gâteau de crêpes

I know that you and everyone else must think that I’m crazy–it’s okay, I’m used to it–but I actually regret not making my own wedding cake. My cake standards are staggeringly high, and it’s nearly impossible for most bakeries–especially those servicing locations with 225-person weddings–to make cakes as good as homemade. They’ve got to start earlier than you or I would, and worse, they need to make sure that the costs are streamlined enough that someone can make profit along every step in the process, and hoo boy, do they, and in too many cases, they use shortening in frosting, when they ought to be using butter–hiss! And this is why I confess that when I had that first bite of cake gleefully shoved in my mouth, by a sweet husband, too concerned about messing up my makeup or dress to actually do the face-smoosh, my first thought was “aw” but my second thought? Well, the cake was really dry, and pretty flat-tasting.

making crepes

I know what a horrible person this makes me, and I accept it, but I’m actually more interested in fixing this karmic imbalance. Aside from having a somewhat open invitation to make a wedding cake for friends who are not allowed to pay me for it, I’ve also finally come to terms with the fact that purchased cakes rarely cut it for me. My one exception is Carvel ice cream cakes, because I grew up eating them and you seriously cannot make them the same at home (believe me, mom and I once tried) lest you have a soft serve machine in your basement, in which case, I actually might move in and not tell you though you might figure it out when the crane comes to remove me from your house because I’ve gotten too fat and look! I’ve digressed again. After 10 years of Carvel birthday cakes in a row, however, this year I decided that I was making my own birthday cake and nobody could talk me out of it or should even try.

crepe four of 28

What’s it like to bake more or less for yourself? To not have pleasing others in the back of your mind? In this case, it meant following a recipe to the letter. I’ve actually made the Lady M Mille Crepes cake once before, but it was a fairly stressful experience, as I had, outside of French class in the 10th grade, never made a crepe before, nonetheless 25 of them, lacked a fresh vanilla bean and a brulee torch, and then let my husband and his people talk me into adding chocolate to the cake. People, not everything benefits from chocolate, especially the square or two that I used, which brought only a weak, background accent to the cream. Furthermore, I misjudged how much pastry cream to put between each layer, and ended up with a lot of extra and an under-filled cake. Was it crazy delicious? Oh yes. Did I want a do-over? Yes, yes, yes. Is it my party and I can craft my own exacting cake if I want to? You betcha.

brulee-ing the crepes

But it was otherwise a cooking experience like any other, if not a little more fun. I wondered if I’d be more of a perfectionist than usual, but the fact is that when the top got kinda fugly-looking because I was using a brulee torch* for the very first time and didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t care. (P.S. It was the tastiest part.) When I was too lazy to press the pastry cream through a sieve and it ended up kind of lumpy in the whipped cream, I just laughed, knowing it would be delicious either way. And when the cake slid around on its base, smearing this way and that in the cab ride over, I didn’t even flinch, barely recognizing my own indifference. Obviously, I’ve got to do this again next year.

gâteau de crêpes

Eight things to ponder before you buy your next bakery cake:

  1. Did you know you can bake cakes in advance? Even a week or two? Once they’ve cooled completely, wrap them in parchment paper and then completely in plastic wrap, and if you’re especially protective, then slip it inside a freezer bag. Bring it back to room temperature when you’re ready to use it.
  2. Did you know you can make buttercream frosting in advance? You can keep it in the fridge for a few days, and bring it back to room temperature when you want to use it.
  3. Ditto for fillings, like strawberry compotes or lemon curds. All of these things allow you to make a cake on your schedule, and only have to assemble it when you need it.
  4. Did you know that you don’t really have to have a pastry bag to pipe simple decorations? At the bakery where I worked in high school, we just grabbed squares of parchment paper for smaller bits (like writing on a cake or piping small dots) and rolled them into cones and snipped off the ends. Zip-lock bags work as well.
  5. Making a cake for a chocolate fanatic? You can pretty much skip the frosting, as nothing will make their eyes roll back in their head more than a simple ganache, made simply by melting some bittersweet chocolate with a glug heavy cream. Pour it over the cake and watch it dribble. Try and fail not to lick the bowl.
  6. I’ve got only one theory about eating high-calorie foods and that is that it’s only worth it if it’s something you just can’t get that easily. Cupcake from the trendoid bakery with lines out the door? Sadly, it looks like they’ll be there until the end of time. Supermarket-purchased birthday cake the secretaries always bring in to your office on people’s birthday? There will be another one next week. Mille Crepes cake? I’d suggest you dig in, because it’s going to be a while before I make one again.
  7. Is it too hot for words in your apartment and the thought of running your oven seems too ridiculous for words? Think outside the hot box. Crepe cake is a stove-top affair. Ice cream cake brings its own air conditioning. Icebox cake is not only no bake, but you’ll get it together in 30 minutes.
  8. Did you see Courtney’s comment last week? She’s so right. Next time you’re fussing because your frosting looks like a kid schmeared it on or a chunk of your cake stuck to the pan, remember that most of our brains are wired to know that lopsided desserts=tasty and homemade with love, and flawless petit fours=rarely the case. I know I always reach for the fugly ones first, so revel in those signs of homemade goodness.

Gâteau de Crêpes
New York Times, 5/15/05 who adapted the batter from ”Joy of Cooking” and the pastry cream from ”Desserts,” by Pierre Herme and Dorie Greenspan.

Serves (IMHO, way more than) 10.

For the crepe batter:
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
7 tablespoons sugar
Pinch salt

For the vanilla pastry cream:
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons butter

For assembly:
Corn oil
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar or more
3 tablespoons Kirsch
Confectioners’ sugar.

1. The day before, make the crepe batter and the pastry cream. Batter: In a small pan, cook the butter 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.

2. Pastry cream: Bring the milk with the vanilla bean (and scrapings) to a boil, then set aside for 10 minutes; remove bean. 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.

3. 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.

4. Assemble the cake the next day: 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.

5. Pass the pastry cream through a sieve once more. Whip the heavy cream with the tablespoon sugar and the Kirsch. It won’t hold peaks. Fold it into the pastry cream.

