What is a Croquembouche? I thought you'd never ask! I'm going to break it down for you and show you how to make this impressive French dessert that will knock your socks off. This cream puff tower makes an amazing centerpiece.
Since my brother and his wife have been living in Paris for the last few months, I've been tuning in to every picture and video they share, trying to figuratively transport myself over there! The streets, the buildings, the language, the FOOD! Among all the delicacies you can find in Paris, the croquembouche is a stunner!
What is a Croquembouche?
A croquembouche is a French dessert that consists of choux pastry puffs piled into a cone and bound together with threads of caramel. What's a choux pastry? Well, choux means cabbage. The name refers to the similarity between the shape of the choux sphere and a head of cabbage.
In Italy and France, croquembouche or Croque-en-bouche is often served at special events like weddings, baptisms, and first communions. Once I saw it, I just knew I wanted to make one myself. They've even become a popular alternative to wedding cakes here in America in recent years.
How do you make a Croquembouche?
The first step is to make a pâté à choux. To do this, combine butter, water, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil then add flour and stir quickly until the dough forms. Remove from heat and stir until the mixture is smooth and there are no flour clumps. Stir occasionally while it cools for at least 5 minutes, then with a mixer, add the eggs one at a time until the dough is smooth again.
Spoon the dough into a pastry bag. I like to rest it inside a large cup so I have an extra hand free. Tie off the large end, clip the pointed end with scissors, and pipe small mounds of dough about 1 inch around onto a silicone-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes, then use a skewer to poke 2-3 holes into the sides of each puff. This allows steam to escape so it will dry out and remain hollow and puffed when it cools. Bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until golden on the top.
Let them cool completely on a cooling rack before filling them with cream. I poke a hole and fill the puffs from the bottom so you can't see the hole from the outside. Fill with any pastry cream you desire, or simply with whipped cream if you want to keep them light. Consider letting them spend some time in the freezer while you assemble the paper cone.
How to build croquembouche Tower
Do this by rolling a poster board and taping the ends. Cover the outside with another layer of wax paper so the cream puffs can be removed easily later when you want to eat them! Trim the base until it sits upright.
To make a caramel, combine sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan. Boil on high heat until it turns light amber, which might take from 10-15 minutes, but don't stir, just watch it closely. I've learned it can turn from "perfect" to "burnt" in seconds. Take off the burner and let it cool until the bubbles stop forming, then WEAR GLOVES while you dip. If the caramel gets too hard, place the saucepan back on very low heat.
With the same caramel, start placing each cream puff on the cone, starting at the base.
Add a finishing cream puff on top, then add on some fresh flowers and enjoy your masterpiece!
A beautiful cone of filled cream puffs!
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup butter
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 4 eggs large
- 2 cups pastry filling of your choice
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup water
- ½ cup light corn syrup
Combine butter, water, and sugar in a sauce pan.
Bring it to a boil then add flour and stir quickly until the dough forms.
Remove from heat and stir until the mixture is smooth and there are no flour clumps.
Stir occasionally while it cools for at least 5 minutes, then with a mixer, add the eggs one at a time until the dough is smooth again.
Spoon the dough into a pastry bag and pipe small mounds of dough about 1 inch around onto a silpat lined baking sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes then use a skewer to poke 2-3 holes into the sides of each puff. Bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until golden on the top.
Let them cool completely on a cooling rack before filling with a pastry cream of your choice.
To make a caramel, combine sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan.
Boil on high heat until it turns light amber, about 10-15 minutes, but don't stir. Take off the burner and let it cool until the bubbles stop forming.
Wear gloves while you dip the cream puffs in the caramel and place on the paper cone.
Have fun assembling your own croquembouche for a fun event or romantic occasion!
If you're looking for other incredible desserts, check out our Christmas crepe cake.