Bavarois vs Mousse

Bavarois vs Mousse

This article comparing Bavarois and mousse was a difficult one to write.


Because how do you compare two things that are perfectly creamy, delicious and out-of-this-world decadent?

You can’t, it’s simply not possible.

But for you, dear reader, we are willing to make that sacrifice!

All kidding aside, Bavarois and mousse, while seeming similar, are actually quite different. We’ll get deep into what makes each of them unique, but for now, it makes sense to start with the most obvious.

The main difference between Bavarois and mousse is that Bavarois is always served sweet, whereas mousse can be served sweet or savory. In addition, Bavarois uses gelatin as a thickening agent, whereas mousse can be thickened with a variety of stabilizers, including gelatin.

While those are the primary differences, still others exist, including how they were created, how they are used, how they taste and feel in your mouth. Goodness, there’s so much we’ve got to cover that we need to get started right away.

So, if you’re ready to go on this delightful discovery of differences, let’s get to it!

Differences in History

Bavarois is thought to have two possible origins. We’ll discuss both, but it’s thought that the latter interpretation is the most likely.

The first version holds that the dessert is of German ancestry. When you consider that Germany used to be called Bavaria, this definitely seems plausible since “Bavarois” is the French term for Bavaria.

During the 18th century, French chefs were employed by one of the most powerful dynasties in Bavarian history – the House of Wittelsbach – which ruled for over seven hundred years and forged an empire that reached from its home country all the way to the shores of Greece.

It’s believed that early versions of Bavarois were produced for the House of Wittelsbach during this time, but no direct evidence has ever been produced.

The version which seems to be more widely accepted as fact is that Bavarois was not of German origin but rather French. More specifically, the credit for it is given to Marie-Antoine Carême, a legendary French chef who left an indelible mark on haute cuisine in the 19th century.

As Bavarois became more popular, recipes for it naturally spread, and eventually found their way into American cookbooks, including Fannie Farmer’s contribution in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook, which she wrote in 1896.

As unclear as the origins of Bavarois are, the precise origin of mousse is equally obscure.

Mousse is French for “foam” which basically describes any soft food that utilizes air bubbles.

In this case mousse is a particular kind of foam known as “culinary foam”. Other types of culinary foam (aside from mousse) which you might recognize include whipped cream and meringue.

Although foams are quite popular in modern cooking, they have been a part of French cuisine since at least the 18th century, which is when mousse first appeared. It’s thought that the French writer, Menon, alluded to it in a book entitled, “Suppers at Court”. In it, he mentions that a favorite of then King, Louis XV, was a (foam) drink made of blended chocolate, beaten eggs and water.

What we’d consider chocolate mousse by modern standards is thought to come by way of an unlikely source – Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – the famed artist of the late 1800s. He is said to be the creator “mayonnaise de chocolat ” (chocolate mayonnaise). Of course, this isn’t the kind of mayo you’d spread on a sandwich but instead is much closer to what we’d consider mousse.

As with Bavarois, mousse (especially chocolate), gained an almost instant following. Before long, it too had spread far and wide, appearing in print in America on at least two separate occasions in 1892 (at a popular food exposition in New York) and again, in 1897 (in a story published in the Boston Daily Globe). 

Differences in Preparation and Use

Although the final outcome of preparing Bavarois and mousse results in textures that are similar, there’s little else that they share in common.

For instance, there is a considerable difference between how each is made and how they are used.

Bavarois is always served as sweet, never savory and almost always from a mold, as opposed to free form. The only exception is if Bavarois is being used as a filling or spread (for cake layers).

In terms of ingredients, it almost always contains egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, cream (or milk). When combined, they form what’s called Crème Anglaise. The mixture is usually thickened with gelatin and then whipped cream is folded in last as a method of lightening the texture.

In contrast, mousse can either be served sweet or savory, which means that its ingredients will also vary depending on the recipe. While mousse can be stabilized with gelatin and lightened with whipped cream, it’s not required in the same way it is with Bavarois.

Lastly, there are many types of mousse can be served in a variety of ways – molded or unmolded, as a spread or as a filling. 

Differences in Taste

For those who’ve not experienced Bavarois before, the experience of eating it for the first time can be quite surprising – in a good way!

The best way to describe it is to imagine buttercream with a much thicker, sturdier texture. It can be quite rich, which makes it ideal as to be served on its own or as is often the case, as an ingredient in other desserts like Charlotte Russe. 

Mousse can be sweet or savory, so how it tastes will ultimately depend on what’s in it.

In addition, the texture of mousse covers a wide spectrum – from light and airy to thick and rich, depending on how it’s prepared, the ingredients used and so forth.

For most styles of mousse, whether they are savory or sweet, the mouthfeel is perhaps best described as a light pudding – creamy on the palate but without lingering or being too burdensome.

Scroll to Top