Light and airy, this Italian lemon mousse is a combination of whipped egg whites, lemon custard and whipped cream all folded together for a luscious texture. It takes three steps: cook the custard base, whip the egg whites and whip the cream, then fold together. Make it a few hours ahead and refrigerate until serving time.
Italian Lemon Mousse History
Cruising 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. We passed Amelia’s restaurant, a now-closed local landmark for fifty years. Their Italian Lemon Mousse was amazing. As soon as we got home I dug out the faded little scrap of a recipe from a kitchen notebook.
Three Steps: Custard, Egg Whites & Cream
To cook the custard, set up what is called a double boiler or water bath. It’s a gentle, indirect method of cooking. Place a large saucepan on the stove top with a few inches of water in it. Bring the water to a simmer. Choose a stainless steel or glass bowl that will fit on top and partially inside the pan taking care that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water.
In your bowl, whip the egg yolks by hand with a whisk until thick and pale in color (and get a good arm 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 a few minutes to transform into a thick light custard. You will know when it is ready when the custard coats the back of a spoon and you can draw your finger through it and the line stays.
Whip the egg whites until stiff and glossy. For hands-free preparation use a standing mixer with a wire whip attachment or a hand mixer with beaters. Clean the whip attachment, then use to whip the cream. See note below recipe.
Finish and Serve Italian Lemon Mousse
The last step is combining all three parts by gently folding together with a flexible spatula. Cover and chill your mousse until serving time. It looks nice spooned into wine glasses topped with fresh mint. Add fresh berries if you’d like. Amelia’s restaurant is gone, but this lovely dessert recipe lives on.
Love lemon? Try this lemon almond cake.
Amelia's Italian Lemon Mousse
- Hand mixer with beaters or standing mixer with whisk attachment
- 6 large eggs separated
- 1/2 cup natural granulated sugar sub monk fruit if desired or 1/2 and 1/2
- 2 large lemons zested, juiced and juice strained
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream well chilled
- 1/2 cup fresh berries or more
- fresh mint leaves
- 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 stove top with a few inches of water in it. Bring the water to a simmer. Choose a stainless steel or glass bowl that will fit on top yet partially inside the pan taking care that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the simmering water.
- In the bowl, whip egg yolks with a whisk until thick and pale in color, then whisk in the sugar, 4 tablespoons of strained lemon juice and the lemon zest. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan of hot water and cook yolks, whisking until it sets, thickens, and forms a custard, 5-6 minutes. 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. See photo in post.
- While custard is cooling, whip egg whites to stiff, glossy peaks with a standing mixer fitted with a whip attachment or a hand mixer with beaters. Next, whip the cream in a separate bowl. When custard is cool, gently combine all three parts: custard, whipped egg whites and whipped cream. Chill until serving time. Serve in stemmed wine glasses or bowls topped with berries and garnished with mint.