Mosaiko (Greek Chocolate Refrigerator Cake)

I honestly believe that chocolate as we know it in its modern form is proof that God exists and loves us very, very, very, very much. Please don’t try to change my mind, I prefer to live in this version of reality.

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Ironically, as much as I love chocolate (dark chocolate, mind you, not that mamby-pamby, watered down version known as milk chocolate), I’m not a fan of many chocolate desserts. Okay, it’s mostly chocolate cake that I don’t like. Somehow this always ends up getting ruined for me. The frosting is usually toooo greasy and the cake just toooo sweet. The chocolate in chocolate cake with chocolate frosting doesn’t taste like… anything. Just bleh.

The fix is simple: balance the ingredients. Forget the fillers that don’t add anything to the end product. Go for quality, not quantity. Oh, and go for easy, too. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

This cake has become a modern staple in Greek desserts. It’s made with a blend of semi-sweet chocolate, tea bisquits, and walnuts or sometimes almonds, and a not so subtle splash of liqueur. In Greek it is called μωσαϊκό (moh-say-ee-KOH), which is the Greek for mosaic. Not a surprise given it’s final appearance. It is also referred to as κορμός (kor-MOHS), or log like from a tree, again not surprising. In Cyprus it is called δούκισσα (THOO-kee-sah) which means duchess, perhaps implying that this treat is worthy of royalty. I agree.

Regardless of the name, it’s delicious, incredibly easy to prepare, and long lasting. It’s even preferred to be made well in advance, improving greatly with age. So if you are wanting an easy dessert for your next occasion and need something stress free, this is the dessert to choose!

Some quick notes before you begin:

Be sure to use the right kind of chocolate. It’s not me being biased against milk chocolate, though I am, it’s making sure to have the proper texture. Semi-sweet or dark chocolate, or a blend of the two (which is what I used) will give you the proper firmness and sweetness. Milk chocolate is too soft and sugary.

Tea biscuits or Petit-Beurre cookies are not common here in the States, but they are in Europe. A popular company in Greece is Papadopoulos and they make both Petit-Beurre and another similar, but sweeter, cookie called Miranda. Either can be used but the less sweet Petit-Beurre is used more often. Here in the U.S., a suitable substitute would be plain “animal cracker” cookies, the ones with no frosting. Avoid vanilla wafers if possible, as they are far too sweet, but can be used in a pinch.

I use salted butter for everything. Even desserts. The salt adds the perfect balance to keep the sweetness under control and enhances the flavor of the remaining ingredients.

Walnuts are used most frequently, but pecans are a perfect substitute. Almonds are also common, but you will need to blanch them to ensure that they will be soft enough to slice through. If you have a nut allergy, just leave them out!

You have a variety of options on what type of liqueur to use. I like Gran Marnier for a nice hint of orange, but brandy, Metaxa, Cognac (the most common choice), or other flavored liqueurs all work. The amount in the dessert is not a lot when you consider how much there will be, but if the alcohol is a concern you can substitute with apple juice instead. You need the liquid so don’t just skip it.

It is important to give time for the wafers to soften. If you try to cut it too soon, they will still be hard and crumbly and your mosaiko may fall apart. Be patient.

Mosaiko (Greek Chocolate Refrigerator Cake)

  • Difficulty: easier to make than it is to not eat
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Cognac or other liqueur of choice (good options are brandy, Metaxa, Amaretto, Gran Marnier, Chambord, etc.)
  • 2 ounces (by weight) powdered sugar (also known as icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar)
  • 8 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips (dark chocolate can also be used for part or all)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp. heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/2 cup butter (I use salted butter)
  • 6 ounces (by weight) tea biscuits, or plain animal cracker type cookies, broken into small pieces but not crushed
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or blanched almonds

Directions

In a small bowl, mix together the liqueur and powdered sugar and mix until there are no lumps of sugar. It may not completely dissolve, just make sure it is smooth. Set the bowl aside.

Put the next four ingredients (chocolate through butter) into a sauce pan and heat on low, stirring frequently. Or you could put them in a microwave for very short bursts of time (15-20 seconds), stirring in between. A double boiler is also an option. The goal is to melt the chocolate gently and slowly so that it doesn’t get too hot, as this would cause the fats to separate out. Remove from the heat before the chocolate is completely melted, stirring until smooth. If there are still some lumps that won’t melt, heat it very gently again, stirring until smooth. Return the pot to low heat and add the powdered sugar mixture. Stir in until smooth, then remove from the heat.

Gently fold in the broken cookies and walnuts and mix until combined. Either cover the pot and set it in the refrigerator, or transfer it to a covered bowl to chill for 30 minutes to an hour. You want the mixture to firm up enough to be molded but not too hard to work with.

Once chilled, spread out a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper on a firm surface. Scoop the chocolate mixture in a log shape, and roll the paper or plastic over it. Use your hands to help shape the mixture into a smooth log shape, about three inches across. The mixture will stick to the paper/plastic. Once you have it shaped it, completely wrap it up, and place in the refrigerator to firm up, preferably at least 24 hours. This gives adequate time for flavors to blend and for the cookies to soften.

The mosaiko won’t be hard, so when it is time to unwrap it, there will be some chocolate that will stick to the paper/plastic. Simply scrape off what sticks and using a knife or spatula, smooth it over the surface. The cake can be rolled onto a serving dish for a nicer presentation, again just smooth the surface. It will cut very easily with a sharp knife, but should be firm enough to hold together for placing on individual plates.

If you are saving this for later, transfer the wrapped mosaiko to the freezer after it has firmed in the fridge (you still need time to allow the cookies to soften first). It can stay there for a very long time. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving. Enjoy!

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