6. 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.

* There’s actually a funny story about this in which Alex, with a mind to my notorious clumsiness, actually said “no” when I told him I wanted a brulee torch, muttering something about “old, paper-like walls” and “need more smoke alarms.” A friend of mine, hearing this, took it upon herself to buy me one last year for Christmas, much to Alex’s chagrin. Alex stood by with a large fire extinguisher (sadly, no NYC Firemen) while I torched the cake-top with a flame not much bigger than a lighter. Totally anticlimactic, right?

** My friend Jocelyn has posted about the other part of our evening, grilled pizza and fajitas on her roof and the Sopranos finale. She even got a picture of a slice of the cake before it was demolished!

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139 comments on gâteau de crêpes

  1. Well, first of all, happy belated birthday!
    That seems like a much more enjoyable experience than the crepe cake from hell I got to do a while ago. And I could totally picture Alex on standby with a fire extinguisher.
    It´s good to hear you gave your inner perfectionist a day off and enjoyed, besides, that bruleed top doesn´t look ugly to me at all, more like deliciously crunchy. By the way, I´m still waiting to hear about your recent OCD experience with the smores ;)

  2. You really must stop posting recipes that involve new gadgets. I bought the mandolin, the ice cream maker, and even toyed with the idea of getting the thingy to hold up the potato slices when I make microwave potato chips (thanks for that great link, btw). But now I have to decide where to put a torch too?!?!? Eeegads! Oh yea, the cake looks FABulous! After I finish the Ice Box Cake this week, I’ll give this one a go next.

  3. Oooh! Your crepes look beautiful. Mine… urm I rather not say. Haha. But I know what you mean about baking/cooking for yourself. You can do whatever you like and there’s no need to wonder if he likes it this way or she doesn’t eat whatever-you’re-using. Then again, I love cooking for my friends because it so makes me happy when they say they like it.

  4. Ok, this cake was the best thing you ever made. Can we convert and become Mormans? I want Alex to take me as a second wife so I can come live with you and eat cake everyday! I’ll bring my portable dishwasher!

  5. Oh, you can make my birthday cake any time! I’ll always opt for flavor over fussiness or frou-frou decorations. I’ve never attempted a crepe cake, and I doubt I ever will, so it’s great to see your photos, which make my mouth water. Any leftovers?

  6. Amy

    Deb, you have restored my sanity! The possibility of a wedding ceremony/reception looms large in my future and I’ve come to a place where I just can’t manage the idea of planning a fancy party for a year where you have to put hairspray in your hair and dance the Electric Slide. I’m sort of gravitating to the “Vegas Baby” idea or a full on block party with a Castle Bounce and perhaps a “Dunk the Groom” tank. However, the one constant is the cake issue. The only thing I want is a glorious cake. A cake to rival all cake experience in your lifetime. My major problem is… every wedding I have EVER been too, while the cake was stunning to look at, a vision of perfection in butter-sugar-flour… they generally taste AWFUL. I get my slice after admiring the cake during the beginning of the reception, close my eyes and take a bite expecting to be transported to some fairly land of taste bud nirvana. And I am always, always disappointed. Some of this is the obsession with fondant. Come on people, sure fondant does some cool stuff, but have you tasted it? what’s the point of a pretty cake if it tastes like sugared wax?? I want a moist cake, maybe with lemon curd filling and piles, and fluffy frosting, I’m talking PILES of butter cream, real butter cream. I’m willing to sacrifice a wedding dress to have the perfect cake. I know I’ve lost it. I’ll go back to work now.

    1. MissAndi

      Castle Bounce and Dunk the Groom tank sounds like the best wedding reception idea I’ve ever heard!!! Infinitely more fun than the electric slide.

  7. Happy Birthday! Your crepe cake looks really pretty! I am cake-conflicted myself. I also have high standards, but I find I’m often unable to meet them myself. Icebox cake sounds good for the summer though!

  8. Anna

    Hi Deb!
    Happy Birthday! very nice cake. Amy, i made a wedding cake two years ago (first experience, 165 people, turned out great, looked great, tasted… more than great). And I just married last April, guess where my mom and I were two weeks before: in the kitchen baking my wedding cake, which is such a nice moment to remember. The cake was a recipe from an old ‘Gourmet’, if someone would like it, just write. It is a simple génoise (butter cake), with a Grand Marnier – orange water flavored (real) butter cream, which we covered with (thin) layers of fondant to make it look *perfect* and decorated simply by pipping. no kitsch and wow what a feeling! Plus it is an excellent easy cake. Sure it’s work and takes a bit of testing, but the recipe is nothing a somewhat experienced baker could not achieve.
    So GO! Have fun.

  9. Oh yum! I haven’t had a birthday cake in about 5 years?! Until my recent move, I’ve always celebrated my birthday at home or out with a few friends and felt that a cake was a waste. But, not this year! Come December, there will be a cake on my counter. Thanks for the inspiration.

    And, I want to know what was in box one and two! (Spill – Martha Stewart devotees are wanting to live vicariously through you.)

  10. yummmmm that cake looks and sounds amazing! i’m definitely saving that recipe to make later. and i think many of us can relate to what you’re saying about baking for yourself versus baking for others. i just found your blog and already love it. :)

  11. deb

    Okay Crafties. I have succumbed TO THE BOX. And it, as you may have suspected, was filled with complete and utter craftastic joy. Ready for this?

    1. 18-part Goodie Box Combo for baked goods, including gift boxes, tissue paper, bakery string, ribbons and labels. Not to mention three recipes. My baked goods will never be so pretty.
    2. 1 roll, grosgrain ribbon.
    3. Paper Bag Puppet Kit, so cute, I’m pretty much pinching their paper cheeks right now. You should see the lobster.
    4. Two rolls of wrapping paper, en route.

    Sometimes, it’s so hard to be a grownup at work and stuff when all you want to do is break into your puppet kit. And wrap things.

