How to Make Mousse, According to Our Resident Baking BFF

A guide to dreamy, creamy mousse, every time.

December 20, 2021
Photo by Julia Gartland

Mousse, for me, is the ultimate fancy-pants dessert—at least ever since someone explained to me the difference between moose and mousse (both are impressive, but one is decidedly more delicious).

There are lots of different kinds (including this of wonderfully easy chocolate mousse recipe, with only a few ingredients), but the traditional method is worth learning because it’s so versatile. Since the dish has so few ingredients, basic tweaks can yield dozens of different flavor combinations. The sky’s the limit for creating your own custom mousse recipe.

How to Make Mousse

1. What is mousse?

But first, what is mousse? Mousse is the stuff of dessert dreams: incredibly light and also ridiculously rich. At its most basic, mousse is made by folding aerators into a base. These aerators can be whipped cream, meringue (egg whites + sugar), pâte à bombe (whole eggs and/or egg yolks + sugar), or a combination. The base can be a whole host of things: melted chocolate, puréed fruit, fruit curd, or a prepared custard (like pudding or crème anglaise, a "vanilla sauce" of dairy base and thickened with egg yolks made on the stovetop).

Many mousse recipes call for gelatin to help set the mousse. (Agar agar can be an appropriate substitute should you be avoiding gelatin.) Other recipes, however, don’t require any thickener at all; this is usually when the base ingredient is chocolate, which helps the mousse set firm.

Mousse is a delicious dessert on its own, portioned into serving dishes before it’s set, and it can also be manipulated to be a layering component in cakes (think those gorgeous, rich, and seemingly unattainable cakes lined up in fancy bakery cases).

2. Mise en place (for real)

Mousse is not often classified as “easy,” but the reality is that you’re working with a pretty short ingredient list and the method is straightforward. That being said, you’re dealing with time- and temperature-sensitive ingredients, which means it’s extra important to be prepared.

Read through your recipe completely, and grab all the tools you’ll need ahead of time. From there, prep your ingredients, from least to most sensitive (more on this later). Then, it’s just a matter of mixing to combine—seriously! It may not be boxed cake mix, but if everything is in place when you begin, it’s not so far off.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

3. Get your equipment ready

You don’t necessarily need special equipment to make mousse, but it’s not an all-in-one-bowl sort of situation (the deliciousness makes up for the dishes, I think).

  • You’ll need a bowl for the water and gelatin, if the recipe uses gelatin. Be sure to use a heat-safe bowl so you can easily melt the gelatin later. I like to use a wider, shallow bowl so there’s more surface for the gelatin to bloom easily (my favorite is a wide ramekin, like the kind for for crème brûlée).
  • Place your base in a bowl large enough to accommodate it and all the other ingredients once they’re added.
  • Next, you’ll need a bowl for each of your aerators and something to aerate them with: a whisk if you’ve got insane arm strength or, more likely, an electric stand or hand mixer. Many mousse recipes (including the ones featured in this article) use multiple aerators, which can be frustrating if you only have one bowl for your stand mixer. I avoid this by using multiple types of tools. I like to whip cream using my immersion blender, which then leaves my stand mixer free for whipping meringue. Alternatively, an electric hand mixer is great for whipping cream, meringue, and/or pâte à bombe—you just have to wash the beaters in between, and keep the different aerators in their own bowls.
  • Have a rubber spatula ready for mixing, and something ready for portioning: a pastry bag or a liquid measuring cup with a spout.
  • Ready your vessels for the mousse once it’s time to portion.

4. Ingredients

Mousse is made up of just a few ingredients: the base, the aerator(s), the sweetener (which is usually added to the aerator), and the thickener (which is optional, depending on the recipe).

The base:

The “base” of a mousse recipe is the main flavoring component. It can be as simple as melted, slightly cool chocolate or puréed fruit. It can also be a little more complex: a prepared fruit curd, or a custard like pudding or crème anglaise.

Here's a good guideline as to when to use each base:

  • If you’re going for a chocolate mousse, chocolate alone will likely be your base. This is a bonus because you can also refrain from adding a thickener more easily, as chocolate naturally sets up under refrigeration.
  • If you’re aiming for a fruit mousse, you’ll start with puréed fruit or a fruit curd.
  • For any other flavors, like vanilla, coffee, or caramel, you’ll likely start with a custard base, which can easily be flavored in a variety of ways.

Whatever your base, make sure it is at room temperature unless the recipe says otherwise. Too warm, the base may deflate the aerators. Too cold, the thickener may begin to set up the mousse before you’re finished incorporating all ingredients.

