I didn't manage to think of a good birthday cake commission for Matt this year, so we made a cake designed by someone else, but that I've wanted to make for years. (I guess I'm developing a sort of chocolate mound theme for my birthday cakes.)
During all those years of anticipation I referred to the cake as a bombe. In researching this post, I learned that a bombe is actually a frozen dessert (or an ominously ticking cryptography machine). Ah well. (I saw the movie, Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? at an age when I thought the line, "The bombe is a bomb!" was simply hilarious.)
The recipe is in Cooking with Master Chefsby Julia Child, and the actual recipe is by Michel Richard. I've made several recipes from this book and all have turned out reasonably well. Many are even suited to home cooking. Others, well...in the spirit that over the top is not far enough, Richard has another recipe in the book for deep-fried chocolate truffles. I made these once and treasure the memory. In the same spirit, I hope someday to try Nancy Silverton's sourdough bread recipe, which involves more than a week of nursing a starter made with fermented grapes.
For all the pastry cheffery involved in the chocolate dome, it actually wasn't that difficult to execute -- just a lot of steps (and a full 3/4 pound of chocolate!). Make genoise (three ingredients - eggs, sugar and flour), orange juice, chocolate mousse, raspberry sauce, chocolate shell, and chocolate leaves. Soak genoise with orange juice, layer with chocolate mousse and raspberries, encase in a chocolate shell, and garnish with cocoa powder, raspberry sauce, and chocolate leaves.
One makes chocolate leaves by applying chocolate to actual leaves (we used rose leaves). It was our first attempt at this technique, and we found it a bit fiddly. Fortunately, we made plenty of extras, so we did end up with enough unbroken ones for the cake.
Hours of cooking entertainment, a grand presentation, and very tasty to boot.