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RECIPE: Espresso Mousse In Espresso Cups

Pretty much every specialty dish, from “shrimp cocktail” coupes to Champagne flutes, can be used to serve something else. Take espresso cups: Use them to serve mini portions of soup, frozen desserts, or custards and mousse. For fun, make it espresso mousse.

We came across a similar concept some 20 years ago, at the famed French Laundry restaurant in St. Helena, California.

Chef Thomas Keller, who was very tongue-in-cheek back then, served a dessert called Coffee & Doughnuts: coffee mousse with a foam “cappuccino” top and a side of beignets. We loved it!

In preparation for last night’s Academy Awards festivities, we got out the espresso cups and made espresso mousse (you can easily find recipes for chocolate-espresso mousse, like this one from Giada De Laurentiis).

Espresso mousse is typically made with instant espresso powder, which you can use in all chocolate recipes. See the details below.


[1] Multitasking espresso cups hold espresso mousse (photo © Filicori Zecchini).


Some people don’t like the airy texture of mousse, which incorporates whipped egg whites and whipped cream for ethereal lightness. Pot de crème (poe-duh-CREHM, plural pots de crème) is a more dense alternative, with a texture similar to chocolate pudding (mousse means foam in French, pot de crème means pot of cream, referring to the small ceramic lidded dishes in which they are traditionally served).

While we enjoyed the espresso mousse recipe below, for variety next time we’ll make espresso pots de crème.

You can make the mousse up to one day in advance.


  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups cold heavy cream, plus 1 cup for the whipped cream
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional: 1 ounce coffee or espresso liqueur
  • Optional garnish: Unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
  • Optional garnishes: shaved chocolate, small cookie
    For Whipped Cream Garnish

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch salt

    [2] Espresso powder doesn’t make a great cup of espresso, but it truly enhances baked goods and other recipes (photo © Medagla d’Oro).

    1. SPRINKLE gelatin over 2 tablespoons of water in a cup or small bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and salt until the color turns pale (about 1 minute).

    2. HEAT 1 cup of the cream in a saucepan; whisk in espresso powder. Gradually whisk the cream mixture into the bowl of egg mixture; then add the new mixture to the saucepan.

    3. STIR constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens (about 8 minutes). Transfer to a clean bowl and whisk in the gelatin mixture. Add in the optional coffee liqueur.

    4. PRESS plastic wrap onto the surface of the mixture and let it cool completely on the counter for about 45 minutes. Do not refrigerate.

    5. BEAT 1 cup of cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold it into the espresso mixture. Divide among eight espresso cups (or six 4-ounce dishes), leaving an inch at the top to anchor the garnish.

    6. MAKE whipped cream. First chill the bowl, beaters, and cream thoroughly. Using an electric mixer, whip the cream, vanilla, and sugar in the chilled bowl until soft peaks form (makes about 1 cup).

    7. COVER and refrigerate until set, at least 1 hour. Top mousse with whipped cream and sprinkle with cocoa powder plus other optional garnishes, as desired.

    Like a pinch of salt, espresso powder enhances any chocolate recipe.

  • Use ½ teaspoon in baked goods: It enhances chocolate’s flavor without adding any coffee flavor.
  • Add one to two teaspoons to achieve a hit of espresso flavor in frostings and sauces. Dissolve the espresso powder in an equal amount of cream or water before adding it, to prevent unwanted coffee flecks.
  • For mocha flavor, use 2 teaspoons or more. Use half a teaspoon in any chocolate recipe for a subtle lift; a teaspoon or more brings out a mocha flavor.

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