Dark Chocolate

The Triple Chocolate Mousse That Took 100+ Weddings By Storm

May 17, 2018

When in France, other people might bring an extra suitcase for their shopping needs. I always bring a notebook.

In the mid-1980s, I spent two nights a few kilometers outside of Avignon at the gorgeous Auberge de Noves. I remember an elegant room filled with antiques, a grand four-poster bed, and a stunning view over the countryside. But mostly, I remember salad and dessert. The salad was my first introduction to the term sot-l’y-laisse, which translates to “that which fools leave behind.” It refers to the rich morsels of dark meat (aka “oysters”) nestled in either side of a fowl’s backbone. I was enchanted with the explanation by our very formal waiter, and eager to taste the salad made with them. Now, the memory screeches to a halt—I’m so very sorry—because it was actually the dessert that came after that left the biggest impression!

Dessert was a dainty slice containing three chocolate mousses. The flavors and textures were exquisite, and the proportions of each element inspired. Rather than equal real estate given to all three mousses, the bittersweet mousse was the main event—as it should be—with a dense but satiny-smooth texture that contrasted with the sweet, creamy layers of milk and white chocolate mousse. I don’t really know how each mousse was made, but I came home with the gestalt of the whole dessert etched in my mind and described in my notebook.

Shop the Story

Back home in the Bay Area, I had to put a triple mousse on the Cocolat menu, first because it was a fantastic dessert, and second because I’d never seen anything like it on an American menu. My version had the dense, buttery, bittersweet mousse known as marquis au chocolate on the bottom, topped with lesser layers of eggless, cream-based milk and white chocolate mousses. The whole thing was molded in a bottomless dessert ring big enough to serve 10 or more. The finished dessert was topped with a fancy triple chocolate ruffle with deckled edges.

Tricolor Mousse shot to the top of our charts and stayed there. Brides ordered it for their weddings. It also had the advantage of being flourless, thus gluten-free. In 1987, San Francisco Focus magazine named it “Dessert of the Year.”

In 2002, I modified the recipe to eliminate the raw eggs, riffed on the flavors, and turned it into individual desserts in my book, Bittersweet, the newest edition of which is Seriously Bittersweet.


The recipe that follows is updated once again to further simplify the handling of the eggs in the bittersweet mousse, and the dessert is returned to its larger format. It’s useful to know that each of the three mousses is an excellent stand-alone recipe, and that the white and milk chocolate mousses are both egg-free.

Tricolor Mousses is truly a show-stopper, but it’s deceptively simple if you have the right pan (see recipe note—it’s worth getting one), and are willing to adhere to the somewhat quirky instructions—that is, under-whipped cream folded into chocolate at just the right temperature.

For more desserts from the Cocolat days, check out the new edition of Cocolat: Extrodinary Chocolate Desserts (Dover Publications, 2017).

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).