julias birthday cake


When a person with admirable qualities inspires stories that are passed down through generations, they are called a legend. This year, I’d like you to join me in celebrating the 100th birthday of the legendary chef, Julia Child.

Many of you know Julia Child as the wildly popular star of the 1963 television program, The French Chef and co-author of the culinary classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Though she was a French-trained chef and prolific writer, what made her a legend most was her knack for educating, entertaining and inspiring countless Americans to drop their frozen dinners and pick up a whisk, a pan, a knife and a spoon and get cooking.

berry light
top of cake
the cake


At a time in America when garlic was considered an exotic ingredient and iceberg lettuce reigned supreme, Julia Child burst onto the stage telling American housewives to demand quality ingredients from their supermarkets, to experiment with flavor and to see cooking as a joy rather than a chore.

It was, in fact, not her culinary technique and training that propelled her to fame but rather her occasional awkwardness in the kitchen, her self-deprecating humor and her general conveyance of the idea that the most important thing was not to be a master chef but to have fun with fresh ingredients and experience the true pleasure of food. In Julia’s words, ““You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”

delicious cake
bite of strawberry

As written in Hamming it Up in the Haute Cuisine (Life Magazine, October, 1966),

“To the millions of faithful followers who joyfully tune in on her half-hour program every week, Mrs. Child seems quite a person herself, offering considerably more than wizardry in haute cuisine. …she is a delightfully incorrigible ham…She samples sauces by sticking a finger in and shamelessly licking it – and occasionally spills the whole mess and has to start over. If she drops an ingredient on the floor, she’ll pick it up, dust it off, toss it into the pot and confide to the camera “After all you’re alone in the kitchen and no one can see you.”

One reader of the 1966 Life story responded,

“Thank you for finally publishing something on that delightful 6-foot pixie Julia Child. Everyone seems to have a feeling of trusting friendship for Julia. We visited Boston this summer and I had every intention of phoning her just to tell her how much I loved her. My husband, who is more reserved than I, appealed to my dignity and talked me out of it. – Laura S. Ruelberg, Highland Park, Ill.

julias house
over the fence


It’s the feeling of trusting friendship that stays with us when we remember Julia Child. I remember watching The French Chef and laughing out loud when hands would suddenly appear from behind the counter to take away Julia’s dirty dishes.

I gained confidence from watching Julia, knowing it okay and normal to make mistakes when cooking and baking. In fact, I learned that the mistakes were often delicious new inventions. I also admired Julia for writing her first book in her 40’s, hosting The French Chef in her 50’s and starring in and producing Baking with Julia in her 80’s.

It’s worth noting that Julia Child and her beloved husband Paul spent the better part of their lives in New England with homes in Cambridge, MA and in Maine. Just today, I strolled past Julia’s old house (yes, that is her house in the picture), bordering Harvard University and retraced her footsteps to her neighborhood gourmet market, Savenor’s.

I laughed thinking about some of our similarities – how we both live in Victorian homes, how we both have 1950’s cabinets and blue walls in our kitchens and how our husbands converted our dining rooms into photography studios. How could I not, then, when asked by the agency representing Julia’s publisher (Knopf), write a post featuring one of her favorite recipes – her divine chocolate mousse.

cake slice 2


In fact, as a tribute to Julia, I decided to update and relaunch my website, Fresh New England –  a guide to finding the best and freshest local food in the New England area. When I started the website, there was no comprehensive guide to local food in New England – anywhere.

I’m pleased to say that year by year my database grows by leaps and bounds and there is more incredible regional food sources here in New England than there ever before. I suspect Julia would be pleased.

more berries


In honor of Julia’s 100th birthday I give you the recipe for a wonderful brown sugar chocolate mousse cake, a major update to the Fresh New England website (something to bookmark and explore on your next visit) and, an incredible giveaway which includes:
– A copy of Julia’s cookbook: Mastering the Art of French Cooking

– An assortment of sensational high quality foods made right here in New England and contributed by their amazing producers which includes:

– A gift box of Homemade Chocolate Brownies from Sweet and Simple

– Two bags of Kenyan AA Kahindu Estate Coffee from Chilmark Coffee Company

– A $25 gift certificate to Vianne Chocolat online

– A sampler case of Late July Organic Chips

– A copy of the cookbook: New England Cooking by Brooke Dojny and provided by The Harvard Common Press

And from Julia’s neighborhood in Cambridge, MA, I’m also including:

– A canvas shopping bag from Julia’s favorite neighborhood market, Savenor’s

– A coffee mug from Julia’s neighbor Harvard University

– A bag of Harvard Square’s L.A. Burdick’s Ecuadorian Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate Mix (or perhaps Frozen Hot Chocolate) with a mini-whisk

Entering to win this incredible assortment of goodies is easy. Here’s how you can win:

  • Leave a comment on this post before midnight on Friday June 22, 2012
  • Make sure your comment links directly to a site where you can be contacted. Otherwise include a Twitter or email address. Only comments that include this information are eligible to win.
  • One entry per person.
  • The winner will be selected at random and contacted on Saturday June 23, 2012 before noon (EST).
  • Be sure to check your inbox, messages or comments. If no response is received by June 25 at noon (EST), another winner will be selected.
  • This giveaway will ship anywhere in the world.

Tweet about this post and the updated Fresh New England (add #JC100 to the end of your your tweet) for additional chances to win!


Brown Sugar Chocolate Mousse Cake made with Julia Child’s Chocolate Mousse

This scrumptious cake is made of 3 key components: Julia Child’s Mousseline au Chocolat from Mastering the Art, a Chocolate Cookie Crumb Base and a Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake. I make the mousse last so it’s easier to pour and chill.

Chocolate Cookie Crumb Base

166 g (about 5 large) egg whites
138 g (3/4 c) sugar
80 g or (2/3 c) powdered sugar
34 g or (1/4 c +1 tbs) cocoa powder
78 g (1 c) almond powder
34 g (3 tbs) half and half
12 g (1 tbs) sugar
1 pinch of cream of tartar
20 g (2 tbs) Grand Marnier

Preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C)

In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Egg whites should be glossy and fold over a bit at the top when you pull the whisk away.

In a separate bowl mix the sugar, powdered sugar cocoa powder and almond powder. Mix in half and half. Add a few spoonfuls of beaten egg white to the dry mixture and stir. Fold in the remaining egg white until there are no particles of unblended egg white in the finished batter.

Drop batter by tablespoonfuls onto a silpat lined cookie sheet or buttered parchment paper. Bake for 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cookie comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack. Grind up in food processor with 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier.

Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake

30 g (1/3 c) cocoa powder
80 mL (1/4 c) water
150 g (about 1 c) good quality dark chocolate, chopped and melted
150 g (11 tbs) butter, creamed
300 g (1 1/3 c) brown sugar
125 g (1 1/2 c) almond powder
4 large eggs separated
pinch of cream of tartar
extra butter for greasing pan

Preheat the oven to 320 F (160°C).  Generously butter a 9 x 11 pan and dust with cocoa powder

In a large bowl, mix the cocoa powder with the water until blended. Stir in the chocolate, butter, sugar almond powder and lastly the egg yolks.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff but not dry.
Fold egg whites into chocolate mixture until well blended. Pour batter into pan. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Watch closely as baking times will vary considerably depending upon your oven.

Cool on wire rack. Cut out cake circles using a 3 inch ring mold and set aside.

Mousseline au Chocolat (from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle  Simone Beck, vol. 1 , p. 604)
4 egg yolks
3/4 c sugar
1/4 cup orange liqueur
A pan of not quite simmering water
A basin of cold water
6 oz semi sweet chocolate (I recommend a good quality chocolate like Valrohna or Callebaut)
4 tbs strong coffee
6 oz or 1 1/2 stick softened unsalted butter

4 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 tbs granulated sugar

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until mixture is thick, pale yellow and falls back upon itself forming a slowly dissolving ribbon.
Beat in the orange liqueur.
Set mixing bowl over the not quite simmering water and continue to beat for 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture is foamy and too hot for your finger.
Beat over cold water for 3 to 4 minutes until the mixture is cool again and forms the ribbon. It will have the consistency of mayonnaise.

