We should talk about crêpe cakes. If you ask me, everyone should talk about crêpe cakes. Why aren’t more people talking about crêpe cakes? I think it’s because crêpe cakes are sneaky. They look boring from the top. Practically bland. There’s no swirly frosting or whipped cream to seduce you. And they’re tan. Just tan. You might look at a crêpe cake and want to walk on by. But I urge you to stop. Crêpe cakes have this seductive split personality that you’re going to want to explore. The crêpes are all proper, prim, and vanilla-scented lace. They’re ladylike and discreet. But between each crêpe is a layer of oozy, out of control, luscious custard that just wants to sneak out of its crêpe cage and give you a kiss. Together they’re just amazing. Not too sweet. Rich yet restrained. Simple and so tricky. A perfect dessert.
My love of crêpes goes way back. My mom used to make them when we were little. We called them Sri Lankan pancakes. Isn’t that funny? The French would be annoyed. When I was a kid I assumed that anything that my family ate that I didn’t see at school or at friends’ houses was Sri Lankan. Crème caramel. Bread pudding. Crêpes. Hot dogs stuffed with Kraft cheese. Nah. I knew that last one was American. I just wanted to put it out there. I loved all of those things. Especially crêpes.
But I had forgotten all about them until last year. My coworkers Heather, Lesley, and Jessie threw me a sweet wedding shower at work complete with pretty champagne cocktails, a life size picture of Emeril Lagasse (I love that guy!), and an outstanding crêpe cake. All my favorites! I’ve been dreaming of that cake ever since. The one the girls whipped up had pistachio cream in between each heavenly layer. That was pretty perfect the first time around so I did it again. Oops.
And while we’re talking about tasty treats we really should discuss pistachio paste. Come. On. Pistachio paste is just pistachios and sugar all ground up with love. I know the color might be a little strange but give it a chance. It’s like peanut butter in a fancy new dress and it's beyond wonderful. If you decide to go down this crêpe cake road, as I highly suggest you do, you're going to have a little leftover paste for your toast tomorrow. I'm looking forward to all the thank you cards.
Oh, this crêpe baby is also my birthday cake. Remember when birthdays were all about the party? I used to get all hyped up about mine months in advance. I loved to plan a celebration (that was really just a gathering at a dingy bar), daydream about which cute dress I might wear, and speculate with friends on who would show and who wouldn’t. These days, when my birthday rolls around, I’m really most concerned with what kind of cake I’m going to bake for myself. Pathetic? I don’t think so. I’m just happy and kinda quiet now. And old(ish). Feels pretty good actually.
Ok. So I'm hoping you're sold on pistachios and crêpes. If you can make a pancake you can make a crêpe. And if you can eat a pancake you can eat 15 crêpes layered with yum. Oh, by the way, apparently I've been saying it wrong all this time. It’s not “krayp”. It’s “krehp”. Well you say tomato and I say just please give me some cake.
Crêpe Cake with Pistachio Cream
I adapted the crêpe recipe from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery cookcook - a fantastic tome if you've got the shelf space.
Make sure you leave yourself enough time to make this puppy. The crêpe batter should rest overnight and the finished cake needs at least 4 hours to firm up and become sliceable. Anyway you'll need to build your appetite back up after eating all that leftover pistachio paste.
For the crêpes:
4 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/3 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
butter for the skillet
For the pistachio pastry cream:
3 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons pistachio paste
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 milk
1 cup of cream, whipped to soft peaks
2 tablespoons sugar
1. Make the batter: In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, and milk. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the milk mixture. Gently whisk the center of the milk mixture, grabbing the flour around the edges, little by little, until it is all combined. Go slowly to avoid lumps. Whisk in vanilla seeds. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
2. Make the pistachio pastry cream: In a large, heavy pot, whisk together egg yolks, pistachio paste, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly whisk in milk to combine. Set the pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick. You should be able to draw a line through the custard on the back of your spoon and have it hold. Do not let the mixture boil. Transfer pastry cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cool completely.
3. Make the crêpes: Heat a little butter in a 10-inch nonstick pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup crêpe batter to the center and quickly swirl the pan to spread the batter to an even thickness. Cook until very lightly golden and set on one side, about 30 seconds. Using an offset spatula, pick up the edge of the crêpe and flip it. The best way to do this is with your fingers. It's hot but if you work fast you won't burn yourself. Cook until light golden brown on the other side, another 30 seconds. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the batter. You should have about 15. You can stack the crêpes once they're cool but spread them out until then.
4. Fold whipped cream into chilled pastry cream. Lay one crêpe on a cake platter or plate. Spread 1/4 cup pistachio cream on crêpe and then top with another. Keep going until you run out both. Make sure to finish with a pretty one! Wrap it up and chill it for at least 4 hours.
5. To serve: When you're ready to eat, sprinkle the top of the cake with sugar and brûlée with a small kitchen torch. Do that in front of your friends. They'll like it.