  12. Cris

    My four year old and I tried the black bottomed cupcakes – delicious! Also, the first time I’ve made a cake or cupcake from scratch recipe that actually turned out well. We took your suggestion and piped in the cream cheese mixture. It actually made them into cream bottom, black top cupcakes – you couldn’t see the cream cheese at all (there was a small round of it prior to baking, but it was covered by the swelling cupcake mixture during baking). Next time, and there will be a next time shortly! I will just scoop the cream cheese mixture on the top. I really liked the look of your cupcakes, and the one’s we made looked odd without icing because you couldn’t tell what was inside.

    Happy Birthday! Thank you for the blog – its fun to read. Also, thank you for doing the mille crepe cake. I remember when the recipe was first printed, but lost sight of it. I think I’ll make it for my step-grandmother.

  13. I made my own wedding cake – lemon cake with a lemon mousseline buttercream, and fresh raspberries between the layers. And candied pansies on top – that I candied. It did rather look like hell because my piping skills lack, but it tasted divine! Recipes straight from the Cake Bible.

    Happy happy birthday! And the crepe cake looks swell.

  14. Susan

    Deb and Anna and Maggie,
    People all around me are calling me crazy, but I am seriously considering making my own wedding cake. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be big (for about 30 people), but it does have to be delicious. I have time to bake and trial run the cakes and the filling and the icing (the future husband will be in heaven), so any suggestions for tried and true recipes would be highly appreciated. Thanks!

  15. Happy Happy Birthday! I’m so impressed by this cake. Did you buy a special crepe pan? And also, thank you and Courtney for reminding me that it can’t always be Martha-esque and that’s okay and still yummy!

    /dreams of owning a torch of her own

  16. The first time I got married it was in Macedonia (yes, in the Balkans). The tradition there is for people to bring cakes and flowers to the reception, so the debate over whether to order or bake the cake wasn’t really there. No one told me, though, until after dinner that it was the bride’s job to cut the cake and serve it to people. It’s a good thing I had done a stint in the dessert room of my college cafeteria, because there were 650 guests (strange foreign wedding = lots of fun; strange foreign husband = not so much). Thanks for reminding me of this. The second time I got married, I got the pretty cake with the real buttercream and American husband. Much better idea. Happy belated birthday, sounds like you had fun. Ever since the Sopranos last night, I’ve been thinking about onion rings. Now I’m thinking about onion rings and this cake. Wouldn’t that be a meal?

  17. I feel the same way. I hate store-bought cake. I don’t even like most bakeries. I grew up with a completely anal cake decorating mom who taught me the business. Her biggest, and mine too, cake pet peeve is over-baked dry cake. it’s unnecessary. Baking a cake properly is the one small thing that makes a cake 100 times yummier. But most bakeries don’t get that. Even Alton Brown on Good Eats didn’t get that on his cake show and I usually love everything he does.

  18. Anna

    -Susan- I have to get the recipe from my mom, me being in Europe and she in Canada, so it’ll take maybe a few days, but i’m getting back to you with ideas (and the recipe). It is not crazy at all! and I found the two cakes i did prettier than lots of cake i see in bakeries (for a crazy amount of money). No, baking a wedding cake is real fun if you enjoy baking, it’s a great challenge. And i would recommend you find a place where you could buy fondant, i know it doesn’t taste great but i found it really helped the ‘wedding cake look’. i’ll send you some pictures. You don’t need to roll it out to thick, and if the cake under it is great and buttery and mmmh, then the fondant really just puts the hole thing togheter, and also keeps the cake moist.
    ok so I’ll get back to you; i always get excited when i talk or write about baking a wedding cake! And Deb, I’m sure you are going to get to bake one at some point!

  19. I have been dying to try this cake ever since I saw it on “Sugar Rush” – had to be a year ago. Then again in Martha Stewart Living – there it was filled with hazelnut cream & topped with chocolate ganache. You may just be my inspiration to finally give it a try . . . as you so often have been! Thanks!

  20. I can’t stand wedding cake for all of the reasons people have mentioned — it looks great and tastes…like sawdust. Except for one cake. I went to the wedding of a family friend a few years ago, and another friend had made the cake (a three-tiered cake with three side-cakes) as a wedding gift. It wasn’t the most amazing cake I had ever tasted in my life, but it was good. It was quality. It had flavor, and I didn’t feel dirty just for having eaten it.

    I don’t know if my family and friends could stand my own personal insanity if I had to make the cake for myself, but I think that I would like someone to make one for me, someone not a corporate, tasteless bakery, whenever that time comes.

  21. After a recent wedding event, my boyfriend and I were musing about how little people care about wedding cakes anymore. They are great to look at, but usually very sub-par to taste. I imagine baking one’s own wedding cake would be so memorable and delightful for the entire party.

    Thanks for the tips about making cakes in advance, I hadn’t known that, and have driven myself mad trying to make cakes the day of events. I’m very grateful for this info! And the crepe cake looks fantastic, I’ll have to try it very soon!

  22. Happy birthday!! Crepe cake sounds just so, so awesome. I am anal about homemade cakes and never, ever do bakery ones, except in the worst pinch (and usually manage homemade then, too). We had DQ ice cream cake for our wedding, with roses thrown on top of it, and it was gorgeous and yummy and perfect for the whole laid-back 4th of July BBQ thing we had going on (yes, my anniversary is July 4th. And I got married outside, barefoot. And we ate hot dogs and hamburgers. And there were water guns. It was the best wedding ever, people still talk about how much fun it was.) Anyway, I will absolutely have to try this, since my son and I already eat pancakes at least once a week – why not celebrate with them, too??

  23. Tracy

    The mille crepes cake at Lady M on Madison is simply the avsolute best thing I have ever eaten in my life. Your cake looks like it does it justice! Someday, I’ll try one on my own…until then…Happy birthday!

  24. I’m currently working on a wedding cake for my brother, and what an eye-opener it has been to read around on a lot of the discussion boards.

    Generally belief seems to be that the vast majority of cakes–including those from bakeries–are from doctored mixes. Bu the more different cakes I make, the more I can understand that: without using syrups, for example, a lot of the classic cake recipes are too dry for average American taste. I see people asking how to get their scratch cakes to be more like a mix.

