A tower of crunchy caramel profiteroles filled with a silky vanilla custard cream, this croquembouche is a showstopper at any occasion.
What is a croquembouche?
A croquembouche (pronounced croque-en-bouche) is a French dessert made from a cone of stacked choux puffs dipped in caramel. The word croquembouche literally translates to "crunch in the mouth" and perfectly describes this tower of crunchy caramel-coated cream puffs.
The choux puffs are typically filled with pastry cream, but can also be filled with whipped cream, ganaches, and other fillings. The constructed tower is then decorated with things like spun sugar, fresh fruits, flowers and so much more.
This showstopping dessert was traditionally made and served to French royalty and nobility, then at French weddings, christenings and baptisms. Now they are enjoyed on whatever occasion you'd like really!
Whether you're hosting a fancy dinner or want to make something that'll stop your friends and family in their tracks, this is the recipe for you.
Choux pastry (aka pâte à choux)
- Whole milk: Make sure you use whole milk as the difference in fat and protein content in skim or plant-based milk will affect the structure of the pastry
- Water: Water adds moisture to the dough. This is what helps it rise in the oven to that tall and round shape.
- Unsalted butter: Butter helps to give the dough that golden brown color and crisp yet tender texture.
- Salt and sugar: Both are needed to give the pastry flavor, but not necessarily a sweetness or saltiness.
- Flour: The flour makes up the body and structure of the choux puffs.
- Large eggs: Eggs are needed as they bind everything together, while also giving them structure and helping them rise.
Pastry cream or creme patisserie
- Egg yolks: Egg yolks give the custard flavor as well as thickening properties.
- Sugar: Sugar is needed to sweeten the custard. Feel free to increase or decrease the amount of sugar to your taste.
- Cornflour: Aka cornstarch, also acts as a thickener. I prefer using cornflour as it has a lower tendency to clump up in comparison to flour.
- Milk: Milk makes up the body of the custard. I don't recommend substituting whole milk for skim milk or other kinds of milk as the resulting custard won't be as creamy and smooth
- Vanilla extract: Vanilla extract is needed to give it that delicious flavor. Feel free to switch up the extract to something else if you'd like. Almond extract or even a splash of liquor works deliciously!
- Butter: Butter gives the custard that extra silkiness and velvety mouthfeel.
- Thickened or heavy cream: While some cream puffs will be filled with pure pastry cream, I find it too thick and cloying. By folding whipped cream into the pastry cream it creates a light and delicious custard. Whipping cream works too!
- Granulated sugar: This is needed for the caramel! You can also use caster or superfine sugar. The smaller sugar crystals will make it easier for the caramel to form.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does this last?
Once assembled the croquembouche itself lasts up to a day. After a day the caramel will begin to get sticky and start to dissolve. That's why it is recommended to assemble it on the day of serving or just before for the best results.
Once it has been served you can store any remaining profiteroles in an airtight container in the fridge for about 2 days. Keep in mind they will be less crunchy the longer they are stored.
How do you store a croquembouche?
Croquembouche is best stored at room temperature right after it is made and served as soon as possible. If you are storing it over longer periods of time I'd recommend storing it in the fridge as the choux puffs are filled with cream.
If you are storing it in the fridge wrap the assembled croquembouche tightly in cling wrap before storing it. Otherwise, the caramel will absorb the moisture from its surroundings causing it to bleed and get sticky.
Can I make a croquembouche in advance?
I would recommend assembling the croquembouche on the day it's being served as your cream puffs won't be as sticky, and they'll stay super fresh.
The timeline I would recommend when making a croquembouche is to prepare the choux puffs and pastry cream the day before. Store the baked choux puffs in an airtight container so they stay nice and crisp. On the day of serving fill your choux puffs and assemble them!
My caramel hardened up as I was assembling, what should I do?
Caramel will always harden up as it starts to cool. If you find that it is becoming hard to dip your profiteroles in the caramel, or it's just getting too thick gently heat your caramel over low heat. The caramel should return to the perfect consistency for dipping again.
Make sure you don't heat it too much as you can overheat it and cause it to turn too dark or even burn it.
If you are concerned about working slowly you can cook your caramel in two batches. The first batch of caramel will be for dipping the choux puffs, and the second batch will be for assembling the tower.
Why is my caramel so sticky and chewy?
There are two main reasons why your caramel might be sticky/chewy.
