Crepe Cake with Vanilla Pastry Cream and Fresh Peaches.
This crepe cake includes layer upon layer of buttery crepes, vanilla pastry cream and fresh peaches, and is covered with a generous layer whipped cream and more fresh peaches.
The first time I had ever even heard of a crepe cake was about 10 years ago, while perusing through Food and Wine magazines looking for recipes as I prepared to host my first Thanksgiving dinner. In one of the issues was a recipe for a chocolate dulce de leche crepe cake. The very look of it enthralled me… layer upon layer of thin, buttery crepes stacked high over layers of chocolate ganache and dulce de leche. It was gorgeous. I made it, and it tasted even more decadent than it looked.
For some reason, I haven’t made a crepe cake since. Which is ridiculous, because not only was that particular crepe cake amazing, crepe cakes in general are beautiful, elegant and delicious. I make crepes fairly often… but we mostly just drizzle them with melted butter, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sugar, and eat them for breakfast. Or sometimes we eat them with a smear of Nutella or stuffed with scrambled eggs. Sometimes, we make ice cream sundaes with them. I’ve never been to France (yet!), but I think fresh crepes just might be my favorite part of that corner of the world. (Well, except for French wine.. and, well, French food in general. And the language. And the cafes. And the countryside…. I need to go to France.)
This week, for whatever reason, I was inspired to make another crepe cake.
It’s that time of year when we still have access to an abundance of fresh fruit, so including fresh fruit in my crepe cake was a given. And here in Colorado, for a few weeks in August and September, we are spoiled with the BEST peaches in the world. They are grown in an area we call the Western Slope, an area of the Colorado mountains west of the continental divide, primarily in a town called Palisade. The farmers in Palisade grow an abundance of fresh produce, thanks to a climate that is warm and sunny during the day and cool at night. But, the area is mostly known for peaches.
If you’ve never had a Palisade peach, you haven’t lived. They are incredible – something we look forward to all year. They are incredibly sweet, and so juicy that you have to eat them standing over the kitchen sink. Every year, I buy box after box of them. I make peach pies and peach cobbler and peach ice cream. I mix them into my morning yogurt and add them to fruit salad …. but, mostly, we just eat them plain and unadorned, one right after the other, until we’re too full to take another bite.
So, obviously, if I was going to make a crepe cake this time of year, it was going to include peaches.
This crepe cake is simply layers of crepes, with vanilla pastry cream and fresh Colorado peaches tucked between each one, and then iced with whipped cream. It’s rich and decadent, not cloyingly sweet, and bursting with the flavor of fresh peaches.
If you have access to really good fresh peaches right now (even if they’re not Colorado peaches), I hope you’ll try this recipe as is. However, you could certainly substitute other kinds of fruit for the peaches… any kind of fresh berry would be divine. So would fresh pineapple. Bananas would be great – especially if you drizzled the whole thing with hot fudge. The point is this: If you’ve never made a crepe cake, make one! Cease the day, and all that. If you have made a crepe cake before, it’s time to make another one.
- About 25 crepes (recipe follows)
FOR THE PEACH PASTRY CREAM FILLING:
- 3 tsp unflavored gelatin
- 6 tsp cold water
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups cream
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 12 large egg yolks (Save the whites for Italian Meringue Buttercream or Angle Food Cake)
- 8 tbsp cornstarch
- 4 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 4 large peaches, skinned and diced into chunks that are about the size of a pinto bean
FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING:
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
MAKE THE PASTRY CREAM:
- In a small dish, stir the gelatin and water together to combine. There should be just enough water to moisten the gelatin, creating a thick paste. Set aside.
- Add milk, cream, sugar, salt, egg yolks and cornstarch to a 4-quart or larger heavy bottomed saucepan and whisk vigorously to combine. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, at which point the mixture will have thickened to the point that the whisk will leave tracks as you stir. Remove from the heat and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds longer. Pour into a bowl.
- Break the gelatin into small pieces, dropping them into the hot pastry cream. Whisk until the gelatin is completely incorporated, about 20 seconds. Whisk in vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap over the surface of the pastry cream, and punch a few holes in the surface of the wrap with a sharp knife. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
- Using an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream until medium peaks form. Add the cooled pastry cream and beat into the whipped cream on medium speed until fully incorporated and smooth. *(If not using it right away, cover and refrigerate pastry cream for up to 2 days.)
- Gently fold in the diced peaches right before assembling the cake.
ASSEMBLE THE CREPE CAKE:
- To assemble the crepe cake, simply layer the crepes with thin layers of the pastry cream filling, staking the layers as high as you dare. If you want a tall cake, but the lower layers seem to be slipping around a bit, cover the cake and put it in the refrigerator for abut an hour before continuing to stack. Once the cake is completely assembled, cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
FROST THE CAKE:
- With an electric mixer, beat the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until medium-firm peaks form. Be careful not to beat the cream into butter, but you want it to be stiff enough to be able to ice the cake without it dripping down the sides of the crepe cake.
- With a sharp, serrated knife, trim around the edges of the crepe cake to create straight sides all around. Frost the cake with the whipped cream, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top of the cake with a few sliced peaches, if you desire, right before serving.
- 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp granulated sugar
- 8 large eggs
- 2 sticks butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- 5 cups whole milk
- In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar with a wire whisk until combined.
- Add the eggs to the flour mixture and mix to form a paste.
- Add the milk and butter slowly in two additions: Add half the milk slowly, whisking constantly to prevent large lumps from forming. Then add the butter slowly, whisking constantly. Then whisk in the rest of the milk.
- Pour the crepe batter into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
*The batter will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To cook the crepes, heat a teaspoon or two of butter in a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. (I like to use clarified butter because it won’t burn, but regular butter works too. Just wipe the skillet with a paper towel in between crepes to remove butter that is starting to brown.)
- Pour in 1/2 cup of crepe batter into the center of the pan. The batter will spread out into a disk.
- Cook the crepe until the bottom is golden brown and the batter looks semi-set, about 1½ minutes. Lift the edges of the crepe with a spatula and flip. Cook until the other side is a light golden brown and flip out onto a plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter.
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