Melt chocolate with coffee over hot water. Remove from heat and beat in the butter- bits at a time to make a smooth cream. Beat the chocolate into the egg yolks and sugar.
Beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

Stir one fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the rest.

(I had to double the recipe and add 1.5 sheets of melted gelatin to stiffen the consistency for the cake. You might want to try the recipe first to see what you think. It’s really personal preference. You can also find an alternative mousse recipe in grams here.)


In the bottom of a 3″ ring mold, pack down a layer of cookie crumb. Layer mousse with cake rounds- finishing with a cake round. Carefully remove mold. Repeat until you have used all of your ingredients. My ingredients made 8 three inch cakes. Chill until firm. Frost cakes with mousse and decorate with chocolate decorations, berries or shaved chocolate. Freeze up to 3 days or until ready to eat.

Bon appetit!

Fresh New England

Get inspired to love & support local food. We have some great ideas sprouting up so browse our site for more delicious finds.

  1. Great news that you’re active again! The site has such a nice style, and such lovely photos and writing. Keep up the good work.

  2. Seriously, this is an amazing post. I loved Julia Child and this is a wonderful tribute. Congratulations on your update, it’s beautiful. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos as always.

  3. I’ve made this mousse for so many years and love it because like most everything she made… the recipes work every time. I think you were spot on including that old comment too… Julia always seemed so accessible. She made mistakes but was by and all competent and generous. You knew you’d have a great time sharing a drink with her.
    You made a great homage dessert and what remarkable products!!! sign me up!

  4. It seems impossible that the Julia Child I know from all the many reruns I watched with my children on PBS would ever get older! A 100 years is truly a milestone. Thank you for reminding me of that, and for the recipe too!

  5. This is a wonderful tribute to Julia and a very generous giveaway. I love to see a real cook’s kitchen and not a showplace one.
    (I, too have a blue kitchen. Does that give me an edge? :))

  6. Could you have done more just a bit more to mark this milestone? I’m enthralled by layers of work you put into constructing this cake and the warm retrospect of her life. I can tell you feel a special connection to Julia Child.

    Congrats on the continued success of FNE! It’s evidence of the quality of your work.

  7. Beautifully written El and ever so evocative. The post captures the spirit of Julia so beautifully … and the cake is TOP stuff! I love the idea of a brown sugar cake. YUM!!

  8. It’s amazing how she practically defined out modern culinary tastes. I was surprised to read he part about how she convinced us to even try garlic (I use garlic as the base in half my dishes). The cake looks divine, I have to try making that in your cute individual sized mini cakes!

    Also love that Sweet and Simple goodies are part of the package. She has the most amazing cherry oatmeal cookies (downright addictive) and chocolatey brownies.

  9. I never knew who Julia Child was until a few years ago but when I discovered her, I was smitten with her. I downloaded the French Chef series and watched her cook. She was something special.
    Great cake, El. I love chocolate mousse, I’m curious to try it with brown sugar.

  10. Julia was often laughed at, but she was a genius. I admire her so much. My kitchen is decorated with her quotes and images. This giveaway is amazing. ardala.evans(at)ymail.com

  11. What a lovely tribute – and thanks so much for a chance to win all of these Julia-inspired goodies! Your photos made me long for New England and the East Coast (I married a Southerner so it’s been a while since I’ve been back). Also, I love the idea of a brown sugar chocolate cake – regular brown sugar cake is my absolute favorite but I’ve never thought of adding chocolate – leave it to Julia!

  12. It must be so fun to trace her (large?) footsteps, and those are some definite similarities between the two of you. Every time I think of Julia Child, I’m impressed by the amount of time she spent on her cookbook masterpiece. What was it, ten years?

    Long before I got into cooking and baking, my voice teacher would instruct me to talk like Julia to warm up my vocal chords. “Stir the scallions into the bubbling butter!” 🙂

  13. I just found your delightful blog today. What fun to read it and I’ll add it to my Google Reader account. And thanks for the giveaway, of course. But tell me, I think you’ve left out a couple ingredients at the end of the mousse. The recipe looks delicious and I’d like to give it a whirl, so please fill me in as to the ending parts of that mousse! thanks!

