As my boys have gotten older they no longer think a fun or cool cake is the thing for birthdays as much. Instead they lean more towards “What I like to eat the best”, and that is usually not cake at all. For Middle Child’s birthday this year, he chose Death By Chocolate. Again. It is kind of hard to get really creative and fun with something like that. It is not a pretty dessert. In fact, it is usually pretty messy and even a little gross looking once you dish it out. It is incredibly awesome tasting, but so not pretty. When he chose this last year, I really struggled to come up with something fun to do with it and the best I could do was that it was Death By Chocolate Pi and drew the Pi symbol on the top of the mess. MC thought this was funny since he is like his dad and is something of a math geek, so mission accomplished, even if it was really badly done and just tossed together.
I wanted something a bit more interesting this year and after thinking on it for a while, I was still not getting any kind of creative spark. I thought about trying to do it in more of a layered cake form by baking the brownies in round cake pans and not breaking them up, using the mousse and Cool Whip as the icing, but I knew that just wouldn’t be the same and probably wouldn’t turn out well. I was putting away something in the cabinet and saw my little ice cream dishes and I started thinking outside of the “dump it all in a pan” method and went more individual. The one time I made this in a trifle bowl, it actually looked kind of interesting because of the layers and I’d get the same look with the dishes. When I started taking them down, though, I realized that they would end up being way too small and with them being so narrow at the bottom and wide at the time, you’d lose some of the layering effect, so I dug around to come up with an alternative. I used some larger crystal water goblets instead. They are more uniform in size from bottom to top and they hold a little over 1/3 more than the ice cream dishes did. Problem solved.
I’ve been making this dessert for years and it seems as though it changes just a little bit every single time I make it, so it is incredibly easy to modify. It is also the perfect cheater recipe (using mostly store bought or box mix ingredients) but it would be just as easy to do this full on from scratch if that is your preference. I normally go the cheater route. Because this is so flexible, the amounts are starting points that you can change to fit your preferences. There are only 4 main ingredients and takes very little work time to make. Total time is longer because you have to bake the brownies and wait for them to cool enough to break them up, which is where almost all of the time comes in here.
Death By Chocolate Recipe
1 Box Brownie Mix
2 Cups Prepared Chocolate Mousse*
2 Cups Cool Whip
1 Bag Heath Bar or Crumbled Toffee Pieces
Make brownies according to package directions. Because these will be broken up, you do not want really gooey brownies, instead bake until more cake like. Allow to cool enough to handle. Divide brownies in half. Crumble 1/2 of brownies in bottom of pan (deep 9×9 or slightly larger is best as this will fill to the top of the pan). Spread 1/2 of the mousse over brownies. Spread 1/2 of the Cool Whip over mousse. Sprinkle toffee pieces over cool whip. Repeat layers starting with brownies so that you have two layers of each. May serve right away or refrigerate a few hours. This is best served the same day.
Total Time: 2 Hours Makes 10, 1.5 cup Servings**
*One of the reasons why this recipe has changed so much for me over the years is that I’ve struggled to find any form of chocolate mousse since the first time I made this so I’ve had to get creative. I’ve used just chocolate pudding and it was okay, but it was a bit too heavy and thick texture wise. It works when necessary, but isn’t my favorite. The best versions of this have had the real deal in it. Recently, I got really creative and started using Jello instant pudding, but instead of using milk, I’ve used about 2/3 cup of milk and the rest is heavy whipping cream. This give you a lighter version of the pudding and gets you mostly the same thing as you would get with mousse. Plus, there are several flavor options on the chocolate puddings, so you can customize this to your tastes. We tend to be a dark chocolate family, so I choose brownie mixes and puddings to fit that preference. If you are making the mousse this way, I recommend working on that while the brownies are baking and then putting it in the fridge until you are ready to assemble.
Having done this as individual servings this time, I’d say you could easily double the time if you are going to be on the picky side about keeping the layers relatively clean and smooth. It is amazingly difficult to keep the sides of the glass clean while putting this together. In all, they came out looking pretty nice.
**Just wanted to note that these are apparently pretty large servings, to you may want to break this into smaller portions if you want to make individuals.