Looking for a dessert that you can make ahead of time? Try this simple vanilla mousse. It has a delicious vanilla bean flavor with a light and fluffy texture. It’s the perfect dessert for small dinner parties!

vanilla mousse in a glass jar with strawberry garnish.

French vanilla mousse is a decadent, but simple dessert that requires no oven. It’s one of my favorite recipes to pull out when I have guests over for dinner because I can make it ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator until everyone is ready for dessert!

Why this recipe works

This is a classic vanilla mousse recipe that uses whole ingredients to make a simple and sweet dessert. The texture is perfectly light and fluffy thanks to the whipped cream. Since this is a no-bake recipe, it’s easy to prep a day or two ahead of time and serve guests if you’re entertaining.

Ingredient notes

vanilla mousse ingredients in bowls labeled with text.
  • Heavy cream: Heavy whipping cream is folded into the custard mixture to make a light and fluffy texture.
  • Gelatin powder: This helps stabilize the mousse. Use the powder, not the sheets, which can be finicky.
  • Egg yolks: This makes a rich flavor and helps bind the ingredients.
  • Vanilla bean paste: Use paste for a delicious vanilla flavor. If you can’t find paste, a good quality vanilla extract will work as a substitute.

Recipe variations

Add a little rum or bourbon for an extra kick of flavor. Instead of blooming the gelatin with heavy cream, swap it out for 2 tablespoons of bourbon instead.

You can make spiced mousse for the holidays! When heating up the milk, whisk in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon allspice (or nutmeg) and an optional pinch of ground cayenne.

Top your mousse with white chocolate shavings or chocolate sauce. It also pairs well with fresh fruit, such as raspberries and strawberries. A sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts or almonds would be a nice touch too!

How to make vanilla mousse

photo collage demonstrating how to make vanilla mousse in a saucepan.
  1. Bloom the gelatin. Add 2 tablespoons heavy cream to to a bowl and sprinkle gelatin powder on top. Set aside.
  2. Combine egg yolks, sugar and salt. Set aside,
  3. Temper the eggs. Heat milk in a saucepan until scalding hot. Add half cup hot milk to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs.
  4. Add the egg mixture into the saucepan with remaining milk, whisking constantly. Continue cooking over medium-high heat until boiling and thick. Remove from the heat.
photo collage demonstrating how to make vanilla mousse with whipped cream.
  1. Microwave the bloomed gelatin until hot. Stir it into the custard mixture until well combined.
  2. Cover and chill the custard for at least 2-3 hours, until completely cooled.
  3. Whip the remaining heavy cream until medium peaks form. Working in 3 batches, use a rubber spatula to gently fold the whipped cream into the custard. Do not to deflate the whipped cream.
  4. Divide the mousse into serving bowls, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with fresh fruit.

Expert tips

Be sure to bloom the gelatin and then heat it up before adding to the custard mixture. This allows the gelatin to dissolve and disperse more evenly into the mixture. It also makes the mousse smooth and stable.

Temper your egg yolks. This is an important step to heat up the egg yolks without scrambling the eggs. Constantly whisk the mixture so it doesn’t become clumpy or scrambled. The constant whisking is vital to getting a silky smooth and thick mousse.

Chill the custard for at least 2 hours before adding the whipped cream. Make sure your whipped cream is stable enough and holds stiff peaks. Then very gently fold it into the custard mixture to avoid deflating the whipped cream.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my mousse runny?

There could be two culprits. The first being that the egg custard was not thick enough. It should coat the back of a spoon. The second reason could be that the whipped cream was not whipped enough and stable.

Why is my mousse lumpy?

The egg yolks were not tempered properly. If your custard appears lumpy, pour it through a fine mesh sieve and discard the lumps. This will guarantee silky smooth mousse!

Can I freeze vanilla mousse?

Yes! Transfer to an airtight container and press plastic wrap firmly over the mousse so no air is touching it. Freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving. Do not attempt to reheat mousse.

spoon holding bite of vanilla mousse in a jar with strawberry garnish.

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vanilla mousse in a glass jar with strawberry garnish.

Classic Vanilla Mousse

This simple vanilla mousse has a light texture and delicious vanilla bean flavor. It's the perfect dessert for small dinner parties!
5 (5 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups (360 ml) heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoons gelatin powder, 1 pouch
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups (360 ml) whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

Instructions 

  • Pour 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin in an even layer over the cream and set it aside to bloom.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt. Set the bowl aside.
  • In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the whole milk and vanilla. Heat the milk until bubbles form around the edges, whisking constantly to avoid scorching, about 5 minutes, then immediately remove the pan from the heat and reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • Whisking constantly, drizzle ½ cup of the hot milk into the bowl with the egg yolks, then return the mixture to the saucepan of milk.
  • Cook the custard mixture, constantly whisking, until it begins to boil and thicken, about 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the bloomed gelatin in the microwave in 10 second increments until it's hot to the touch.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir the hot gelatin into the mixture until well combined.
  • Transfer the custard into a large bowl and immediately press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface. Chill the custard for at least 2-3 hours, until completely cooled.
  • When ready to finish, whip the remaining heavy cream until medium peaks form.
  • Remove the custard from the refrigerator. Working in 3 batches, use a rubber spatula to gently fold the whipped cream into the custard, incorporating each batch fully before adding another, and trying not to deflate the whipped cream.
  • Divide the mousse into individual serving bowls, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until the mousse is set. Serve with whipped cream, fresh fruit, or chocolate sauce

Notes

Gelatin powder helps stabilize the custard mixture. Give it at least 20 minutes to bloom before adding to the custard. I do not suggest using gelatin sheets.
Vanilla bean paste adds a concentrated vanilla flavor and specs in the mousse. As a substitution, you can use an equal amount of good quality vanilla extract.
Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Freeze covered in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before serving.
Serving: 1serving, Calories: 352kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 27g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 204mg, Sodium: 144mg, Potassium: 162mg, Sugar: 22g, Vitamin A: 1147IU, Vitamin C: 0.4mg, Calcium: 131mg, Iron: 0.4mg

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