You may recall that a few months ago, the fearless Daring Bakers scaled Martha Stewart’s Crepe Cake Mountain.
We tamed the beast.
But having tamed it, a number of us decided that perhaps the beast wasn’t that scary after all. The general consensus at the time being that Martha’s cake was a tad disappointing. For myself, it turned out to be an awful lot of effort for so-so results.
There was, however, one positive thing to come of the whole excercise. On Martha Stewart’s site, there was a video link to a demonstration of the making of the crepe cake. During the demonstration, Martha explains that her version of the crepe cake is based on a very famous crepe cake from New York’s Lady M Cake Boutique.
After the letdown of the chocolate crepe cake, I went back to the video and watched it again. Intrigued by Lady M Cake Boutique, I googled the bakery and discovered that it’s quite famous, if a little mysterious.
As Web sites go, Lady M’s doesn’t tell you very much. It does, however, offer a most enticing view of the crepe cake for which it is famous.
So that’s what the real crepe cake looks like!
Hot on the trail of this cake, I did some more searching and came across an article by Amanda Hesser in the New York Times. An excellent article, it paints a most intriguing picture of Lady M Cake Boutique. And Cream Puff loves a mystery!
But bakery aside, what the article also does is provide a recipe for the Lady M Milles CrÃªpesâ„¢. (Yes. It’s trademarked.)
I’ll admit that I was skeptical. And a bit wary. Did I really want to use all those eggs not to mention time in pursuit of a crepe cake that could very well be just as disappointing as the first crepe cake I tried?
I began by making the vanilla pastry cream filling so that it could chill overnight along with the crepe batter. I must say the filling was very straightforward. If you’ve ever made pastry cream before you should have no trouble with this one. It consisted of milk, vanilla, egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and butter. So far, so good!
On to the crepe batter! Now I must tell you that I did have some assistance from Mama Cream Puff (she’s in Italy right now and we miss her so) with the crepe batter. Mama Cream Puff prepared the batter during the afternoon (while Cream Puff was work) so that it could sit in the refrigerator overnight, as required by the recipe. The crepe batter consists of butter, milk, eggs, flour, sugar and a bit of salt.
A bit nervous at how smoothly things were going, I got up the following morning to make the crepes and I was immediately suspicious. The batter looked a bit on the thin side.
But Mama Cream Puff assured me that she followed the directions exactly so I shrugged and carried on.
While a few crepes (at the beginning) suffered tragically short lives and had to be put out of their misery in the food recycling bin, I quickly got the hang of it and discovered that while the batter was thin, it created lovely crepes. I had to be careful because they were a bit on the delicate side, but in no time at all I had about 30 beautiful crepes (you need 20 to make the crepes cake).
Somewhat amazed at how quickly things were proceeding, I decided to carpe diem and put that baby together! I added whipped cream and kirsch to the pastry cream, took out my nicest cake stand and began building.
You know what. It was pretty easy!
The crepes were delicate and very flat, which made spreading the pastry cream simple. The pastry cream was most spreadable and most delicious as I found it quite difficult not to suck up as much as I was spreading onto the crepes.
And before I knew it, I had a crepe cake!
I refrigerated it as directed and was very patient, which is not like me but I didn’t want all this effort to go to waste. Finally, later that day, I unveiled the crepe cake, which I’d garnished with some red currants that I had in the freezer from last year’s crop. I’d also bruleed the top crepe as the recipe suggests. Hey, any chance I have to use my kitchen blowtorch, I’m there!
The moment of truth was when I cut into the cake and served it.
It was incredible! It was easy to slice and serve and the taste was unbelievable. Everyone loved it and I knew right then and there that I would be making this dessert for Christmas Day!
Flushed with success, I thought of my Daring Bakers and all the struggles over Martha’s cake (which … pardon my ineloquence … truly sucks by comparison) and I shed a tear.
Okay, that’s not really true. I didn’t shed a tear but I did smile because I’d found the real crepe cake. The one that kicks Martha’s crepe cake’s ass!
The Real Crepe Cake
(Same recipe as the one from the New York Times but with a few minor liberties.)
For the crÃªpes batter:
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
7 tbsp. sugar
The day before serving the cake, make the crepe batter and the pastry cream. For the batter, cook the butter in a small pan until brown like hazelnuts. Set aside. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.
To make the crepes, bring the batter to room temperature. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crepe pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil, then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crepe with your fingers. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crepes.
For the vanilla pastry cream:
2 cups milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 tbsp. butter
Bring the milk to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract then set aside for 10 minutes. Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath.
In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes. Press the pastry cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the small bowl. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.
To assemble the cake:
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons Kirsch
icing sugar (optional)
Whip the heavy cream with the tablespoon sugar and the Kirsch. It won’t hold stiff peaks but that’s okay. Fold it into the pastry cream.
Lay 1 crepe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup). Cover with a crepe and repeat to make a stack of 20, with the best-looking crepe on top. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving. If you have a blowtorch for creme brulee, sprinkle the top crepe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice like a cake.
Batter adapted from ”Joy of Cooking.” Pastry cream adapted from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan. Serves 10.