Monday, August 6, 2012

Croquembouche Cake with Lemon & Berries

Croquembouche Cake with Lemon & Berries
I was in a bit of a pickle this week. I had the task of making a birthday cake for my father-in-law (who is wonderful), and right up until the day before his birthday I had no clue what I was going to make. The last two cakes I made for A's family were the honeycomb crunch checkerboard cake and the pink ombré daisy cake. I didn't want to disappoint. A's dad is a HUGE Arsenal fan, so the obvious suggestion from everyone was to do a Gunners-related cake. But for some reason I wasn't really feeling it this time around. It's been done. Maybe next year...
Croquembouche Cake with Lemon & Berries
A's Dad mentioned that he loves fresh raspberries and blueberries, so I splashed out and paid a ton for the very out of season fresh berries at the supermarket. Their whole family are big fans of Masterchef Australia, so the night before his birthday I suddenly got all determined to make a damn croquembouche. Don't ask me why I have to call it a damn croquembouche, I don't know why. But in my head I kept thinking, "That's it, I'm going to make a damn croquembouche.". You'd think I had scared myself off with my previous not so good-looking effort, but I guess time heals all sugar burn related wounds. So I made this Lemon Blueberry Cake covered in Lemon Icing topped with a Croquembouche (with raspberry creme patissiere-filled choux pastry/profiteroles).
Croquembouche Cake with Lemon & Berries
As I mentioned in that previous post, I am not a huge fan of the croquembouche. I will always chose cake over choux pastry. I still remember many years ago being quietly unimpressed to find out that a particular birthday party I was attending would end the night with profiteroles instead of birthday cake. That being said, I loved the challenge of making it and because A's family watch Masterchef I knew they would appreciate the effort that went into it. It wasn't a full-size croquembouche, just big enough to make a rather impressive cake topper. I didn't have one of those fancy metal cones to use as a mould for constructing it, so I had to rely on building it up from the bottom layer up like brickwork and hope that I wouldn't make it too wonky. I was pretty satisfied with the result, but of course suffered a few painful sugar burns in the process. Ouchhh...
Croquembouche Cake with Lemon & Berries
It might seem a little random to put cake and pastry together like this, but the flavours worked quite well. The cake is quite small and has a very strong, tangy lemon flavour. It really helped to balance out the intense sweetness from the toffee. Lemon and berries will always work together flavour-wise. And it didn't feel right to have a birthday cake without any cake. I will admit I was pretty pleased with the end result, A pointed out that I had a rather smug smile on my face as we waited at the front door of his family's house that night. It was totally worth all the effort and sugar burns to see their reaction to the cake! P.S. Sorry about the slightly blurry photos, I was racing to get it done before the sun went down!
Croquembouche Cake with Lemon & Berries
Croquembouche Cake with Lemon and Berries
(cake adapted from Exclusively Food, croquembouche recipe from here)
For the lemon blueberry cake:
185g (about 3/4 cup) butter, softened (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 tsp table salt with the butter)
190g (3/4 cup + 5 teaspoons) caster (superfine) sugar (regular white sugar will still work if superfine unavailable)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
185g (about 1 1/3 cups) self-raising flour
4 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 punnet (60g) blueberries, fresh or frozen

For the lemon icing:
300g icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
1-2 tbsp lemon juice

The cake and icing can be prepared a day ahead of the croquembouche and stored in the fridge in an airtight container. Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F). Grease the side and base of a 18cm round cake tin. Line base and side of the pan with non-stick baking paper. Beat butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on high until very pale and creamy (at least 10 mins). Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a few minutes after each addition. Don't rush the addition of the eggs as the mixture will be more likely to separate and develop a curdled appearance. Add the zest with the last egg. Add half the flour and stir until just combined. Repeat with remaining flour. Mix in juice. Pour mixture into prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over the top of the batter. Bake for about 50-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. The cake should spring back when lightly pressed in the centre. Cool completely in tin on a wire rack.