The aerators:

Mousse recipes always contain an aerator, and they often contain more than one. What’s most important to remember is which aerator is the most stable so that when you begin preparing your ingredients, you work in the right order. No matter what aerators you're using, you'll add them in order of most stable to least stable. Usually, the sweetener is added to the aerator—if multiple aerators are used, a portion of the sugar may be added to each.

  • Whole eggs and/or egg yolks are the most stable aerator. Sweetener, or a portion of the sweetener, is added and the mixture is warmed over a water bath to heat the eggs to safe temperature (140° F). Whisk the mixture constantly until it is pale and thick and all of the sugar is dissolved. Most recipes will require the mixture to be whipped further with an electric mixer until it has reached full volume (usually 3 to 4 minutes).
  • Whipped cream is the second most stable aerator. I usually whip my cream to soft peaks, throw a whisk into the bowl, and chill the whole thing until I’m ready to use it. A few quick whisks when I’m ready to begin folding takes the cream to medium peaks—the ideal texture for mousse. While you can add the sweetener or a portion of it to the cream, you can also successfully whip the cream properly without any sugar.
  • Egg whites, usually in the form of meringue, whipped with the sweetener or a portion of it are the least stable aerator. For safety, the eggs are warmed over a water bath to 140° F before they are whipped to medium peaks. As the least stable aerator, the egg whites should only be whipped just before you’re ready to mix the mousse.

The thickener:

Traditionally, mousse is made with gelatin. The gelatin should be bloomed in cool water or 5 minutes, then melted before adding to the base.

The amount of gelatin can be altered depending on the desired texture. For example, a mousse that’s contained inside a glass or other vessel can have less gelatin than a mousse used as a filling for a cake. Agar agar can be used as a substitute if you’re trying to avoid gelatin, and it should be handled in the same way.

Some recipes—usually, recipes that use chocolate as a base, because it thickens on its own under refrigeration—don’t require a thickener at all.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

5. Mixing the Mousse

The first steps of mixing are very simple. If you’re using gelatin, stir it into the base. Remember to note the temperature of the base so that it’s not too warm or too cool when the gelatin is added. If you’re not using gelatin, proceed to the folding.

6. Folding

To mix a mousse, the aerators are gently added into the base. Rather than mixing, the aerators are folded into the base. If there’s only one aerator in the recipe, you can fold it in on its own. Again, if you’re using more than one aerator, add them one at a time in order from most stable to least stable (first whole eggs or egg yolks, then whipped cream, and, finally, meringue).

In goes the most stable aerator: the egg yolks! Photo by Bobbi Lin, Bobbi Lin

It’s best to "temper" the mixture by adding a small amount—about 25%—of the given aerator to the base and mix to combine. During this time, it’s okay to mix slightly more vigorously.

This will lighten the base, making it easier to incorporate the remaining aerator. Add the remaining aerator in 2 or 3 additions and gently fold, just until the aerator is incorporated. Repeat with the next aerator, until all the ingredients are added to the mousse. Remember that the more you mix the mousse, the more you’re deflating each aerator: It’s important to work quickly and minimally.

Now fold in the second most stable—the whipped cream—a little at a time.
Light and airy and almost ready to eat! Photo by Bobbi Lin

7) Portioning

Once the mousse is fully mixed, gently transfer it to a pastry bag. (Alternatively, you can transfer it to a liquid measuring cup with a spout.)

Quickly divide the mousse among the serving containers. If the mousse has cooled down significantly already, it may begin to set up right away. If it’s still at room temperature, you’ll have a little more time to work with it.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

8) Let it set

The mousse must set in the refrigerator before it can be served, which will most likely take 15 to 30 minutes. If you’re layering the mousse, each layer must set before you add the next. The same is true of using the mousse in a cake: The mousse must set before you can unmold and finish the cake.

The mousse will keep for a few days, which makes it an excellent make-ahead dessert.

More Mousse Recipes

Frozen Honey Mousse

Somewhere in between regular mousse and ice cream is this light and fluffy frozen treat that’s sweetened with honey rather than sugar. Use the good-quality kind (like Brightland or from your local farmer’s market) for the best honey flavor, since that is really the only pronounced sweetness here.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse

Inspired by everyone’s favorite Italian spread, this mousse calls for a heaping cup of toasted hazelnuts, hazelnut liqueur, and chopped dark chocolate from a good-quality chocolate bar. It gets its body from the usual suspects being milk and eggs, but bonus creaminess from cream cheese and crème fraîche.

