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.