For this year’s holiday recipe for Cook the Vineyard, I’m sharing my easiest and most delicious chocolate mousse. No eggs involved here – just five ingredients. And the recipe can and should be made entirely ahead. Everything to love about that! I’ve also given you some fun topping ideas and flavor variations. For all my tips — and a recipe for chocolate shards — be sure to read Baking Together #30 before making the mousse. (Serving ideas are included in Kitchen Notes at the end of this recipe, too.)

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 2/3 cups (13 1/4 ounces) heavy cream
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 teaspoons bourbon, other liqueur, or pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Lightly sweetened whipped cream, chocolate shavings or shards or other toppings (see notes below) 


1. Put the heavy cream and chocolate in a medium, heatproof bowl. Microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring in between, until the cream is very hot and the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. (This can also be done by setting the bowl over a pot of simmering water). Repeat the microwaving as needed if there are any stubborn chocolate bits. Add the butter pieces to the warm mixture and stir gently until the butter has melted. Stir in the bourbon (or other liqueur or vanilla) and salt.

2. Chill, stirring occasionally, until thick and very cold, about two hours or up to two days. (For faster cooling, set the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice and a little water, stirring and scraping the sides frequently until very cold.)

3. Using an electric handheld mixer, beat the chilled mixture on medium-high speed until thick enough to hold medium-firm peaks on a spatula, 1 to 2 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. (Note, if using a standing mixer, the whipping goes very fast – don’t walk away or you may overbeat the mixture. You want it to be creamy and somewhat stiff, but not grainy.)

4. Spoon or pipe the mousse into serving cups or small bowls. If serving right away, top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings or shards (if using) or other toppings. Or vary your presentation by layering with other ingredients. Alternatively you can cover the mousse cups (without topping) and refrigerate for up to two days.

Kitchen Notes

Double the recipe
Serving a larger crowd? Double or triple it up! Just remember to use a bigger bowl for the larger amount of ingredients and allow more time for chilling the chocolate mixture before whipping.

Pipe with a zip-top bag
If you want to pipe your mousse into cups, a zip-top plastic bag is an easy substitute for a pastry bag. Fill the bag and snip off about 1/2-3/4 inch of one corner and you are set to go. No fancy piping tips but it gets the mousse in the containers quickly and cleanly.


Add Toppings or Layers 

Top with whipped cream
I usually double the recipe for Mascarpone Whipped Cream to serve on top of the mousse. Once whipped and piled onto the mousse, the cream holds up even over several days.

Garnish with chocolate shards or shavings
Chocolate shards make for a jaunty topping. Chocolate shavings (use a vegetable peeler and a bar of chocolate) are fine, too, but if you want to learn the fun technique for making chocolate shards, find the recipe in Baking Together #30.

Add fruit or nuts
Any type of fresh fruit – chopped into small pieces if necessary – can be scattered over the whipped cream (with or without the shards) just before serving. Consider strawberries, raspberries, pitted cherries, peaches or even orange segments (also called supremes). Pomegranate seeds add a splash of holiday color, too. Feel free to top with a few sliced almonds or chopped hazelnuts for a crunchy texture.

Layer the mousse, parfait-style
Crisp cookies like cinnamon grahams or chocolate or vanilla, or even peppermint Girl Scout cookies, can be used in between layers of the mousse. I prefer to crush them into small or fine bits. The layered mousse can and should still be made ahead, but much like an old-fashioned ice box cake, the cookies will soften into a cake-like texture (Yum!).


Change up the flavor

Add finely grated orange zest to the melted chocolate mixture and substitute orange flavored liqueur in place of the bourbon or vanilla extract. Consider sprinkling a little orange zest over the whipped cream (with or without the shards) just before serving.

Add 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder to the chocolate and cream mixture before heating and substitute coffee liqueur in place of the bourbon or vanilla extract. Consider sprinkling some crushed chocolate covered espresso beans over the whipped cream (with or without the shards) just before serving.

Add a hint of pure peppermint extract to the chocolate mixture along with the bourbon or vanilla extract. Consider sprinkling some crushed peppermint candies over the whipped cream (with or without the shards) just before serving.