Dorie Greenspan's Top Secret Chocolate Mousse (Mousse au Chocolat)

Dorie Greenspan is probably most famous for her cookie recipes, but it should come as no surprise that she’s pretty proficient at chocolate mousse as well. And it’s simple too, made with melted chocolate thickened with pasteurized egg yolks and then lightened with whipped egg whites.

White Chocolate Mousse with Raspberries

You could go all out and grow your own raspberries, as recipe developer Kristy49 did, or you could simply rely on fresh or frozen berries to make this white chocolate mousse. This particular mousse recipe is totally egg-free, which is perfect for pregnant people or anyone concerned about consuming raw eggs.

Tricolor Chocolate Mousse

We turn to Alice Medrich time and time again for her sweet-as-can-be dessert recipes and brilliant baking techniques. “The secret to silky smooth (rather than grainy) mocha and white mousses is in the timing and details: You’ll fold very soft under-whipped cream quickly into barely cool chocolate that’s been melted with water or espresso. Don’t whip the cream stiff, or let the chocolate get cold, or dilly-dally while folding, and success will be yours,” she writes.

Triple Layer Mousse

Yes, you do kind of have to make three mousses—strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate—for this Neapolitan-style dessert, but it’s well worth it for the nuanced flavor and visual appeal.

Olive Oil Chocolate Mousse

Instead of making itty-bitty ramekins of chocolate mousse, why not make one big bowl? The fruitiness of the olive oil complements the bittersweet chocolate mixture in an unexpectedly luxurious way. Bet you didn’t think that mousse could be any chic-er, right?

Have any tips for perfect mousse? Let us know in the comments!
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Judy24
  • Priscilla Wilson
    Priscilla Wilson
  • dg at 52
    dg at 52
  • Mileni D'Alberti
    Mileni D'Alberti
  • Tom
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!


Judy24 October 14, 2019
I'm supposed to make dessert for 21 people for my company's Christmas party. The boss of my boss (a very wealthy man) is coming too so naturally, I want to impress everybody and have set myself with a task of making one of those pretty little mousse cake domes with mirror glaze. I've been looking for an article about mousses that would give me a general idea about my options and this is exactly what I needed. What a great surprise when I also found out at the end that the lady, who I've recently fallen in love on Youtube wrote it! :) Thank you, I'm looking forward to testing.
Priscilla W. September 20, 2019
The mousse should set AT LEAST 12 hours and ideally 24. The texture blends and changes completely. Definitely a do-the-day-before dessert.
dg A. September 14, 2019
Am looking into an Xmas project, and this recipe is very timely. Thanks! (And I think I'm ready to understand this level of recipe, too.)

One question, though - does nut paste alone make for a good base? Or should I approach that as a custard? I can see this going a few different ways, and may not have enough time to try them all...
Mileni D. April 12, 2019
Thank you, I found this article super helpful! It's easy to find recipes for something; it's more rare to find an overview of a particular recipe and the techniques + ingredients most commonly used. With the overview, one's set to make their own recipes.
Tom October 14, 2018
Great article thank you so much! Literally everything you would need to know about mousse.
Kelli B. March 26, 2019
Id have to disagree. Yes a LOT of details were given but there are still tons of questions left unanswered. Given the fact that I am currently making cookies and cream mousse as we speak, for my first time, I believe I have overly mixed my mousse. After folding in the whipped cream with the melted chocolate and Oreos, I used my hand mixer to mix it all together. Apparently this was not the correct way because my mousse looks grainy and almost oily as if the ingredients are separating. Have I mixed everything too hard? Too long? Or both? And what can I do to fix it?
Tom March 26, 2019
You are of course entitled to disagree with my opinion.
The recipe does not direct you to use a hand mixer at any point. Under the heading "FOLDING" it says specifically "To mix a mousse, the aerators are gently added into the base. Rather than mixing, the aerators are folded into the base.... Remember that the more you mix the mousse, the more you’re deflating each aerator: It’s important to work quickly and minimally."
Cate May 7, 2019
I know this is an old comment, but some clarification is needed.

The only time a stand or hand mixer would be used is to whip cream or make a meringue. The whipped cream or meringue would be folded in to the base by hand with a spatula.

Priscilla W. September 20, 2019
Yes, using the hand mixer was a bad idea. Everything should be folded in. I have made mousse many times and 1) I never use gelatin - the eggs are a thickener; 2) I never fold whipped cream into it. I add it on top when serving. Personally I think this article is a little over the top but I haven't made it like this yet, so....
Athina M. October 8, 2018
You are incorrect in saying that traditional mousse is made with gelatin. Traditional mousse is made with chocolate eggs and cream.
leonor December 10, 2016
Hello, to make a fruit mousse I need to boil the fruit or they can be raw?