May 27

Daring Baker’s Croquembouche (Piece Montée)

in Daring Bakers, Dessert, French, Recipes By Region, Recipes by Type

It has been a bit of a crazy month and I seriously thought I was not going to get the Daring Baker’s Challenge done.  But after craving cream puffs, and making them to go with my gold kiwi cream, I decided to go full steam ahead and do the challenge.  The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.  A piece montée/croquembouche is a French cake that is made up of cream puffs assembled into a tall cone shape.  The cream puffs are filled with pastry cream, then dipped in caramel or chocolate.  Piece montée means “mounted piece” in French and croquembouche comes from the French words croque en bouche which means “crunch in the mouth,” referring to the crackly crunch of the caramel that the cream puffs are dipped in.  When I lived in Paris I loved stopping to stare at the elaborate croquembouche that were sometimes displayed in the bakery windows.  They would be covered in spun sugar, chocololate, ribbon, etc.  Oftentimes I’d see them made out of macarons.  I had never made my own though, until this challenge.


The only part of this challenge that takes a bit of time is making the pastry cream.  As I explained in my cream puff post, making the cream puffs is quick and easy.  Once your cream puffs and pastry cream are done, all you do is fill a pastry bag with the pastry cream, and a fit it with a tip with a narrow circular opening.  Then you use the tip to poke a hole in a cream puff and pipe the puff full of pastry cream!

Croquembouche made with pastry cream filled cream puffs

Making the caramel only takes a few minutes, and then you dip each filled cream puff in the caramel and set them on a parchment lined baking sheet  to harden, and then you assemble your cake by dipping the bottom of a cream puff in a bit of the caramel and place it where you want it to go.  I started out by making a ring of cream puffs on a cake board, and then just circling up and slowly narrowing the circle.  I like to make caramel a bit differently than the recipe given to us.  I used the Daring Baker’s recipe, and after struggling to keep the caramel at temperature long enough to dip more than a few cream puffs, I remade my caramel using the method that I love.

Cream puffs dipped in caramel

The girls were having a bit of a rough day when I assembled my croquembouche.  As you can see, little cream puffs filled with pastry cream put almost instant smiles on crabby faces!

Croquembouche makes Squirrel happy

I made sure to save a few cream puffs without caramel so that Bug could enjoy them too.  She was fascinated to discover that the little puffs were filled with something.

Bug discovers the pastry cream filling

The moral of this challenge is that if I can whip up a croquembouche within a matter of a few hours, albeit imperfect, there is no excuse why you shouldn’t be able to make one too!

Aerial view of croquembouche

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe

Croquembouche (Piece Montée)

If you’d like to see the recipes given to the Daring Bakers, see this Piece Montée Recipe

My favorite cream puff recipe: Fuji Cream PuffsCream puffs can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.

My favorite pastry cream recipe: Tartelette’s “custard”— The pastry cream can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.


1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1. Fill a large bowl or pot with ice water.

2. Mix the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a medium-size saucepan with a metal spoon and then set the saucepan over medium-heat for about 5 minutes until all of the sugar has melted–do not stir.  Do not worry if there are lots of bubbles.  This is normal.

3. Turn the heat up to high heat and swirl the pan so that the sugar caramelizes evenly, and cook until the caramel is a rich amber color.

4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and place it immediately in the ice water bath for about 2 seconds (it will hiss) and then remove it.  Use the caramel immediately.  If it starts to harden before you have finished using it, gently reheat in the saucepan until it is warm.

*Note: If your caramel hardens at the bottom of your saucepan, don’t worry, you have not ruined your favorite saucepan!  To clean it, simply add some water to the pan and place it over low heat until the caramel dissolves.

Make the croquembouche:

1. Make the pastry cream.

2. Make the cream puffs.

3. When you are ready to assemble the croquembouche, fill your cream puffs: Transfer the pastry cream to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip. Insert the tip of the pastry bag into the base of each puff and fill.  The cream puffs can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your caramel.

4. Make the caramel.

5. Assemble the croquembouche: Dip the top half of each filled cream puff into caramel (be careful not to burn your fingers), letting the excess drip back into the saucepan and then set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let the cream puffs sit until the caramel is set. Carefully dip the bottom half of 1 cream puff into the caramel, letting the excess drip into the saucepan. Transfer the cream puff, hot caramel side down, to a cake board/serving platter. Repeat with more cream puffs, forming a connected ring as you work. Then repeat with more cream puffs, layering rings to form a cone. (If the caramel begins to harden, reheat briefly over low heat.) Serve the croquembouche immediately, or let it stand at room temperature for up to 2 hours.

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula - bell'alimento May 27, 2010 at 11:00 am

You are seriously a rawkstar! These are STUNNING! STUNNING! I think I just might take my pics down after seeing your gaw-geous ones and point them to yours : ) Thanks again for saving the day with your ah-mazing caramel recipe! Mwah!


Ericka May 27, 2010 at 11:03 am

What an inspiring post! I am tempted to chuck my irish surprise cupcakes for Memorial Day and make this lovely instead. Amazing and you make it seem so accessible.


