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Classic French Vanilla Mousse

Looking for a classic, simple dessert? Look no further than this easy vanilla mousse! It’s a light and fluffy custard-based dessert made of simple, basic ingredients. Served cold, it’s a refreshing, no bake dessert.

A cup of mousse, garnished with raspberries.

Looking for a dessert that will impress with it’s simplicity and perfection? This classic vanilla mousse is the answer, with it’s luxurious texture and decadent (but not overly sweet) flavor.

Ways to use (and reasons to love!) vanilla mousse

  • Vanilla mousse can be served in a cup, topped with some berries or other fruits, sauces, compotes, and gelees.
  • You can use it as a topping or filling for cakes.
  • It’s a gluten free recipe when made according to the directions, which makes it a great allergen friendly dessert that will appeal to everyone.

What is Mousse?

Mousse is a whipped dessert that is traditionally made with melted chocolate folded into whipped cream and/or egg whites. The recipe originates in France, and the word mousse means froth or foam in French. 

However, in this vanilla version, we’ll make a small amount of vanilla custard, and then fold it into whipped cream stabilized with a tiny bit of plain gelatin. This gives you a mousse that is light and fluffy, but won’t wilt or go flat.

Mousse must be served and kept cold, or it will lose all the air and become soupy. It will set and be stored in the refrigerator, only coming out when you’re serving it.

Light, fluffy mousse, flecked with vanilla beans.

And look at that fabulous texture! It’s the worthwhile reward for all of your efforts–fluffy, soft mousse studded with tiny vanilla beans.

What Makes This Recipe Work

While mousse it typically a smooth, melted chocolate mixture folded into whipped cream, we don’t have chocolate to give stability or flavor. Instead, we’ll make a stiff pastry cream, then fold the whipped cream into that.

The pastry cream is essentially a thick pudding flavored with a vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste, which gives it a strong, aromatic vanilla flavor. As it chills, the pastry cream thickens up, giving the needed structure to hold the mousse together.

Ingredients

The ingredients: Cream, gelatin, milk, sugar, cornstarch, egg yolk, and vanilla bean.

Egg Yolks – It’s easier to separate the egg white from the yolk when cold. 

Sugar – Any white, granulated sugar will work well for this recipe.

Salt – Salt helps enhance flavors and make them more balanced and rounded, even in 

Whole Milk – This will go into making the custard. You can use milk that isn’t whole, but the extra fat will make the mousse extra luscious.

Vanilla Bean or Vanilla Paste – Use either a grade-a vanilla bean, or vanilla bean paste, whichever you prefer.

Cornstarch – This helps to thicken the custard.

Whipping Cream – 

Plain Gelatin –This will be set with cold water before melting it down and beating it into the whipped cream. If you’ve never worked with gelatin, don’t worry! I’ll give detailed instructions further down, and I’ve written a thorough, detailed post on how to work with gelatin. 

How to Make Vanilla Mousse

Making the Vanilla Custard

Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a small bowl. Set aside the egg whites to use in pavlovas or other recipes, or discard them. 

Eggs are easiest to separate when they’re cold.
The egg yolks, ready to stir in the sugar and cornstarch.

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together until the mixture is smooth, with no lumps.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a sharp knife and scrape out the vanilla beans inside. Add the beans and pod to a small pot and pour the milk over it.

Heat the milk and vanilla until it’s steaming. Slowly pour some of the hot milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to heat them slowly.

Stirring warm milk into the egg and sugar mixture.
Whisk constantly when adding the warm milk to the eggs to keep them for cooking quickly.
The cooked pastry cream, ready to set in the fridge.
The pastry cream will be thick and smooth when it’s finished cooking. The color will be lighter or darker yellow, depending on the eggs used.

Add the egg mixture back to the pot and warm it slowly over medium low heat, stirring constantly. Cook it until it bubbles and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Place a fine mesh sieve over a small bowl, then pour the cooked custard through it to catch any small bits of cooked eggs, as well as the vanilla bean. Remove the sieve and put a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the custard.

Placing the plastic wrap directly onto the pastry cream helps avoid a dry skin on top of it.

Put the bowl of custard in the refrigerator until it’s chilled and set through, at least 2-4 hours.

Making the Stabilized Whipped Cream

Note: You don’t have to stabilize the whipped cream with gelatin if you’d prefer to skip that step, but it will keep your mousse fluffy for longer. I have a posted dedicated to making stabilized whipped cream and working with gelatin powder that you can read for an extra boost of confidence.

Place 1 ½ tablespoons cold water in a small bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Use a fork to stir it in so that all of it can absorb the water, then set it aside for 5-10 minutes.

Adding the powdered gelatin to cold water so it can dissolve.
Set gelatin for the stabilized whipped cream.

