{Baking} CROQUEMBOUCHE with the Daring Bakers … time for ‘crunch in the mouth’!

“The smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us….”

Marcel Proust

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.

This month’s challenge recipe is for a Piece Montée, which means literally “mounted piece”, also known by another name – Croquembouche, or literally, “crunch in the mouth”. The piece montée is the traditional wedding cake in France, and are often served at baptisms and communions as well. The classic piece montée is a high pyramid/cone made of profiteroles {cream-filled puff pastries} sometimes dipped in chocolate, bound with caramel, and usually decorated with threads of caramel, sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons. 
This recipe has 3 main components: the pate a choux, the crème patissiere, and the glaze used to mount/decorate it. While you can purchase or make a cardboard conical structure to build your piece montée or use toothpicks as an aid, it is relatively easy to assemble it using just the baked pate a choux as the main building blocks and the glaze as the glue. {The latter is what I did}.

Those who know me and my love for coffee would probably guess that my pastry cream had to be coffee. There was no way I was going to miss this challenge. I needed the push to make profiteroles for the second time in my life, the first being when I was in  school 25 years ago. Then, it was the best thing we did in our summer vactions, and for once that memory remained alive in my mind all these years! I was SO EXCITED!!

Vanilla beans have helped rid me of any fear of eggy smells in baking, and especially in pastry creams. The coffee pastry cream was absolutely delicious. I made it the previous day, and planned to make the choux the next day. Fate had other plans for me, and I messed up on the choux whereby I added the flour in the beginning. UGH! By the time I began the recipe all over again, and the choux baked, it was almost time to get the kids home. The choux this time were trouble free and behaved most beautifully.  I boxed the puffs overnight, refreshed them in a hot oven the next morning, and I was ready to roll! What a fabulous recipe! I don’t see myself using any other in the future.

Gosh, FUN was the word. I enjoyed injecting the puffs with the pastry cream. A wonderful experience to feel them fill up and become heavy in seconds. Putting together the ‘tower’ was a bit  of a challenge, and pretty much breathless. With the weather HOT at 44C+ temperatures, and the pastry cream melting, the assembly was very rushed. I dunked the bottoms of the profiteroles into melted chocolate, built up my croquembouche at break-neck speed, and bunged it into the fridge. With time on hand, I did some caramel too from this link I found on Nic’s post on Cherrapeno. I have a long way to master the sugar spinning art, and would love to attempt it again soon. My curls didn’t come out as beautifully as Nic’s, but the caramel was good enough to present the customary crunch in the mouth to the Piece Montée.

This was a beautiful dessert to serve, and was highly appreciated at home. It served up luxury in every bite, and the flavours were absolutely sensational. Thank you Cat for hosting such a wonderful challenge. We LOVED it. Well picked indeed!! Thank you as always Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice for hosting this fab kitchen!!

Based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri {Minimally adapted}

For the Coffee Crème Patissiere
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup low fat cream
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
2 tbsp cornstarch
6 tbsp vanilla sugar
3 small eggs
3/4 tsp instant coffee
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk, cream, vanilla bean and cream with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil. Remove from heat.
Beat the eggs into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
Continue whisking {this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook} until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla.
Pate a Choux

Yield: About 28
¾ cup water
6 Tbsp/85g unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
Egg Wash
1 egg white


Pre-heat oven to 220C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.
As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip. Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
Brush tops with egg wash {I did an egg white wash}.
Bake the choux at 220C until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.
Lower the temperature to 180C and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.
{Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.}
When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.
Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)
Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.
Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert.Take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.
Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze, and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.
When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate.
Have fun and enjoy! Bon appétit!
♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥
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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India
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About me: I am a freelance food writer, recipe developer and photographer. Food is my passion - baking, cooking, developing recipes, making recipes healthier, using fresh seasonal produce and local products, keeping a check on my carbon footprint and being a responsible foodie! I enjoy food styling, food photography, recipe development and product reviews. I express this through my food photographs which I style and the recipes I blog. My strength lies in 'Doing Food From Scratch'; it must taste as good as it looks, and be healthy too. Baking in India, often my biggest challenge is the non-availability of baking ingredients, and this has now become a platform to get creative on. I enjoy cooking immensely as well.


  1. bunkycooks says:

    This is perfect! What a beautiful dessert! I tried this in the mountains and ended up with rocks for pastries…oh, well, your beauty makes up for my disaster!

  2. justforlicks says:

    Your piece montee looks elegant and delicious! Love the spun sugar.

  3. Magic of Spice says:


  4. chef_d says:

    Wow…that's a gorgeous croquembouche! Excellent job–and coffee pastry cream sounds so good! Yummy!

  5. Amanda says:

    This is beautiful – particularly the toffee "headpiece"! Your puffs look perfect.