    And a lot of the cakes I love aren’t structurally appropriate for a stacked wedding cake, and a lot of the fillings are highly perishable.

    Also, for the shortening, that’s of necessity a regional/seasonal thing: for people in warm places (or warm seasons), all-butter buttercream isn’t feasible: it melts in the lower 80s.

    Which totally sucks, but I think every would-be bride (or groom) that cares about cake needs to keep that in mind when picking a reception site: air conditioning is a cake’s friend.

  25. Deb,
    I am with you on the Carvel cake — those cookie crumbles on the inside are just magical. But I think your cake looks equally as magical…

  26. Yum! I’ve been seeing lots of crepe cakes lately in magazines and blogs, and I’m starting to get the urge to try one myself! My birthday was yesterday and I didn’t have a cake since my husband isn’t much of a baker. Next year I’ll take your idea and make my own birthday cake.

    I made the black-bottomed cupcakes recently for a picnic event and they were a big hit. I love all your recipes.

  27. I am one of the neurotics who made my own wedding cakes…I wanted to keep the tradition of my home country with the traditional Croquembouche….nightmare in 100 degree Charleston!
    Your crepe cake lloks scrumptious! Happy Birthday!
    My mom orderd me sets of the MS goodie packaging boxes. I love them, hope you have fun with yours. They are so well designed and people love receiving them as much as the goodies inside!

  28. Shelly

    Just a suggestion, if you can, carefully take one of your gift boxes apart and make a template from it, that way when you run out because you excitedly used them all up, you can make more and you can buy different papers and card stocks to make more.

    You’re going to have soooo much fun with this stuff!

  29. Hi Deb – your crepe cake looks amazing! Happy belated birthday =)

    Uhmm.. I’ve been trying to contact you through e-mail for about a month now, I’m assuming (even knowing what assume means! hehe) you never got it.. was wondering if you could e-mail me when you get a chance? I would greatly appreciate it! =)


  30. Happu birthday and thanks for the great looking cake photos. Mmmm, what helpful tips!! This recipe and the photos remind me very much of one of my family’s traditions: hungarian layer cake. Our secret family recipe is literally handed down one generation at a time (in fact, I don’t even know the exact recipe my family uses. I haven’t received the torch yet!), and it takes the better part of an entire day to prepare. The cake is something like this recipe:

    Basically, pour crepe batter over the back of an 8″ round and bake thin sheets one by one. Alternate chocolate cream filling with baked crepe layers and frost. It’s heavenly. We get far more than 7 layers in – more like 12-15. Gosh, now I’m thinking of Heidi’s thousand layer lasagna too. Good things come in many layers!!

  31. Caroline

    A few months ago I wanted to practice my Wilton cake decorating skills, so I found a nonprofit organization that provides wedding services to low-income couples and volunteered my talents. My first cake has to be ready in less than a month, needs to serve 250 people, and the bride and groom don’t speak English. Have I mentioned I’ve never attempted a wedding cake before? It will be interesting to see how that turns out… I’m decorating it with marshmallow fondant instead of buttercream because buttercream made with butter won’t hold up in this heat, and I refuse to use shortening. But I might have to use a doctored cake mix just for the sake of preserving my sanity! Anyway, I’ve been meaning to make a crepe cake for years now and you beat me to it– It looks fabulous!

  32. I remember reading Courtney’s comment on those cupcakes and thinking just how true it really is!! I have decided that store-bought cakes and such are sooo not worth it. I have actually started volunteering to make cakes to bring in for birthdays because I can’t stand the supermarket cakes you referred to. And by the way – I think your cake looks delicious!!

  33. Apryl

    Caroline – I don’t suppose this nonprofit is in the New York City area? Not only does this sound like an amazing organization to get involved with (although my wedding expertise is limited to my own wedding planning) but after our ceremony this October, I was hoping to donate my gown.

  34. Madina

    Happy birthday, ,first of all! Homemade birthday cakes are the best. I baked mine this year and, yes, I haven’t had this much fun baking in a long time. Crepes are not so bad, just take some practice. Fortunately, my mom is a crepe-queen (in Russian, they are called blinchiki), so I learned a lot from her. Cheers!

  35. OMG FTW. Once I get over how irrationally intimidated I am by making crepes, I will definitely be giving this a go.

    Do you think you could mate this recipe with a tiramisu recipe? Crepes soaked in espresso and liquer with the whipped cream and pastry cream layered between, perhaps?

  36. good cakes are just hard to find. for my wedding i had one of the only cakes i have ever liked in my life. we got it from a one woman baking operation in a tiny town near where we lived. It was 4 layers and alternated between devil’s food cake with irish cream ganache, and hazelnut cake with milk chocolate ganache. the whole cake was covered in dark chocolate ganache and had sparkly sugar coated fruit, berries and leaves as the decorations. And she actually used butter and crushed hazelnuts and good ingredients and it was amazing.

    I’m thinking i have to try the Gâteau de Crêpes soon. maybe with a little grand marnier pooled on the plate, flaming away??? Yum!

  37. deb

    Ouiser and everyone else who has expressed fright — The secret is taking deep breaths, doing everything you can in advance, and accepting from the outset that the first four to six crepes will go in the garbage. There’s enough batter that you can make 30 (or so I found) so you’ll still be in the clear. Also, nobody (besides me, and why would you invited a needling, perfectionistic person like me to your party?) will be counting. The good news is that the actual assembly of the cake is a quickie, schmear + layer, schmear + layer, etc.

  38. Laura

    Hi! Your cake looks lovely and I have been craving some pastry cream for quite some time–this might just push me over the edge. Just wanted to concur with you regarding bakery cakes. I’m getting married this spring and am seriously stressing over the cake. Down here, everyone seems to get their cakes from Publix. PUBLIX! It’s a grocery store. I’m sure there is some kind of karmic retribution in store for my snobbishness, but still.

    Happy Birthday!

