Cocoa cream with Amaretto cookie crumble and zabaione

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Amy Gulick's luscious dessert recipe sees a rich chocolate custard topped with that quintessential Italian sauce – zabaione.

First published in 2016
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This layered dessert brings together the silkiness of the fresh egg cream known as zabaione and the crunchy zing of Amaretto-flavoured cookie crumble.

In its most traditional form, zabaione is made from egg yolk, sugar and Marsala, though versions using dessert wines such as Porto, Moscato, or Vin Santo are also common. Versatile zabaione has earned a firm standing in the realm of Italian desserts, among home cooks and professional pastry chefs alike. Whether layered in cakes or served simply accompanied by fresh summer berries, or topped with chocolate shavings or cocoa powder, zabaione is a delightful herald of spring and the season’s freshest eggs.

Alongside zabaione here is another Italian classic, Amaretto, the name given to the liqueur—widely-known thanks to cocktails like the Amaretto Sour—as well as the popular Italian cookie. Amaretto cookies, small, round, and crunchy, are sometimes called amaretti. The cookie and the spirit feature frequently in traditional Italian desserts and derive their essential, slightly bitter flavour from bitter almonds. The word amaretto, in fact, comes from amaro, meaning bitter in Italian (and in this context indicating the group of spirits collectively known as ‘bitters’). Amaretto, however, which translates roughly to ‘little bitter,’ differs greatly from the amaro liquors in both taste and uses.

The cocoa cream can be served alone in dessert cups or be used as a filling for beignets, éclairs, and more. The amounts indicated for zabaione will produce just enough to cover each serving with a thin layer of cream. For a more generous serving, the zabaione recipe here can be doubled or tripled.





  • 100g of amaretto biscuit
  • 3 tbsp of Amaretto

Cocoa cream

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 100g of sugar
  • 500ml of milk
  • 50g of flour
  • 4 tbsp of cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1 tbsp of Amaretto


  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 2 tbsp of Marsala wine


To make the crumble, place the Amaretto cookies in a sealable plastic bag and crush using a rolling pin or meat tenderiser until you have a uniform, medium-fine crumble. Transfer to a bowl, add the Amaretto liqueur, and combine well. Set aside
To make the cocoa cream, heat the milk in a saucepan on low until it just simmers
Beat the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl until smooth and frothy. Add the flour to the egg mixture a little at a time while continuously beating
Add spoonfuls of the warming milk as needed if the mixture becomes too dry
Add the cocoa powder in the same manner and beat until you have a thick, smooth cream. Add the hot milk a little at a time to the cream mixture, beating continuously on low. The mixture will be very liquid
Return the mixture to the saucepan. Stir gently and constantly over low heat with a whisk for several minutes. Remove from the heat when the cream is very thick but still liquid
Stir in 1 tablespoon of the Amaretto liqueur. Pour the cream into 4 dessert glasses and allow to rest at room temperature
To make the zabaione, start by preparing a bain marie. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a pot that can hold a heatproof bowl, making sure the bottom of the bowl will not touch the hot water
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar in the heatproof bowl until smooth and frothy
Stir in the Marsala and transfer the bowl to the bain marie. Continue beating over the hot water for about 5 minutes, until you have a thick, silky cream. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly
Sprinkle an even layer of the cookie crumble over each portion of cocoa cream. Spoon the zabaione over the crumble. Leave to rest for a few minutes to settle before serving
Serve at room temperature or slightly warm. Dust the zabaione with cocoa powder and add a decorative cookie to each dish if desired
First published in 2016

Amy Gulick is a freelance writer and translator from California who lived in Tuscany for over twenty years.

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