I have been wanting to make this cake for roughly forever. It’s called a crepe cake, and to me, it brings to mind images of elegant, exotic european tea parties. This weekend, I finally got the chance to whip this baby up. Be prepared, it utilizes 1 dozen eggs, so have a dozen handy (preferably cage-free, local, organic eggs).
The cake was a bit tricky, and definitely time consuming. There were moments when I thought I’d have to scrap the whole thing, but thankfully, it pulled together and the result was just amazing! Cutting into it made for a dramatic presentation, and the taste was not at all like I expected. I was thinking it would be like biting into completely separate layers of hard crepes, but no…this just melted into the fork, and left a lightly sweet, milky, nutty flavor on my tongue. Love.
The recipe is below. Now, a couple of warnings:
1) This cake requires at least an hour and a half to assemble the day of, especially if you are inexperienced in making crepes.
2) You have to make the batter for the crepes and the pastry cream the evening before and chill it overnight.
3) The crepe batter may have a hard skin on top when you take it out in the morning. That’s ok, just take a whisk and gently mix it back into the batter before making the crepes.
4) The batter will seem very thin. Trust the recipe. :)
5) DO NOT overcook the pastry cream. Literally, the second you see it start to boil (continue to whisk as you bring it to the boiling point), take it off the heat and whisk like crazy. Transfer to ice bath ASAP. If you happen to overcook and turn this into tapioca, it’ll be incredibly difficult to ice the cake.
The Real Crepe Cake
(adapted from the NYT)
For the crêpes batter:
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
7 tbsp. sugar
The day before you will be having the cake, make the crepe batter and the pastry cream. For the batter, cook the butter in a small pan until browned (but not burned). Set aside. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.
For the vanilla pastry cream:
2 cups milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract plus 1 scraped vanilla bean (or 1 tbsp. vanilla extract if you don’t have the bean)
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 tbsp. butter
Bring the milk to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract then set aside for 10 minutes. Fill a large bowl with ice or ice packs and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath.
In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring just to a boil, whisking vigorously, then immediately remove from heat. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
To assemble the cake:
First, make the crepes. Bring the batter to room temperature. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crepe pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil, then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crepe with your fingers (be careful, the crepe will be HOT!). Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crepes or have used up the batter (having extra is OK. I came up with about 24 crepes and used all of them). Keep in fridge while you whip the cream.
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
icing sugar (optional) for bruleeing the top
Freeze bowl you will be using to whip cream in, then whip the heavy cream with the tablespoon sugar and the extract in the cold bowl. Fold it into the pastry cream gently. Keep it in an ice bath as above while you put together the cake.
Lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup). Cover with a crepe and repeat to stack all of your crepes, saving the best-looking crepe for the top. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving. If you have a blowtorch for creme brulee, sprinkle the top crepe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with a good raspberry, lingonberry, or other preserve for depth of flavor. Slice like a cake.
Batter adapted from ”Joy of Cooking.” Pastry cream adapted from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan. Serves 12.