Birthdays are always fun. I love a day that’s all about me, where friends and family pamper me with attention and, best of all, birthday cake! That alone is reason enough for me to get excited about my birthday. I do a lot of baking and people often ask if I’d like to give myself a break and have one made fore me. But honestly, I can make a much better cake than most bakeries. It’s not because I think of myself as a superior baker (which I’m certainly not), it’s just that everything tastes better when it’s homemade.
So for my birthday this year I made my own cake, which I often do. It’s actually a lot of fun because I can make exactly what I want. I don’t have to worry about others’ tastes and preferences, just my own. I’ve known for quite a while that this year I wanted a crepe cake. I first heard about the crepe cake from my family. They had made one for some occasion and couldn’t stop raving about it- how simple it was, yet so very delicious. And then I started noticing them in cookbooks and on food blogs and I knew I had to make one. I mean, come on, a cake made from crepes and pastry cream piled together? Sign me up!
I love crepes. The best crepe I ever had was from a street vendor in Paris and came with nutella and bananas. It was the stuff dreams are made of. The crepes in this recipe come the closest to those Parisian crepes as any I’ve ever tasted. As I was making them it was very difficult to not devour them all right then and there. The crepes are very thin and delicate and my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t have twenty intact crepes to make a cake out of, but I only had one tear on me and the rest held up beautifully.
The crepe cake does take some time to make because some elements need to be prepared and chilled, but it really wasn’t that complicated or difficult to put together. If you have a stove top, you can make this cake. The finished product looked absolutely stunning and tasted divine. I had two large slices and would have had more (it was my birthday after all) but it was too rich to go on. If you’re planning on making a crepe cake of your own, and I suggest that you do, I would highly recommend using this recipe. However, you could probably make one with any crepe recipe and filling of your choice.
The Crepe Cake
Adapted from Cream Puffs in Venice
Makes one 9 inch cake
For the crepes batter:
6 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
7 tablespoon sugar
Cook the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it turns a light brown color. Set aside. In another pan heat the milk over medium high heat until steaming (do not bring to a boil). Set aside and let cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer mix together the flour, sugar, eggs, and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and the brown butter while mixing. Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
To make the crepes, bring the batter to room temperature. Place a non-stick or seasoned 9 inch saute pan over medium heat. Brush with oil or melted butter. Add 3 tablespoons batter and swirl it around until it completely covers the bottom of the pan. Cook until the edges turn light brown, loosen with a spatula and flip over. Cook the other side for only 10 seconds. Flip out onto a plate lined with parchment paper. Repeat until you have 20 crepes, or run out of batter (I had batter for about 19 crepes, but a few of mine were thicker than needed).
For the pastry cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoon butter
Bring the milk just to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let stand for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan combine the egg yolks, sugar, and corn starch. Slowly add all of the hot milk, whisking continuously. Place the pan over high heat and bring the mixture to a boil, still continuing to whisk. The mixture will thicken in 1-2 minutes. Once it is thick, immediately remove from heat, and stir in butter. Pour into a shallow dish and refrigerate until chilled (can be chilled overnight along with the batter).
Sweetened whipped cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
When ready to assemble the cake, make sweetened whipped cream. Beat the heavy whipping cream at high speed for several minutes until stiff. Add the sugar and vanilla. Fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream and mix until smooth and incorporated.
To assemble the cake, begin by placing a crepe down on your display plate or cake stand. Spread a thin layer of the pastry cream onto the crepe. Cover with a crepe and repeat with all twenty crepes, ending with the prettiest crepe on top. Chill for at least 2 hours. Bring the cake back up to room temperature slightly before slicing. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and garnish with berries, if desired.