Well it’s already that time of year, and as per usual it snuck up on me….again. Since catering is my full-time job, this time of year always goes by way too quickly because of the ridiculous amount of holiday parties we cater at work. This year was a little strange because all of our clients packed their parties into a 2 week period. Since Thanksgiving was early this year, the weekend of December 1st was just too early I guess for people to start thinking about spreading their Holiday cheer. So the last couple weeks were hectic, with everyone wanting their event on the same days. I think one day we had food for 5 parties all leaving between Noon and 4pm. With a couple 14 hour days under my belt, cooking at home was sporadic at best. I love to bake holiday cookies and desserts though, and tried to take advantage of the little time I had (this of course was between holiday shopping, wrapping, nursery decorating, etc.).
I did find time to tackle a new recipe just in time for Christmas eve, and that was a Grand Marnier and Caramel Crepe Cake! I have never actually had a crepe cake before, but I had seen a lot of beautiful photos recently on Pinterest. I wanted to try making it myself to see if the flavor of the cake lived up to the photos. Also, crepes for me are a no brainer. I have always loved crepes, and make them at home at least once a month, so I knew that I could bust out this cake pretty quickly while hopefully impressing my friends and family.
When making a crepe cake, the options are pretty much endless. Basically you just layer a ton of crepes (usually upwards of 20) with different flavored creams, and then let the cake set. Since it is winter, and citrus is just coming into season, I knew I wanted to use Mandarins. And since it is the holidays, I also knew I wanted to use liquor…so Grand Marnier it was! Even though I didn’t want the cake to be overly sweet, I thought caramel would balance nicely with the orange (plus I had been craving the orange/caramel combo and don’t get in the way of a pregnant woman and her cravings).
After looking at a couple of recipes online, I was worried that just using flavored whipped cream may make the cake too soft and not possible to slice. So, why not add some more fat to thicken it up, it’s the holidays right? So I added some mascarpone cheese to the cream. Pretty soon my cake was starting to look very similar to a delicious mille feuille pastry I had in Rome last year (mille feuille is french in origin but is essentially “1000″ layers of pastry and custard, and it’s delicious!). The cake did take a little more time than I had anticipated, but after an hour it was finished and it looked gorgeous. The only test left was to let it chill in the fridge for 4 hours and then see if it could be sliced without falling apart. Well it sliced just fine, and the flavor lived up to its hype – it tasted just as good as the photos! The only change I may make in the future is cutting it into more slices. I made a 10″ cake and cut it into 12 servings. Since the cake ended up being 17 layers, one slice was very filling and was almost too much to eat at one sitting. The cake was a hit though and the perfect ending to Christmas Eve. Next year I think I’ll make it again, but maybe make chocolate crepes!
Thankfully the parties at work have finally slowed down this past week, and I have 5 whole days to relax and enjoy the holiday. The two things on the top of my Christmas List this year were the new Bouchon Bakery Cookbook (if you have read my blog you know how much I love Bouchon baked goods) and the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Even though I barely find time to cook in my own kitchen, I love looking through the beautiful photos from other people’s kitchens and getting ideas for new recipes to try at work and at home. Thanks to my husband, I found both books under my tree. I haven’t had a chance yet to fully peruse them, but as I was thumbing through the Bouchon book, I saw a recipe for a Crepe Cake with orange pastry cream! It’s not very different from the one I made, but the top of the cake is covered in sugar and then bruleed with a torch. I will definitely have to try that.
With the rest of the time I have off, I think I will try to lay low. But with just 9 weeks until baby girl is set to arrive (that’s right, did I mention it’s a girl!?), who am I kidding. My “to-do” list is endless. Don’t worry though, I’ll keep up my energy by eating christmas cookies. Those 300 extra calories a day I’m allowed to consume has really come in handy this holiday season!
<< Previous Post – Halloween Apple Cider
Grand Marnier & Caramel Crepe Cake
Makes 1 cake – 12-16 Servings
3 cups Flour
2 cups Milk
1 1/2 tsp Salt
3 TBSP Sugar
2 cups cold Water
1 TBSP Vegetable Oil
6 TBSP Butter – melted
1 TBSP Vanilla (or Grand Marnier)
3 cups Heavy Cream
16 oz Mascarpone Cheese – room temperature
1 cup Powdered Sugar
zest of 1 Orange or 2 Mandarins
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1/4 cup Caramel
1/2 cup Sliced Almonds – toasted
1/4 cup Caramel
12-16 segments from Mandarin Oranges (about 2 mandarins)
- Begin by making the crepes. Whisk together the flour, melted butter, eggs, salt, salt, sugar, vanilla, and 1 cup of the milk. You want this mixture to be smooth and a little sticky. Next whisk in the remaining milk, water, and oil. Heat a 10″ non-stick skillet or crepe pan on the stove over medium heat. When the pan is hot, ladle about 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan while swirling the pan to get a nice thin, even coat of the batter. After about 30 seconds the crepe should like quite dry. Use a rubber spatula to loosen the crepe from the edges, and then use your fingers to flip the crepe. Cook another 15 seconds or so. Remove the crepe from the pan and place it on a cooling rack. Continue this process of making crepes until all the batter is used. You should have about 20 total crepes when you are done.
- Make the Mascarpone Cream. Whisk the Whipping cream to stiff peaks. Add the powdered sugar and mix until just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold the mascarpone cheese into the cream in two batches. Then divide the Mascarpone evenly into 2 bowls. One bowl will be for Grand Marnier Mascarpone Cream, and the other will be for Caramel Mascarpone Cream. To make the Orange Mascarpone Cream, fold in the zest from the oranges and the Grand Marnier – set aside. For the Caramel Mascarpone Cream, fold in 1/4 cup caramel – set aside.
- Assemble the crepe cake. I built the crepe cake directly on to my cake plate. Once built, I don’t think it would be very easy to transfer the cake to a platter unless you were building it on a cardboard cake round, so I recommend building it on your serving plate. Start with a single crepe. Place a 1/4 cup of the Grand Marnier Cream in the center and then use a small spatula (I used a baking offset spatula) to spread it evenly over the crepe. Leave about a 1/4″ at the end of the crepe uncovered. Once evenly spread, layer your next crepe on top. Press gently to get a nice smooth seal. Repeat this step with this next layer, but this time use a 1/4 cup of the Caramel Cream. Alternate each layer with the Mascarpone cream until all crepes or cream are used. My crepe cake ended up using 17 crepes. Once the final crepe is placed on top, spread one more thin layer of Mascarpone cream and then garnish the cake with drizzled caramel, toasted almonds and mandarin orange segments (I wanted my cake to have 12 slices, so I used 12 orange segments). Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving so it can set. When serving, you may want to remove the cake from the fridge a half-hour before so it’s not quite so cold. You can make the cake a day before serving and leave it in the fridge overnight.