Life's better with cake and a sprinkle of fairy dust
This is my first time making a croquembouche, although I’ve dreamed of one for years. The choux buns were filled with a durian Italian meringue buttercream; I would have used pastry cream but these were going on a yacht party and refrigeration was an iffy issue.
Hot caramel still scares me shitless (haven’t learnt this in bakery school yet, we are still plodding our way through shortcrust paste). Hence, the glue of choice here is melted dark chocolate couverture.
Time was of the essence, as this was a last-minute request and I’m pooped everyday coming home from a full day at school. I had just under six hours to make the choux paste, pipe into 4 batches of mini buns to go into my tiny oven for 30 minutes at a time, make the buttercream, wrap the foam cone in pretty paper and add a layer of parchment to make it food-safe, fill the cooled buns, melt the chocolate and assemble the croquembouche.
I engaged the help of my husband to assemble the terrifying tower. Between the two of us, we managed to get about halfway up the cone before a sticky avalanche of buns happened. An important lesson gleamed from this exercise – never rush a croquembouche. Each layer of buns should set firmly before the next is added, as the buns on top rely on the ones beneath for support. I guess this should be quicker with caramel but when working we chocolate, this could get tricky. Undaunted, we blasted the air conditioning in the kitchen to the coldest it would go and pressed on.
I think when professionals make their croquembouches, they pipe their buns in varying sizes, that way when you get to the top, narrower part of the cone, the littler buns can fit. Since I only had more or less uniform sized buns, I was left with unsightly gaps in the the tower, which were duly filled with strawberries on cocktail sticks pushed into the cone, which prettified the whole thing anyway, imo.
The whole process took just under 5 hours, including cleaning up time. Clap clap.
Forgot to mention, this was for my husband’s sister, our beloved bundle of Joy, who turned a very wrinkle-free forty this week.