I always feel giddy when I find a dessert that feels insanely elegant, but only takes a few minutes to throw together--and this creamy Italian mascarpone mousse fits that description PERFECTLY. All you need is a couple of bowls and a whisk, and presto! An impossibly elegant finish to any meal, in any season.
Crema al Mascarpone: Three Ingredients, Two Bowls, One Whisk.
This dessert is an Italian classic that should, in my opinion, be as well-known and well-loved as tiramisù or zabaglione. It's silky and creamy, but doesn't feel heavy. The mascarpone gives it structure, but its flavor also hints at the dairy-sweetness of cheesecake, without the tang. The ingredients are incredibly simple, and it's very easy to adapt the flavorings to fit your mood, or to fit the tastes of your guests. A little bit of booze is most traditional, such as rum or whiskey. But the potential for customization is practically limitless!
This Italian mascarpone mousse is often served during the holidays, but it's just as wonderful in the spring and summer!
I absolutely love the cozy sweetness of this mascarpone mousse when it's spiked with a tiny bit of bourbon and sprinkled with cinnamon and toasted almonds. It's also stunning simply dusted with shaved chocolate or my favorite cocoa powder (not an affiliate link!). In the cooler months, I also like to swap in spices like cardamom and nutmeg, or crushed gingerbread cookies.
"But Julia!" you may be saying. "It's JUNE! Isn't this too rich for a hot summer's day?!" Maybe for a sweltering 90+ degree, 100% humidity day, sure. But after a leisurely meal of your favorite dishes from the grill, crisp salads, and frosty beverages, this cool-and-creamy mousse is quite the palate-pleaser. Here are some ideas for how to serve this mousse in the summer:
- Swap out the rum/bourbon for some elderflower liquor and top with lightly macerated strawberries or raspberries.
- Instead of booze, use a dash of orange blossom water (or rosewater!). Top with pistachios and/or juicy, ripe figs and a drizzle of honey.
- Keep the bourbon, and dollop the mousse on a pile of ripe peaches, either fresh or gently cooked. Or use whatever fruit is looking good at the market!
- Use vanilla instead of booze and dust lightly with matcha. I also love this version spooned over raspberries!
Great for a crowd, or just a dinner date for two, this creamy mascarpone mousse is the perfect treat!
This recipe is written to serve four, but it's incredibly easy to shrink it back to serve two. Or, double it to serve eight! When scaling down, just remember that 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons. So for a half recipe, you'll end up adding 1½ teaspoons (aka ½ tablespoon) of sugar to the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon + 1½ teaspoons (aka 1½ tablespoons) of sugar to the egg whites.
Another lovely perk of this Italian mascarpone mousse is that it's easy to make the base and then offer your dinner guests different options for toppings. Try a mini buffet of shaved chocolate, cinnamon, toasted nuts, and fresh fruit. It's easy to please any palate! And, if you're feeling extra-fancy, you can serve dollops of this mousse on slices of pie or cake, instead of ice cream or whipped cream! Try it with my juicy summer plum crostata!
Notes for Success:
As you can see by the above photos, it is hugely important to follow the recipe instructions. When you don't properly whip the egg yolks with the sugar, before adding in the mascarpone, you will end up with a lumpy, curdled texture. While you don't have to worry about bringing the yolk-sugar mixture to a proper "ribbon stage," you do need to give it a very good whisk, until smooth and paler than when you started.
If you only own one whisk, you may want to whip the egg whites first, before whipping the yolks. Any bit of lingering fat can prevent the meringue from forming, so you need a very clean bowl and a very clean whisk. The recipe is written so that the whites are whipped second, because they do start to break down rather quickly when left alone in their bowl. However, if you work fast with your lone whisk, it should be easy to beat your yolks and mascarpone after the whites have been whipped, and then fold everything all together.
If you are uncomfortable eating raw eggs, you can certainly use pasteurized eggs. I personally feel good about the eggs that I buy, so I have no qualms about using them in desserts like this. If you are comfortable making recipes like aioli or Caesar dressing (which also use raw eggs), then go ahead and try this recipe out! However, I am neither a doctor nor a health expert, and you must use your own judgement. And, as they say, "Consumption of raw or undercooked eggs, shellfish and meat may increase the risk of foodborne illness."
Recipe: Crema al Mascarpone (Creamy Italian Mascarpone Mousse)
- 2 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
- 4 tablespoons white sugar, divided
- 1 cup mascarpone, softened , 8 ounces
- 4 teaspoons dark rum, cognac, or bourbon, Optional
- Cocoa powder or matcha
- Fresh berries or citrus supremes
- Crumbled cookies
- Shaved chocolate, any type
- Chopped toasted or candied nuts
- Step 1In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Whisk well to combine, until smooth and pale yellow. Whisk in the mascarpone and rum until smooth and silky. Set aside.
- Step 2In a clean medium bowl, combine the egg whites and the remaining sugar. Whip the egg whites to soft peaks--a hand mixer, stand mixer, or standard whisk are all good options. Make sure your bowl and whisk are very clean (no oil/fat residues) and be careful not to over-whip!
- Step 3Add about one third of the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture. Fold gently until only a few streaks remain. Gently fold in the remaining whites. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 45 minutes.