Monday, November 14, 2011

towering heights: Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake

 My husband celebrated his 29th birthday recently, and I knew that I had to do something special.
You know, to take the attention away from him. 
It wasn't long after I began browsing the food universe (i.e. Google. Wait, people use Google for things other than looking up recipes? Sounds dumb.) that I stumbled upon this masterpiece of a complicated, show-stopping recipe from Martha Stewart. All I had to do was type in two words that I knew my husband would appreciate: Crepe Cake.
 Now, If you are looking through the recipe and thinking to yourself, I don't love anyone enough to make them such a difficult and ridiculous monstrosity of a cake!! 
I would simply say to you, You are probably right. This thing is nuts. 
However, I do not regret a minute I spent on it. It was fun, it was beautiful and I stole all of the attention at my husband's party back from him! Worth it.
I really am trying to have enough faith in you, dear reader, to assume that you know I am joking about the attention-grubbing. My husband's big day was wonderful and all about him: How smart he was in choosing a mate did come up once or twice, but, you guys, it's really no big deal.
The real story with this cake is that it is meant to be made and assembled the day before. 
Those are my personal magic-party-recipe words. 
On party day the last thing you want to worry about is a falling cake in the oven or a forgotten ingredient (Eggs. It's always eggs.) from the store when you are already stressed about keeping the house picked up and keeping your eyeliner from smearing when you are blasted in the face by steam when you go to check on said falling cake because you aren't paying attention to where your face is positioned in relation to the hot oven because all of your attention is focused on your eighteen-month-old daughter who loves to try to get the knives out of the dishwasher when your back is turned.
 That hasn't happened to me, of course. I'm just giving an example from this super pathetic friend of mine.
You know how ogres have layers? Like onions, or, to a lesser extent, parfaits? 
Well, this cake is like an ogre. 
Let me break it down for you: 
Chocolate crepes, hazelnut cream and chocolate ganache. Ooh, and don't forget the candied hazelnuts on top, made by dipping skewered hazelnuts in candied sugar and letting them hang off of your counter top so they form gorgeous and towering sugar umm pokey things? 
Whatever, they're pretty.
Anyway, this cake has a million (yes, I counted) layers AND impressive height. Those two things together always result in Ooohs and Aaahs when presented to a crowd. The let-down always comes afterward if the taste of the cake doesn't quite measure up to its impressive looks. 
This cake was not disappointing on any level.
Okay, enough blabbing. Here's the recipe. Try this cake. You'll just love it. 

Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake

Recipe by Martha Stewart (with some slight clarifications from yours truly)


  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus melted for pan
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I use chips)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk, room temperature
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
 Hazelnut Filling: 
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened (make sure they are completely softened!!)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup hazelnut cream (there is a big debate about exactly what this is in the reviews for this recipe at Is it Nutella? Is it extract? Is is a specialty store item? No. It's hazelnut flavored coffee cream. You can find it at any grocery store.)
  • Pinch of salt

Chocolate Glaze: 

  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I use chips)

Candied Hazelnuts:

  • 9 hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
  • 1 cup sugar  
To make the crepes:  

  • Bring 1/4 cup water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking to combine after each addition. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate until completely melted. Set aside.
  • Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla in another medium bowl. Gradually add milk mixture to flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Add chocolate-butter mixture, whisking until smooth. Pour through a fine sieve into an airtight container; discard lumps. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  • Lightly coat an 8-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet with melted butter. Heat over medium heat until just starting to smoke. Remove pan from heat; pour about 2 tablespoons batter into pan, swirling to cover bottom. Reduce heat to medium-low; return pan to heat. Cook, flipping once, until edges are golden and center is dry, about 30 seconds per side.
  • Slide crepe onto a plate. Repeat process with remaining batter, coating pan with butter as needed. Crepes can be refrigerated, covered, up to 1 day.
 Then the Hazelnut Filling: 
  • Put cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  • Whisk egg whites and sugar in the clean bowl of mixer set over a pan of simmering water until sugar has dissolved and mixture registers 160 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment; beat on high speed until slightly cooled and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 5 minutes. (Make sure you are at stiff peaks here! Try taking out the beater and turning it upside down. If the point remains upright on the end of your meringue, you are there.)
  • Fit mixer with paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter, several pieces at a time, mixing well after each addition (meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added). Add vanilla, hazelnut cream, and salt; mix until mixture comes together, 3 to 5 minutes. Fold in whipped cream with a rubber spatula. Use immediately.
  • Place a crepe on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Spread with about 3 tablespoons hazelnut filling. Top with another crepe. Continue layering with hazelnut filling and crepes, using about 32 crepes and ending with a crepe on top. (Clean the filling that has oozed out of the sides with a knife.) Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. (I froze mine for about 15 minutes just to make sure it was completely set. You definitely don't want this thing sliding around when you are trying to cover it in chocolate ganache!)
 Now make the Chocolate Glaze:
  • Bring cream, corn syrup, and salt to a boil in a medium-heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; swirl pan to cover completely with cream. Let stand about 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let cool completely.
  • Spoon 1/2 cup glaze on top of the cake, spreading to edges. Spread remaining glaze around sides of cake, coating completely. Refrigerate until glaze is firm and set, about 20 minutes. Cake can be refrigerated up to 3 days (!!!!). Garnish with toasted and candied hazelnuts.
 For the Candied Hazelnuts (make and decorate the cake with them on the day you are serving the cake): 
  • Thread each hazelnut onto tip of a long wooden skewer; set aside. Place a cutting board along the edge of a countertop; set a baking sheet on floor next to edge.
  • Cook sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Continue to cook, without stirring, until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides with a wet brush to prevent crystals from forming. Let boil until syrup turns light amber, about 5 minutes (Watch this closely! Don't let it get too dark or you'll break teeth on your adorable candied nuts.); remove from heat. Let stand until slightly cooled, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Dip 1 skewered hazelnut into syrup, coating completely and letting excess syrup drip back into pan. When dripping syrup becomes a thin string, secure end of skewer under cutting board, letting caramel string drip over edge onto sheet. Repeat with remaining hazelnuts. Let stand until caramel has hardened, about 5 minutes. Break strings to about 4 inches. Carefully remove skewers.
 Bon chance and Bon Appetit!