  39. Cherish

    1# You have a fine man that knows better than to smack cake all over his bride’s face. A wedding photographer friend and I have a theory about wedding cake face-smooshers. While there are of course exceptions, our theory is that smooshers do not have long marriages.
    2# I always make my own birthday cake. Although I love my family not one of them can bake and I simply refuse to let them spend a small fortune on a Black Dog Bakery birthday cake.

    PS We had a cheesecake for our wedding, one layer vanilla bean and one layer chocolate. Oh my God, it was soooo good!

  40. Bravissima! I applaud you. Not only for this gorgeous crepe cake (I love how perfectly flat your crepes turned out … mind kept curling … drat!), but for your very valid points on the merits of baking/making your own cakes. Nothing beats it. And the fact is that with a bit of practice, a home baker can make a cake that tastes much better than cakes made at most bakeries!

    Well done, Deb!

  41. I love Carvel Ice Cream Cakes — Miss them so much living out here on the west coast now ):

    The crepe cake looks scrumptious. What crepe pan did you use? Recommendations?

  42. Rebecca

    I made this last week and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I made it for a party for my boyfriend’s PhD defense and some students at the party commented that they want to hurry their PhD along so I can make the cake for them too.

  43. Kat

    I saw this a few months ago, but I haven’t had access to the kitchen with the stuff I need until yesterday!

    It tastes sooooo good, but my pastry cream is super lumpy. Still, it’s yummy.

  44. Fantastic. I love crepes, my sons love it too.And making this into a crepe. ooo. My DH is going to the US, i have asked him to buy a cooking torch, it seems like a much needed cooking equipment now.
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. I am going to try this soon.
    I have already subcribed to your site, to make sure i dont miss out on any of your yummy recipes.

  45. Camille

    Hi there. I’ve looked at this page so many times that I wanted to leave a message. I made two of these with raspberry coulis for a liberal elitist-themed election night party because I saw your gorgeous pictures. It was wonderful.

  46. Liz

    how many cups of pastry cream does this recipe yeild? I’m making cream puffs for a crowd (50-60 puffs) and have a good pate a choux recipe, but need one for the filling. Would this pastry cream recipe be too much?

  47. Emily

    Sorry to bother you again, but when should I add the extract? What’s Kirsch? and is it ok if i leave it out?

  48. Christopher

    Use the vanilla extract in the milk when you bring it to a boil (same place it says yo use the bean just substitute it at that point.).
    Kirsch is a cherry brandy. You can also get it in a liqueur form. Kirschwassen is the full name. It translates to cherry water. Good stuff. In this recipe it is used to add flavor, but I think you would be fine without it.

    @Deb. Love this recipe! Made it for my mom for mother’s day
    Thanks for posting it!

  49. Emily

    Well, I made it and it was pretty good. However, I should have taken a closer look at the recipe because 6 eggs + 6 egg yolks? *gasp* But the cake turned out fine, the screwed up crepes were yummy, and I still have a bowl of leftover whipped…custard…cream, or whatever you call it. It was also super filling, from the many, many layers.

  50. I made this for my wife’s birthday. Rave reviews all the way around – the look, the taste, the texture. I used vanilla extract instead of a bean – hard to know if you could tell the difference. I got some Kirsch for the filling. Next time I’d make half the whipped cream/pastry cream without it and half with and see if I could taste a difference. I’d say the cake serves about 10 – five of us polished off half the cake no problem.

  51. Melanie

    I have a crepe cake recipe from a little pancake cookbook I bought in Australia when I studied abroad there! The crepes are stacked with filling as in this recipe, but it’s a simple sour cream filling. Then the “cake” is briefly baked, and dusted with powdered sugar. I always thought it was such a funny little recipe; the one time I made it was in my younger days after spending all night at a club for a techno concert – it was the perfect indulgence :). I’m so tickled to find that someone else has found (and enjoyed) a similar recipe!

  52. JENI

    i made the batter and the pastry cream last night. my pastry cream took longer to cook and thicken.. the suddenly it came together and became a thick pudding mass, the thickness is between a choux and jello pudding. is that right?

    i’ll beat this in room temp and fold in the cream tonight to see if this works…

  53. ellina

    Hi Deb! My birthday’s tomorrow, and I baked this cake today. I didn’t have the strength to make the crepes and assemble tomorrow, so I did everything in one go. i just let the batter sit for about 20 minutes, while I got on with the pastry cream. I didn’t sieve it, because it hadn’t curdled, and I felt the extra step wasn’t worth the washing up! Also, I had no vanilla beans, so I used some homemade vanilla extract both for the pastry cream (after I’d let it cool a little), and the heavy cream. Browning the butter for the crepes was totally worth it, and even though the crepes contained 6 whole eggs, their smell was awesome! I assembled the cake as soon as everything was ready, and it worked out fine. Of course, I didn’t manage to keep the edges as clean as you did, but that’s what homemade is all about, right? Thank you for a great recipe, Deb, keep up the good work please!

  54. Deb, hi! Love your website/food/wit :) Quick question — if I don’t have Kirsch readily available, what can I substitute for it? Or should I suck it up and go purchase a bottle of it? I appreciate your feedback. Thanks!

    P.S. Used your recipe for browned butter crispy rice treats to make two 9-inch cakes for my “I don’t really like cake cake” boyfriend’s birthday. Used marshmallow fluff between the two layers, which had an amazingly elegant dribbly (a not so elegant word) effect on the finished product. The cake was a hit, and Matt has now said he never wants a traditional cake again!

  55. I had this type of cake at Lady M in NYC last year and have been wanting to recreate it here in Texas. I should have known I could look here first and find a recipe. I can’t wait to try it.

  56. Hi Deb!

    Just wanted to let you know that some of my friends made this cake for me yesterday on my birthday, by request, and it was super spectacular and an enormous hit. We’d planned to use Buckwheat flour to combat my gluten intolerance but didn’t make it to the store in time, so we slathered on some homemade applesauce between layers and I just went easy. Fantastic and so adaptable. Thanks for the recipe!

  57. deb, your mushroom crepe cake reminded me of this one that i’ve been meaning to make forever. however, supposing one is too lazy to make the cream filling and is considering using cream cheese – is there any reason you would advise against? (i’m thinking maybe the cream cheese might be too heavy in so many layers?)



