Homemade mousse is the ultimate make-ahead dessert – and it doesn’t require turning the oven on. These simple, delectable recipes are the best way to round off a lockdown dinner.
We know it’s easy to forget right now, because it’s so damn cold outside, but not all desserts have to be hearty, hot-from-the-oven bakes. Sometimes, you need only a little something to satisfy your sweet tooth; something simple and chilled that can be whipped out of the fridge and savoured in a few spoonfuls.
For those occasions, mousse is the perfect way to end a meal. Light-as-air and silkily smooth, mousse is made by folding aerators (such a whipped cream and meringue) into a base (such as fruit, custard or chocolate). And while making it from scratch sounds fancy, it’s actually deceptively simple. The ingredients list is short and the method is relatively straightforward: you just have to work quickly and have all the tools you need ahead of time.
The best thing about mousse, though, is the element of customisation. Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, you can experiment with all kinds of divine flavour combinations, as well as having plenty of fun with presentation (see these trifle recipes for more on that). From snackable pots to prettily layered confections, mousse is the best way to play pâtissière.
Fancy making your own? We’ve four melt-in-the-mouth recipes to inspire your own mousse-making.
A classic chocolate mousse is a great starting point, and Sue Quinn’s chocolate mousse with sesame honeycomb and olive oil brings a moreish sweet-salty dimension to the mix.
Lee Holmes’ vegan peanut butter mousse is a speedy, one-bowl recipe made rich with coconut cream and cacao powder, while Letitia Clark’s chocolate orange mascarpone mousse with poached kumquats is a bright, zesty dessert that can also be whizzed up in minutes.
Lastly, Katherine Bebo’s strawberry shortcake layer mousses are the way to go if you’re planning a big night in. Made with strawberry mousse, cheesecake crumb and whipped cream, these artful creations will make lockdown meals feel extra special. Bookmark now for all your future dinner parties.
Sue Quinn’s chocolate mousse with sesame honeycomb and olive oil
Sue says: “I was determined to devise my own version of this sublime dessert after scoffing platefuls of it at London restaurant Lupins. The combination of intense dark chocolate, sweet-salty-chewy honeycomb, sesame seeds and grassy olive oil is, as one reviewer described it, ‘an outrageous creation’. She was correct. Add the very best chocolate and olive oil you can afford.”
For the mousse:
- 150g dark chocolate (between 70–75% cocoa solids), finely chopped
- 2 large egg yolks
- 20g caster sugar
- 75ml whole milk
- 175ml double cream
For the honeycomb:
- 40g white sesame seeds
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 100g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 tbsp honey
- good-quality extra virgin olive oil, rosemary-infused if you have it, for drizzling
Start with the mousse. Have the chocolate ready by the hob in a heatproof bowl. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a stand mixer or in a heatproof bowl with electric beaters until pale and creamy.
Combine the milk and cream in a pan and bring to a simmer. Pour the hot milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.
Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5–10 minutes until it has thickened to a custard-like consistency: when you lift a wooden spoon out of it, it should stay coated.
Pour the custard over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and glossy, then pour through a sieve into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure it sticks to the chocolate to prevent a skin forming.
Chill for 2 hours, or until set. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
For the honeycomb, line a baking sheet with baking paper and have the sesame seeds and bicarbonate of soda measured out and ready by the hob. Place the sugar, golden syrup and honey in a high-sided pan and stir to combine.
Set the pan over a medium heat and simmer until the mixture has turned a deep amber colour (a drop spooned into a glass of cold water should turn hard).
Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the sesame seeds and then the bicarbonate of soda. Stir constantly as the mixture froths up.
Quickly pour onto the prepared baking sheet and leave for about 1 hour, or until hard. Break into pieces.
To serve, use 2 dessert spoons to scoop the mousse into oval shapes (quenelles) and place a couple of these in the centre of each serving plate.
Sprinkle over some of the honeycomb pieces and drizzle with the olive oil. Serve immediately.
From Cocoa: An exploration of chocolate, with recipes by Sue Quinn (£25, Quadrille), out now
Lee Holmes’ peanut butter mousse
- 270ml full-fat coconut cream, refrigerated overnight to thicken
- 70g natural peanut butter
- 10 drops liquid stevia or 1 tbsp rice malt syrup
- ½ tsp alcohol-free vanilla extract
- ½ tsp raw cacao powder
- pinch of sea salt
- desiccated coconut, cacao nibs and/or salted nuts, roughly chopped, to serve
- edible flowers, to serve (optional)
Drain off the small amount of liquid on top of the coconut cream and transfer the remainder to a medium bowl.
