Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake by @browneyedbaker ::

I have been tempted by Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake for well over three years now. I’ve seen a variety of recipes in a number of different places and have bookmarked it and doggy-eared it countless times. One day last week, my Chief Culinary Consultant mentioned that it had been awhile since I had made a big ol’ fancy cake. A show-stopper, as it were. Challenge accepted. I sifted through my notes, spreadsheets and cookbooks to see what I might want to bake up, when a page from a long-gone Cook’s Illustrated magazine fell out of a binder. The Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake. It was destiny.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake by @browneyedbaker ::

This triple layer cake is the trifecta of chocolate deliciousness. The bottom layer is a flourless chocolate cake… the middle layer is a light dark chocolate mousse… and the top layer is an even lighter white chocolate mousse. The combination of the three is rich, intensely flavorful and silky smooth. It’s a fabulous dessert to pair with coffee and enjoy slowly, lingering over each bite.

This cake is the holy grail for any chocolate lover. It takes a bit of time, but the assembly is relatively easy and absolutely, 100% worth it. You owe yourself this treat!

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake by @browneyedbaker ::

One year ago: Oatmeal-Raisin Ice Cream
Two years ago: How To Make a Rainbow Cake
Four years ago: Polenta Pizza

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Yield: 12 to 16 servings

Prep Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

Cook Time: 13 to 18 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Layers of flourless chocolate cake, dark chocolate mousse and white chocolate mousse create an absolutely sinful dessert for chocolate lovers everywhere.


For the Bottom Layer
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs, separated
Pinch salt
⅓ cup light brown sugar

For the Middle Layer:
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
5 tablespoons hot water
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon table salt

For the Top Layer
¾ teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon water
6 ounces (1 cup) white chocolate chips
1½ cups cold heavy cream


1. Make the Bottom Layer: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan that is at least 3 inches high.

2. Melt the butter, chocolate and espresso powder in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla and egg yolks; set aside.

3. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt at medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add half of the brown sugar and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add the remaining brown sugar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, about 1 minute longer, scraping down the sides halfway through. Whisk one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. Carefully transfer the batter to the prepared springform pan, gently smoothing the top with an offset spatula.

4. Bake until the cake has risen, is firm around the edges, and the center has just set but is still soft (the center of cake will spring back after pressing gently with your finger), 13 to 18 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. (The cake will collapse as it cools.) Do not remove the cake from the pan.

5. Make the Middle Layer: Whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl and set aside. Melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.

6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream, granulated sugar and salt on medium speed until the mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds.

7. Whisk the cocoa powder mixture into the melted chocolate until smooth. Whisk one-third of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon the mousse into the springform pan over the cooled cake and gently tap the pan on counter 3 times to remove any large air bubbles; smooth the top with an offset spatula. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes while preparing the top layer.

8. Make the Top Layer: In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water; let stand for at least 5 minutes. Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring ½ cup of the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add the gelatin mixture, whisking until fully dissolved. Pour the cream mixture over the white chocolate chips and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is completely smooth. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes (the mixture will thicken slightly).

9. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 1 cup heavy cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds. Whisk one-third of the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture to lighten. Using a rubber spatula, fold the remaining whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain. Spoon the white chocolate mousse into the pan over the middle layer. Smooth the top with an offset spatula. Return the cake to the refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours.

10. The cake can be made up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes before releasing it from the pan. Garnish the top of cake with chocolate curls or dust with cocoa, if desired. Run a thin knife between the cake and side of the springform pan, then remove the side of pan. Cut into slices and serve. (For clean slices, dip a sharp knife into hot water and wipe dry between cuts.)

(Recipe from Cook's Illustrated)

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172 Responses to “Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake”

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  1. Laura (Tutti Dolci) on September 12, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Flawless layers, what a gorgeous cake!


  2. Lauren on September 12, 2013 at 12:19 am

    I have the Cooks Illustrated cookbook (I call it my red cooking bible) and every time I open it, I find myself looking at this exact recipe! It’s totally on my cooking bucket list. Your’s look even more beautiful than I imagined!


  3. Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl on September 12, 2013 at 12:37 am

    When the recipe starts with Triple Chocolate I start to get a creepy smile on my face! Beautiful cake, great job on it!


  4. Averie @ Averie Cooks on September 12, 2013 at 1:37 am

    Any of the layers unto themselves sound amazing! The three together – wow, over the top and knowing that it’s a CI recipe, you just KNOW you’re in for a real showstopper! Also very impressed by how super neat the layers are and the total clean cuts on the slice. Nice!