The first is the caramel wasn't cooked long enough. The caramel should be a light amber color when taking it off the heat. If you take it off too early it won't have reached the "hard crack stage". This is the temperature that needs to be reached for sugar to set up at that crunchy consistency.
The second reason is that the caramel has been sitting out for too long. The longer the caramel sits out the more moisture it absorbs from its surroundings. This causes the caramel to get a sticky surface and chewier over time.
Let's Get Baking
This might look like a lot of work, but if you are looking for a showstopper of a dessert trust me this is the one you're gonna want to make.
If you liked this recipe make sure to leave me a comment and rating down below, I would love to know how you went.
Also, don't forget to tag me on Instagram @catherine.desserts and hashtag #cattycakes so I can see and share your desserts. Follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, and TikTok for more of my baking creations and updates! Until next time... happy caking!Print
A tower of crunchy caramel profiteroles filled with a silky vanilla custard cream, this is the ultimate showstopper for any occasion.
- Prep Time: 90 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: 1 x 30cm tall croquembouche 1x
- Category: Pastry
- Method: Advanced
- Cuisine: French
- 150ml Whole milk (⅔ cup)
- 160 ml Water (⅔ cup)
- 135g Unsalted butter (½ cup 1 tbsp)
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tbsp Granulated sugar
- 165 g All-Purpose flour (1 ⅓ cups)
- 300 g Beaten egg, approx 6 eggs
- 90 g Egg yolk, approx 6 egg yolks
- 180 g Granulated sugar (¾ cup 2 tbsp)
- 75 g Cornflour/ Cornstarch (½ cup 2 tbsp)
- 600 ml Whole milk (2 ½ cups)
- 3 tsp Vanilla extract
- 75 g Butter (⅓ cup)
- 600 g Thickened/Heavy cream (2 ½ cups)
- Creme Patissiere, prepared and cooled
- 600g Granulated sugar (3 cups)
- 90ml Water (¼ cup 2 tbsp)
- Preheat the oven to 230°C
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Heat milk, water, butter, salt and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium low heat
- When it starts to boil remove from heat and add the flour in one go, mixing vigorously until smooth
- Return to heat and flatten the dough to the bottom of the pan, listening for crackling of the dough without mixing
- Give the pan a shake and when you notice a thin film on the bottom of the pan the dough is sufficiently dry
- Remove from heat
- Using a wooden spoon/spatula beat the dough to let steam evaporate and then cool for 10 minutes
- Slowly add the beaten egg and stir until the dough is smooth, but still holds structure (the batter will form a 'V' or a 'beak' on the spoon/spatula when lifted)
- Fit a pastry bag with a medium-sized round tip and fill with the batter
- Pipe 3cm /1.2 inch round mounds onto the lined baking tray
- Turn down the oven temperature to 160°C and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown
- Remove from oven and poke a hole in the bottom of each puff to release steam
- Cool on a wire rack
- Heat milk until just boiling in a small saucepan
- Meanwhile, in a medium-sized mixing bowl combine egg yolks and sugar, whisking until doubled in volume
- Add the cornflour and mix until combined
- Pour the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture and whisk until smooth
- Return the mixture to medium-high heat and whisk constantly until thick
- Remove from heat and add butter
- Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, ensuring it touches the surface of the pastry cream
- Cool in fridge until use
- Whisk the cream until medium-stiff peaks are reached
- Add the cooled creme patisserie and whisk until stiff peaks are reached
- Transfer to a piping bag with small round tip
- Reserve in the fridge until use
- Poke a hole at the bottom of each choux puff
- Fill the choux with the creme diplomat
- Place in the fridge as you prepare the caramel
- Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat
- Heat the sugar, swirling the pan occasionally to ensure even heating
- Continue to heat the sugar until it turns a golden brown
- Remove from the heat and working quickly dip the tops of your filled puffs into the caramel
- Place the dipped choux caramel side up on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and allow to set
- Prepare a styrofoam cone or paper cone made from cardboard (25cm tall x 10cm wide / 10 inches tall x 4 inches wide), wrap it in cling wrap, and place it on your desired serving platter
- Dip your filled puffs into the caramel and start to assemble the croquembouche, starting from the bottom and working your way up to the top (if your caramel has hardened up, heat it gently over the stove on low heat until it has softened)
- Decorate as desired and enjoy!!
Keywords: Profiterole, choux puff, cream puff, caramel, wedding, christmas, custard cream