Croquembouche with Vanilla Orange Blossom Pastry Cream

Croquembouche with Vanilla Orange Blossom Pastry CreamThere are a few things every experienced baker thinks of trying in their lifetime. They are recipes that are known to be notoriously finicky and difficult, usually French. The kind of desserts you buy at the bakery because it’s not worth the trouble making in your own kitchen. One of these recipes is the croquembouche. In fact, if you google “difficult desserts to make”, the croquembouche makes the list almost every time.
pate a choux cream puffsSo what is a croquembouche? I would describe it as a tower of caramelized cream puffs, held together only by caramel and covered by delicate sugar threads. It’s definitely looks impressive and I can see why some people would choose one over a traditional wedding cake. Plus, that crunch of the caramel over the cream puff is really delicious. Almost like a crème brûlée wrapped up in a cream puff.
ombre cream puffsThis was a trial run that I did before a friend’s bridal shower and I learned that it takes a lot of time if you try to do it all in one day. What I did learn was that it’s not very difficult if you divide the work between three days. If you make the pastry cream two days before, and bake the cream puffs the day before and fill, dip and assemble it the day of, it is quite manageable in a decent amount of time. Here are my thoughts on the process:
croqeumbouche1) I think the most difficult/scary part of making this is the hot caramel. I am not embarrassed to admit that I burned my fingers a few times while making this. Have a bowl of ice water on hand just in case you do burn yourself. Your gut reaction may be to put the finger in your mouth to cool it (at least mine was), but that will not help the burn. Take your time when dipping the creampuff into the caramel, and if the cream puff gets stuck in the sugar, then use a spoon to fish it out. DO NOT attempt to take it out using your fingers. This is not something that can be done in a hurry, so make sure you have plenty of time before doing this step.
croqeumbouche2) No matter how carefully and evenly you try to pipe the pâte à choux (the cream puff batter), you will end up with unique looking cream puffs. At first, you may be disappointed, but the funny shapes come in handy later on when you’re assembling the croquembouche. It becomes kind of like a game of Tetris, where you try to find that perfect piece to fit that nook.
croqeumbouche3) The most fun part is making the sugar threads. When the caramel is somewhat cool, you take your fork and spin it around the croquembouche making a fine web of sugar strings. It makes you feel like a spider and you can do as much or as little as you like.
croqeumbouche4) I tried to put fondant flowers on it and realized it was not worth it. The fine sugar threads harden as soon as they touch the cream puffs and there is no way for the fondant to stick to it. I just wedged it in between the gaps that were created. I wouldn’t recommend trying it. It wasn’t worth the work.

Croquembouche with Vanilla Orange Blossom Pastry Cream
Makes 1 medium-sized croquembouche

For the pâte à choux:

1 c. water
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. granulated sugar
1 c. all-purpose flour
4-5 large eggs, plus an extra egg for the egg wash


  1. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 425˚F.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt, and sugar to a boil.
  3. Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove pan from heat and dump in flour at once and quickly stir with a wooden spoon.
  4. Once all the flour is incorporated, return the pan to the heat and cook the mixture for 30-60 seconds by continuing to stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until a thin film forms on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Move the dough into a mixing bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix for about 1-3 minutes until the dough is cool enough for you to stick your finger in. After that point, add 4 eggs, one at a time until incorporated. If the dough does not fall off the paddle in a “V” shape, add the fifth egg.
  6. In a pastry bag fitted with a large plain piping tip, pipe 1 inch circles of dough.
  7. In a separate bowl, make an egg wash by mixing 1 egg and 1 ½ tsp. water with a fork until well mixed.
  8. Use a pastry brush and lightly brush dough with your egg wash, brushing down any peaks you may have formed when you piped out the dough.
  9. Bake your cream puffs one baking sheet at a time in the center rack of your oven. Bake for 7 minutes and reduce the heat to 375˚F and bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.
  10. As soon as they come out of the oven, poke holes in each puff with a toothpick to release trapped steam.
  11. Once cool, use a small star pastry tip to make holes on the bottom of all the puffs

For the vanilla orange blossom pastry cream:


4 c. whole milk
1 c. granulated sugar, divided
3 egg yolks
2 large eggs
½ c. corn starch
1 pinch of salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. orange blossom water


