In honor of the premiere of the final season of Breaking Bad, I made a mousse cake inspired by the signature color of Walt & Jesse’s meth. The base has Blue Razz Pop Rocks coated in a mixture of white chocolate & almonds. The center is a lemon mousse with a hint of Crème de Violette. The mirror is mostly white grape juice with a little more lemon juice, Luxardo Maraschino, and Crème de Violette set with gelatin. On top is a whipped white chocolate ganache studded with more Pop Rocks and blue hard candy. It’s the bluest, fizziest thing I’ve ever made, not that it has much competition.
Blue Sky meth (aka Big Blue aka Blue Magic)
Blue Sky candy (no street name)
I’m pretty sure meth doesn’t fizz, but I’ve been wanting to incorporate Pop Rocks into a dessert for years. They’re a little tricky to work with because they’re activated by moisture—any moisture, including the moisture in the air. Leave a package open for long enough, and they’ll get flat and gummy. The only way to get them into a dessert with their fizziness intact is to coat them in fat.
For the crust, I used Heston Blumenthal’s method, which involves incorporating them into a chocolate & nut base. It worked well. The pop rocks retained a substantial amount of fizz, even 30+ hours after the packages were first opened. You could use the same technique with any kind of chocolate, nut, and flavor of Pop Rocks to make fizzy truffles or molded chocolates. For the ganache, I coated them with cooking spray and powdered sugar and hoped the fat content of the chocolate and cream would protect them, at least a little bit. It wasn’t quite as fizzy as the crust, but the moisture in the cream didn’t kill the effect completely—there were still a few reactive candy pieces in every bite.
Crème de Violette!
Crème de Violette is a liqueur made from violets that plays a small but crucial role in the classic cocktail The Aviation, which I had for the first time recently at The Last Word. The liqueur itself is a deep purple, but when combined with lemon juice, gin, and maraschino liqueur, it’s the color of a clear blue sky. I was hoping it would have the same effect in the cake, but instead I got shades ranging from pale lavender to a truly unappetizing gray, so I ended up using food coloring anyway.
In terms of flavor, Crème de Violette is (unsurprisingly) sweet and floral. Beyond that it’s hard to define. It’s not quite like lavender or rose or jasmine or orange blossom, but it’s more like all of those than any fruit or herbs I know. If you’re think floral scents belong only in toiletries, you might find it off-putting. Even though I like floral scents in food, I wouldn’t want to drink it straight. However, I think it can be an appealing and enigmatic accent. It obviously works well with gin and lemon and cherries—the Aviation is a great cocktail. I can also imagine pairing it with other citrus fruits and berries, melon, honey, chocolate, or nuts.
If I had known it wouldn’t supply the color I wanted, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to track it down. Any other clear or pale liqueur, juice, or flavor extract would have worked just as well, and flavor-wise, I think it might have been better to stick to white chocolate, lemon, & almond.
Things That Went Wrong
- My first attempt at making candy included lemon juice and Crème de Violette, and it started to darken and caramelize at 250F, long before it was hot enough to set properly. I’m not sure if the problem was the lemon & liqueur or if I was cooking it over too-low heat. I pulled it off the heat at 270F because it was threatening to burn, at which point any discernable violet/blue color had been completely obscured by the amber of burning sugar. Amber + blue food coloring = bottle-glass green, not sky blue, so I started over without the extras & cooked it over higher heat.
- For the crust, I initially used the ratios provided by the Blumenthal recipe, but there wasn’t nearly enough chocolate to coat all of the pop rocks and it only covered about 1/2 the springform pan. I threw together another batch and didn’t bother toasting the almonds for the sake of speed. I liked the color & flavor of the half with untoasted almonds better and adjusted the recipe to reflect the total amount of chocolate & nuts used to cover the 9” pan base.
- White grape juice was the first nearly-colorless substitute I came up with for the strawberry juice in the recipe for the mirror. It was only as I was pouring the simmering grape juice over the bloomed gelatin that I realized I could have used champagne instead. Champagne might have needed more gelatin to set, but I bet the ratio I used in the Jell-O shots for NYE 2012 would have worked. Sad missed opportunity to reference Jesse, Combo, and Skinny Pete’s night at the strip club in “Mas.”
- I intended to pipe the ganache on top in some kind of decorative manner, leaving at least part of the mirror exposed, but I over-whipped the ganache so it was a little grainy and weepy and not in good shape for piping.