When cake is completely cool, prepare the icing. Place icing sugar in a mixing bowl and gradually add lemon juice about 1 tsp at a time until the mixture is a smooth, thick white paste (a little thicker than toothpaste). If mixture isn't thick enough it will run right off the edge of the cake and you will need to add more icing sugar. If it is too thick Pour over the top of cake and allow to set.
Croquembouche Cake with Lemon & Berries
For the choux pastry:
3/4 cup water
6 tbsp (85g) unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For the egg wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

For the raspberry crème patissiere:
2 cups whole milk
4 tbsp cornstarch (cornflour in Aus)
200g (about 1 cup minus 1 tbsp) sugar
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
4 tbsp (55 g) unsalted butter
2 tsp pure vanilla extra
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (about 150g) - pureed and strained

For the toffee:
2 cups (450 g) sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
For the spun sugar: repeat steps for the toffee but add 1 tbsp glucose syrup at beginning (or light corn syrup)
To decorate: extra fresh berries

Crème patissiere and choux can be made a day ahead as well, just don't fill the choux pastry. Prepare the raspberry crème patissiere; dissolve cornstarch in 1/2 cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter, vanilla, and raspberry puree. Pour mixture into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

For the choux pastry, preheat oven to 220°C (425°F), line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. At this point add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip. Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt). Bake the choux at 220°C (425°F) degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 180°C (350°F)degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. If they start to deflate or still feel soft to the touch when they cool then return them to the oven until they are dry enough. Move to a rack and cool completely. Can be stored in a airtight box in the fridge overnight if you want to make them ahead of time.

When you are ready to assemble your croquembouche, place creme patissiere in a piping bag with a narrow tip. Pierce the bottom of each choux and fill with raspberry creme. Refrigerate filled choux while you prepare the toffee; combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a silicon spatula stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center just begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, light amber color. Remove from heat immediately as the toffee will continue to brown a bit more while off the heat. Very carefully dip one side of each choux in a thin layer of toffee, letting the excess drip off and then leave to set on a sheet of baking paper. When toffee is set, dip the other side of each choux. If the toffee starts to get too thick, return to very low heat and stir until it is liquid again. Assemble the croquembouche on another sheet of baking paper, using the leftover toffee to stick a ring of about 5-6 choux together to form the base of the cone, the tops of the choux facing outwards. Then stack smaller layers of choux on top until it comes to a point. Carefully place assembled croquembouche on top of iced cake. Make another batch of toffee for the spun sugar, using two forks to spin thin strands of sugar around the croquembouche. Decorate with extra berries. Serve within the same day (toffee will start to melt from the humidity in the air, try to keep in a cool place until ready to serve).
Croquembouche Cake with Lemon & Berries
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43 comments:

  1. It looks absolutely beautiful and I bet it tasted just as good as it looked. I'd love to try making one of these. I have made profiteroles but I bet the spun sugar would end up stuck all over the kitchen.
    ps you photos are beautiful!

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  2. Sweet mother of god - that looks stunning! Solid effort and I'm so glad it turned out as you liked it this time :) Hope your in-laws enjoyed the treat!

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  3. I absolutely love the look of it. Your father in law must've been stoked to see such a cake. I think anyone would love to be on the receiving end of this wonderful cake. Amazing effort, Steph! Your spun sugar looks perfectooooooooooo! x

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  4. i really would like to attempt a croquembouche one day too! they just make people go WOAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!
    ... and i kind of want to have that power.

    once again, amazing stuff!

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  5. You are just sooo creative and inspirational! I just can't wait for another birthday cake post, they're always so special! It's alright to admit you're proud of this because it's AMAZING!!! Man you can smug all you want :D

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  6. i cannot believe you made this without a cone. when a friend of mine tried sans cone, well, it was bad. congratulations on another gorgeous creation!

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  7. That looks amazeballs! Lol I remember that year when we were all croquembouche nuts. Damn caramel burns!

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  8. This is stunning! I love that you've studded it with the berries - you've made it look both classic and fresh :)

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  9. That is one beautiful looking damn croquembouche!

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  10. This thing looks insane! It screams EAT ME!