  1. In a large saucepan, bring milk and ½ c. sugar to a boil.
  2. While the milk is heating, whisk egg yolks, eggs, ½ c. sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
  3. When the milk boils, slowly add milk to the egg mixture while whisking, one ladleful at a time.
  4. Once half of the milk mixture is added, add the egg mixture back into the milk mixture.
  5. Continuously whisk the mixture over medium heat until the cream thickens.
  6. Once thickened, take the mixture off the heat and mix in the butter until completely incorporated.
  7. Stir in the vanilla extract and orange blossom water.
  8. Strain the mixture through a sieve and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until ready for use.

For the caramel:


2 ½ c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
½ c. water


  1. Prepare a metal bowl with ice water.
  2. In a saucepan, boil sugar, corn syrup and water until light amber. Do not stir while the sugar is cooking, it can cause crystals.
  3. Once the caramel becomes light amber, place pan into the ice water to prevent further cooking and cool the caramel.


  1. Place a 5 ½ inch cake board on a sheet of parchment paper.
  2. Fill the cream puffs with the pastry cream.
  3. Dip the top of each cream puff into the hot caramel, reheating it if caramel becomes too hard to dip. (CAUTION: Be careful not to touch the hot caramel, the hot sugar will stick to your skin and burn you. Keep a bowl of ice water on hand just in case to cool the burn asap.)
  4. Use the larger cream puffs for the bottom of the croqeumbouche.
  5. Dip the bottom of the first creampuff and stick to the outside of the cake board.
  6. Dip the next cream puff on the bottom and to the side, to stick to cream puff that is already on the cake board. Repeat the process until the first layer is done.
  7. When doing the second layer of cream puffs, arrange the cream puff in between each cream puff on the first layer, to create a stable tower.
  8. Continue to dip and build, heating the caramel if it becomes too hard.
  9. Once the tower is built, cool the caramel until it forms a thread when you lift it from the pot with a fork.
  10. Dip the fork into the caramel and circle around the croqeumbouche to create a web of caramel strings around it.

Pâte à choux recipe adapted from food network.
Pastry cream recipe adapted from all recipes.
Caramel recipe adapted from bon appetit.

Conversation Heart Macarons with Vanilla Elderflower Frosting

Conversation Heart Macarons I learned how stubborn I could be when I went to buy a bag of conversation hearts this past week. I was so convinced that the original conversation hearts were made by Brach’s, I stood in the candy aisle for 5 minutes debating whether Brach’s or Necco made the original conversation hearts with my sister. I guess the average person would’ve pulled out their phone right away and searched Google, but I felt like I was pretty darn sure I was right. Turns out I was wrong. It was originally made by Necco.
valentines day macaronsI was basing my fact on the memory of the boxes of conversation hearts I received during Valentine’s Day in elementary school. Many of my teachers would set up a big box for students to put in Valentine’s Day cards and hand them out on the big day. Some kids would bring a bag full of identical valentines to give out to everyone so no one felt left out. Some kids of course, received more valentines than others, but the usual stash would be a lip or heart shaped lollipop, Hershey’s kisses, and small boxes of conversation hearts. I never really liked the conversation hearts because (if memory serves me right) they tasted like chalk. But if I ever received a box from a crush I would read each heart wishing that it was a heartfelt message from them. SMH Boy crazy from such a young age I tell ya.
macaron batterSo I took a page from my childhood memory and turned them into macarons. I’ll tell you straight off the bat that these macarons are a labor of love. Perhaps it’s because my macarons are made with an Italian meringue or because I just plain stink at it, piping macaron batter into a heart shape is not easy. The batter wants to cling onto your piping tip and ruin the pointed ends that you want to achieve. Also, dividing the batter into 5 colors and changing the piping bag and washing the piping tip 5 times is tedious. And if you only have one spatula? You would have to clean that spatula every time you mix a different color for the batter and you would be dirtying 5 different bowls. This is FIVE times the work required people!

