Classic French Croquembouche

croquembouche tower

Brian Hagiwara / Getty Images

  • Total: 6 hrs 30 mins
  • Prep: 5 hrs 30 mins
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 12 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
475 Calories
23g Fat
59g Carbs
9g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 servings
Amount per serving
Calories 475
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 23g 30%
Saturated Fat 12g 61%
Cholesterol 234mg 78%
Sodium 323mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 59g 22%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Protein 9g
Calcium 99mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The soaring pastry confection known as a croquembouche or croque-en-bouche is a French dessert often served at weddings, but you can make this stunning showstopper for any occasion. A croquembouche consists of a towering cone of vanilla pastry cream and caramel-dipped profiteroles, held together with dripping caramel and decorated with sugared almonds. Modern versions are often made with creative pastry cream flavors and then decorated with flowers, sugar art, and even melted chocolate.

Ingredients

  • For the Vanilla Pastry Cream:
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 3 large egg yolks (room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • For the  Choux :
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 large eggs (room temperature)
  • For the Caramel:
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • For Assembling:
  • Sugared almonds, metallic dragées, or flowers (optional)

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this croquembouche is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.

Make the Pastry Cream

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until it just begins to steam.

  3. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and flour until completely smooth.

  4. When the milk is steaming, add half of the milk to the egg mixture, whisking continuously to blend and to prevent the eggs from curdling.

  5. Add the milk and the eggs back into the hot milk in the saucepan, stirring constantly. Heat until the custard is thick and reaches 170 F on a digital thermometer, 1 to 2 minutes. (This process is called tempering.)

  6. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

  7. Chill the cream for 2 hours before filling the profiteroles.

Make the Choux

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400 F and grease 2 baking sheets.

  3. Combine the butter and 2 cups of water in a large saucepan over medium heat and heat until the butter is melted.

  4. Remove from the heat and whisk in the flour and salt until a sticky batter is formed.

  5. Beat the eggs in one at a time until the batter is smooth.

  6. Spoon the prepared choux dough into 24 small rounds on each baking sheet.

  7. Bake until the profiteroles puff up and turn golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

  8. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before filling them with the prepared pastry cream.

  9. Spoon the chilled pastry cream into a bag fitted with a plain tip.

  10. Insert the tip into the underside of a profiterole and pipe about 1 teaspoon of pastry cream into the center.

  11. Repeat with the remaining profiteroles.

  12. Place the filled profiteroles in the freezer for at least 3 hours.

Make the Caramel

  1. Gather the ingredients. Prepare a large bowl of ice water for cooling the caramel.

  2. Pour the sugar into a medium saucepan and then add 2/3 cup water. Draw a spoon through the sugar to wet it and turn the heat up to medium-high.

  3. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush.

  4. Let the sugar mixture boil until it turns pale golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Pay close attention to the syrup during this process to prevent burning, as it will rapidly darken toward the end of cooking.

  5. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately plunge it into the bowl of ice water for 5 seconds to stop the cooking process. Allow the caramel to cool for 5 to 10 minutes until it has the consistency of maple syrup.

  6. Be ready to work fast when the caramel has cooled. 

Assemble the Croquembouche

  1. Gather the ingredients. Line a baking sheet or serving platter with parchment.

  2. Dip 12 profiteroles in the caramel, one at a time.

  3. Arrange profiteroles in a circle on the parchment-lined serving platter or baking sheet, using the caramel to glue them together.

  4. Continue building the croquembouche by dipping and “gluing” a smaller ring of profiteroles on top of the first one.

  5. Continue the process until the classic cone or tower shape has been achieved.

  6. Lightly drizzle the remaining caramel over the croquembouche to form a cobweb of spun sugar.

  7. Press on sugared almonds, metallic dragées, or flowers for decoration.

  8. Serve and enjoy.

Tips

  • The cake should be served as soon as possible. It runs the risk of collapse if it's left too long, particularly if the weather is hot. 
  • Keep a bowl of ice water nearby when you're working with the caramel. If you happen to get burned, dip the affected skin into the cold water and hold it there for several seconds. When in doubt, seek professional medical help.

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