Monthly Archive for August, 2008

diy french croquembouche wedding cake, part trois

paris-croquembouche

You’ve baked a bushel of light and airy pâte a choux and filled them with delicious homemade pastry cream. Now it’s time to assemble your croquembouche. In France, you can buy metal or Styrofoam cones to build your croquembouche around. I’m sure you can also order these online in other countries. You can also create your own cone out of cardboard and wax paper. If you’re building a smaller tower, a cone may not even be necessary at all. Here is a short video that shows how to make a chocolate croquembouche. If you don’t want to use chocolate, you can substitute it with a simple caramel sauce:


Now, one of the highlights of a French wedding is the presentation of Le Gâteau. Unlike in traditional American weddings where the cake is on display throughout the entire reception dinner, a French piéce montée is brought out at dessert time, typically with a lot of hoopla. Like I mentioned in my previous post, a typical serving of croquemebouche is around 3 - 4 choux per guest. So, at a wedding of 100 guests, you can imagine the height of some of these cakes. Sometimes, if they have a large number of guests, couples will choose to have several smaller cakes instead of one tall one. When it’s time to present the croquembouche, the lights will go down, and the emcee will make an announcement over the mic that the cake is coming. Amid quite a bit of fanfare, the baker and his assistants will then bring the cake out to the happy couple.  As if a 3 foot tower of creme-filled puff-pastries dripping in caramelized spun-sugar wasn’t enough- the cake at a French wedding is also presented with fireworks shooting out from all over it. No joke! After the flames die down, the couple then break off a few of the choux and eat them, then the cake is whisked away to be cut, plated and served to their guests.

In France, croquembouche aren’t just reserved for weddings, but are more of a “special occasion” cake.  And they don’t just come in the pyramid-shaped towers, either. You can have choux piled together to form baby carriages (for showers or baptisms), musical instruments (for birthdays or bar mitzvahs) or even little church houses or carriages for weddings. Sure it’s kitsch-y, but really-  once you’re crunching down on one of those yummy cream puffs- do you honestly think you’ll care what form the cake had previously been in?  I would suggest, though, that if you’re taking on the challenge of baking your own French wedding cake, keep it simple and stick to the traditional tower.


making a french croquembouche wedding cake, pt. deux

So, you’ve decided to try your hand at making a French wedding cake. Well, I say “chapeau bas” to you! Earlier this week I talked about how serving a croquembouche is a great way to incorporate a touch of La Belle France into your French- or Parisian-themed wedding reception. The last video showed you an easy way to make pâte a choux- the puff pastry balls that make up half of your cake. This entry will tell you how to fill them.

The choux of a croquembouche are filled with a light, delicious cream- either plain vanilla, or any number of flavors like chocolate, Grand Marnier, Fleur d’Oranger, Rum, or my favorite- rose. When you order a croquembouche from a French patisserie like Ladurée, you typically are given a choice of 2 - 3 flavors of choux, depending on the size of your cake. Since each guest will receive 3 or 4 choux in a serving, you really don’t want to choose any more than that, otherwise the mixture of flavors could be a bit overwhelming. Here is a recipe for making a basic pastry cream, which can then be piped into the choux once they’ve cooled off:


Up next? How to put it all together to wow your guests with a fabulous French croquembouche wedding cake.

how to make a croquembouche- diy french wedding cake (pt. un)

french-croquembouche-wedding-cakes1

One of the things that I like the most about designing American weddings in Paris is coming up with interesting ways to mix the two cultures. With a little bit of creativity, I’ve found that a lot of the ideas work just as well for a Paris-themed wedding or event held outside of France.  For instance, one of the ways that I like to suggest that my clients add a touch of Parisian drama to their wedding is by serving a traditional French wedding cake- a croquembouche, instead of the classic multi-tiered American cake for dessert.

The croquembouche is a tower of creme-filled, puff-pastry balls (called “choux” in French) which are piled into a high pyramid and encircled with caramelized sugar. This sugar is what gives the dessert it’s name- croquembouche loosely translates to “crunch in the mouth”.  In addition to spun sugar, the croquembouche can be decorated with icing, chocolate, sugared almonds or candy ribbons. In France, any patisserie worth its weight in salt will be able to help you obtain a croquembouche. In the US, though, it’s just not as simple. There are well-known bakeries in the States that make croquembouche, like Ceci Cela in New York and Maison Richard in LA. But for smaller towns or cities, you’ll just have to keep your eyes and ears open… OR you can try making your own croquembouche! Now, I’ve been told that it’s surprisingly easy to create these masterpieces, but I also understand that baking your own wedding cake could be pretty high on the “life stresser” list. So, I’m going to break this recipe into several episodes to help you get your head around the whole idea. To get you started, here is a video of a simple recipe for choux pastry:


Next up? Making a simple but delicious cream and then filling the puffs.