Imagine a cloud. Now imagine a cloud that dissolves in your mouth leaving behind whiffs of vanilla, coffee and chocolate, impossibly decadent and light at the same time. Excited yet? I was too.
Crepe cakes – literally crepes stacked one over the other with a filling binding the layers – have been around for ages and can be found in several modern-day incarnations. The inspiration for this cake first came from this beautiful picture from Martha Stewart’s site. However, for some absolutely unexplainable reason, I was not interested in a chocolate version (go figure!) Subsequent obsessive searching for crepe cake recipes led to results which, though delicious, didn’t inspire enough to replicate. Not inspired by chocolate or hazelnut or vanilla pastry cream? What was wrong with me?
This story would have died a natural death had it not been for my favorite Italian restaurant, Julia Child and my inherent laziness.
@Favorite Italian restaurant – Yumm! I must make this tiramisu!
@Julia Child – “Do not attempt any dessert… unless you have ladyfingers of premium quality.”
@Inherent laziness – I don’t want to spend hours making what might ultimately be inferior ladyfingers and debase my dessert – yes, Julia certainly doesn’t mince her words!
And then voila! Inspiration struck and I decided to combine the best of what France and Italy had to offer. A tiramisu crepe cake! Excited like a kid who’s just been introduced to his first bike, I couldn’t wait to get started. But such things take time, especially if you’re talking about a cake that is essentially going to be 20 layers!
I started with the crepes. Now some people are afraid of crepes, but I’ve learned over time, that the trick with crepes is to have low expectations and show no fear! The batter is child’s play and after a little practice, the actual crepe-making becomes easier. The first crepe is always a dud and I always reserve this to snack on as I make the rest (ok fine, I do this even if it isn’t a dud). Batter in pan, swirl, brown, flip, remove – I had a rhythm going and soon enough, I had 20 golden crepes.
Next came the tiramisu part. No problem, I thought as I put together my ingredients. That is until I realized that the hand mixer was AWOL. I double-checked the recipe and sure enough, there it was – beat egg whites until stiff. Oh oh! Time to get friendly with this, my cousin D told me as she handed me the whisk. And so I did – you know how when you’re running on a treadmill, the minutes drag like hours and your legs are ready to disown you; this was kinda like that, only with my arm screaming for mercy instead. But I did it! If I had an Italian nonna, she’d be so proud of me!
Now it was time for some fun and just rewards. Layer crepe, spread cream, grate chocolate, eat the bit that’s left at the end, repeat. (Sometimes annoying things like never being able to grate the last small portion of anything can have their benefits.)
The cake was soon frosted, dressed up and ready to serve. My little experiment was a success!
Purists might gun for my soul, but as my fork pierces through layers of delicately soft crepes, lush mascarpone cream and delightfully dark chocolate, I think my soul is already in heaven. Add coffee liqueur to the mix, and you’re not going to need any other pick-me-up (maybe, just a second helping). Bon Appétit!
For the Crepes:
6 tablespoon (82.5 gm) butter
3 cups (720 ml) milk
1 1/2 cups (192 gm) flour
6 tablespoon (75 gm) sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoon (45 ml) Kahlua/Baileys/brandy (I used Kahlua)
For the Tiramisu (cream):
3 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup (150 gm) sugar
1 (8-oz/240 gm) container mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (125 ml) chilled heavy cream
1/3 cup (75 ml or according to taste) Kahlua/Baileys/brandy (I used Kahlua)
3 oz (85 gm) dark chocolate (I used Lindt 60%)
pinch of salt
Make the crepes:
THE DAY BEFORE (I write this in caps because I usually miss this instruction, start off excited with a new recipe and 20 hungry guests showing up in 2 hours, only to discover that such-and-such needs to marinate/rest/relax for 6)
1. Brown the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, scraping the pan occasionally. (I usually stand over mine like a mother hen to ensure it doesn’t burn.) It’s done when it’s brown obviously, but the heady, nutty aroma should give you a clue that you’re getting there.
2. Heat the milk in another saucepan until it comes to a gentle simmer. Remove pan from heat and cool for 10 mins.
3. Dump eggs, flour (I sift mine directly into the jar), sugar, salt, liqueur into a blender and beat on medium speed just until you get a smooth batter. Add the milk and butter slowly and give that thing another whirl.
4. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. (This is so the gluten developed during beating can get time to relax.)
5. Take the batter out and allow it to come to room temperature.
6. Heat a 6-8 inch (whatever suits you) non-stick or seasoned pan. Brush the surface lightly with butter. (I brush my butter stick directly over the pan.) Pour a scant 1/4 cup of batter and lift and swirl the pan quickly but gently so that the batter coats the pan evenly. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 min. Then loosen the edge with a knife, pick up the crepe with your fingers and flip it over. (Trust me, this is much easier than it sounds.) Cook the other side for about 10 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a baking sheet/plate lined with parchment. The recipe says to repeat until you have 20 perfect crepes. I don’t know about the perfect, but you will get 20 crepes from the batter.
Make the tiramisu cream:
1. Beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar over a double boiler at medium speed until pale and think, about 2 mins. (Keep the heat gentle, we don’t want sweet scrambled eggs.) Keep aside to cool.
2. Clean the beaters (don’t be lazy here). Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt just until soft peaks form. 3. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time and beat just until stiff peaks begin to form.
4. Clean the beaters (I know!). Beat cream in another bowl just until soft peaks form.
5. Beat mascarpone and liqueur into the cooled egg yolk mixture just until combined.
6. Fold cream gently into the mixture, then fold in the egg whites.
7. Chill, covered, for 1-2 hours.
Assemble the cake:
1. Start with a crepe, spread a thin layer of mascarpone cream over (about 1 1/2 tablespoon) and finely grate chocolate over that. Repeat, finishing with the last crepe.
2. Chill layers and remaining cream for about an hour.
3. Frost the top and sides of the cake with remaining cream. Finely grate chocolate all over.
4. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.