Based on a much-loved and oft-imitated recipe from Elizabeth David’s Italian Food, which was the only cookbook I had with me when I arrived in Sardinia, and which my grandmother had given to me when I graduated from cooking school. This is one of those dishes that, like all of Elizabeth David’s recipes, has stood the test of time. It feels somehow timeless and is incredibly simple to produce and utterly delicious to eat. I like to serve it in little glass bowls with a light dusting of toasted hazelnut and dark chocolate on the top.

If you want to make this into a more substantial and fancy pudding you can layer it up in glasses with some crushed biscuits or soaked trifle sponges in between.–Letitia Clark

Three glass bowls filled with coffee mousse sprinkled with nuts, on a white tablecloth.

Whipped Coffee Mousse

4 from 1 vote
The combination of ricotta and coffee is one of my favorites—the bitter, burnt edge of coffee pairs so well with the unapologetically sweet-cheesiness of ricotta. I add a dash of Marsala because I use it in my Tiramisu, so I always have it hanging about, and its woodiness works brilliantly with coffee. You can add rum (Elizabeth David’s suggestion) or brandy or Amaretto as you see fit.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories328 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Chill Time2 hours
Total Time2 hours 10 minutes


  • Scant 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 9 ounces ricotta (about 1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons strong espresso coffee, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons Marsala*
  • Crushed amaretti or soaked trifle sponges (optional)

To decorate

  • 1/2 ounce dark chocolate
  • A handful of toasted hazelnuts


  • In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer or whisking by hand, whisk the cream until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
  • In a separate medium bowl, whisk the ricotta and sugar until smooth. Pour in the coffee and Marsala, and whisk until incorporated. Fold the cream into the ricotta mixture.
  • Spoon into your chosen serving vessels, layering with crushed amaretti or soaked trifle, if using.
  • Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.
  • To serve, grate the chocolate over the top and sprinkle with the toasted hazelnuts.


*What can I substitute for Marsala wine?

Elizabeth David, the originator of the recipe this is based on, recommends rum as a substitute. But if you’re looking for something closer to the taste of Marsala, then you still have a few options. Marsala is a fortified wine that can be either sweet or dry; dry is most often used for cooking, while sweet is used in desserts. In this case, you can use dry Marsala in the place of sweet. Madeira is also very, very close and will work well. You can also use any other fortified wine, such as white port or sherry.

Adapted From

La Vita e Dolce

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Serving: 1 servingCalories: 328 kcalCarbohydrates: 12 gProtein: 9 gFat: 28 gSaturated Fat: 16 gMonounsaturated Fat: 9 gCholesterol: 87 mgSodium: 70 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 7 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Letitia Clark. Photo © 2021 Charlotte Bland. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This whipped coffee mousse is nearly an instant dessert, save the time to chill, and as easy as another of Elizabeth David’s remarkable recipes chocolate mousse for one. You can certainly fancy it up with some tender crumb bit of cake, a faux trifle on a whim, or you can let the flavors of this mousse be their own solo star (we had to try it both ways… in the name of research).

This is the time to spring for a really nice ricotta. I made it with both full fat and part-skim and both were delicious. The full fat was a softer result although since that also was the version of just the mousse, it is possible different brands have slightly varied results. The version with part-skim was also the one I served as a trifle, with a cake layer, and it had a little longer to set up in the fridge, or may have drawn some of the moisture into the cake layer below. But the important thing is that either way, the results were completely melt-in-your-mouth scrummy.

Tiny shavings of chocolate on the top either way and a splash of the spirits of your choice–excellent with rum or calvados in our versions. Once again, I am enchanted by Elizabeth David’s elegant simplicity and the resulting dessert is superb. We especially appreciated not only the restrained hand with sugar, but the natural sweetness of the ricotta balancing the bittersweetness of coffee.

This whipped coffee mousse is amazing! Sometimes the simplest recipes surprise you with their elegant deliciousness and this is definitely one of those recipes. It’s amazingly fast to do, and there are few ingredients, but it comes together into a quite addictive, rich dessert.

I’d like a bit more coffee flavor as I used brewed coffee and it really wasn’t strong enough. Since I don’t have an espresso maker, next time I’ll dissolve a teaspoon or so of instant espresso in the cream, or in the 2 Tb of brewed coffee, to increase the coffee kick and the nice contrast of bitter vs. creaminess.

I used amaretti and soaked the pieces in medium-dry sherry, as well as putting the same sherry in the mousse. While this definitely gave it a kick, it wasn’t unpleasantly alcoholic after chilling for two hours or more and gave it a very sophisticated touch. I absolutely wanted that textural change of the cookie pieces to break up the very rich mousse. I had some hazelnut praline in the freezer and used that on top, which was nice since the mousse itself is lightly sweet, but I think I’ll add some coarsely broken up hazelnuts as well for more textural interest and I might use some shaved chocolate as well, I think that would really give the flavor a lovely dimension.

This is SO easy to make and yet so elegant that it is a perfect fancy-dinner dessert that will take pressure off the cook, and isn’t that always our favorite goal? It could be made late the day before or on the morning of with no loss of quality, but longer ahead than that would result in an unfortunate amount of separation in the cream. It does need to set for a couple of hours at the very minimum anyway, the flavors really mellow and meld. If you are making it ahead do be sure to cover them with plastic wrap so the cream doesn’t get tough on top. I licked the spatula after plating the mousse and thought maybe it would be very dull—don’t let the pre-chill flavor of the mousse fool you—it’s going to become perfect after chilling!

This whipped coffee mousse was a huge hit for a few reasons. First, as promised, it is truly delicious and can be served with a simple topping of shaved chocolate and/or crushed hazelnuts. Or you can serve it plain with no topping. Or with fresh berries of your choice. As suggested, layering it with crushed amaretti or soaked sponge cake will give the dessert a more substantial and “dressed-up” feel. Feel free to change up the liquor component (if using) with rum, brandy, sweet vermouth, or amaretto to vary the flavor to your liking.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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