The frosting on the other hand is my favorite vanilla frosting flavored with Elderflower concentrate. If you’ve ever been to Ikea, you may have seen the boxed juices that they sell. Elderflower has a mild floral and tart flavor. Why did I add the elderflower concentrate? Because in my mind, flowers = romance = Valentine’s Day.
Conversation Heart Macarons The extra labor aside, these bite size macarons are super cute and would make a very thoughtful gift. Also, I know they’re delicious because the entire batch was gone in one night. 🙂
Conversation Heart Macaron

Conversation Heart Macarons with Vanilla Elderflower Frosting
Makes about 50 small macarons

*Here is a link to the heart template that I used for my macarons:
-Macaron heart template left
-Macaron heart template right

212 g. almond meal
212 g. powdered sugar
172 g. egg whites, divided to 82 g. and 90 g (aged, if possible)
236 g. sugar
158 g. water
pink gel food coloring
yellow gel food coloring
green gel food coloring
purple gel food coloring
blue gel food coloring
1 batch vanilla elderflower frosting
red food color pen


  1. Line two baking sheets with heart template left and right and parchment paper or silicone mats.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, add the almond meal and powdered sugar and pulse until thoroughly combined.
  3. Sift the mixture over a large mixing bowl, throwing out the lumps as they appear.  Add 82 g. of the egg whites and stir until you get a thick mixture.
  4. Divide the almond mixture into 5 different bowls. Each fifth of the batter should weight 101g.
  5. Color each almond mixture with pink, yellow, green, purple and blue gel food coloring. Set aside.
  6. In a small pot attached with a candy thermometer, combine the sugar and water over medium heat and boil until the syrup reaches 200˚F.
  7. Once the syrup reaches 200˚F, start whipping the remaining 90 g. in the bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks are reached.
  8. Once the syrup reaches 248 ˚F, remove the pot off the burner and slowly pour the syrup down the side of the mixing bowl with the egg whites on medium speed.
  9. Once the egg whites are fully incorporated, increase the speed to medium high until egg whites form glossy, stiff peaks.
  10. Place one fifth of the egg mixture into each bowl of the colored almond mixture. Fold the egg white mixture into the almond mixture until the mixture “flows like magma”.  The mixture should be smooth and run thick ribbons off the spatula.
  11. With a pastry bag fitted with a ½ in. plain tip, fill the piping bag with the pink macaron batter.
  12. Pipe one side of the heart, releasing pressure as you get to the pointy tip and repeat with the other side of the heart.
  13. The piped batter may have peaks but should smooth away in a minute or two.
  14. Every time you change the batter color, remember to clean the piping tip and use a new bag.
  15. Let the batter stand until the tops of the macarons are dry to the touch, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  16. Preheat the oven to 325-350˚F.  If your oven tends to run hot go for 325˚F, if not then 350˚F.
  17. Lower the heat to from 350˚F to 300˚F. (If starting from 325˚F, lower to 275˚F.)
  18. Bake 8-10 minutes, until the feet are formed and the tops are smooth.  The macaron shell is done when you slightly wiggle it and it starts to come off of the parchment paper / silicone mat.
  19. Remove pan from oven and reheat oven to higher temperature for 10 minutes before baking the next tray, lowering the temperature when you start baking it.
  20. Continue until you bake all of the macaron shells.
  21. Once the macarons have cooled, pair each macaron shell to one of a similar size.
  22. Use the red food coloring pen to write out messages on one side of the macaron.
  23. Let dry and sandwich each macaron with vanilla elderflower frosting.

Vanilla Elderflower Frosting
1 c. whole milk
¼ c. flour
⅛ tsp. salt
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4-6 tbsp. elderflower concentrate


  1. In a small pot over medium heat, whisk milk, salt and flour until combined.
  2. Continuously whisk mixture until thickened to a pudding like consistency.
  3. Once thickened, strain through a mesh strainer into a bowl with a spatula to remove lumps.
  4. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the flour mixture (to prevent skin from forming) and put bowl into the fridge until fully cool.
  5. In a mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the sugar and butter on high speed until fluffy and pale about, 5-10 minutes.
  6. Add the chilled flour mixture and continue to whip on high speed until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is no longer gritty, about 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add vanilla extract and 4 tbsp. of elderflower concentrate.
  8. Taste and if you want a stronger flavor, add another 2 tbsp. of elderflower concentrate.