This dessert is sure to dazzle! Make it all look easy by preparing each element in advance, then reheat the sauce and assemble.
Servings: Serves about 12
Whipped cream:
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup roasted cacao nibs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum , optional
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted cacao nibs
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped almonds or pecans
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into bits
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract , optional
To make whipped cream: In a small saucepan, combine heavy cream, cacao nibs and sugar; bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 20 minutes. Strain cream through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract liquid; discard nibs. Chill cream at least several hours, until cold enough to whip, or overnight.

To make wafers: Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in brown sugar; remove from heat. Add rum, egg and salt; stir briskly to combine. Stir in flour, nibs and nuts; let rest 5 minutes. Meanwhile, line 2 sheet pans with uncreased foil, dull side up; grease foil with butter. Drop rounded teaspoons of batter about 3 inches apart on prepared sheet pans. Flatten slightly with the back of a spoon (wafers will spread further in oven). Bake in batches 8 to 10 minutes, or until wafers are a deep mahogany brown. Cool completely before removing from foil. Transfer immediately to an airtight container; store until needed, up to 1 week.

To make sauce: Place sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir in just enough cream to make a smooth, thick paste, then gradually stir in remaining cream. Add butter; stir over low heat until butter melts and sauce is smooth and hot but not simmering. Add vanilla, if desired. Set aside until needed, or store in an airtight container up to one week. (Reheat on low heat without simmering or boiling.)

Up to a few hours before serving, whip nibby cream until it holds a good shape. (Just before serving, stroke a few times with whisk to reincorporate any cream that may have separated at bottom of bowl.) Scrape cream into pastry bag, if using. Place a wafer on a dessert plate; pipe a fat swirl or dollop some cream in center. Top with a second wafer followed by another swirl or dollop of cream. Top with a third wafer. Repeat on separate dessert plates until all napoleons are assembled.

If necessary, reheat sauce. Drizzle over and around each napoleon. Scrape remaining sauce into a separate bowl to be passed at the table. Serve immediately.

Note: If you can't find cacao nibs—cleaned, roasted, and slightly crushed cacao beans—in your local market, you can order them at And keep in mind that cocoa varies: If the sauce tastes harsh or bitter, add a little more sugar; if it's too intense, add a little extra butter or cream.


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