What Is Mousse?

Updated: Feb. 27, 2023

Yes, it's a rich and decadent dessert—but what is mousse, exactly? How is that texture so light and airy?

Head to any pastry shop and you’re sure to see desserts created with layers of mousse. It’s also a popular dessert on restaurant menus and often a key ingredient in The Great British Baking Show challenges. So what is mousse? There’s a hint in the name itself, a French word meaning “foam.”

What Is Mousse?

Mousse is set apart from other look-alike desserts by its texture, which is light and airy. This is achieved with whipped egg whites, which hold trapped air bubbles and have lots of volume. (Just like when making meringue.) Mousse can also be made by beating heavy cream to create air-filled whipped cream.

The whipped egg whites or whipped cream are carefully folded with ganache, pureed fruit or custard, then chilled until set. The air bubbles remain suspended in the mousse, but the structure is firm enough to be molded or sliced. Other ingredients may help, too—such as cocoa butter in chocolate mousse, which becomes firm once chilled. Have you tried peanut butter mousse?

Mousse vs. Pudding

Pudding is another rich, creamy dessert but the texture is heavier than that of mousse. It’s made by cooking milk and flavorings with a starchy thickener like cornstarch or tapioca. It starts to stabilize on the heat and becomes thick and dense once chilled. Mousse, on the other hand, is lighter and uncooked.

Mousse vs. Ganache

While mousse can be made in a variety of flavors, ganache is always made from chocolate. Dark, milk or white chocolate is melted in warm cream and whisked until smooth. Depending on the ratio of chocolate to cream, ganache can be pourable, spread like frosting or shaped into candy. Ganache is rich and dense; since the mixture can’t trap and hold air bubbles, it doesn’t have the lightness of mousse.

How to Use Mousse

Mousse is a surprisingly versatile confection. You can serve is simply, in a dish with a dollop of whipped cream. (Like our simple Lemon Mousse.) You can also use mousse to create other desserts:

  • Spread mousse between cake layers instead of frosting
  • Make a layered torte from two or three flavors of mousse
  • Spoon mousse into pie crusts and mini tart shells or use it to fill cream puffs
  • Assemble parfaits or trifles with mousse, fresh fruit and cake or cookies.

When used as a filling in cakes and other desserts, chilling is an important step so that the mousse will be stable and hold its airy texture. Mousse can also be frozen to create ice cream-like desserts with a light, smooth texture, like this Frozen Margarita Mousse.

Ready to give this decadent dessert a try? Start with our easy guide on how to make mousse. Then, find inspiration in our collection of mousse recipes.

Indulgent and Irresistible Mousse Desserts
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