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These dreamy little Pumpkin Parfaits are mini desserts that make a big impression. Layers of light and fluffy pumpkin mousse, fudgy brownies, and fresh whipped cream give you the ultimate combination of pumpkin spice and chocolate. Use your favorite (regular or gluten free) homemade brownie recipe, a box mix, or even store-bought!
Originally published on Oct 13, 2016
Brownie Pumpkin Mousse Cups
A mini dessert that’s perfect for parties, these pumpkin parfaits pair a light and creamy pumpkin cheesecake mousse with the rich chocolate goodness of your favorite brownies. You can make them completely from scratch or pick up some brownies from the grocery store. Go classic or gluten free – either way, this indulgent treat is sure to be a hit.
I am definitely an introvert. Once I get out to a party or event, I’m great, but I struggle to drag myself out of the house sometimes. However, I know this is the only way to make friends and develop relationships with others.
And my surefire trick for winning people over is to always show up with a fabulous treat like these little parfaits. I mean, what better way to make friends than by sharing an irresistibly delicious, but portion-controlled sweet treat!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
OK, first of all, they are delicious. If you haven’t tried the combo of chocolate and pumpkin together, it’s unexpected and unreal. Plus, that pumpkin mousse is just so light and decadent at the same time. And, if you just can’t get on board with the chocolate, I give you some other “crust” options later on.
But don’t take my word for it. I brought them to Bunco night and they disappeared. My kids devoured them. And when I started passing them out to the neighborhood, I had people ringing my doorbell.
You also have the option to make them as easy as you like, starting with a box mix or even turning them into a no-bake dessert by picking up brownies from the bakery or grocery store. You can also make them gluten free. Plus that amazing pumpkin cheesecake mousse is so very simple to make with only a few ingredients!
Try one of my favorite gluten free brownie recipes, each of which adds a special flavor element.
- Classic Gluten Free Brownies are rich and fudgy.
- Flourless Nutella Cheesecake Swirl Brownies have that hazelnut flavor that is a perfect complement.
- Gluten Free Turtle Brownies add even more fall flavor with pecans and caramel.
- Flourless Ricotta Cheesecake Brownies have a little extra tangy goodness that pairs so nicely.
As fancy as it might seem, besides the brownies, you only need 6 additional ingredients!
- Heavy whipping cream: Make sure it is well-chilled.
- Powdered sugar: You’ll need some for the whipped cream, and some for the base of the pumpkin cheesecake mixture used to make the pumpkin mousse.
- Vanilla extract: Again, this will be divided between the whipped cream and pumpkin cheesecake mousse.
- Cream cheese: You can use regular or light (NOT fat free), and make sre it is softened to room teperature.
- Pumpkin puree: Canned or homemade, just not pumpkin pie filling.
- Pumpkin pie spice: Buy your favorite or mix up your own with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.
- Brownies: You’ll need about half a pan. As I mentioned earlier, you can use a box mix, bake your favorite recipe, or buy some from the grocery store. And regular or gluten free are both fine.
How to Make Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse Parfaits
Just a few simple steps and you are on your way to pumpkin mousse heaven.
Whip the cream. Combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat with an electric beater or one with a whisk attachment to form soft peaks. Remove about a quarter of the whipped cream, place it in a separate bowl, and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the parfaits.
Make the pumpkin cheesecake base. In another large bowl, use a hand mixer to blend the softened cream cheese, pumpkin puree, additional powdered sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and more vanilla extract until smooth.
Make the pumpkin mousse. Take about a quarter of the whipped cream remaining in the large bowl, add it to the pumpkin cheesecake mixture, and gently fold it in with a large spatula to light the mixture up a bit. Then add the rest of the whipped cream remaining in the large bowl (NOT the portion reserved in the refrigerator) and fold in gently until no white streaks remain.
Layer the parfaits. Cut the brownies into tiny squares, reserving some small squares for garnishing the parfaits late ron. Press a cube or two (depending on the size and how many you have cut) into the bottom of twenty-four mini dessert cups or shot glasses. Spoon or pipe mousse into the cups or glasses. Using the reserved whipped cream, spoon or pipe a little dollop on top.