  5. Marcie on September 12, 2013 at 2:00 am

    This really is a show stopper with all of those creamy, luscious layers! Beautiful dessert!


  6. Stacy | Wicked Good Kitchen on September 12, 2013 at 2:00 am

    Oh, girl! Just beautiful! I love making this dessert from Cook’s Illustrated! It always receives rave reviews. I even ran out of white chocolate chips once and decided to double-up on the chocolate middle layer once and then just used my cream whipper to put fresh whipped cream on top with a dusting of cocoa. Everyone loved it! The one thing new bakers need to keep in mind is that the bottom layer will shrink a little from the pan sides once cooled. This is totally normal with this recipe. Thanks for sharing, Michelle!


  7. renu on September 12, 2013 at 2:59 am

    that is sooooo temting… and it looks sooo beautiful too… the colours of teh cake and the colours on teh cup.. wow!!looks awesome..:)


  8. Chris on September 12, 2013 at 3:08 am

    Challenged accepted, I loved that. This recipe might be a bit over my capabilities but as you mentioned some things are worth the extra effort, so I will give it a try.


  9. Becca @ Crumbs on September 12, 2013 at 3:08 am

    What a great dessert for a dinner party – such a show stopper!


  10. Maria on September 12, 2013 at 3:13 am

    I love that you posted this! This is one of my favorite desserts to get at restaurants, and I attempted it once (making up my own recipe) and it wasn’t a success. Definitely going to try this recipe…soon!


  11. Ellen on September 12, 2013 at 3:25 am

    Would it be wrong to have a chocolate shake with this? I am on a mission to overdose on all things cacao.


  12. Lori on September 12, 2013 at 6:42 am

    Very happy to see this recipe. It looks perfect for my gluten-free daughter. I think I will make it and bring it to her when I visit her at college! I’m sure her suitemates will be happy to share.


  13. Jamie @lifelovelemons on September 12, 2013 at 7:30 am

    Destiny! This is beautiful! Love the contrasting layers!


  14. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar on September 12, 2013 at 7:51 am

    I made a cake like this once and it totally rocked my world! This is lovely!


  15. Erin B on September 12, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Do you have any idea if substituting agar-agar for the gelatin in the top layer would work? I know it does for some recipes but in others it tends to just make a mess (ex: every time I try to make agar-agar marshmallows).


    • Michelle on September 12th, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Hi Erin, Unfortunately, I’m not sure about a gelatin substitute, as I’ve never heard of agar-agar.


    • PJR on November 28th, 2013 at 11:45 am

      I tried using agar agar for the top layer and it did not work out well – the texture was kind of gritty. It was probably user-error, since I hadn’t tried it before, but I ended-up scraping off the top layer and going back to the original recipe. Seems perfect now. Otherwise, this was a really easy recipe to make, from start to finish. Can’t wait to try it later today for Thanksgiving!


  16. joan on September 12, 2013 at 8:43 am

    I’ve made this recipe a few times, and it is The Bomb. If you really want to wow someone, this is the way to go. It not only looks beautiful, it tastes just as good as it looks. Your photos are fantastic, Michelle!


  17. Tieghan on September 12, 2013 at 8:49 am

    This is simply gorgeous! Every layer looks delicious and perfect!


  18. Nancy P.@thebittersideofsweet on September 12, 2013 at 9:07 am

    I my husband is always asking for some kind of mousse but I never venture on making it! This makes me want to give it a try!


  19. Tesei on September 12, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Oh goodness, it looks simply irresistible! Thank you for another gorgeous recipe!


  20. Monica on September 12, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I made this a couple of years ago for my birthday. It was amazing!!!! I think I will have to make again soon!


  21. Dana on September 12, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I LOVE that there is no Cool Whip in this, because I was looking for it. Cool Whip makes me sick and there are so many yummy looking recipes that have it. I can’t wait to have an occasion to try this. It looks really Thanksgiving-y!


  22. Abbe@This is How I Cook on September 12, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Always a great one and sure to make everyone happy! But it is so pretty it would be hard to cut into. But I would!


  23. Yana on September 12, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Oh I’m so making this! Love mousse cakes! Question though; I’ve used heavy cream and it doesn’t whip at all. Are you sure the recipe doesn’t call for heavy whipping cream?


