Croquembouche is a traditional French wedding cake, made up of a tower of cream-filled, caramel-dipped profiteroles. The traditional croquembouche recipe is made with vanilla pastry cream and decorated with sugared almonds. Modern croquembouches are made with creative pastry cream flavors and decorated with flowers, sugar art, and even melted chocolate.
Cook’s note:Keep a bowl of ice water nearby when working with the caramel. If a burn occurs, dip the effected skin into the cold water and hold it there for several seconds to stop the burn. If in doubt, seek professional medical help.
Prep Time: 5 hours, 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 6 hours, 30 minutes
- Vanilla Pastry Cream:
- 1 ¼ cups whole milk
- 3 egg yolks
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup butter
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 8 eggs
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup water
To make pastry cream:
In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until it is just hot enough to steam. While the milk is warming, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth.
Once the milk is steaming, add half of it, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture. Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk, continue stirring, and heat it for 1-2 minutes, until the custard reaches 170F on a digital thermometer and is very thick. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and chill the cream before filling profiteroles, about 2 hours.
To make choux:
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter in the water. Add salt and flour, and stir until a sticky batter is formed. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is smooth.
Preheat oven to 400F and grease 2 baking sheets. Spoon the prepared choux dough into 24 small rounds on each baking sheet. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until the profiteroles puff up and turn golden brown. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before filling with the prepared pastry cream.
To fill profiteroles:
Spoon the chilled pastry cream into a bag fitted with a plain tip. Insert the tip into the underside of a profiterole and pipe about 1 teaspoon of pastry cream into it. Repeat with the remaining profiteroles. Place the filled profiteroles into the freezer for at least 3 hours.
To make caramel:
Spoon 2 1/2 cups sugar into a medium sauce pan and pour 2/3 cup water over it. Draw a spoon through the sugar to wet it and turn the heat up to medium-high. Once the mixture is up to a simmer, wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush. Allow the sugar mixture to boil for 15-20 minutes, until it turns pale golden brown.
Remove the pan from the heat and immediately plunge it into a bowl of ice water for 5 seconds to stop the cooking process. Allow the caramel to cool for about 5-10 minutes, until it has the consistency of maple syrup. When it has cooled to this point, be ready to work fast.
To assemble the croquembouche:
Dip 12 profiteroles, one at a time, in the caramel and arrange them in a circle on a parchment-lined serving platter or baking sheet, using the caramel to glue them together. Continue building the croquembouche by dipping and “gluing” another, smaller ring of profiteroles on top of the first one. Continue the process until the classic cone or tower shape has been achieved. Lightly drizzle the remaining caramel over the croquembouche to form a cobweb of spun sugar. Affix sugared almonds, metallic dragées, or flowers for decoration.
This croquembouche recipe makes 48 medium-sized servings.