For many people, by ditching the turkey a vegetarian Thanksgiving already is messing with tradition. So there's no reason not to push things a little more and lose the pumpkin pie, too.
To complement the lighter foods associated with vegetarian Thanksgivings, we decided to come up with a dessert that also leaned to the lighter side of the culinary spectrum. From top to bottom, this lemon pecan mousse cake is airy, with a refreshingly delicate sweetness.
Lemon Pecan Mousse Cake
Start to finish: 3 hours (1 hour active)
For the pecan sponge cake:
5 ounces (1 1/4 cups) pecans, toasted and cooled, plus a few more for garnish
1/2 cup sifted cake flour
3/4 cup sugar, divided
4 eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
For the lemon mousse:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice
Zest of 2 lemons
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with baking spray.
In a food processor, combine the pecans, cake flour and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Process until finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the egg yolks and another 1/4 cup sugar until thick and pale. Set aside.
In another very clean bowl with a clean whisk, beat together the egg whites, salt and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until thick and glossy stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the egg yolks and half of the egg whites into the pecan flour. Fold the remaining egg whites in to the mixture until thoroughly but gently combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Set aside, in the pan, to cool completely.
While the cake is baking, begin the mousse. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar, then add the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice and zest, then set over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a boil; cook until it thickens. If there are any lumps, strain the mixture. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool.
Once the cake and mousse base are both cool, in a large bowl use an electric mixer to whip the heavy cream to medium peaks. Fold half the cream into the mousse base. When thoroughly combined, fold in the remaining whipped cream. Spoon or pipe the mixture onto the cake. Garnish with toasted pecans and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, run a paring knife around the edge of the pan and loosen the sides. Remove the sides of the springform pan and serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 390 calories; 270 calories from fat (69 percent of total calories); 30 g fat (13 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 190 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 19 g sugar; 7 g protein; 80 mg sodium.