Maria May 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

These would bring a big smile to my face too! Great job!


s'mee May 27, 2010 at 11:07 am


(dang it! now I am craving some cream puffs!)


jenjenk May 27, 2010 at 11:08 am

ARGH! overachiever!!! you piece montee looks FABULOUS!!!! and you don’t have a BIT of cream showing!! i want to know why YOUR puffs looks so perfect!!!! beautiful job and thanks again for helping me with the caramel!!!


Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite May 27, 2010 at 11:28 am

Like Paula, I might just take down my whole post and send them in this direction! Wow. You outdid yourself here. I feel ashamed that I didn’t get it together to make the proper challenge :-( You have two little ones and you still managed it!


Chez Us May 27, 2010 at 11:30 am

I loved that you made this!! I have always wanted to make one. If I was ever to get married that is what I would have instead of a cake! I had to sit this challenge out as L would have killed me if I had a tower of cream & puff around the house for two of us! The girls really enjoyed yours!!


maybelles mom May 27, 2010 at 11:31 am

i do agree–it took very little time (or less than expected.) ANd, we had very similar happy customers at our house.


Steve May 27, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Looks like it was a hit around your house.


ThatsSoYummy May 27, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Your little ones are just too cute! Your Croquembouche looks fantastic! Could really eat one right now… mmmmmmm!



Saskia May 27, 2010 at 3:16 pm

The girls’ faces are so sweet! I’m sure it was all worth it just to see how happy this made them! I’m impressed by your very spherical cream puffs too. Ours came out quite lopsided…


Lauren May 27, 2010 at 4:05 pm

It’s beautiful Rachael! I love the colour of your caramel. I need to learn how to make that one day :). Squirrel and Bug are just precious – tell them Auntie Lauren says hi!


Sinful Southern Sweets May 27, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Great job! Love your little sous chefs! too cute


bunkycooks May 27, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Very nice presentation! I wish I had little ones around to help eat all of the sweets! ;)


marla {family fresh cooking} May 27, 2010 at 6:42 pm

What a beautiful and very tempting job you did with these croquembouche cream puffs, gorgeous with the glaze :) xo


Belinda @zomppa May 27, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Yours are so sweet and those faces say it all!


Meeta May 28, 2010 at 1:41 am

kids love this one! mine was all over it. a lovely presentation! well done!


Kayte May 28, 2010 at 5:26 am

So very cute…and the croques look great, too!


Nicole Feliciano May 28, 2010 at 6:45 am

What fun! I know my girls would love this. It would be great if you’d link up to my Friday Recipe exchange here:

That way I’ll have a easy way to find it when I’m ready.


Jenny Flake May 28, 2010 at 7:11 am

Picking my jaw off the floor…..this is the prettiest dessert I’ve seen….ever!! Well done girl! Have a great holiday weekend!


Jennie May 28, 2010 at 10:41 am

We’d be dangerous if we lived close to each other. And I would’ve eaten the whole tower before you had a chance to snap a shot.


Fuji Mama (Rachael) May 28, 2010 at 11:17 am

@Jennie, Wouldn’t we? But we would have so much fun! I’d love to spend a day in the kitchen with you sometime.


Maggy May 28, 2010 at 11:30 am

That is absolutely gorgeous! And what a beautiful photo. I just want to reach into the screen and grab a puff!


Jen @ How To: Simplify May 28, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Wow, you did a great job on this challenge! Your taste tester is such a cutie pie!


Daydreamer Desserts May 28, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Just stunning!! I’m with Paula on this one, I think I need to very quietly without no one noticing go back and pull my pictures down, then go hide in the corner facing the wall and give myself a time-out. LOL


Laura May 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Beautiful! Just perfect looking cream puffs. Nicely done.


Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction May 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Lovely! Your puffs turned out perfectly… I will be trying your recipe next time around since I had a few difficulties with the DB recipe.


Cookin' Canuck May 28, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Fantastic job on this, Rachael! Dipping these beautiful cream puffs in caramel is inspired. It looks as though your girls thought so, too.


Emily May 28, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Beautiful! I’ve been wanting to make one of these for quite a long time. Thanks for the inspiration!


Tracy May 31, 2010 at 10:03 am

Your croquembouche came out beautifully!!


sara May 31, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Mmmmm, fantastic! I love the look of this…totally beautiful and it looks delicious!


Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) June 1, 2010 at 7:37 am

Absolutely stunning pictures. Are those alternate recipes you’ve given better than the DB ones?


Alta June 1, 2010 at 8:53 am

Looks so great! And I love the photos of your daughters.


ivoryhut June 1, 2010 at 8:57 am

Okay, I may not be able to pronounce it, but I’m sure I’d have no problem demolishing it and stuffing it in my tummy. Gorgeous photos! I’m getting hungry now.


ana June 1, 2010 at 9:50 am

Wow. Looks delicious…:)
I just found your blog and it’s wonderful…


p.s. Does the half and half in recipe for the custard means one part milk to one part cream?


Justina June 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm

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I’m hoping to view the same high-grade content by you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my very own website now ;)


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