Following the wedding ceremony, people slowly enter the reception hall in anticipation of seeing a beautiful wedding cake on a display table. Instead, what they see is a steep, cone-shaped tower made of stacked pastry balls.
What they actually see is a croquembouche, which is a traditional French wedding cake.
Most believe that the French pastry chef Antoine Careme invented the dessert in the late eighth century. This sugary treat quickly became popular at weddings, but is also served at baptisms and first communions. Sometimes they are made so educate that people are related to eat them.
The small pastry balls of a croquembouche are creampuffs called profiteroles. Often decorated with a sugary web and covered with a caramel glaze, these pastry balls are crunchy after they are baked. They are given the name croquembouche, which loosely means "crunch in the mouth."
This unique and sweet treat is popular and easily found throughout Europe. In the United States, its popularity is slowly increasing. Availability of this cake in US bakeries, however, is limited to a few large cities like New York and Los Angeles. So, if you want to serve this cake at your next wedding, baptism or social gathering and do not live in a large US city, you need to make it yourself.
The first thing that you need is a cone mold. Since cone molds are very expensive, it is best to make your own. Just make a cone out of cardboard, and line it with either wax paper or a non-stick liner.
Now it is time to make the profits or pastry balls for the cake. How many profiteroles you make depends on the size of the cake. Normally, 75 to 100 will give you a respectable sized cake. For smaller social gatherings, just make a smaller cake. Plan on your guests eating 2 to 3 profiteroles each. These small pastry balls can be made ahead of time lasting 2 days at room temperature or 2 weeks frozen.
Plan to start making the cream or pastry filling several hours before serving. The profiteroles are hollow inside, and are filled with the cream filling using a pastry bag with a small nozzle. Another method that some bakers use is to cut the profits in half, and fill them with a spoon. They then reassemble each filled half of the round pastry. The two halves are cement together by the cream filling.
The next step is to dip the filled profiteroles into a hot caramel glaze on its bottom half and sides. The glaze acts as a glue to hold the cone shape together. After glazing a pastry ball, place it around the cone mold. The assembly around the mold forms concentric circles ending with a peak at the top. The peak can be filled with 1 profiterole, or decorated with frosting flowers. The sides of the cake can also be decorated in a similar fashion. Just use your imagination to create a unique cake design that you can call your own.
With a little effort and creativity, you can create a beautiful croquembouche, and bring a little piece of France to your next social event.