How to Make a Croquembouche

So, here I am, starting my trek into the Food Blog Wilderness with one of my crazier recipes. This bout of “stunt cooking” can serve as a metaphor for my expectations and hopes of becoming a successful (read: linked to on Tastespotting) blogger: it required a bit of ego and a LOT of experimenting, and successfully bounced back after disaster.

A croquembouche is a popular holiday dessert that doubles as a French wedding cake. If you’d like to wow the crap out of your in-laws or party guests, or get commissioned to cater some nuptials in Burgundy, I’m here to help. It's a tower of profiteroles, glued together and decorated with caramelized sugar that cools into a crackling, crunchy yum-fest.

Trust me; it’s all easier than it sounds.

Profiteroles (Yield: 90 golf-ball-ish puffs.)

2 cups flour, sifted
11 (yes, 11) large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut up

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, bring the milk, water, salt, and butter to a boil over medium heat. When butter has melted, immediately add the sifted flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until a stiff paste forms and comes together in a ball. Return to medium heat, stirring quickly for about 10 seconds to eliminate extra moisture. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and let cool for 2 minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. This part sucks. The batter should resemble stiff, shiny, khaki-colored glue.

Fit a large pastry bag with a star tip, and fill it 1/2 way with batter. (The pastry bag takes some practice, and if I knew how to keep it from oozing out the top, I promise I’d tell you.) Pipe a sphere onto the prepared baking sheet about 1 and 1/2 inch in diameter, and space puffs out 1 inch apart. Be sure to pipe a true sphere, rather than a dome. When the sheet is full, wet a finger and lightly push down the point on the top of each puff where you stopped piping. (This will keep the tops from burning.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes, till golden brown.

Chocolate Amaretto Cheesecake Filling

6 oz. semi sweet chocolate
4 oz. almond paste (do NOT skip this part)
1/3 cup amaretto liqueur
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 lb. cream cheese, room temperature
4 lg. eggs
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350°F. Follow instructions on chocolate package to melt. (I used my microwave). Cut the almond paste into small pieces and beat on low speed with an electric mixer while gradually adding the amaretto liqueur. Beat until thoroughly mixed.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the following ingredients, one at a time until thoroughly mixed, in this order: Sugar, almond paste mixture, melted chocolate. Add the eggs one at a time, beating at low speed until they are incorporated. Add the heavy cream and beat until smooth.

Pour into small metal cake/loaf pans—you want them to be deeper, and you can fill them almost to the top. Bake in a water bath for 20-30 minutes, and check. You want it to be the consistency of thick icing throughout.

Break out the pastry bag again but fit it with a small round “precision” tip. Fill it 1/2 way with the cooled cheesecake cream. (This is when the oozing can get gross). Pipe the filling into the profiteroles—you’ll know when they’re full because they “puff” in your hand a little. You can also experiment with pressure/counting seconds to get the desired amount of filling. This means you get to eat some.

Construction (Here’s where I brought in the photographer)

Form a cone with poster board, shiny side in. Spray the inside of the cone with cooking spray, and set inside a vase for stability.

Arrange your profiteroles by size on a counter top close to the stove. Make your caramelized sugar (below). Start with the smaller profiteroles, and working quickly, dip the edge of one profiterole in the caramel and begin lining the inside of the cone with them, “puff side out.” Make sure that you dip the profiteroles so that there is caramel “glue” everywhere one touches another. (NOTE: OW! HOT! Do NOT put your hand in your mouth if you touch the caramel-3rd degree burns do not feel good in your mouth. Keep a towel nearby, instead.)

Continue gluing the puffs together, up the cone, in even rows. It’s like grown-up Legos. Occasionally, drizzle some of the caramelized sugar into the cone with a spoon to further cement the little boogers together. Try to create an even bottom for your croquembouche.

Once you run out of profiteroles, let the sugar cool for a few minutes, then upend onto your serving plate and carefully remove the posterboard.

Voila! You can then decorate your croquembouche with powdered sugar, spun sugar ribbons (fun to make with the caramelized sugar and a fork), or you can do like I did, and make a 5 lb. dome out of more sugar and dress it up like an ancient tower meant to wirelessly transmit electricity from U.S. to France.

Caramelized Sugar: 2 cups sugar 1/2 cup corn syrup 1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in heavy wide-mouthed sautee pan. Stir briefly, and then boil without stirring. The caramel is ready when it forms a hard ball when dropped into a cup of cold water. You want to err on the side of “caramel, but still light in color” because you may have to reheat several times as you work and you don’t want burnt sugar. Remove from heat, and begin construction.

Tips and Warnings:

You cannot put this sucker in the fridge…it’ll suck up the moisture and your glue will become caramel water. Also beware rainy days if you have to transport.

You can freeze the filled profiteroles for several days before assembling, just thaw and dry (I used a hair-dryer) before you assemble.

You can alter any cheesecake recipe to make your filling, just add a splash of milk and bake in a water bath for a shorter period of time. I use cheesecake filling instead of a cream because I feel better about the “no fridge” thing if the egg and dairy has been baked a little.


  1. I think no one has commented here because they are too intimidated by your creation...

  2. Ha! Thanks! This was really fun once I got the hang of everything. I went through at least 35 eggs and 2 lbs. of sugar, trying to get the profiteroles, the filling, and the caramelized sugar right before we even started making the finished product!

  3. Yay for croquembouches! Thanks for the tips on the paper cone and not refrigerating. Am making one on Saturday for a friends birthday party-- your visuals are very helpful.
    Will post when its done:

  4. Thanks for this - how long do you have from making the croquembouche before the caramel starts to go soft.