This cake is insane! I love it. But first, let me set it up.
I’m a wuss. They say men have a lower threshold for pain. They’re right. As I’m writing this it’s 82˚ in my study and I’m about to crawl out of my skin. I mean, you wanna talk about ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ I would spill a multitude of state secrets right now if someone would come over and fix my damned central air conditioner. So, if my writing seems a little off, please understand that I am about one degree away from blacking out. Now on to the cake.
I first came across the idea of making a cake out of crêpes back in 2005 while reading a copy of House Beautiful (yes, House Beautiful. Don’t laugh). The cake was adapted from the Lady M Cake Boutique in New York City. After reading the description and salivating over the photograph, I remember that I couldn’t wait to get in the kitchen and chef this baby up. So, I dashed to the store to get everything I needed.
As I stood in my kitchen I was excited. I pulled all of the ingredients together on the countertop and got centered for what I anticipated would be a mind blowing experience. But my excitement was short lived. First, the first few batches of crêpes were awful (half brunt, most wouldn’t release easily from the pan, to thick…) and then the heavy cream frosting lacked the impact that I was expecting. To say I was disappointed doesn’t capture the half of it. I was so traumatized by the experience that I couldn’t think of trying it again for years to come. Now, fast forward to the year 2009.
So, as I thought about what I do for my next blog entry, I found myself debating whether I should reattempt what has come to be known as The Great Crêpes Cake Disaster of 2005. Seriously, it was an internal debate in my head. You know, like in the movies where some poor schmuck is trying to make a decision and two tiny figures suddenly appear on each shoulder (usually one dressed in a red devil outfit, and the other dressed like an angel in white). Here’s how the debate went between my two little ones:
Devil Figure: He can’t do it. He tried it before. He failed.
Angel Figure: Yeah, that was a while ago. He’s a more accomplished cook now. And isn’t logging the successes AND failures the whole point of the blog?
Devil Figure: Ok, don’t blame me if he embarrasses himself and us.
With doubt bouncing around in my head, I decided to try it again. This time I would do it with my own twist – if I’m going down, I might as well go down with my own stuff. I would still brulee the top crepe (I like the unexpected crunch) but this time I would dress the cake with an airy chocolate meringue frosting. And I would cover the entire thing so that it appeared to be a standard chocolate cake from the outside and when you cut it open you would immediately see that this is not your mother’s cake.
With a plan in hand I set out to make ‘The Great Crêpes Cake Disaster of 2005. The Sequel.’ And after I finished I stared at the final cake and paused before digging in and taking a bite. I was pleasantly surprised. I loved it!
The cake has a rich and chocolaty flavor (the icing alone, makes it a dream). But it’s the little surprises that really make it a standout. First, the 40 layers of crêpes and frosting just visually grab you. It stands out. And then you taste the addictive, buttery and light as air frosting and you just know that this is too good to be good for you (your little angel figure will say, “This is heavenly!” Your little devil figure will say, “And it’ll be on our hips in the morning.” But you won’t care. It’s that good and tomorrow’s another day.)
The second little surprise comes from the first bite. And that’s the crunch and rich flavor you get from that top caramelized crêpe.
In my humble opinion, this cake is just a beautiful marriage of flavors and textures. Yum!
I hope you enjoy it!
CRÊPES CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE MERINGUE FROSTING
For Crepes (adapted from Lady M Mille Cake Boutique):
12 tbl cake flour
3 tbl sugar
6 tbl unsalted butter, melted
2 cups warm milk
For Chocolate meringue Frosting (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook):
6 large egg whites
1 ¼ cups sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
10 oz, bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 tsp of prepared espresso
For the cake:
15 to 20 crepes
Chocolate Meringue Frosting
2 tbl sugar
MAKE THE CAKE: Sift flour and 3 tablespoons of the sugar together into a mixing bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl whisk eggs together, being careful not to overbeat. Gently stir in flour mixture until smooth. Stir in butter. Slowly stir in milk until just blended with the consistency of light cream – do not over mix. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rest for at least 1 hour.
Rub bottom of an 8-inch nonstick crepe pan with vegetable oil and wipe out excess with a paper towel. Place over medium heat. Ladle in about 4 tablespoons of batter into the center of the pan. Tilt and rotate pan immediately to make the batter run around the edge and cover the bottom evenly. Pour any excess batter back into the bowl. Cook until brown, about 20 seconds. Lift crepe edge with your fingers or a spatula (you may want to do this off of the heat). Cook on the other side for about 10 seconds. Turn out onto a plate. Repeat process with remaining batter (pan will probably not need to be greased again). Stack crepes separated by between paper towels. Crepes can be made ahead and kept for several hours, wrapped in plastic at room temperature, or refrigerated over night. Makes about 20 crepes.
MAKE THE MERINGUE FROSTING: In a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160˚F).
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium low speed, add the butter several tablespoons of butter at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in melted chocolate and espresso. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes. Stir with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth.
ASSEMBLING THE CAKE: Place first crepe on a plate. Spread a thin layer of meringue evenly across the cake. Lay second crepe on top. Repeat frosting process until all but one crepe is left.
Place the last crepe on a separate plate. Evenly distribute remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Caramelize the sugar with a small handheld kitchen torch. Place the crepe on top of cake and let cool.
Once the caramelized sugar has cooled, frost the top and side of cake. Immediately, cool cake in the refrigerator to let frosting harden.
Let cake sit out at room temperature for about 5 minutes before serving.