos mentis. I fully understood now, and knowledge is power.
My smug bitchiness soon evolved into irritation. Optimus wasn’t feeling well and was going to make sure we all knew about it. In the car on the way home I began to wish we had never ordered that &@*%! cake! “Dad, drive slowly, I’m going to be sick!” (Brits are polite, they don’t hurl.) “Dad, open a window, I’m going to be sick!” “Dad, can you stop the car, I’m going to be sick!” And so on, and so on, ad nauseum…
So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when, during Shabbat lunch at our house, I served up some Paradise Cake and Optimus ate it! It seems he’s been building up a tolerance. What’s even more wonderfully surprising is that a few days later he called to ask for the recipe! He and the Rani were having guests the following shabbat and they wanted something Miriyummy. At that moment he was my favorite child.
I’ve been making Paradise Cake for over 27 years. When the X and I were first dating in Jerusalem we used to frequent a restaurant called Le Souffle, and Paradise Cake was their flagship dessert. They gave me the recipe and PC became my signature dessert for years. Don’t you love restaurants that are generous and share recipes? Sadly, Le Souffle went out of business in the mid-80s, but Paradise Cake lives on.
The recipe can be made parve but tastes so much better when dairy. If you need the parve conversion, give me a buzz…
- 15-20 plain biscuits (depending on the size of the dish)
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 300 grams (12 ounces) dark chocolate
- 200 grams (1 cup) butter
- 3 tablespoons cocoa
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1 80 gram box (3 ounces) instant vanilla pudding
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- chocolate syrup for decorating
- Dip the cookies one by one in the whipping cream and lay on the bottom of your cake pan (I’ve used all sizes). Reserve the rest of the cream for the vanilla layer.
- Make the chocolate layer by melting together the dark chocolate, butter, cocoa, sugar and instant coffee. You can either do this on the stove top. I normally nuke it for 3 minutes. Mix to combine well.
- Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition. If your chocolate mixture is still hot, don’t dawdle, you don’t want scrambled eggs in chocolate sauce.
- Whip the whites to stiff peaks. Fold into the chocolate mixture until completely combined. Spread this over the cookie layer and place in the fridge to set, between 15 and 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, take the rest of the whipping cream and whip together with the instant vanilla pudding and the vanilla extract.
- Spread this over the chocolate layer. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour to chill.
- Before you serve the cake, decorate with chocolate syrup or whatever else you like to use to decorate cream cakes (I once used pulverized sugared almonds, a bit hit).
I don’t often quote my X, but will here: “One piece and you’re in paradise, two pieces and you’re in heaven, three pieces and you throw up.”