Pour the whipping cream into a clean, cool mixing bowl, then use a hand held electric mixer to whip it to soft peaks.

Melt down the gelatin by heating it for about 20 seconds in the microwave or hold the bowl carefully over a low gas burner. Don’t let it get too hot, or it will break down the gelatin.

Slowly pour the melted gelatin into the whipped cream while whipping–this prevents bits of gelatin hardening in the cream. Continue until the shipped cream is at stiff peak stage.

Mixing the Custard and Whipped Cream

Stir about 1/4 of the whipped cream into the custard to make it loose and soft. Then return the mixture to the large bowl with the rest of the whipped cream.

Stir some of the whipped cream into the pastry cream to help it loosen and soften.

With a rubber spatula, carefully fold the whipped cream and custard together. You want it to be thoroughly mixed together, with no streaks.

Folding the pastry cream into the whipped cream.
Add the loosened pastry cream into the whipped cream.
Fold gently with a rubber spatula to avoid deflating the mousse.

Serving the Mousse

Scoop the mousse into cups, then set them in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours, or until the mousse is set. 

Spooning the vanilla mousse into cups to set.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling fancy, you can place the mousse into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Then, pipe it into the cups or bowls you wish to use for it. Allow it to set in the refrigerator.

To serve, top the mousse with berries or finely chopped fruit. You can add a dollop of whipped cream if you’d like, or some finely shaved chocolate and a sprig of fresh mint.

3 cups of vanilla mousse, garnished with fresh raspberries.

Et voila, you have dessert to impress and enjoy. Bon appetit.

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Vanilla Mousse


  • Author: Rebecca Neidhart

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 ½ cups (12 fl. oz.) whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (16 g) cornstarch
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 cups (16 fl. oz.) whipping cream
  • 1 ½ teaspoons plain gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

Instructions

Making the Vanilla Custard

Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a small bowl. Set aside the egg whites or discard them. 

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together until the mixture is smooth, with no lumps. You can add a tablespoon or two of the milk to the mixture if it’s too thick to stir well.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a sharp knife and scrape out the vanilla beans inside. Add the beans and pod to a small pot and pour the milk over it.

Heat the milk and vanilla until it’s steaming. Slowly pour some of the hot milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to heat them slowly.

Add the egg mixture back to the pot and warm it slowly over medium low heat, stirring constantly. Cook it until it bubbles and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Place a fine mesh sieve over a small bowl, then pour the cooked custard through it to catch any small bits of cooked eggs. Remove the sieve and put a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the custard.

Put the bowl of custard in the refrigerator until it’s chilled and set through, at least 2-4 hours.

Making the Stabilized Whipped Cream

Place 1 ½ tablespoons cold water in a small bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Use a fork to stir it in so that all of it can absorb the water, then set it aside for 5-10 minutes.

Pour the whipping cream into a clean, cool mixing bowl, then use a hand held electric mixer to whip it to soft peaks.

Melt down the gelatin by heating it for about 20 seconds in the microwave or hold the bowl carefully over a low gas burner. Don’t let it get too hot, or it will break down the gelatin and it won’t set.

While running the beaters, drizzle the gelatin into the whipped cream. Continue to mix until all the gelatin is incorporated and the cream has reached stiff peaks.

Mixing the Mousse

Scoop about ¼ of the whipped cream into the chilled custard, then stir them together until they’re thoroughly combined. This will loosen the custard and help you incorporate the rest of the whipped cream without deflating it.

Add the mixture back to the large bowl of whipped cream. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the custard and whipped cream together, making sure to completely combine them.

Serving the Mousse

Scoop the mousse into cups, then set them in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours, or until the mousse is set. 

To serve, top the mousse with berries or finely chopped fruit. You can add a dollop of whipped cream if you’d like, or some finely shaved chocolate and a sprig of fresh mint.

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marilyn hogan

Monday 11th of December 2023

hi there, I'm from Australia and we buy Thickened Cream which is already thickened with gelatine....I'm thinking maybe i could do away with adding gelatine...your thoughts please

Rebecca

Monday 11th of December 2023

Hi Marilyn! I've never used Thickened Cream, so I don't know how it would work in this recipe. However, I'm guessing it's present in the cream to make it like stabilized whipped cream, so it's probably not enough to thicken the mousse.

I would recommend trying to figure out how much gelatin is in the cream, and reduce the amount in the mousse by that much. Hope that helps!

Marlena

Sunday 15th of October 2023

Will this mousse be suitable for layering the cake?

Rebecca

Monday 20th of November 2023

Hi Marlena! Sorry I didn't respond sooner. Yes, this mousse works perfectly for layer cakes!

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