pumpkin mousse parfaits

hello November!

So far November in New York has been, to put it kindly… a bitch. First, we welcomed the month with Hurricane Sandy aka Frankenstorm and then Athena the Nor’easter brought an onslaught of our first snow this year. I don’t mean it lightly when I say I feel incredibly grateful and lucky to have been safe and warm.

To anyone who still needs a warm place to stay or electricity or pumpkin parfaits… this is for you.

This dessert requires no baking and is super easy to put together. I was skeptical about the pumpkin-orange mousse but I think my final verdict is… I like it? I only added 1 teaspoon of orange zest instead of 2 and that was plenty. Next time, I may reduce the whipped cream to 1 cup as well for a more intense pumpkin-y flavor.

I think this is perfect for the Thanksgiving holidays. It’s a nice variation on pumpkin pie and feels deceptively light (despite the copious amounts of heavy cream. I’m so evil.). I took these adorable parfaits to my friend Emily’s party and they were quite popular. Make sure not to make them too big as these little things are richer than they appear.

{my favorite part}


{cute tiger ginger cookies}


{parfait assembly line}


Pumpkin Mousse Parfaits
adapted from Barefoot Contessa

  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 packet (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 (15-ounce can) pumpkin (not pie filling)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Sweetened whipped cream (recipe followed)
  • ½ cup crumbled ginger cookies

1)    Place the water in a heat-proof bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside for 10 minutes for the gelatin to soften.
2)    In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg yolks, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
3)    Set the bowl of gelatin over a small pot of simmering water and cook until the gelatin is clear. Immediately whisk the hot gelatin mixture into the pumpkin mixture.
4)    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture.
5)    To assemble, spoon some of the pumpkin mixture into parfait glasses, add a layer of whipped cream, then some chopped cookies. Repeat, ending with a third layer of pumpkin.
6)    Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. To serve, decorate with whipped cream and some more crumbles of ginger cookies.

Sweetened whipped cream

  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1)    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla until firm peaks form. Use to layer and decorate the parfaits.

Makes 8-10 servings

(Warren) Beatty’s Chocolate Cake

When I first saw this recipe I got really excited. Not because it’s a chocolate cake recipe or because it’s from one of my idols, the Barefoot Contessa (I love you Ina!). No, it’s because I thought it had something to do with the actor Warren Beatty. Have you seen Splendor in the Grass? so swoon worthy… wouldn’t you want a cake served by this handsome fella?

Alas, it turns out, the Beatty in this cake is actually the grandmother of Ina’s friend (pronounced Betty). Regardless, it’s still a pretty swoon-worthy cake. In fact, it’s my absolute favorite chocolate cake EVER, which is a big claim for me as I am not a chocolate cake lover. You know that scene in Matilda when the headmistress Ms. Trunchbull makes the pudgy Bruce Bogtrotter, (Roald Dahl is another idol of mine) eat that WHOLE chocolate cake?? This is that cake. It’s everything you want from a perfect chocolate cake. Moist, richly chocolatey (enhanced by coffee), but not too sweet. If only it included a classic Hollywood heartthrob…

For this occasion, I halved the recipe and baked it in a rectangular pan (easier transport) for my long-lost friend Beca’s potluck dinner. If you haven’t heard the story yet, Beca and I were BEST friends in 3rd and 4th grade when I lived in Florida. Long story short, we lost touch for years but reunited this summer while I was interning at the Met and she had just moved to Brooklyn. Now we’ve reconnected and I bake cakes for her parties… some friend right?!


Beatty’s Chocolate Cake
adapted from the Barefoot Contessa 

  • Butter, for greasing the pans
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  • Chocolate Frosting, recipe follows

(1)  Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
(2)  Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
(3)  In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.
(4)  With mixer still on low, add the hot coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should be runny.
(5)  Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting:
  • 6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (I always use Ghiradelli)
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature (can substitute with 2 teaspoons of honey)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

(1)  Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
(2)  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
(3)  Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy.
(4)  On low speed, add the chocolate and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Makes 10-12 servings (one 8-inch two layer cake )


The cake was enjoyed by all! If you don’t believe me, here’s the proof: 


mmm... AFTER

Here’s yet another heartthrob I’d trust with my culinary life (have you tried his Newman O’s?!)