  58. Susan

    I finally made this yesterday as it’s been stalking my attention for a few days. It was my second experience with crepes. The first one doesn’t count as I only made a few that time because I didn’t like the crepe batter. You were right, it takes a few trys to get the heat, batter flow and turning technique down. I had just bought a 9″ crepe pan that I also intended for other uses, and found the 9 inch diameter to be just a little too unwieldy for swirling batter freestyle! That last inch was too thin and not very even, 8inches would have been about right. I ended up with 22 good crepes.

    This is a delicious and unique cake, if just a tad too sweet for my taste. I added 2 tbsp brandy to the batter to try and counter the sugar a bit and it gave it a nice flavor, but then had to add some more flour to thicken it back up. Next time I’ll just reduce the sugar to 1/3 cup, reduce the milk by 2 Tbsp, and still add the brandy. (I will definately use this recipe for dessert crepes again.) I don’t have a torch, so I just placed one crepe, sprinkled with sugar, under the broiler to caramelize. It didn’t do too well, looked ugly, but I used it anyway! It finally softened once the filling soaked in. I served it with several things..blackberries with kirsh, bananas with dulce de leche, and your fudge sauce..and whipped cream. Delicious! Thanks, Deb. Hmmm…maybe I’ll try it with butterscotch pasty cream…hmmm

  59. That makes TWO important cakes I’ve missed getting a bite of… this birthday cake, and my own wedding cake! Come to think of it… maybe it was missing the cake that jinxed the marriage?

  60. Becca

    I’m making this cake for my sister-in law’s birthday, and just wanted to know if you think it would be possible to assemble it on Friday afternoon, and then eat in on Saturday evening – I’m worried it will get soggy…
    PS – every recipe I have made from you has been a HUGE hit!!

  61. Threw this together Saturday late afternoon for a birthday party that evening.
    Was a hit, and was no less delicious without the preparing-ahead-of-time part. The browned butter let out an amazing aroma, but it sadly lost when refrigerated. Why must pastry cream be kept cold?? why???

    The best part was eating the leftover extra-hot crepes with the just-made-super-cold-cream. :)

  62. Cole

    Hi there,

    I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a long time, and besides substituting Grand Marnier for kirsch, I’ve been planning some other modifications. I’m wondering just how long the layers would retain their crunch if I were to torch several of the crepes throughout the cake. I could add more sugar for a thicker crunch, but I’m thinking that may be a little overboard. Would they lose their crunch and then not only be pointless but overly sweet as well? Thanks!!


  63. Selene


    I was wondering, what type of butter do you use? Salted or unsalted?

    Also, if we do not have a instant read thermometer, any way to make sure that it is of the right temperature before stirring in the butter?

    thanks much!

  64. Tea

    This crepe recipe is great, I’m loving it. Is it ok if I don’t burn or torch it like the one shown on the picture? because I don’t have one. Thanks?

  65. Tintin

    Your absolutely gorgeous cake inspired me to make one! I’m assembling it right now, actually ;) Question: Last night when I made the pastry cream it was wonderfully smooth and glossy, but just now when I took it off the fridge, it had clumped up like pudding! I can’t even strain it, because it’s almost solid! Is this normal? Am I missing something here?

  66. Angelica

    I just made these crepes (don’t have the occassion right now to make the cake), and these crepes are heavenly…I’ve been searching for an authentic crepe. This is it, and I’m so glad I stumbled upon your site. thank you

  67. RG

    Wow, I actually remember making this out of Joy of Cooking, decades ago. I think, like you, I didn’t use enough filling. I found it interesting, but not hours-of-work interesting and didn’t make it again. Curious to know how much variation I can get away with in the filling. My mom is diabetic, so I was going to use sugar replacement, but what about more whipped cream and less pastry cream.

  68. Dear Deb,

    I have been really inspired by this recipe. I am living abroad in a place with a small kitchen and crepes is a perfect recipe to whip up! I tried using your recipe and adapted it a little with layers of apples, yogurt and cinnamon… feel free to check out my attempt on my blog! Hope you are having a great day!


  69. I tried that cake because it is just la creme de la creme.I shared it with my family and the person who liked it the most was my mum because it wasn’t too sugary.
    It came out well but the crepes were not as light as on the picture.
    But i keep trying it.

  70. I really wanted to make an IMPRESSIVE cake recently, and since I’m no great shakes in the decorating department this really fit the bill! You’ll get oohs and aahs when the first slice gets cut, guaranteed. All those layers! (Also, loved eating the ruined crepes. It’s a REALLY good crepe recipe — all crepes should have browned butter in them, I’ve now decided.)

    I didn’t bother to strain the pastry cream before putting it together, but just kind of whisked it with a fork, didn’t see any lumps, and went ahead and folded it with the whipped cream. It folded in beautifully and I didn’t notice any problems.

    I don’t have a kitchen torch to caramelize the top, so instead I poured some chocolate ganache over it and it was really good — same idea and taste profile as a chocolate eclair. I’ve got pictures and more notes from when I made it on my blog.

  71. Nadia

    I’ve drooled over this recipe since I first saw it in 2007, and have waited for the right occasion to make and serve this. So tonight, for my 25th birthday, I’ll be sharing it with my two closest friends. I’m so excited! :)

  72. Hi! I wanted to know if you think baking the crepe batter in sheetpans would work for a cake like this. I do some catering and I was asked to make 200 crepe layer cake petits fours and I’m seriously dreading the crepe making part (one at a time, that’s crazy)…I’ll try it anyway, but I was wondering if you had done something like that before. Anyway, I absolutely love your blog, great reading and awesome recipes.

