Sunday, 20 March 2011

Croquembouche cupcakes

Yesterday was my father-in-law's birthday. He is a pretty amazing person, so I figured he deserved some spectacular cupcakes.

Since I bought Australia's Women's Weekly booklet with cupcake recipes I have always wanted to try to make croquembouche cupcakes - mini choux pastries on top of a cupcakes "glued" together with caramel glaze. When I saw Not Quite Nigella's version I just wanted to make them even more!

Unlike Not Quite Nigella who seemed to top her cupcakes with pretty normal-sized choux pastries I wanted to make the mini version and fill mine with a chocolate pastry cream.

It was the first time I made both choux pastries and chocolate pastry cream, so what better challenge to set for my father-in-law's birthday cupcakes than to additionally take part in Sweetest Kitchen's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge #9 (read the official rules for the challenge here )? This month's challenge is to bake birthday cupcakes not using a particular ingredient, but creating a visually spectacular cupcake.

A lot of friends voted for my White Chocolate Hi Hat Cupcakes last round which ensured my participation in the final five, but unluckily for me, I didn't win the draw, so got to give it another try :)

The winner of March’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:

I did a quick search on the Internet to find the perfect choux pastry recipy - and came across Rasperri Cupcakes' blog who had adapted another recipe to make mini choux pastries. The orginal recipe seems to have been taken from a Daring Baker's challenge using recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

Additionally I searched a bit for best ways of making choux as I wanted them to be perfect and found some good tips by Gordon Ramsey in this BBC Food-link.

Mini Choux Pastries (making about 100)

88 ml water
43 g unsalted butter
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar
63 g all-purpose flour
2 large eggs

Pre-heat oven to 220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and pour in the flour all at once (according to a tip from Gordon Ramsey), stirring to combine completely.
Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer the batter to a bowl and let cool. Now, this is where I made my first mistake. I didn't let the batter cool enough before adding the eggs, and so I got a useless runny batter that just didn't hold up. I had to make another batch. This time I let it cool even longer, plus instead of beating in the eggs with a wooden spoon (and relying on my not so strong arm muscles) I used my Kitchen Aid to beat in the eggs. First I beat the batter slowly to let out some of the heat and then I beat in the first egg.

First the appeared loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. That's when I stirred in second egg (beat the egg first as you might not need it all). This time the batter turned out perfectly and I started piping little mini choux pastries about the sizes of a 1/4 tablespoon. I used a 1cm open round tip and it was a bit tricky to get them small enough, and the piping wasn't exactly perfect, but I rectified that with pulling them slightly together with the tip of my finger (dipped in water first) and as they baked they puffed up perfectly.

I baked them initially for 7 minutes on 220 degrees, and then I turned the heat down to 180 degrees for about 14 minutes. (Rasperri cupcakes' recipe suggest between 10-15 minutes until well-coloured and dry).

I let the perfect little shells (crips and lovely) cool slighty and then with a toothpick I made a small hole at the bottom of the pastries to let out any remaining steam (as this will cause the pastries to go soggy). I wasn't going to use the pastries until today, so stored them in an air tight container. However, they did go slighty soggy overnight anyhow, but I managed to get their crispness back by drying them a bit more in the oven for about 10 minutes at 150 degrees.

For the chocolate pastry cream (or chocolate creme patisserie) I used this recipe which I found on Poires au chocolat's fabulous blog :

Adapated from Poires au chocolat:

3 egg yolks
50g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp corn flour
150ml milk
150ml double cream
50g good quality dark chocolate, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

In a small saucepan, warm the milk over low heat until it is just hot enough to steam. While the milk is warming, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and cornstarch until the mixture is completely smooth.
Once the milk is steaming, add the melted chocolate to it and whisk until it is fully incorporated into the milk. Add half of the chocolate milk, whisking constantly, to the egg mixture. Add the milk and eggs back into the hot milk, continue stirring. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly until it thickens.When you see the first bubble take off the heat and remove to a bowl to cool, topping with a plastic wrap to stop a skin forming. I left mine to chill overnight.

To fill the mini choux, make a whole at the bottom and pour out any leftover dried batter to leave a hollow shell. Pipe the cream until the cream comes back out, that's when the shell is filled.

I also filled my 6 vanilla cupcakes that were the base of my cupcakes and when cupcakes and choux pastries were all filled with lovely chocolate cream I set about making the caramel (or sugar syrup if you like) to clue the croquembouche (choux tower) on top of the cupcakes.

I used the recipe from Rasperri Cupcakes:

For the hard caramel glaze:
1 cup (225 g.) sugar
½ teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Take off heat to stop cooking.

I realised the caramel hardened up quite quickly, so I put it back to the oven to heat it up again. I did get a slightly darker colour, but I didn't mind that.

When assembled I tried to add some sugar spin around the croquembouche, but couldn't seem to get it to work properly, so I only managed to get a few sugar strands around. Something to work on!

I topped off the look with a few pink marzipan roses which I made a couple of days earlier and violet tiny flowers with a silver ball in the middle.

The croquembouche cupcakes took a pretty long time to finish, but it was so worth it - they looked absolutely spectacular and tasted deliciously and I think my father-in-law enjoyed them too!


  1. Really nice! Good luck in the competition!

  2. These look totally insane. I've never tried making croquembouche, let alone in miniature form, so props for all the work I know went into them! I love the flower touches too :)

  3. Many thanks for your lovely comment, Mybakingempire!! It was a lot of fun making croquembouche, not difficult at all, but definitely time consuming! You should give it a go :)

  4. They look absolutely amazing!

  5. These are sooo cute! I love making elaborate cupcakes but I don't think I'd go to the effort of making choux (arg, choux) for tiny croquembouches! They sound tasty too.

  6. Many thanks, Charlotte!!

    Anna, thank you. Having seen your lovely cupcakes I am sure you would be able to make these easily! The choux were actually very easy to make - what took time was dipping them in the caramel glaze without burning my fingers and then assembling them on the cupcakes :) They tasted deliciously if I may say so ;)

  7. Your chouxs look amazing! I love the trail of toffee you have on yours too! :D And yes I agree the baking of the choux is easy but the caramel dipping is not!

  8. Lorraine, thank you so much for your lovely comment! Your croquembouche cupcakes were a huge inspiration to me, so your opinion means a lot to me :)

  9. Carine, de er fantastiske!! Og du er så flink til å prøve nye ting og lage nye oppskrifter!

  10. Ok these look really amazing! Great job! I don't think I'd have the guts to attacks mini croquembouches like that.. Whenever I make choux pastry, I stick to the all so easy eclairs :P

  11. Many thanks, Nadia!
    Actually the mini choux were really easy to make, it was just time consuming to hole them and fill them and to assemble them on the cupcakes!