Celebrate with Chocolate, Totally Over-the-Top Recipes by Marcel Desaulniers

175 pages with color photographs, Hardcover price: $24.95

Published by William Morrow/Harper Collins, NY, NY Copyright 2002

Reviewed by Rosemary Jason for Good Cooking, Spring, 2003

Just in case you were worried that Marcel Desaulniers had exhausted his supply of chocolate deserts in his Death by Chocolate trilogy, you’ll be happy to know that his well has not yet run dry. He’s back with yet another lavish array of decadent chocolate creations in his latest book Celebrate with Chocolate.
Desaulniers claims that “Life is a celebration and all celebrations deserve chocolate.” and he designed his book accordingly. Celebrate with Chocolate has recipes for all occasions, big and small, from the simple Chocolate in Paradise Toasted Almond Bark to the more extravagant and labor intensive recipes like Chocolate Hazelnut Christmas Tree Stump and Rolf’s Old World Black Forest Cake. There is also a chapter on frozen desserts as well as recipes for other chocolate treats such as a hot chocolate and rum cocktail called Hot chocolate Buccaneer, chocolate brioche French toast and white Russian truffles.

The recipes are easy to follow and are meticulously cross-referenced and detailed. He even goes so far as to include directives on when you should and shouldn’t lick your fingers (Almost impossible directions to follow!) As with all recipes you should read the entire recipe before you start. This holds especially true for these recipes, which all conclude with “The Chef’s Touch”, a paragraph that contains information about what parts of the recipe you can make ahead of time, notes on equipment, technique and other information that you’ll want to know before you start.

The section on equipment, ingredients and technique is a pleasure to read and an education in the subtleties of chocolate. He recommends ingredients that are inexpensive and easy to find. Bakers chocolate is the recommended chocolate so there is no need to drop a chunk of change on the pricier imported brands. KitchenAid beaters and non-stick pans are recommended for most recipes. Both of these items are great for baking, but… if you don’t own them, a hand held mixer and ordinary baking pans that are lined with parchment and buttered will work just fine. 

The Mocha Sambuca Shooters, and the Chocolate Hazelnut Christmas Tree Stump were the recipes that I chose to test. I followed the directions as meticulously as they were written and they both (miraculously) came out looking as good as the cakes in the photos. The Shooters are tiny, dark chocolate masterpieces laced with black Sambuca and topped with mocha ganache. The recipe is quick, simple and the end result is impressive. It’s the subtle/strong flavor of the Black Sambuca that sets them miles apart from ordinary chocolate cupcakes. Testers note: It’s easy to over-whip this ganache. Stop beating the second it turns light. I would use a whisk or only beat it half as long as recommended. Make extra shooters, they disappear fast. 

The Chocolate Hazelnut Christmas Tree Stump made a great wedding present for a chocoholic friend and was actually quite simple to make despite it’s complicated looking appearance. The entire process was a bit time consuming but it can be made in advance and the end result is well worth any inconvenience.
Testers note: In order to cut nice clean slices you need to wet a serrated knife with hot water between slices. We left it alone on a table for people to cut at their leisure and that resulted in most of the bark falling off the cake looked a bit raggedy towards the end of the evening (Like most of the guests.) No matter, everyone was drunk and it tasted just as good in its less elegant state. You can also have a great time relaying fictional stories to your tipsy guests about the extravagant equipment that you had to design to get all those vertical layers. Again, make extra. There was no cake left over for the first anniversary, Which, of course, will become another event to celebrate with chocolate.