Monday, May 31, 2010

Crepe Cake: How to Become a Pro at Crepes

The crepe cake, halved, since three people post brinner could hardly handle more.

I remember seeing the words crepe cake on a menu at a Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok. I adore crepes, but I didn't have time to savor the dessert, so we never ordered it (and hence made it reasonably on time to our movie).

I'm not religious, but I'm pretty sure browned butter is what heaven smells like.

I decided that brinner was the perfect occasion for such a dessert and settled on the crepe cake recipe at Cream Puffs In Venice. I mean, the site claims to have tested out "The Real Crepe Cake Recipe" posted in the NY Times, so who am I to question it?

Twelve crepes, stacked and cooling.

Smitten Kitchen posted a savory crepe cake around the same time I made this, and I laughed in agreement with their similar experiences with the first crepe (like pancakes, it never seems to work out). I'm glad I only made half a cake, otherwise the three of us would have died a little after brinner.

Thick and smooth vanilla pastry cream.

I would say I am not a master of pastry cream, especially since this was my first attempt, and I was sort of alarmed when it clumped together in a disturbing manner while I whisked it on the stove. Thankfully, an electric mixer fixed the lumpy goop and made it a lovely, spreadable consistency. Phew.

Pastry cream spread thin, nearing the lacy edges of the crepe.

The Real Crepe Cake 
(halved and broken into "crepe batter,""pastry cream," and "assembly")
Adapted from Cream Puffs In Venice, originally from the NY Times

Yields one half crepe cake

crepe batter
yields 13 whole crepes (but you're probably tossing the first one)

3 T (45g)  unsalted butter
1 1/2 C  milk
3  eggs
3/4 C (75g)  all-purpose flour
3 T  caster sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp  vanilla
1/4 tsp  almond extract
extra butter for cooking

  1. Brown the butter in a small pot, then pour into a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Add the milk to the same pot and heat until it begins to steam; remove the pot and cool 10 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat together the remaining ingredients.
  4. While continuing to stir, slowly add the milk and butter.
  5. Pour batter into a container, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
pastry cream
yields double what you need, even though it's halved from the original

1 C  milk
1/2 T  vanilla
3  egg yolks
1/4 C  sugar
2 1/2 T  cornstarch (corn flour)
1 3/4 T  unsalted butter, softened
  1. Heat the milk until bubbles form around the edge; remove from heat.
  2. Mix in the vanilla and let sit 3 minutes.
  3. Make an ice bath and set a bowl inside that can hold about 2 cups of liquid or chill a pyrex bowl in the freezer until cold.
  4. In a pot, whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch, then whisk in the vanilla milk.
  5. Heat until it begins to simmer, continuing to whisk the entire time, until it begins to thicken.
  6. Once it has reached a thin pudding-like consistency (it will thicken slightly when cooled), remove from heat and use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixture into the ice bath or chilled bowl.
  7. Beat using an electric mixer until smooth and slightly cooled (3 minutes or so).
  8. Beat in the butter, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

3/4 C  heavy cream
1 T  sugar
strawberries, sliced (optional)
powdered sugar (optional)
  1. Whip together the heavy cream and sugar until it's fluffy; it won't hold peaks, but get some air in there.
  2. Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream and return to fridge until ready to use.
  3. Warm a pan and melt a little butter in it and spread it around.
  4. Pour in a small amount of crepe batter (scant 1/4 C) and swirl it around until the bottom of the pan is coated.
  5. Cook about a minute or so, until the edges begin to brown.
  6. Flip and cook a few seconds, then remove to a plate. Cover with a piece of parchment paper.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 until all the batter is used, then allow the crepes to cool completely.
  8. Spread a small amount of pastry cream on the top of a crepe, cut in half (because we're making a half a cake), and stack together on the serving plate (cream side facing up).
  9. Repeat step 8 until all crepes have been used, leaving the very top crepe bare (no cream - you can flip the cream side down if you already did the deed).
  10. Refrigerate at least two hours.
  11. Garnish with strawberries and powdered sugar to serve.
  12. Enjoy!
Crepe Cake Reflections

Imagine how delighted the chocolate lover in your life would be if you replaced that vanilla pastry cream with Nutella.

This cake takes some time. And by some time, I mean a lot of time. The batter and pastry cream are prepared the night before, then you make a bunch of crepes, let them cool, finish the pastry cream, stack it all together, let it sit in the fridge another two hours, garnish it, and are finally allowed to eat it.

The crepes themselves are more fragile than I would have liked, but the texture of the assembled cake was nice. Refrigeration before serving is key; without it, the crepe layers would slide around in an undesirable manner when you're trying to cut in.

Nutella monster, using Nutella instead of pastry cream and garnishing with hazelnuts, an idea the Resident Taste Tester is keen on. Lemon pastry cream and a garnish of coarse sugar and lemon juice sounds like a dream. You could also try peanut butter and thin banana slices, though that might get a bit thick on the tongue. I think I would die if I made a white Russian crepe cake, but I'd be smiling in my grave.

Give it a try and let me know if you've made any creative changes!


  1. I'm just not a crepe fan, although I adore nutella!

  2. I eat nutella by the spoon-full :)

  3. So this makes a 13-layer crepe cake? It looks as if there are many more layers in that crepe cake picture. I have a craving for crepes, and I would love to try this out!