  73. Matthew O’Brien

    I made this cake for our holiday party this year and last, and it’s a hit. If you have a cold kitchen and/or a small sieve, be sure to take the temperature of your pastry creme before you use the water bath. The first time I made this, I sieved directly into a bowl in the ice water bath, and the pastry creme was too cold to melt butter by the time I was done. That was remedied easily enough with a double boiler

  74. leslie

    Hi all,
    Thanks for your comments on Cakes. I agree with you that a good home made cake is just devine. The tip on using a sandwich bag for poping a design on a cake is a great idea. I have 2 cakes to make in the next 2 months. Yes, wrapping ahead of time and refrigerating is a great tip too. I think now my schedule is getting busier your tips are great and will get me focused. Yes Butter is grand and much better for you than crico.
    best, Lelsie

  75. P&G

    Deb – just wanted to say, my wife and I love your blog. Also, I was excited when I read that you wish you had made your wedding cake, as that is exactly what my wife and I did. Of course it wasn’t gorgeous looking, but literally people were scraping the cake tray clean they liked it so much :) Of course it was a stressful experience because we made 19 batches of it, and it is an intricate recipe, but it was so worth it! Keep up the good work!

    Patrick and Grace

  76. Deb

    I had a crepe gateau many years ago, but it was filled with a spinach-and -ricotta/marscapone mixture. The friend I had it with recreated it the following week, using blendered cottage cheese and marscapone, the original being just a little too rich for us. Still too awesome for words.

  77. James

    Hi, love the blog and especially the dessert recipes. Quick question, how far in advance could you make this cake? Does it hold up in the fridge well or do you gave to freeze it? Thanks in advance!

    1. deb

      James — I have never frozen it so I cannot tell you how it holds up. But I think it would be good for 3 to 4 days in the fridge, possibly more.

  78. Sherry

    A friend made me this for my birthday with chocolate ganache on top- BEST cake I have ever had! I wasn’t able to discern the brown butter flavor in the crepes due to the number of other competing flavors, so if pressed for time, that step might be skipped. The cake was still wonderful 3-4 days later (though the pastry cream slowly lost volume, the flavor was still amazing). Thanks, Deb!

  79. Thank you for making things so easy! Your wit and amazing recipes with direction make your website a go to in my experience! I wanted to recreate this cake since I tasted Lady M’s in New York. This cake costs $80!! I do bake and decorate cakes regularly, but never made a crepe cake.

    As for the recipe I did in fact make a stabilized whip cream that I incorporated into the pastry cream. I never had problems with lumps as I follow the directions for the pastry cream from L’adurees sweets book and made it before. I sift the corn starch, I add 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg yolk/cornstarch/sugar mixture and once that is blended in I reintroduce into the 2/3 remaining hot milk. I turn off the stove and I whip it all until it is thickened to a consistency of pudding. I cooled it down and incorporated the pastry cream into the firm whipped cream in 1/3 portions. I should have really made the crepes the day before. Your recipe is awesome! Wishing I could post the photo of my cake!

  80. Justine

    I just made this for my husband’s birthday with a few variations: eggless pastry cream for our weirdo daughter who can eat eggs in pancakes/crepes but not in custards/less-well-cooked things; homemade raspberry jam every fifth layer or so; and chocolate ganache on top. We ate it for dinner and it was amazing. Glad to hear it holds up for a few days since we’ll be eating it for awhile! Thanks for the awesome recipe!!

  81. suzu

    Hello Deb!

    I’ve been dying to make a mille crepe for ages, but I don’t own a instant-read thermometer (and all the recipes I’ve come across call for one, and don’t seem to offer any alternatives for people who don’t own them). Is there any way to tell when you should add the butter to the pastry cream without one?

  82. Alex D

    I am just (finally) writing my first comment on your blog. I have pretty much fallen in love with every recipe I have come across on this page. I have in fact referred a good handful of people here and got your cookbook for myself immediately and as a christmas/late birthday gift for my sis.

    That said, I must say I am attempting to make this recipe because I overbought eggs and even at a paltry price of less than $1 a dozen (ahh sale prices) I didn’t want them to go bad. This is perfect to use ’em all up. I can’t wait to try this after it is fully assembled. The only substitution I am making is to use some random cherry cordial I have on hand (strong stuff)… So when my friends and/or family ask why I made this, it will be 90% just for the hell of it and 10% I am a cheapskate who doesn’t like to waste good food.

    I already love crepes in their many forms but I feel like this is going to be something delicious to start off the summer right.

  83. I’ve tried a handful of recipes from your site before–all delicious–but I think this may be my favorite! I made it for my sister’s birthday yesterday and the whole family loved it. I substituted whipped cream for the pastry cream and finished with another layer of cream and fresh peach slices instead of sugar on top. So yummy! Check out how it came out here:

  84. Xsta

    I was thinking of making this for my wedding! It would be one option among some others, so it doesn’t have to be a giant cake. But I’m wondering if it freezes well? Any experience with that? My mom used to make ‘scapelles’ which were crepes rolled with parmesan to put in soup. They froze well but I’m wondering if the pastry cream holds up too.

  85. Matti

    I made my own wedding cake for the same reason. I should of made the flower topper, too (stupid story that you can probably intuit). The cake, however, was out of RL Beranbaum’s Cake Bible and was super-delicious. Thank you for confirming, 18.5 years later, that my instincts were spot-on :) I now have a KitchenAid stand mixer. I made the cake compponents with a handheld mixer only. Really.

  86. Tobi

    Question about a related recipe: the hazelnut chocolate ganache crepe cake in your cookbook. I will be making it for my son’s 12th bday next week (he is a nutella freak). I was hoping to make each component in phases, ahead of time. From the recipe in the cookbook it looks like you can make the crepe batter a couple of days ahead. But I’m wondering can I also make the crepes themselves a couple days ahead and either freeze or chill? Any recommendations for how to do that? Or should I avoid it altogether?
    Also, could I make the hazelnut cream a couple days ahead?
    (My issue is that my son’s bday is on Tuesday, but I have no time on Monday or Tuesday to cook, so would like to have everything pre-prepared on the weekend and then simply assemble on Tuesday evening.)
    Alternatively, I could prepare and then assemble on the weekend, then store in the fridge until Tuesday evening, but I worry that the whole thing will get mushy.
    Your advice? Thanks in advance!

