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Maida Heatter’s Lemon Mousse
Prep Time
35 mins
Total Time
4 hrs 35 mins
Lemon Mousse from Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts, is so light and airy you will feel like you are floating on a cloud. This is a very special lemon dessert recipe that can be made ahead of time and served for a luncheon or dinner party. In Maida's own words, "This is food for angels." I love it and enjoy serving the mousse with light but crispy cookies or just by themselves. It is an impressive dessert served in large wine glasses. The mousse requires at least 4 hours to set and chill in the refrigerator. Lemon Mousse will last for a couple of days in the refrigerator.
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Ginger
Lemon Mousse
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 2 Tb cold water 30 ml
  • Finely grated lemon zest from 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tb lemon juice 133 ml
  • 1 cup granulated sugar 7 oz/ 202 g -divided 3/4 cup (152 g) and 1/4 cup (50 g)
  • 1 cup egg whites (237 ml) approximately 8 egg whites
  • 1/8 tea salt
  • 1/8 tea cream of tartar
  • 1 cup heavy cream 237 ml
Make the Lemon Mousse
  1. You will need four bowls. One large bowl for a stand mixer to whip the egg whites. One medium bowl to whip the heavy cream. One large bowl to assemble the lemon/gelatin mixture with the egg whites and heavy cream. Lastly, one bowl to use for an ice bath - large enough for the bowl with the lemon/gelatin mixture to fit inside nestled on ice.
  2. Put the bowl you want to use to whip the cream, and the beaters from a handheld mixer (or stand mixer, or balloon whisk if making by hand) in the refrigerator to chill.
  3. Pour the gelatin into a small cup then add the 2 Tb of cold water. Let the gelatin and water rest on the counter.
  4. Prepare an ice bath in a large mixing bowl. Take a large bowl and partially fill it with ice cubes and cold water. Make sure your second mixing bowl can fit inside and rest in the ice bath. Set aside.
  5. In a small saucepan add the lemon zest, lemon juice and 3/4 cup (152 g) sugar. Turn on the heat to medium high and stir until the sugar is dissolved and comes to a boil. Add the gelatin and stir until it has dissolved. Turn off the heat and pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl.
  6. Place the bowl with the lemon/gelatin in the ice bath and stir the gelatin-lemon mixture until it cools, but before it thickens. Remove the bowl from the ice bath and set aside. Reserve the bowl holding the ice bath.
  7. Pour the egg whites into a bowl of an electric stand mixer, (or a large bowl if using a handheld mixer.) Add salt and cream of tartar to the egg whites and whip the egg whites on high speed until they hold soft peaks. Lower the speed slightly, then slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar- 1 Tb at a time, so you do not deflate the whipped egg whites. Bring the speed back up to high and whip the egg whites until the whites just hold a shape. The whites will look stiff but will not look dry. Set aside. See video in post about whipping and folding egg whites.
  8. In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, whip the heavy cream until it barely holds a shape. The whipped cream should look fluffy or like billowy clouds, not stiff or dry.
  9. Place the bowl with the lemon and gelatin back into the bowl with the ice bath and scrape down the sides and stir with a rubber spatula until the liquid becomes syrupy and thick. Not too thick so that it begins to get stiff. Remove the bowl from the ice bath and quickly, but carefully fold in one quarter of the whipped cream. Continue to add and fold in the whipped cream adding one quarter of the whipped cream at a time until all the cream is folded into the lemon gelatin mixture.
  10. Fold in the whipped egg whites to the lemon cream, about one heaping spoonful at a time. With each addition, carefully fold in the egg whites so you do not deflate them. You do not have to be thorough with the folding. They should be just barely mixed together.
  11. Use a large spoon, or a soup spoon, fill 8 wine glasses with the lemon mousse. It is a little tedious, but do not worry about any messes, you can clean those up after you fill up of the glasses. Use a damp paper towel or clean cloth and wipe the edges of the wine glasses clean.
  12. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. If you can cover each glass with plastic wrap without touching the mousse do so.
  13. Lightly decorate each glass of mousse with mint, or berries, or candied violets, and serve. I like to add crispy cookies like crisp ginger snaps or amaretto cookies. The lemon mousse is also delicious on its own.
Recipe Notes

After graduating from college and living on my own, I did not have the luxury of large kitchens with many small kitchen appliances. For over 25 years I depended on my handheld mixer and my own horse power to blend, mix, stir and whip ingredients. Do not hold back from making this recipe if you do not own a stand mixer.

There will be a lot of juggling around with bowls and cleaning beaters if a handheld mixer is all that you have, but it can be done. If you have the stamina and determination to make this by hand, go for it. You will need a balloon whisk to help you do the job.