Add the peanut butter, stevia, vanilla, cacao powder and salt, then beat with an electric mixer, until the mixture resembles whipped cream.
Spoon the mousse into small serving glasses, top with desiccated coconut, cacao nibs and/or nuts, and garnish with edible flowers, if using.
From Supercharge Your Life: How To Put Real Food At The Heart Of Everything by Lee Holmes (£14.99, Murdoch Books), out now
Letitia Clark’s chocolate orange mascarpone mousse with poached kumquats (mousse al cioccolato con mandarino cinese canditi)
Letitia says: “This is such an incredibly quick and simple mousse it beggars belief. No faffing about whisking egg whites and yolks. It’s ready to serve within minutes and tastes absolutely delicious.
“Kumquats and Seville oranges grow well in Sardinia, so well they are easy to forage from laden boughs drooping over garden walls. The flavour of Seville orange zest is the purest orange flavour you can find, but if you cannot find them then normal oranges will do.”
- 500g kumquats, chopped
- 150g caster sugar
For the mousse:
- 300g dark chocolate
- 2 eggs
- zest of 1 Seville orange
- 500g mascarpone
- 4 tbsp whole milk
First, make the kumquats. In a saucepan over a medium heat, bring the sugar and 150ml water to the boil.
Add the kumquats, cut according to your preference. Cook at a simmer for around 15 minutes, until completely tender and syrupy. Set aside to cool.
While the fruit is cooling, make the chocolate mousse. Melt the chocolate over a bain marie until completely liquid. Remove from the heat and stir in the eggs. It will start to look very thick and glossy.
Now whisk in the zest and the mascarpone. It will become a lovely mousse-like consistency.
Depending on your mascarpone, this mixture may become very thick quite quickly after you whisk it all together. I like my mousse a little silkier and softer, so at this stage I gently whisk in the milk, to let it down a little. Do as you see fit.
Serve in glasses immediately, with some of the kumquats spooned over the top.
From Bitter Honey: Recipes And Stories From The Island Of Sardinia by Letitia Clark (£26, Hardie Grant), out now
Katherine Bebo’s strawberry shortcake layer mousses
For the mousse:
- 3 sheets of leaf gelatine (platinum grade available in supermarkets)
- 400g ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 100g caster sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla bean powder or vanilla bean paste
- grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 300ml double cream
- 80g cream cheese
For the cheesecake crumb layer:
- 200g shortcake biscuits
- 100g butter
- 300g ripe strawberries
- 150ml double cream
- 2 piping bags, fitted with large round nozzles/tips
- 6 pretty glasses
Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft. This will take about 5 minutes.
Place the strawberries, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest and juice in a saucepan with 100ml water and heat for about 5 minutes until the strawberries are very soft.
Pass the mixture through a sieve, pressing down on the strawberries firmly with the back of a spoon so that they become a fruit purée. Discard any strawberries remaining in the sieve.
Squeeze the water out of the gelatine leaves and add to the warm strawberry syrup.
Stir until dissolved, then pass through the sieve again to remove any undissolved gelatine pieces. Let cool.
Whip the double cream and cream cheese together and then whisk in the strawberry syrup.
In a food processor or blender, blitz the shortcake biscuits to fine crumbs. Melt the butter and then stir into the crumbs to ensure they are all coated.
To assemble, reserve three strawberries for decoration, then hull and slice the rest. Place a large spoonful of crumbs into the bottom of each glass and then top each with several slices of the strawberries.
Spoon the strawberry mousse into one piping/pastry bag and pipe a generous swirl of mousse into the glasses. Repeat with a second layer of crumbs, strawberries and mousse and then let chill in the fridge for 3 hours or ideally overnight.
To serve, whip the 150ml double cream to stiff peaks, then spoon into the second piping bag and pipe small swirls of cream around the edge of each mousse.
Decorate each glass with a reserved strawberry half to finish.
From Big Night In: Delicious Themed Menus To Cook & Eat At Home by Katherine Bebo (£14.99, Ryland Peters & Small), out now
Photography: Yuki Sugiura; Matt Russell, Maria Bell; Luisa Brimble; Ryland Peters & Small
Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.