Better than Pickles and Ice Cream?: Lemon Curd Mousse Cake

Our friend Colleen loves mint brownies and I have made them for her birthday several times in the past. In fact, my default dessert for Colleen and her husband Jim is anything chocolate, because Jim is a big chocolate cake fan. But when I offered to make some belated baked goods for her birthday this year, Colleen requested a lemon dessert. She is expecting, and while Colleen is pregnant she loses her taste for chocolate and prefers fruit flavors instead; you can see the fruity theme in other desserts I've recently made for her and Jim, including this grapefruit Bavarian and this strawberry and white chocolate-buttermilk cake.

I wanted to find something that could be made gluten-free (so that my husband Tom could enjoy it as well), and I chose a recipe for Lemon Curd Mousse Cake. It features a gelatin-stabilized mousse made with lemon curd on top of a cookie crust, topped with more lemon curd. The only wheat is in the crust, so I knew I could do a gluten-free workaround pretty easily.

The crust calls for shortbread cookie crumbs, and as I was feeling too lazy to bake my own cookies, I decided to swap out crumbs from store-bought gluten-free cookies. Poring over the selection at Whole Foods, I purchased Midel gluten-free arrowroot cookies; I thought they would have a fairly neutral flavor that work well as a base for the mousse.

I decided to make the cake in a cake ring lined with a greaseproof cake circle, so I ground the cookies in a food processor, mixed them with melted butter, and pressed them into the bottom of the ring on top of the cardboard circle. I baked the crust until it was golden brown and set it aside to cool.

I followed the recipe directions for making the lemon curd (basically a single step of cooking a mixture of sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, eggs, egg yolks, and butter until it boils and thickens), except I also put it through a sieve before I chilled it. I always sieve lemon curd to remove the solidified bits of albumen that inevitably form during cooking.

After the curd was thoroughly chilled, I made the mousse by incorporating dissolved gelatin into a portion of the lemon curd, and then folding in egg whites beaten with sugar and cream beaten to stiff peaks. I poured the mousse over the crust and chilled the cake overnight. The following day, I unmolded the cake from the ring and then spread some reserved lemon curd on top. As you can see in the photo below, the curd started to droop a bit over the sides; I wish that I had spread on the curd while the cake was still in the cake ring and chilled it some more before unmolding, so that the curd layer might have been a little neater. I piped some reserved mousse on top, but it did not pipe smoothly because the mousse was stabilized with gelatin.

The mousse layer was perfectly set and the cake cut cleanly and beautifully. The mousse itself was only lightly lemony (I guess that all of those egg whites and whipping cream really diluted the flavor!), so the layer of lemon curd on top did a lot of heavy lifting to deliver the delicious bright lemon flavor of the overall dessert. But the mousse had a wonderful texture -- so light and airy that it melted in your mouth, and yet it miraculously held its shape because of the gelatin.

The arrowroot cookies worked out wonderfully -- the crust held together well but was easy to cut through with a fork. I had been a bit nervous about putting a cardboard cake circle into the oven, but here the baking time was only 15 minutes and it worked out fine. You couldn't tell at all that the cookies were gluten-free, and the flavor of the cookie crust went well with the mousse and lemon curd.

The birthday girl expressed her approval and the cake drew raves all around; it was the perfect light summery dessert.

Recipe: "Lemon Curd Mousse Cake" from


Louise said…
This dessert looks and sounds wonderful. I think the lemon curd slightly drooped over the side looks lovely. You'd probably have a hard time doing that intentionally.