Cruising slowly along Marine Avenue on Balboa Island, Newport Beach, California, windows rolled down, the fresh ocean air filled the car along with memories from summer’s past. The quaint, Cape Cod style street is lined with cute little beach boutiques, gift shops and restaurants. We passed Amelia’s, a Balboa Island landmark for fifty years. I remembered a favorite dessert I had not made in ages, their Italian Lemon Mousse. As soon as we got home I dug out the faded little scrap of a recipe from a kitchen notebook.
Italian Lemon Mousse
Originally from Amelia’s Restaurant, that little scrap of a recipe was dated decades ago. Light, airy in texture with lemon flavor, this mousse is a combination of whipped egg whites, lemon custard and whipped cream all folded together providing a luscious texture.
When I first posted this recipe in 2011, I adapted it using a product that is no longer on the market. It was called Healthy Top, a shelf-stable, non-dairy, non-soy whipping cream replacement made with organic coconut oil, almonds, cashews and sweet almond oil. Unfortunately they went out of business, so I’ve reverted to making this the original way, with heavy whipping cream.
The recipe is scaled to serve 6 and is not quite as sweet as the original. What I hope to do is test making it with whipped coconut cream for a non-dairy version. When I get that done I’ll makes a note for you.
Custard, Egg Whites & Cream
This recipe has three steps: cook the custard base, whip the egg whites and whip the cream. The mousse can be made a few hours ahead and refrigerated until serving time as it holds well.
To cook the custard, set up what is called a double boiler. The French term is Bain Marie or water bath. It’s a gentle, indirect method of cooking things like custards. Place a large saucepan on the stove top with a few inches of water in it. Bring the water to a low simmer. Choose a stainless steel or glass bowl that will fit mostly inside the pan taking care that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water.
In your bowl, whip egg yolks by hand with a whisk until thick and pale in color. It will give your arm a good workout. Then whisk in the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Place the bowl on the saucepan of water and cook yolks, whisking. It takes just a few minutes to transform into a thick but light custard. You will know when it is ready when the custard coats the back of a spoon. You’ll be able to draw your finger through it and the line stays.
Whip the egg whites until stiff and glossy, then set aside. For hands-free preparation use a standing mixer with a wire whip attachment. Alternatively, use a hand mixer or an stick blender with whip attachment. Clean the whip attachment, then use to whip the cream.
The last step is to combine all three parts by gently folding together with a flexible spatula. Cover and chill your mousse until serving time. It looks nice spooned into balloon wine glasses toped with fresh mint and blackberries or strawberries. My dinner guests licked their glasses clean.
Post updated 4-18-18 Unfortunately Amelia’s is no longer there, but this lovely dessert recipe lives on!
Amelia's Italian Lemon Mousse
- 6 large eggs
- 8-10 tablespoons natural sugar
- 2 large lemon, zested then squeezed for juice
- 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice strained
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream well chilled
- 1 container fresh blackberries
- Mint to garnish optional
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks while they are cold (it’s a little easier) and set the whites aside to come to room temperature for better volume when you whip them.
- Set up a double boiler. Place a large saucepan on the stovetop with a few inches of water in it. Bring the water to a low simmer. Choose a stainless steel or glass bowl that will fit mostly inside the pan taking care that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water.
- In the bowl, whip egg yolks by hand with a whisk until thick and pale in color. It will give your arm a good workout. Then whisk in the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Place the bowl on the saucepan of hot water and cook yolks, whisking until it forms a thick, light custard. You will know when it it ready when the custard coats the back of a spoon. You’ll be able to draw your finger through it and the line stays. Remove the bowl of lemon custard and set aside to cool.
- While custard is cooling, whip egg whites to stiff, glossy peaks with a standing mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Alternatively use a hand mixer or stick blender with whip attachment. Next, whip the Healthy Top for about 2 minutes. It will look like thick, ivory colored heavy cream.
- When custard has cooled, gently combine all three parts: custard, whipped egg whites and whipped “cream”. Chill until serving time. Serve in balloon shaped wine glasses or bowls topped with blackberries and garnished with mint. For extra lemon flavor, zest additional fresh lemon zest over the top.