HomeRecipesChocolate Terrarium by Robert Toland

Chocolate Terrarium by Robert Toland

(This article appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Pastry Arts Magazine)

As my signature dessert at the Terrain Garden Café, the edible chocolate terrarium is a chocolate lover’s dream. I utilize a variety of Valrhona chocolates in various preparations, enhancing each flavor with multiple textures to create a unique offering for the elegant nursery and all-day cafe.

Yield: 50-60 servings

Chocolate Cake

  • 550 g all-purpose flour
  • 22 g baking soda
  • 7 g kosher salt
  • 450 g brewed coffee
  • 134 g cocoa powder
  • 671 g sugar, granulated
  • 171 g whole eggs
  • 33 g liquid eggs yolks
  • 332 g sunflower oil
  • 473 g whole buttermilk
  1. Sift flour, baking soda and salt together; set aside.
  2. Whisk coffee and cocoa powder together until thoroughly combined; set aside.
  3. Whisk sugar, eggs and egg yolks in an electric mixer until light and frothy. Slowly stream in oil. Add coffee mixture. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the buttermilk in two additions. Pour about 1000g of batter on to a half-sized sheet tray and bake at 325˚F until fully baked.

Milk Chocolate Namelaka

  • 1250 g heavy cream
  • 10 g gelatin sheets (silver)
  • 475 g Valrhona Jivara 39% milk chocolate
  1. In a large pot, bring the heavy cream to a boil. While the cream is heating up, bloom the gelatin in ice water. When the cream has reached a full boil, remove it from the heat and pour directly over the milk chocolate. Add the bloomed gelatin. Blend the chocolate mixture with an immersion blender until completely emulsified.
  2. Portion into Weck jars or cool for later use.

Chocolate Rock Coating

  • 200 g Valrhona Waina 35% white chocolate
  • 75 g 100% pure cocoa butter
  • Assorted food coloring
  1. Gently melt the white chocolate over a double boiler. Once the chocolate has melted, add the cocoa butter, followed by the food coloring. Blend until fully incorporated with a stick blender. 2. Allow the mixture to cool to 85˚F (29˚C) before pouring over the frozen chocolate mousse.

Dark Chocolate Mousse

  • 425 g Valrhona Satilia Dark, melted
  • 900 g heavy cream
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 150 g sugar, granulated, separated in half
  1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler; reserve warm.
  2. Whip the cream to medium peaks; set aside.
  3. Whip whites with half of the sugar to medium peaks. Whip egg yolks with the other half of the sugar until full sabayon is reached. Working quickly, fold egg yolks into chocolate, then meringue, then cream. Place into pastry bags and fill desired molds. Refrigerate the remaining mousse for later use.

Matcha Crunch

  • 1000 g paillete feuilletine
  • 1000 g Valrhona Waina 35% white chocolate
  • 200 g 100% pure cocoa butter
  • 30 g cacao nibs
  • 7 g Maldon sea salt
  • 30 g green tea matcha powder
  1. Gently melt the white chocolate over a double boiler. Remove from heat and add cocoa butter, stir until all of the cocoa butter has melted. Whisk in ¼ of the matcha powder. Pour feuilletine on top and stir until the feuilletine is completely coated. Spread the mixture evenly on a full-size sheet tray and refrigerate for 5 minutes.
  2. Once the mixture has partially set, toss again in a bowl to break up into little pieces. Add the Maldon, cacao nibs and the remaining matcha powder and continue to mix. Add more matcha if necessary. Place on a sheet tray again and refrigerate for another 3 minutes. Store in a plastic container at room temperature.


  1. Once the namelaka is fully set, place one enrobed mousse “rock” inside the terrarium, just off center
  2. Take a 3”x3” square of chocolate cake and break it into irregular pieces. Place these pieces of cake around the mousse rock.
  3. Avoiding the mousse rock, place matcha crunch on top of the chocolate cake, allowing some pieces of the chocolate cake to poke through.
  4. Garnish with a sunflower shoot or nasturtium leaves

*Photo credit: Hilary Myers

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