Classic chocolate mousse

by Bonnie Sparrman

The undulating rhythms of life are spelled out on the pages of our calendars and also by the expressions of nature in each season. In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon sketches seasons for every activity under heaven: “A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to uproot…a time to mourn and a time to dance…a time to keep and a time to throw away….”

For me, this season has been one of uprooting, and mourning, and throwing or giving away. I look ahead with hope to a time when planting, laughing, and dancing will return. But for now, simplification and a severe paring down of our belongings has devoured our energy. My husband Eric and I recently sold our home and stowed most of our belongings in storage as we follow God’s call to ministry in Sweden. Everyone tells me this is exciting; what an adventure! While I agree, my heart aches a bit to leave behind a much loved home, well established herb garden, kitchen and pantry containing my favorite recessed cookbook shelves. The spaces we created in our house were not built for our enjoyment alone. Rather they allowed us to welcome family, friends, and friends of friends to our home and table. We’ve temporarily set aside the tools of hospitality that mean so much to me. Since our house was the center of many significant family gatherings, I have to admit to deeply mourning the loss of my home, garden, beloved neighbors, church, my workplace, and a community where I felt settled.

You may wonder, what does uprooting have to do with chocolate mousse? Well, as we’ve exchanged our comfortable house for a small cottage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, while we await work visas from Sweden, we’ve pared down to fewer clothes and household items than our honeymoon apartment held. Some congratulate us for having simplified. Yes, it’s easier to care for less. But if one takes simplification too far, frustration ensues. For example, I went to open a can and realized we inadvertently deleted our can opener. Same with our potato masher and pizza stone. So we make do. A chisel and hammer have been employed to open cans. I adjusted my pizza baking method. These alterations aren’t convenient, just necessary. They actually don’t make life in the kitchen simpler, but we are still cooking and eating.

Necessity also calls for a streamlined menu. This is not my season for complicated tortes or garden parties for sixty-plus guests like last year. Now it’s time to make tasty dishes for fewer folks with fewer ingredients. My favorite dessert in this category is a classic chocolate mousse. This delectable treat lands lightly after a full meal, and the possibilities for customizing flavors are vast. I’ve always had a penchant for Frango Mints, those minty chocolates sold at Macy’s and much loved by Seattleites and Chicagoans and anyone in between who has tasted their goodness. I often substitute Frango mints for a little more than half the chocolate in the mousse. Other variations follow at the end of the recipe.

While Eric and I wait for the green light from Sweden’s immigration officials, I’m preparing straightforward meals in a simple, sweet, pared down kitchen. So, while it’s not convenient to cook without my former spacious kitchen, I can still make lovely, uncomplicated chocolate mousse. I did manage to fit a stand mixer into the cottage, but a hand-held electric mixer would also work for this recipe. No doubt this is good practice for when we arrive in Sweden with just our clothes, a few knives, and my favorite rolling pin. Everything else will come from second-hand stores in Sweden.

I find it ironic that God has plucked me from my well-appointed kitchen to send me across the ocean to establish a new place of hospitality with very few tools. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away! Gone are the conveniences, but what remains is the desire to welcome and feed others. This is a season to keep eyes open—to see how God will lead us to those who need a welcoming meal. God is in charge. I trust that eventually we will dance across another kitchen floor and set a table with yet unknown plates for some who are lonely and tired whom we, in the words of Solomon, need not “refrain from embracing.”

Bowl of chocolate mousse

Photo: Bonnie Sparrman


9 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped,
(Ghirardelli 60% chocolate pieces work well.)
6 T. whole milk
1 t. vanilla extract
1½ c. whipping cream
3 egg whites, room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
1/8 t. cream of tartar
1 cup heavy cream for garnish
1 chocolate bar for garnish, ever so slightly warm

Place chocolate and milk in a large bowl and set it over a pot of water that has been brought to the boil and turned off—residual heat will melt the chocolate. Stir gently until the mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla and egg yolk. Set aside until the mixture begins to feel cool to the touch.

While the chocolate mixture is cooling, whip 1½ cups heavy cream to soft peaks. Set aside.

In a clean dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites at medium speed until beginning to foam. Add cream of tartar and increase the speed to high. Continue to beat until the egg whites mound and begin to hold soft peaks when the beater is lifted. Gently fold one quarter of the whites into the cooled chocolate mixture to lighten it; then fold in the remainder. Scrape the whipped cream onto the mixture and quickly fold in. These steps must be done in rapid succession.

Spoon mousse into sherbet cups or parfait glasses, or into a single serving bowl. Cover and chill for three hours or overnight. Serve garnished with whipped cream, raspberries, and chocolate shavings made with a potato peeler.

Makes 5 generous cups, or 8 servings.


Minty chocolate mousse: Substitute 5 oz. Frango Mints, chopped, added to 4 oz. dark chocolate. Garnish with whipped cream and mint leaves.

Chocolate mousse with Grand Marnier: Add 2-3 T. Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liquor in place of the vanilla extract. Garnish with orange zest or chocolate dipped candied orange peel.

White chocolate mousse: Substitute white chocolate for the dark chocolate. This is particularly tasty and attractive when garnished with raspberries and mint leaves.

Mocha mousse: Add 2 T. Kahlua and 1 T. espresso powder in place of vanilla extract. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate covered coffee beans.