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History of the Croquembouche
Croquembouche is a French dessert made by stacking cream puffs in a conical shape and cementing them together with a toffee. The dessert is typically ornamented with sugared almonds, or other ingredients, and it is designed to be displayed as the centerpiece of a table. This dessert has been used at French weddings, christenings and celebrations for centuries, and it is served outside of France to add a French flair to an evening's events.
The croquembouche has a long history. It appears to have been invented by French pastry chef Antoine Careme (1783-1833) in the late 1700s, when it became very popular as a wedding cake. Many of the individual components such as the cream puffs date to the 1500s, illustrating the long history of fine pastries in France.
This pastry concoction is one of a family of desserts known as pièces montées, or "mounted pieces."
A pièce montée is a dessert which is carefully constructed from an assortment of components, and designed to look as ornate and festive as possible. These desserts are often so elaborate that people are hesitant to eat them, and in some cases, a pièce montée may actually be specifically designed to be ornamental, including inedible ingredients like wax or cardboard to support the structure.
Making the Croquembouche
Constructing a croquembouche takes several steps. First, the baker must make profiteroles, also known as cream puffs, from choux pastry stuffed with crème patissiere which can be flavoured with Grand Marnier or the custard flavour of your choice. Then, a toffee glaze must be prepared. Several hours before the croquembouche is to be served, the cook carefully stacks the cream puffs, using the toffee to stick them together, and then the outside of the croquembouche must be decorated.
The traditional decoration for a croquembouche is dusted with candied almonds. The base and the top decoration support can be made of Nougatine (a mixture of caramel and slices almonds) or sweet pastry disc. Some bakers drizzle chocolate over the croquembouche, or add more exotic ingredients like candied flowers or even fresh flowers. The top of the croquembouche may be adorned with ribbons and other ornaments. The end result is very crunchy, which explains the name: "croquembouche" means "bite in the mouth."
The most popular portion to be served to each guest is three profiteroles, but two profiteroles could be sufficient if another dessert is also being offered.
The Croquembouche price depends on how many profiteroles make up the cake. The smallest one we do is with 30 profiteroles. They can be made in chocolate too with strawberries a little more for chocolate. They can also be made with chocolate and strawberries, as well as other decorations, though this is an extra cost. Each profiterole costs $2.50.
We can arrange the delivery if required. This will incur an extra cost.
One of the biggest challenges with a croquembouche for guests unfamiliar with this food is eating it successfully. Historically, the croquembouche was cracked open with a heavy knife or sword, and guests picked away the profiteroles. In the modern era, the guests may simply be encouraged to pull the croquembouche apart, with napkins in hand to cope with shards of glaze and crumbs from the profiteroles.
Please be aware, as the Croquembouche is a cake, special care must be taken to refridgerate it, especially in conditions such as heat and humidity, as they are sensitive to these circumstances. Don't hesitate to ask our staff the best way to store the cake.