Tricolor Chocolate Mousse

May 16, 2018
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 10-12
Author Notes

Named “Dessert of the Year” by San Francisco Focusmagazine in 1987, this dessert was all the rage at my chocolate dessert shop, Cocolat. Countless brides ordered it for their wedding cakes! It would make an equally fabulous (also gluten-free) choice for any celebration today.

Here, the recipe is updated so the eggs in the bittersweet mousse are no longer raw. All three mousses are excellent as stand-alone recipes.

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!

The recipe is meant to fill the pan to the rim. The denser dark mousse should fill nearly half of the pan, with the remaining space divided between mocha and white. The latter recipes are generous to prevent your being caught short, so there will be extra mousse—scrape it into a bowl and give it to someone special! The thin base of chocolate under the dessert is just to make it easier to slide a spatula and detach a slice of mousse from the pan or cardboard when you serve the dessert.

Please don’t use baking chips/morsels for any of the chocolates in this dessert.

Note: This recipe is reason enough to acquire an 8x3 inch cheesecake pan with removable bottom. You will forever use it in place of your 8-inch springform pan and you’ll be able to use it for professional style desserts that call for a bottomless dessert or cake ring—including this one! —Alice Medrich

What You'll Need
  • Base + Dark Chocolate Mousse (Marquis au Chocolate):
  • Base:
  • 1 ounce (30 grams) dark chocolate
  • Dark Chocolate Mousse:
  • 10 ounces (280 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (not to exceed 62% cacao), coarsely chopped
  • 10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (62 grams) sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
  • Milk (Mocha) + White Chocolate Mousse:
  • Milk Chocolate Mousse:
  • 9 ounces (255 grams) milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 5 teaspoons powdered instant espresso dissolved in 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • White Chocolate Mousse:
  • 9 ounces (255 grams) white chocolate (not chocolate baking chips), finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 handful cocoa powder or chocolate curls, shavings or shards, optional for decoration
  1. You will need an 8x3 inch cheesecake pan with a removable bottom or an 8x3 inch dessert/cake ring plus an 8-inch cardboard cake circle. You also need an instant-read thermometer and a metal icing spatula that's at least 8-inches long. A propane torch is optional.
  2. First make the base for the dessert. If using a cake/dessert ring, place it on a flat plate or tray.
  3. Trace an 8-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper. Turn parchment upside down on a baking sheet (you should still see the tracing through the paper) and tape the edges to the baking sheet to keep them from curling later. Melt the ounce of chocolate gently in a small bowl set in a pan of almost simmering water. Spread the chocolate evenly in the traced circle. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or until hardened. When hard, remove tape. Turn paper upside down and peel gently away from chocolate disk. Place the disk in the bottom of pan or ring—if it breaks , simply put the pieces in place (it won’t be won’t be noticed). Refrigerate the pan/ring.
  4. To make the bittersweet mousse: Place the chocolate and butter in a medium-large heatproof bowl in a wide skillet of almost simmering water. Stir frequently until the chocolate is nearly melted. Remove the bowl from the heat—leaving the heat on—and stir until completely melted and smooth. Set aside.
  5. In a medium stainless-steel bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until well blended. Whisk in the water. Set the bowl in the skillet and stir constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling, until the mixture registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (You may have to remove the bowl from the skillet to take the temperature unless you are agile enough to both stir and hold and read the thermometer at the same time!). Rinse the thermometer stem in the hot skillet water between readings. Remove the bowl from the skillet.
  6. With an electric mixer, beat the eggs at high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they have a texture like softly whipped cream. Fold one-quarter of the eggs into the warm chocolate. Fold in half of the remaining eggs until nearly blended. Add the rest of the eggs and fold just until evenly incorporated. Immediately, before the mousse begins to set, scrape it into the cake pan or dessert ring and spread it evenly. It should fill the pan not quite half full—in the unlikely event there is any extra, scrape it into small bowl. Refrigerate the pan (and any extra marquise) while preparing the milk chocolate mousse.
  7. Make the Mocha Mousse: Place the milk chocolate and espresso in a medium stainless-steel bowl. Bring the water in the skillet back to a simmer. Turn the burner off (if your stove is electric, remove the skillet from the burner) and wait 30 seconds before placing the bowl of chocolate in the water. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Do not turn the burner back on under the skillet unless absolutely necessary, and then only briefly. Remove the bowl from the hot water. Let the chocolate cool to 85-90° F—a small dab on your upper lip should feel faintly cool, not cold. (If the chocolate is too cold, the mousse may turn out grainy; if necessary, set the bowl in the pan of warm water again for a few seconds before the next step.)
  8. Whip the cream in a small bowl, just until it is thickened and slightly fluffy, and barely beginning to hold a shape: When you tilt the bowl, it should flow to one side, fluffy but still pour able and not at all stiff. Scrape the cream into the bowl of chocolate and fold carefully but quickly just until the two are incorporated. The mousse should seem much too liquid and soft—it will firm up later. Immediately scrape it into the pan on top of the marquise, filling half of the remaining space (to leaving room for the final mousse). Scrape any extra mousse into the bowl atop the leftover marquise. Refrigerate the pan and extra mousse while preparing the last one.
  9. Make the white chocolate mousse: Repeat the steps for making the mocha mousse (above), using the ingredients for the white chocolate mousse. Immediately scrape the mousse into the pan on top of the mocha mousse. Quickly spread the mousse with a long metal spatula, leveling it against the rim of the pan. Scrape extra mousse into the bowl atop the mocha mousse.
  10. Refrigerate dessert for 6 or more hours, before unmolding. Dessert may be completed to this point and refrigerated in the pan, covered, up to 2 days in advance. Or, wrap and freeze for up to 2 months.
  11. To unmold mousse **from a dessert ring**, tilt the ring and slide a cardboard cake circle under the dessert. Warm all sides of ring briefly with a hot, wet, wrung out towel, or a propane torch. Immediately slip ring off dessert by pulling it upward with both hands. **From a cheesecake pan**, place pan on top of a large food can or similar heavy object (taller than the height of the dessert, but smaller in diameter than the bottom of the pan). Warm sides of pan as described. Slide sides of pan down to remove from dessert.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Charity Lomax
    Charity Lomax
  • Kathy Jones
    Kathy Jones
  • SS
  • Yvonne
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, 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!).

4 Reviews

Charity L. August 11, 2018
This was really good! My suggestion is to use twice as much chocolate for the base. Whip the cream for the mocha and white chocolate layers a little stiffer than suggested. My layers were nice and firm. I unmolded it with no problem. As suggested do not use chocolate chips. Block chocolate works better.
SS July 22, 2018
This cake is absolutely delicious. The milk and white chocolate mousse layers are considerably softer than the dark chocolate layer and melted fairly quickly outside of the fridge (granted I made this in the middle of the summer in an NY apartment with no A/C). Ended up not taking it out of the mold because of the melting, which was a tad disappointing -- but otherwise this cake was extremely delicious (and definitely one of the easiest cakes I've made).
Kathy J. July 17, 2018
i so agree. A video wold be great - especially for the remove-from-pan directions and texture descriptions.
Yvonne May 20, 2018
Hi! Would love to see a video for this😊