    1. deb

      Hi Tobi — You can definitely refrigerate crepes for a couple days before using them; they don’t even stick to each other. I haven’t made the hazelnut cream far in advance but think it should be fine. Good luck! (Also: lucky kid!)

  87. Aviva

    Hi!! My cream turned into a jellyish pudding like consistency before I could strain it and then it just heals firm in the strainer… What to do? It tastes good so I put it in the refrigerator for tomorrow. Any thoughts??

  88. deb

    I don’t think this should be an issue once you sieve it twice — I’m imagining a fine-mesh strainer here, not something that would leave it in solid bits. You’re going to fold this loosened pastry cream into whipped cream to finish it. Hope it all works out in the end.

  89. deb

    There shouldn’t be any liquid, no, but it will soften/loosen anything that’s solidified enough that it should be easy to fold in. Good luck. I hope you love it as much as we did.

  90. Aviva

    I’m not sure it worked in the way it should, but it worked in the way it did… I’m not a perfectionist so add whip cream to pretty much anything I am happy and I think that goes for most of the people I spend time with… Despite a few lumps, the cream mixed with whip cream looked pretty ok and tasted great so we wrnt with it… The cake was good but would be best as a meal in itself!!!

  91. I made this this weekend as my birthday cake — crepe batter and pastry cream on Saturday, assembly on Sunday, eating it today. I didn’t put anything through a sieve because it’s for me, and I don’t mind — that said, I didn’t see much in the way of lumps anywhere. The individual components taste amazing, and I’m going to have a roasted strawberry sauce along side, just in case anyone feels like it. Oh, I also used a dry raspberry cider instead of the kirsch, and it was fantastic. Thank you so much for this entry!

  92. Heather

    I have a question more related to the crepe cake in your book. I can’t find hazelnut liquor easily. Can I substitute anything else? Or would it be OK if I left it out altogether? Thanks

  93. Lea

    This looks great! But why go through so much trouble to make the crepes ?
    I simply beat the eggs, flour and sugar (plus the butter if you want, though you don’t have to put some in your batter) then add the milk. Voilà! It’s advised to let the batter rest for an hour, but I don’t know many people who actually do that. Personally, I don’t, unless I have time.

  94. EL

    I agree. I always used to make my own B-day cakes. This was because I really love the type of cake that uses eggs alone to rise (such as extremely fussy Austrian tortes, which I wanted to taste perfect, but didn’t care about the looks so much). Every time I went out to some place that claimed to have these cakes, you could tell that they had added some type of baking powder/baking soda thing which made the cake, well, cakey. I guess I just don’t like cakey cakes (or at least not that type of cakey cake). Anyway, I still bake my own cakes, but they tend to be very simple cakes now. And yes, they do use baking powder/baking soda types of things, but no, they’re still not cakey. . .

  95. Margo

    I know this is a ten-year old post, but you’ve got a problem with the html in the link under the picture of a cooked crepe, where you’re talking about French class.

  96. Hi (& thanks for all the fantastic recipes)!

    Is it possible to make the crèpes & pastry cream for this crèpe cake the same day it will be assembled & served, or does the cream absolutely need to set overnight? I just got a request for one of these for this evening.

    — Brigid

  97. Deanna L Ridgway

    I have a question about the difference in crepe recipes where some have water & milk & others just use milk. What is the difference between them?? I have made crepes before with both water & milk in the recipe. Thanks for your help.

    1. deb

      Just preference. I imagine that the water ones are a little more crisp, but I can’t say for sure without comparing them side by side.

  98. Chesapeake

    Made this for a friend’s birthday recently, all the years after it was originally posted. It was a hit! I embarked on this cake without ever having made pasty cream or crepes before, ha. On my first attempt, the pastry cream was a flop— did not set, etc. After watching some tutorials and looking st other recipes, I figured it out and delivered a cake that my friend loved!

  99. Just came up with a great shortcut to assembling the crepes. I covered my counter with wax paper and layed out the crepes. I dropped a quarter cup of filling on each one, balanced it out, and then spread the filling out on each crepe. Finally I just stacked up the already covered crepes and voila! I have to transport this so I put a straw through the middle to keep the cake from sliding around. I also didn’t pass the filling through a sieve because it was too thick and there were no lumps.

  100. I found a great shortcut for this. Instead of covering the crepes with filling while assembling, I put wax paper on my counter and spread out all the crepes. I then dropped 1/4 cup of filling on each and balanced it out so each crepe had the same amount. Then I spread out the filling on each crepe and finally I stacked them up. This was really easy and fast. I have to transport this so I put a straw through the middle of the cake to maintain its integrity. I also didn’t pass the filling through a sieve because it was too thick and wasn’t lumpy.

  101. Brynn

    Three thoughts:
    1. We assembled the cake over 4 hours (not including final chill time) without any problems. The pastry cream cooled in the fridge in an hourish, and I’ve used Kenji’s basic crepe recipe several times, which doesn’t rest the batter (with no noticeable effect), so we used that recipe again.
    2. I didn’t have kirsch, a vanilla bean, or a blowtorch. I used some vanilla extract, but overall, the cake was missing those flavors to balance all the fatty creamy goodness. Would fold orange or lemon zest into the pastry cream next time and make a berry puree to drizzle over (or something). Ate a slice for breakfast with lemon juice squeezed on top, and that helped enormously.
    3. It’s darn pretty, fun to make and eat, and emboldened me to further crepe cake endeavors. Mushroom crepe cake, here I come!

  102. Roxana

    Made this already twice, mu daughter who’s so so fussy and nothing besides chocolate is worthy of her attention is in love with this cake. She asked for it for her birthday! Disn’t bother to sieve the cream, it comes smooth from the start. Great recipe!

  103. MARIA

    Made this as an alternative to a traditional cake, when asked to make dessert at high altitude… which is not my “thing”. And A+!!! A complete success. Every single crepe was perfect. I added a schmear of peach butter on each (before the custard), since I’m in the Georgia mountains, and just YUM!!! Thanks for nailing it, yet again. You’re the Best, Deb!🧡 Everyone LOVED IT!!!