It’s wedding season! For those of you out there getting married this summer, it is time to plan, taste, and try a lot of things you probably never deal with on a daily basis. One of these can be wedding cakes—an endless sea of flavors and options that can be very overwhelming. However, there are some fun alternatives to the traditional cake that you can add to your ceremony. Our favorite? The French stack of profiteroles, also known as the croquembouche.
By the time your save-the-date cards are out to your guests, chances are they are already fantasizing about the delicious food you plan to serve. Keep those friends and family happy with this fun, tasty dessert. Everyone loves it and, soon, you will, too.
The Story of the Croquembouche
A French dessert whose name means “crunch in the mouth,” the croquembouche was enjoyed by royalty and noblemen as far back as the 1500s. Paintings and documents show a similar treat on the tables of great feasts, including weddings. Our current version was created by the pastry chef Antoine Careme in the late 1700s, and it was Careme who made the tower of treats a staple at weddings.
Careme did more than bake. He also studied architecture. He loved towers and pavilions and was one of the first bakers to recreate real-world places as pastries. It’s his towering cone of cream puffs that made him truly famous and which we see making a comeback at a lot of modern weddings.
A Giant Dessert Made of Small Parts
The croquembouche is a stack of delicate, puffed pastries that have a dollop of thick pastry cream (similar to whipped cream) piped into them. These are stacked in concentric circles that get smaller as they go higher, up until only a single puff crowns the whole dessert.
The piece is finished off with threads of caramelized sugar that are drizzled around the cone, creating a stunning effect. When complete, the whole piece has a distinctly royal appearance. It’s delicate and yet it’s sturdy, intimidating from a distance, and once you taste the first delicate puff.
The dessert is served one puff at a time, meaning it can easily feed hundreds of guests. The best part about the croquembouche is that it’s traditionally cut on the top third of the tower by a sword-wielding groom.
A Chance to Personalize Your Dessert
While the croquembouche is a unique choice all on its own, you can also personalize it as you like. Some couples like to have a favorite liquor added to the cream inside, while others like to have each cream puff dipped in chocolate before being stacked together to make it more decadent.
You also have the option of making several smaller stacks, while reserving one for you and your spouse. An appropriate decoration can be added to the top or you can add flowers as an extra touch to the tower. Have personalized napkins located nearby so your guests can easily tidy up after enjoying this decadent treat.
However you decide to do it, this soft, sugary dessert is ready to show off what makes you and your partner special and make sure everyone leaves gushing about the food.
Show Off Your Kitchen Skills with a Homemade Version
The croquembouche is not an easy dessert to make, but many chefs are tackling the recipe with the help of online videos. While a masterpiece is better left to a professional staff, you might want to try baking up these little cream puffs yourself if you have a small wedding.
First, you have to start with great little cream puffs. These can be a little tricky, as pastry is a mixture of alchemy and experience. Traditionally, cream puffs are made from a pate choux dough. This helps the desert have some lift and enough structure to hold the cream inside it and be stackable.
Your next step is to bake the cream puffs and then make a cream. A classic cream can be a bit decadent, but a little goes a long way. Once your puffs are cooled and your cream is ready, you can pipe it into the puffs and then heat the sugar for the big finish.
The sugar is melted in water, so it acts as glue as well as the crunchy layer on top of the soft pastry. Just be sure to handle the melted sugar properly; it can be dangerous if you don’t use precaution. After your profiteroles are baked and filled, you can dip each one into the melted sugar to coat and then attach them to your cone mold.
Finally, you’ll use the last of your caramelized sugar to drip over the whole thing, encasing it in long, beautiful strings. These are draped around the cone that puts the finishing touch on your signature wedding dessert.