Valentine’s Day has come and gone but that’s no excuse to not to enjoy a pink, fruity dessert like this vegan strawberry mousse cake from time to time.
Even more so now that strawberries are in season. Last year the season came and went so fast that I didn’t even realize it in time to take advantage. This year I’m ahead of the game and already on my fourth kilo!
This recipe is an offshoot of my vegan strawberry mousse, which in turn came about after I discovered aquafaba. I had seen so many recipes for chocolate mousse with aquafaba, but hardly any fruit mousse recipes.
I discovered that aquafaba works wonderfully in fruit mousses to give the light airiness that whipped egg whites normally achieve in non-vegan mousses.
I thought it was great but my husband wasn’t one hundred percent convinced. He wanted more stability and that sort of crackle you hear when sinking your spoon into a dairy mousse.
I told him that it’s achieved with gelatin, which is NOT vegan (or even vegetarian), but agar agar is often used as a gelatin substitute. That got me thinking again. Could I do a vegan strawberry mousse cake?
Why, yes I can, and this is the result.
It was my first time working with agar agar and I think I was pretty lucky.
I scoured the internet for hints, tips and tricks about agar agar and was extremely skeptical that I would be able to pull it off. Too little agar agar and it won’t set, too much and it will set too hard.
Then there’s the question of what kind of agar agar you have. Powder, flakes or strands/threads each require a slightly different technique.
I went to my Asian supermarket and ended up with strands, which could be the most difficult to work with because it’s extremely hard to measure in small quantities, but it’s the cheapest of the three options.
I’ve given measurements here by weight in case you have a different type of agar agar, but if you don’t have a scale or are unsure about how much to use then you can measure out your mousse layer and juice in cups and remember that as a general guideline to thicken one cup of liquid you’ll need 1 tablespoon of agar agar flakes or one teaspoon of agar agar powder. Adjust those ratios depending on how much mousse and juice you end up with.
You’ll need some kind of a bottom-less mold. I have two squares measuring 10 x 10 x 4.5 cm (4 x 4 x 1.8 inches). I cut my cakes in half to get four rectangles. If you don't have squares, you could use a circle mold or even make the cakes in wine glasses.
- 650 grams (16 ounces) strawberries, divided
- 4 tablespoons sugar, plus more to taste
- Pinch of salt
- 5 grams (0.18 oz) agar agar, divided (see conversions above)
- 60 grams (2 oz) pitted dates (Should be soft. If not, soak them in warm water)
- 60 grams (2 oz) graham biscuits (Read ingredients to be sure they’re milk and egg free)
- 2 tablespoons coconut cream (place a can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight and then scoop out the hardened cream on top)
- 3 tablespoons aquafaba (the liquid from a can of garbanzos)
- For the mousse: Take 250 grams of strawberries and roughly chop them using a food processor or a knife. Put them in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of sugar and a pinch of salt. Measure out 3 grams of agar agar, put it in a separate bowl and cover with 1/3 cup of hot water.
- For the jelly: Take the remaining 400 grams of strawberries and roughly chop them. Place them in a third bowl with 2 tablespoons of sugar and a pinch of salt. Measure out 2 grams agar agar and put it in a separate bowl with 1/4 cup hot water.
- Leave all four bowls for 30 minutes, stirring the strawberries occasionally.
- In a food processor, chop the dates and graham biscuits to a powder. Press the mixture into the bottom of your molds.
- Take your mousse strawberries and strain the juice into a small pot, pressing the pulp to get most of the liquid out. Simmer the juice over medium heat until thick, syrupy and reduced by half. Meanwhile, blend the remaining pulp in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return to the bowl and add the strawberry syrup and coconut cream. Add sugar or other sweetener to taste, for me 2 teaspoons was enough.
- Put your jelly strawberries in a bowl lined with cheesecloth or some other material you can strain through. Use your hands to squeeze out all the juice you can into the bowl. I got about 1 cup of juice from this. Add sugar or other sweetener to taste to the juice. The remaining pulp can be blended and added to the mousse strawberries.
- Whip the aquafaba into the consistency of firm peak egg whites using the whisk attachment of an immersion blender or a balloon mixer.
- Put the 3 grams agar agar with its 1/3 cup water into a small pot over medium heat. Warm it gently, while stirring, until the agar agar has dissolved and formed a thick gel. For flakes or strands this could take 10 -15 minutes. For powder it only takes a couple of minutes. Warm your mousse strawberries slightly in the microwave and mix through the agar agar gel. Now gently fold through the whipped aquafaba a few tablespoons at a time. Pour the mousse into your molds and place in the fridge to set.
- Put the 2 grams agar agar and its 1/4 cup water into the pot over medium heat. Dissolve it in the same way as previously. Pour in your cup of strawberry juice for the jelly. Optional: Simmer gently for about 5 – 10 minutes to concentrate the flavour and get a more compact jelly. If you choose not to do this, you’ll have a thicker but softer jelly layer. It’s up to you. Pour the jelly into the molds and place in the fridge to set.
- Once set, gently slip off the molds and serve your cakes however you would like!