The crepe cake is a diva that requires four hours of hair and makeup and a brisk schedule of complicated food deliveries to her dressing room throughout the evening. But boy, that girl can sing. The tears pouring from the eyes of the audience are worth any high-maintenance doubts along the way. Similarly, the crepe cake is equal parts “musician” and “performer;” its visual splendor equal to its value as a dessert of deliciousness on its own merits.
Once you get to know her on a personal level, though, the crepe cake has the glamor of a layer cake without many of its more challenging elements. There’s no slicing of cake layers in two with an accidental diagonal cut, no frosting over a dune of cake crumbs, nor the need to own four cake pans. In these ways, she is actually lower-maintenance than some of her peers and should definitely be given a shot.
The recipe I tried used pastry cream as the filling between layers. This requires an electric mixer, but if you don’t own one or know someone who does, feel free to use ganache, jam, Nutella or pudding instead. As long as your filling is of a similar texture to pudding or custard and is room temperature (hot fillings will melt down the sides—cool first), you have a perfect candidate. Make this cake as simple or complicated as you like, depending on how much time you really have to procrastinate.
Check out Cara’s post on crepes to try these eggy French pancakes if you haven’t already or want to get the hang of cooking them. They’re thin, which is part of their visual appeal, but make them a little thicker if you’re worried you’ll burn or tear them. Keep your pan and spatula well-greased with cooking spray and they’ll slide right off the pan ready to stack toward the heavens.
Jen Cantin is pursuing her Masters in Communications at Clark University in the beautiful, yes beautiful, Worcester, Mass. She shares other (a)musings at Deep Fried Epiphany and dedicates this post to egg yolks in custards or dripping down toast and homefries. I love ya! Read more…
Crepe Cake with Pastry Cream
Adapted slightly from Cream Puffs in Venice
Here’s a summary of the steps involved before you dive right into the instructions. The assembled cake can be refrigerated up to a day before serving, but allow for at least two hours so filling cools and firms up. I also list the equipment you’ll want to gather together so you don’t have to sift through the many steps.
Make crepe batter and pastry cream. Refrigerate overnight.
T-3 hours til cake time: Remove crepe batter from fridge and let sit for 15 minutes to bring to room temperature. Make crepes. While they cool, make whipped cream to fold into pastry cream. Assemble cake.
T-2 hours til cake time: Refrigerate cake to firm up pastry cream.
T-5 minutes to cake time: Make ganache. Remove cake from fridge and top with ganache and raspberries.
Cake time: Enjoy the fruits of your labor and eat the heck out of this cake.
Measuring cups for liquids and solids
Whisk or wooden spoon
Non-metal spatula for flipping pancakes, etc., also called a turner
8 to 10 inch non-stick frying pan
Hand or stand mixer (if making pastry cream)
Two mixing bowls
For the crepes:
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups whole milk
7 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
For the pastry cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
3-6 tablespoons liqueur of your choice. I used Chambord, which is raspberry flavored. Hazelnut, coffee, orange or mint would also be good choices. Purchase a “nip” sized bottle if you don’t think you’ll ever drink it.
For the ganache (optional):
3.5 or 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1/3 cup heavy cream
For garnish (optional):
Garnish related to the liqueur you used. I used about a pint of defrosted frozen raspberries. You can use mint leaves, chopped hazelnuts, ribbons of orange peel, etc.
Day 1: To make the crepes, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Next, brown the butter by continuing to heat, stirring frequently until butter turns a tan color with some specks on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat so it does not over-brown. It will continue to cook for another minute or so and turn an amber color. Pour into another vessel if you only have one saucepan. Heat milk over medium heat in a small saucepan until it begins to steam, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool until next step is complete. While milk is cooling, beat together eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl until combined. Use a mixer or whisk. Add flour and salt. Then slowly add the heated milk and browned butter. The batter will be very thin and liquidy. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
To make the pastry cream, heat milk over medium heat in a small saucepan until it begins to steam, about 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla and remove from heat. Pour into another vessel if you only have one saucepan. In a small or medium saucepan, whisk together egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Slowly whisk in the heated milk while stirring; careful &mdash if you do it all at once, your eggs will cook. Bring mixture to a boil and whisk for 1 to 2 minutes until thick. Push mixture through strainer, if you have one. Stir to cool slightly then stir in butter. Refrigerate overnight.
Day 2: Bring crepe batter to room temperature. Spray non-stick pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup batter to pan and swirl so it evenly coats bottom of the pan. Cook about 1 minute or until top is set and very little batter drips and slides when you tilt the pan. Carefully flip with a spatula coated in cooking spray and cook for about 10 more seconds. The first side (facing up) should be a mixture of golden brown and yellowish. Slide onto a non-stick surface. Don’t worry about stacking crepes on top of each other; they don’t stick together. Repeat until batter is finished. You’ll get the hang of it as you go. It made 20 crepes for me, 17 of which were usable. As long as you have 10 decent looking crepes, your cake will achieve its elaborate effect.
In a large mixing bowl, whip heavy cream with sugar and liqueur until soft peaks form. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold this into the refrigerated pastry cream, being careful not to deflate the whipped cream.
Put about 1/4 cup filling in between layers and spread with a rubber spatula. Get as close to the edges as you can or the cake will slope downward slightly. Repeat until you run out of crepes or filling. The cake will get jiggly as you continue so be gentle with your spreading. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
To prepare ganache, pour chocolate and cream into a small saucepan and warm over medium low heat. Stir continuously until chocolate is about halfway melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth. Patiently stir as the residual heat melts the rest of the chocolate. As first, the chocolate will appear as small flecks in the white cream; don’t worry, it will soon melt into a smooth sauce.
Pour some of the warm ganache over the cake and top with your garnish. The rest of the ganache can top individual slices. Slice and serve immediately. Cake will keep in the fridge for a few days, but ganache will harden. Just re-warm in a saucepan over low heat or in microwave on high for 30 second intervals.