    • Michelle on September 12th, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Hi Yana, Yes, I am positive the recipe does not call for heavy whipping cream. I whip heavy cream all the time and have never experienced an issue. If it doesn’t work for you, for whatever reason, I’m sure you could use heavy whipped cream as a substitution if you need to.


  24. Ann @ PersnicketyBiscuit on September 12, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Oh my goodness. This is one of my favorite things ever and I have not even tried it yet. I just know, because, well, triple chocolate. Going on my list for the next time I need to make a showstopper!


  25. Laura @ Lauras Baking Talent on September 12, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Looks yummy and amazing!


  26. Jenn @ Once Upon a Tier on September 12, 2013 at 11:30 am

    I made this about 3 years ago for my mom’s birthday cake. It was absolutely amazing. One of the best things I have ever eaten. Your layers look great!


  27. Moira @ Hearth and Homefront on September 12, 2013 at 11:57 am

    That’s a show stopper for sure!!! Now I just need an excuse to make it 😉


  28. Monica on September 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I have seen and admired this cake from the magazine – and you did a perfect job! It’s a chocolate lover’s (me) dream come true!


  29. Pieliekamais on September 12, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Oh, isn’t it the best when a recipe you’ve ripped out and kept for a long time finally happens? It looks great!


  30. Angelyn @ Everyday Desserts on September 12, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Beautiful cake!! It looks so amazing. Ahhhh! Love this!


  31. Lisa on September 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I’m in trouble with this one as I absolutely HAVE to make this! Our local European Patisserie has a made this for years but I am Celiac and it is not an option as they use flour. Guess who is one happy little camper now with a recipe and 4 days off work to test it??? THanks!


  32. Tracy {pale yellow} on September 12, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    I love that you accepted this challenge, this looks amazing!


  33. bergamot on September 12, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    This is a recipe that I just love. I made it for my daughter’s birthday when you first posted it. It was loved by all. The only changes I made was to use agar-agar for the mousse layers


  34. 2 Sisters Recipes on September 12, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Beautiful cake, this happens to be our absolute favorite! Love this recipe and love that its a Flourless cake. Would you mind if we make this cake and post it? Warmly, Anna and Liz


    • Michelle on September 13th, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Sure! Enjoy!


  35. Maria on September 13, 2013 at 12:36 am

    I’ve had this one bookmarked for several years, too! Maybe it’s time to finally get around to making it…


  36. Fern @ To Food with Love on September 13, 2013 at 10:06 am

    I’ve been searching for a recipe for this for months, and I finally found it! Gorgeous! Thanks heaps for the recipe, can’t wait to try it!


  37. Erin on September 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    This looks amAZing!!! Going to have to try it soon!


  38. Renee @ Awesome on $20 on September 14, 2013 at 12:44 am

    This sounds like it would take a but of time, but it seems so totally worth it. I would love to be eating this right now. It looks beautiful.


  39. Bake Play Smile on September 14, 2013 at 5:18 am

    I absolutely love the look of this! Now I just need a special occasion to make it for! :-)


  40. Alex Dumpfree on September 14, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Wonderful chocolate cake! If I could take a large bite right now…….:(


  41. Laura on September 14, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    This recipe was great timing, I had to make a choc mousse cake this weekend and I can tell you this recipe is a winner!! It was delicious, everybody loved it. Thanks Michelle!!!


  42. Jena on September 15, 2013 at 1:15 am

    You’re killing me. 7 months pregnant & had to go dairy-free, ’cause anything animal dairy gives me coughing fits. And many woman who’ve been pregnant know what a coughing fit can do to other pregnancy side effects… (Ouch.)


  43. Merlot on September 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    One of the best cakes I have ever had added a thin crisp chocolate cookie layer under a cake similar to this one. The textural difference added a great deal to the cake. Even without that layer this looks great.


    • Jas on September 15th, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      Hello Merlot

      Did you add the thin crisp chocolate chip before or after baking?

      Also did you put it before adding the cake mixture or on top of the cake? And which cookies did you use?



  44. Abbie LeCoz on September 16, 2013 at 12:16 am

    Omg I made this a couple years ago at Christmas. Cook’s Illustrated never disappoints. I love that you use a lot of their recipes. I know I can trust you as a cook! Keep up the great blog, Michelle! Oh, and Duke is so cute I wanna eat him up!!


  45. Elana on September 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Instead of doing this last minute cake prep as you show (out of fridge 45 minutes early, then take out of pan when ready to serve), have you ever taken the cake out of pan several hours prior to serving it, plating it then and serving much later? Do you think that would work?


