Compared with the embryonic development of other organs, development of the secondary palate is seemingly simple. However, each step of palatogenesis, from initiation until completion, is subject to a tight molecular control that is governed by epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. The importance of a rigorous molecular regulation of palatogenesis is reflected when loss of function of a single protein generates cleft palate, a frequent malformation with a complex etiology. Genetic studies in humans and targeted mutations in mice have identified numerous factors that play key roles during palatogenesis. This review highlights the current understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in normal and abnormal palate development with special respect to recent advances derived from studies of mouse models.