The end of the school year and all of the activities that come with it have left me behind in writing about some of the treats we have been enjoying here. So today I am going back a few weeks to the Sweet Sixteen celebration we had for our Middle K. She didn’t want a party, but was excited to come home with a driver’s learning permit. Three drivers under the age of 21: don’t even ask about our insurance rates!
Instead of a traditional birthday cake, Middle K wanted a Croquembouche: a cream puff tower drizzled with burnt-sugar caramel that sticks the cream puffs together. We filled them with a simple butterscotch mousse made from packaged butterscotch pudding whipped with half milk/half cream.
Many croquembouche are very tall (2-3 feet tall) and are served as wedding cakes. We were not quite as ambitious with ours, but it certainly made for a fun birthday cake.
½ cup butter
1 cup water
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup flour
Filling: Pudding, whipped cream, custard or mousse
In a medium saucepan, combine butter, water and salt. Bring to a boil. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball that doesn’t separate. Remove from heat. Cool 10 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition until smooth.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Drop batter by heaping tablespoons, 3 inches apart, onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack. Fill with desired filling (SEE ASSEMBLY TIP BELOW).
Makes about 12 cream puffs.
To make Eclairs: Prepare batter as above. Spoon into a pastry tube fitted with a Number 10 or larger tip. Slowly pipe strips of batter onto a greased baking sheet, making each strip about 4” long. Bake as above. Fill and frost with chocolate glaze.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
Place sugar and water in a saucepan and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat until sugar turns light brown, about 15–20 minutes. Remove from heat. (If caramel begins to harden in the pan before you are done, place pan over low heat until re-melted)
To assemble Croquembouche:
Prepare cream puffs and desired filling (whipped cream, pudding, custard, mousse). Place filling in a pastry bag with a long filling tip. Pierce the cream puffs (do not cut cream puffs in half) with the pastry tip until tip is about 1 cm into the cream puff. Squeeze pastry bag to fill cream puff.
Place one layer of cream puffs in a circle on a serving plate. Drizzle the tops of the cream puffs with a small amount of the burnt caramel. Immediately place a smaller circle of cream puffs on top of the hot caramel (work quickly before the caramel hardens). Repeat with increasingly smaller layers of cream puffs topped with caramel. Once your tower is assembled, use a spoon or fork to drizzle hot caramel in strands around the outside of the tower. Serve same day as assembling.