    • Michelle on September 23rd, 2013 at 11:47 am

      Hi Elana, I think you could do that without a problem at all.


      • Tracy on December 9th, 2013 at 1:49 am

        I would like to do the same, put on cake plate then travel for about an hour. Would I need to refrigerate? Do you serve cold?


        • Michelle on December 9th, 2013 at 12:36 pm

          Hi Tracy, You would be okay transporting it an hour if it is already chilled. You should refrigerate it once at your destination if you won’t be eating it immediately.


          • Tracy on December 9th, 2013 at 12:48 pm

            Do you serve cold?


            • Michelle on December 11th, 2013 at 11:19 am


      • Tracy on December 9th, 2013 at 2:01 am

        One more question. I have not used that type of pan before. Do you leave the bottom of the pan on while you serve? I am assuming you just leave it.. Thanks!


        • Michelle on December 9th, 2013 at 12:37 pm

          Yes, you can leave the bottom in place for serving. Enjoy!


  46. laketia on September 24, 2013 at 4:41 am

    Hi michelle,
    This is absolutely gorgeous and I am considering making it for a friend’s birthday except there is one problem…she is allergic to eggs. Do you know of a good substitute? I’ve used applesauce before but I don’t think that would mesh well with chocolate mouse.


    • Michelle on September 24th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      You’re right, I definitely wouldn’t go the applesauce route. Since the egg is only used in the flourless chocolate cake, and not either of the mousse mixtures, you might be able to get away with a substitution. I would ask your friend if there is an egg substitution she routinely uses in cakes or baked goods. Do keep in mind, however, that the egg whites need to be whipped and folded, which is an important part of the texture. So you would need to substitute for the yolks and the whites separately.


  47. Bea on October 2, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    hi :) I’m thinking of doing this for my special recipe in my cooking class. But the allotted time is only for 3 hours. Do you think I can make the base cake before hand? Also, I have no more time to practice this recipe. Do you have some tips so my mousse will be perfect like yours? 😀 thanks!


    • Michelle on October 3rd, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      Hi Bea, Yes, you could make the base ahead of time. Best of luck to you!


  48. Cynthia on October 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I’ve just prepared it (all along the afternoon) and it was so worth it!! It’s the first time I make a fancy cake like this and it turned out amazing, thanks!!


  49. Susa on October 16, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I just got down preparing this cake for my husband’s birthday today. In frig cooling as I type. Everything seemed to go smoothly until the whit chocolate layer. It seemed rather liquidy after folding in the whipped cream. Don’t know if I over whipped the cream. I did let chocolate mixture cool to room temp for 8 minutes, so I don’t think it was that. The Knox gelatine was freshly purchased so shouldn’t have been old. I whipped up some more heavy cream and added it to the mixture. It did “thicken up” a bit more, but now I’m kicking myself for doing that extra addition because it seems a little too airy. Maybe the liquidy white chocolate mixture would have hardened fine after the 2.5 hours of cooling. Oh well, we will see when I break it out after dinner tonight. I would be interested in hearing your comments on the consistency of the white chocolate layer after the whipped heavy cream is added. Many thanks!!!


    • Michelle on October 17th, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      Hi Susa, The white chocolate mousse layer was pretty much the same consistency as the regular chocolate mousse layer; they were not much different at all. I hope you still enjoy the cake!


      • Susa on October 18th, 2013 at 10:00 pm

        Dear Michelle:
        First, let me apologize for all the typos in my initial e-mail. Guess, I shouldn’t try to type such a long message via my iPhone. I didn’t even spell my name correct – yikes.
        Second, and importantly, my husband (and I) absolutely loved the cake!!!!! He was really impressed and even bragged to his mother about it (yeah for me)! I am still not sure what happened to the white chocolate layer such that it was not initially the correct consistency, but adding the additional whipped heavy cream did not detract at all. The cake did not separate from the pan as smoothly as your picture looked but not too bad. I am excited to try this a second time to see if I can improve on the physical appearance. This really is a decadent cake and would be fabulous for the holidays.
        Thank you,


  50. Dee on October 21, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    OH MY GOD! I made this cake for a visiting Aunt that is a self-proclaimed chocoholic. It took me 3 days….by choice…one for each layer, but it was the most amazing chocolate concoction that I have ever eaten. All you could hear at the table were OOO’s and AHHH’s. Will def make again! maybe for Christmas!


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