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  11. All I can say is WOW! You are so talented! xx

    Kate {Modette}
    http://modetteblog.com

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  12. That cake is awesome!! thanks for putting up the recipe!! u are very talented :)

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  13. That is so impressive Steph!! I'm not a fan of choux pastry either, but I would not hesitate to eat that! Bet A's family were totally in awe :)

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  14. Seriously, this looks absolutely perfect, you did an amazing job!

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  15. Impressive! What a great job!!!! I'm sure it was the cherry of the party!

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  16. This looks absolutely amazing! I'm always impressed when people make things that they don't really like - I'm selfish enough to almost always try to bake people things I'll want to eat myself :-)

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  17. OH. MYGOD. This is so so so impressive, and looks absolutely delicious! I've only ever seen it made on Masterchef, but I love yours more because of the fruit, it's really pretty and looks super yummy :)

    Pop by and visit my blog Taken By Surprise! xx

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  18. It's amazing! Congrats! I had almost the same for my baptism. We don't eat enough "pièce montée" or "profiteroles" in France, only for big party, too bad. Love the story too.

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  19. Holy goodness...that's a work of art!!! What I'd give to have a taste of that right now.

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  20. This is a work of art. It came out beautiful.

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  21. looks like a delicious pain in the ass!

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  22. Love the idea of filling the profiteroles with a raspberry creme. I made a croquembouche for the first time a few months back, and, having discovered they're not as challenging as I first thought, I might have to experiment with flavours. You know, for the greater good ;)

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  23. Stef, this is absolutely gorgeous - I've always been super intimidated by the construction aspect of making a croquembouche without a cone for guidance, but you've inspired me to give it a try!

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  24. OH MY GOD!!!
    holy mother of sugar, it's gorgeous!!!!!!!!! *faints*

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  25. My new aim in life is to one day be able to make something that looks as amazing as this does!!!

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  26. Oh my gosh!!! How did you make this by hand, you are a crazy lady; I can only imagine the burns. Every time I look at your site it seems to be even prettier than last time, keep up the amazing work.

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  27. Your croquembouche cake looks amazing! I am sure your father-in-law must be very happy and proud of you.

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  28. wow this croquembouche is so pretty! better than any masterchef constestant's imo

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  29. wow! Your croquembouche looks amazing!! It is definitely masterchef standard, really professional. I think its great of you to put in so much thought for your father in law!
    You are definitely an inspiration, i want to be able to bake as well as you too! :D
    -SimplyBakes

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  30. Hi there!

    I really like your blog and am now a happy follower. I would love you to jin My Sweet party!

    http://meandmysweets.blogspot.se/2012/08/my-sweet-party-august-childhood.html

    Cheers!

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  31. This is seriously stunning beyond words. I honestly believe there is nothing you can't do in the kitchen. This looks WAY better than the attempts made on Masterchef!!! All the previous bday cakes have been nothing short of legendary and you sure found a way to top it all!! REALLY impressed beyond words =]

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  32. That is one amazing looking cake!

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  33. HOLY CRAP THAT LOOKS INCREDIBLE!! How long did that take??

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  34. Whoa, that looks really amazing! Great effort Steph! The profiteroles looks soo good covered in all that caramel, and your spun sugar is so beautiful! I am a fan of Masterchef Aus as well, and this cake is on my to-do list. Very inspired by your croquembouche :)

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  35. AMAZING! I am not brave enough to tackle the croquembouche. Have a good week ahead. Cheers~

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  36. petite.cherie501@gmail.comSeptember 11, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    Absolutely gorgeous! I, however, prefer pate au choux to cake! Usually make profiteroles with whipped, pastry, or ice cream to serve with homemade hot chocolate sauce as I had growing up (with my English mum) as well as in France. Might even try my hand at the spun sugar or whatever you call it.

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  37. I'm amazed! ...but how do you actually eat this thing? Can't destroy all those wonderful profiteroles by slicing them!

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    1. No, obviously you can remove it from the top of the cake and disassemble it as you would a normal croquembouche. I served 1-2 profiteroles with each slice of cake.

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