  14. Hi, I just found your delightful blog today. What a treat to read, I must add it to my Goggle Reader account. And thanks for the giveaway. I must ask you though – have you left a few ingredients off the end of the mousse? I’d like to try the recipe, but I think the egg whites and all subsequent ingredients are missing! Thanks for the help.

  15. I visited your site for the recipe and now I’m delighted to find your generous giveaway too! Yay! Crossing my fingers…
    juliebumboolie(at)yahoo.ca in Ottawa, ON

  16. Hi, I just found your delightful blog today. What a treat to read, I must add it to my Goggle Reader account. And thanks for the giveaway. I must ask you though – have you left a few ingredients off the end of the mousse? I’d like to try the recipe, but I think the egg whites and all subsequent ingredients are missing! Thanks for the help.

  17. this looks incredibly delicious and I would love to use this recipe to practice my baking! And I’m so excited about this giveaway and what it celebrates. Yay Julia!

    Twitter: @sshaban

  18. holy cow this is an awesome giveaway – thanks for the opportunity to win all these cool products – fingers and toes crossed 🙂
    mermont84 at yahoo.com

  19. I love Julia Child even though I am a German in Germany, I love reading your posts and I definetly love that chocolate dream here. Of course I am hoping to win and own Julia Child’s cookbook. If not I just will have to buy it. Thanks for everything you are sharing and keep on posting.
    from Christa

  20. I’d love to win! I’ve been reading your blog for some time and really enjoy it. I like the re-org, as I’m especially interested in the lifestyle section (and glad to see Hadley represented!). [eiwalch /at/ verizon.net]

  21. WOW! Amazing giveaway, please enter me! I can be contacted at mustbeadreamer [at] hotmail.co.uk or @JustJesssBlog.
    That mousse looks delicious!

  22. Julia Child is truly an inspiration to me as well! I learned a lot more about her from the movie that came out a few years ago–Julia and Julia–but I gained some new insights from your post. This recipe looks simply fantastic, not to mention your beautiful photos.

    And of course thank you for this generous giveaway!


    The Bite Size Baker

  23. A beautiful post about a beloved woman.
    Her TV shows were a delight and I watched all of them. You’ve chosen the perfect dessert to honor her…I’ve made it and it’s divine.
    I love your new look and have always loved your photos. How wonderful to live in a Victorian home…they come with problems, but the charm is worth the care.
    Great package!

  24. I love Julia Child!! Also, loved the movie Julia and Julia. Please pick me as your winner.


  25. Oh El, you never fail to inspire me. 🙂 I’ve been in a bit of a slump, cooking wise, and gave in to full-blown junk foodery yesterday. 🙂 Thank you for reminding me of the goodness and DELICIOUSNESS of real food. 🙂

  26. What a wonderful way to commemorate Julia’s birthday, El! I would love to enter but, since I won your Maple syrup giveaway at Freshness and Light, I don’t want to be a little piggy 🙂 I’d sure love that little cake, though!

  27. This is an amazing giveaway, sign me up please 🙂 I agree with all the above statements, your photos are really great

  28. The cake looks so delicious and creamy 🙂
    But what amazed me was the photo of the house and the fence…
    So familiar, so comforting, wonderful photo, El ♥

  29. This cake sounds like the perfect end to a summer evening meal…can’t wait to try it! Fantastic giveaway too!

  30. What a lovely tribute to Julia. I remember whatching her shows on PBS. I think part of her charm was that she didn’t take herself too seriously. There were techinques that you needed to learn, but there was no shame in taking shortcuts when necessary. Her chocolate mousse is the one by which my family judges all others.

  31. This is fabulous! I <3 Julia Child. I remember watching her shows with my mom as a young girl! And I love her cooking methods! Thanks for this great post so excited to keep up with your blog! This is an incredible package of things to give away! !


  32. Lovely tribute to one of my sheroes, Julia Child. I look forward to exploring more of your blog.

    Twitter: @DRSisms

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