Despite all that, it turned out mostly the way I had imagined: strange, fruity, fizzy, and very blue. It was designed more for looks than taste, but the flavor combination was kind of weirdly compelling. All hail King Heisenberg!
Recipe: Blue Sky Cake
Hard Candy (from Allrecipes)
- 3 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon flavoring oil (I used almond)
- 2-3 drops food coloring
Fizzy Chocolate Nut Crust (adapted from Heston Blumenthal via Chubby Hubby)
- 1 cup (6 oz) blanched almonds
- 1 cup (6 oz) white chocolate chips
- 11 packages of Pop Rocks (I used Blue Razz)
Blue Lemon Mousse (adapted from Gordon Ramsay via Almond Corner and Hidemi Sugino via Chubby Hubby)
- 5 leaves of gelatin or 1 package powdered gelatin
- 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons Crème de Violette (or other liqueur)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 egg whites
- a few drops of blue food coloring
Blue Mirror (adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)
- 2 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons Crème de Violette
- 1 Tablespoon maraschino liqueur (like Luxardo, not Grenadine)
- 1 Tablespoon water
- 1 1/2 packages unflavored gelatin (1 1/2 Tablespoons)
- 1 1/4 cups white grape juice
- a few drops of blue food coloring
Whipped White Chocolate Ganache with Pop Rocks
- 8 oz white chocolate (about 1 cup chips)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 5 packages Pop Rocks (Blue Razz)
- cooking spray
- powdered sugar
Extras: 2 packages Pop Rocks for garnish
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine everything but the flavoring oil and food coloring in a pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Insert a candy thermometer and continue cooking without stirring until it reaches 290 F (the hard crack stage). If sugar crystals form on sides of pan, wipe them off with a brush dipped in water.
3. Remove from the heat, add flavor and color and stir just until mixed. Pour into the prepared pan and let cool completely.
4. Crack into pieces (I used the back of a cleaver), wrap in waxed paper or toss in a small amount of powdered sugar, and store in an airtight container.
1. Generously butter a 9” springform pan and line it with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom.
2. Toast almonds, if desired. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the blanched almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 5-10 minutes, or until fragrant and just beginning to color. Toasted or not, blend them in a food processor until they form a smooth paste.
3. Melt the white chocolate in a pan held over simmering water. Gently stir in the Pop Rocks. Then, fold in the almond puree.
4. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
1. If using gelatin leaves, soak them in cold water. If using powder, sprinkle it over 1/4 cup cold water.
2. Meanwhile, whip the cream until it will hold soft peaks and refrigerate until needed.
3. Warm the lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the gelatin, gently wringing out the leaves if using them. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved, and then add the liqueur.
4. Combine the sugar and water in a pot, bring to a boil, insert a candy thermometer and remove from the heat when it reaches 235 F (soft ball stage).
5. Whisk the egg whites until foamy, and the continue whisking as you drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites. Keep whisking until stiff peaks form.
6. Fold the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture. Then fold in the meringue. Add coloring if desired
7. Pour the mixture on top of the chocolate base and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
1. Place lemon juice, liqueur, and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over this mixture; set aside until spongy and soft.
2. Pour the juice into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour over the gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve. Tint with food coloring if desired. Place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water and stir until the mixture is syrupy and just beginning to thicken.
3. Gently pour it over the mousse, tilting if necessary to create a thin, even layer. Refrigerate until set.
1. Heat the cream until there are small bubbles around the edges of the pot. Add the chocolate and let it soften, and then whisk until smooth.
2. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and let it cool completely (~6 hrs or overnight).
3. Whip with a whisk or electric beaters/stand mixer until fluffy.
4. Spread the Pop Rocks on a baking sheet in a thin layer and coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and toss to coat. Then, gently fold them into the ganache.
UNMOLDING, DECORATING, & SERVING:
Warm a knife by running it under hot water for a few minutes and use it to cut around the edge of the springform pan. Release the mold and remove it. Slide the cake onto a serving plate (or not, I just left it on the springform base). Fill a zip-top or piping bag with the ganache and decorate as desired. Top with the hard candy. Refrigerate until ready to serve. For the cleanest cuts, run the knife under hot water before & between slices. Sprinkle a few additional Pop Rocks on the plate before serving.