Decorate and serve: Garnish with the extra brownie pieces, or use mini chocolate chips, chocolate shavings, or chocolate curls. Serve right away or keep them in the refrigerator for up to several hours until ready to serve.
Tips for Success
Keep it cold for perfect whipped cream. Ensure your heavy cream is very cold. You can even place your bowl and beaters or mixer whisk attachment in the freezer for a few minutes before whipping the cream.
But soften the cream cheese. Be sure the cream cheese is at room temperature so that it blends nice and smooth and doesn’t leave little bits and chunks of cream cheese.
Fold gently. The technique of folding is a way to combine ingredients without deflating a mixture that has had air whipped into it, such as whipped cream or egg whites. You do this by taking a spatula, turning it sideways and cutting down through the center of the mixture you are folding. When you get to the bottom of the bowl, flatten out the spatula and gently scoop from underneath to fold the mixture over on itself. Repeat until combined.
Make them bigger: If you prefer to make full-size desserts, you can use the pumpkin mousse to make 6-8 larger parfaits in glasses, bowls, or mini trifle dishes.
Serve right away: For the best flavor and texture, you’ll want to make the mousse and assemble the parfaits the day you plan to serve them. Though you can keep them refrigerated for a day or two if you have extras. The mouse and whipped cream might deflate a bit.
Or make ahead: You can make the brownies in advance, and even make the pumpkin cheesecake base. But I recommend making the whipped cream and folding it in to make the pumpkin mousse on the day you plan to serve them.
If you aren’t a fan of chocolate and pumpkin, you can use cookie or cake crumbs. Try crumbling up one of these:
- Gluten Free Graham Crackers for that classic cheesecake crust flavor.
- Pumpkin Graham Crackers let you want to double up on the pumpkin goodness.
- Gluten Free Vanilla Cupcakes if you want to keep it simple and cakey.
- Snickerdoodles for buttery, cinnamon flavor.
- Gluten Free Gingersnaps add to the spice.
Shop the Recipe
- DESSERT CUPS AND SPOONS: The little disposable parfait cups are perfect to bring to a party because they are affordable and you don’t have to track them all down after the party and try to wash the teeny little crevices. If that’s not an issue, you can also use shot glasses.
- PIPING BAGS: While you can just spoon the mousse into the cups, it’s a bit more elegant and actually easier to pipe it in.
- STAR TIP: A large star tip like the Wilton 1A makes those perfect swirls.
- DESSERT DECORATOR: If you fumble with piping bags, one of these gadgets makes it even easier.
Mini Brownie Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse Parfaits
For the whipped cream:
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream, well-chilled
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the pumpkin cheesecake mousse:
For the parfaits:
- 12 brownies store bought or homemade (regular or gluten free)
For the whipped cream:
- Place the bowl and whisk attachment for your stand mixer or a large metal or glass bowl and beaters for your hand mixer in the fridge or freezer until they are cold.
- Add the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla to the chilled bowl, and beat on medium-high to high speed until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat.
- Place about a quarter of the whipped cream in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the parfaits, and set the rest aside for preparing the mousse.
For the pumpkin cheesecake mousse:
- In a large bowl, blend the cream cheese, powdered sugar, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, and pumpkin pie spice until smooth.
- From the whipped cream set aside in the large bowl (not the small amount put in the refrigerator), add about a quarter to the pumpkin mixture and gently fold in.
- Then add the remaining whipped cream, and gently fold in until no streaks of white remain.
For the parfaits:
- Cut the brownies into small squares so that you have enough to press into the bottom of your dessert cups or shot glasses, and one small square for the top of each. You’ll need about 24 squares total
- Press brownies into the bottom of dessert cups or shot glasses
- Using a piping bag or plastic storage bag with the corner cut off, pipe the mousse on top of the brownies.
- Remove the reserved whipped cream from the fridge and top each of the parfaits, using a piping bag if desired.
- Top each with a small brownie square.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve. Will keep for a few days.