  6. Julie @ Willow Bird Baking says:

    Just gorgeous!!

  7. Barbara Bakes says:

    It looks like a tower of deliciousness! I wish I had done a chocolate glaze.

  8. Cakelaw says:

    Chocolate and caramel glaze – I love it!

  9. ok, yours looks so FANTASTIC! i'm embarrassed to post mine up!!

  10. Renata says:

    Perfect puffs, delicious coffee filling and amazing decoration… very elegant Pièce Montée!

  11. Zareena says:

    Wow….i'm speechlesss…..

  12. Karen @ Citrus and Candy says:

    Both chocolate and caramel on profiteroles? I like the way you think 😀

  13. The Cooking Ninja says:

    That's a beautiful piece you made there. :) Good job done.

  14. MeetaK says:

    absolutely awesome looking. i am procrastinating and will be filling them today lol! yours deeba looks amazing!

  15. Ellie (Almost Bourdain) says:

    WOW – sensational! Beautifully made and photographed.

  16. Twinsy Rachel says:

    Gorgeous n well clicked, as usual :) so true about vanilla bean getting rid of eggy smell… I have a marble cake looking for takers before hitting garbage bin coz of eggy smell though I hate to waste :( The caramel curls r enticing

  17. natalia says:

    Wow ! I love it ! And as I still have to assemble it I might copy your way caramel only as a finish !

  18. Heather says:

    Beautiful Deeba. I wish I had attempted the caramel sugar but was a bit nervous about burnt fingers! It looks amazing.

  19. ap269 says:

    Very elegant, as always. I LOVE your pictures!

  20. penny aka jeroxie says:

    Totally speechless! That is a work of edible art.

  21. stunning presentation, amazing pictures and absolutely delicious looking food.
    love it.

  22. Foodessa says:

    Over a very short period of time I have been following your impeccable talent.
    I can truly say…you have given this recipe masterpiece qualities.
    Congrats and flavourful wishes,

  23. Emma @CakeMistress says:

    Lovely! When I finally get the chance to bake this, it'll definitely be with coffee creme. Now you've got me dreaming about it!

  24. Juls @ Juls'Kitchen says:

    Perfect, amazing! a real piece montée! Love the final masterpiece!

  25. Yasmeen says:

    mmmmm..I love the luscious chocolate glaze 😀

  26. Looks gorgeous Deeba! I like your caramel "Art" very mod! I am using a mocha cream patisserie, but I'm struggling with my choux. Posting tonight…..

  27. Julie M. says:

    Your turned out amazing! I definitely need to go back and watch the video on spun sugar. I didn't get to into that this time, but I'd definitely like to try it the next time. Good work!

  28. Barbara says:

    It's always such fun to see the Daring Bakers take on the same recipe. I made the original years ago and everyone loved it. Your chocolate version is tempting!

  29. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    Deeba this has to be the most perfect croquembouche! :O Are you sure you haven't been living a double life as a pastry chef? 😉

  30. shelley c. says:

    Wow – everything turned out absolutely beautifully. Your puffs were so perfectly shaped and puffed, your cream sounds divine, and the finished piece is a true work of art!!

  31. Pavithra says:

    Wonder piece montee..looks gorgeous with chocolate and spun sugar work is great… yummm. Even I filled with coffee too.. I simply love it.


  32. Becca says:

    This looks great! I wanted to try the coffee version but just didnt get to.

  33. Wow Deeba, I knew that you were having a good time making this challenge. Your croquembouche look so gorgeous. Very neat.

  34. Natalie... says:

    Wow what a gorgeous dessert!! Yours is amazing! I bet the coffee pastry cream with the chocolate glaze was delicious!

  35. sasasunakku says:

    ZOMG…Just, OMG…

  36. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite says:

    It's awesome Deeba! Love your interpretation! I took quite a few liberties with this month's challenge for a number of reasons… but I was so happy my choux pastry came out!!! Am inspired by all the lovely creations I am seeing and will attempt the whole thing soon!

  37. Poires au Chocolat says:

    That looks divine! Coffee pastry cream sounds like a wonderful idea.

  38. Asha @ FSK says:

    ooh mama! Yummy looking.. love how the chocolate drips down the whole piece!!

  39. The coffee cream sounds fantastic! This is quickly moving up my list of things I want to make.

  40. Gloria says:

    Oh my God ! Deeba this is absolutely beauty, all of you Rosa, Happy Cook, you (I dont seen all..) made beauties, you are a maste. Georgeous pictures and lovely as always, huggs, xoxoxoxo gloria

  41. Happy Cook says:

    Looks so beautiful i love the coffee taste, now i feel bad i didn't use the coffee well that is for another time then.

  42. pragmaticattic says:

    Stunning work, as always. I love the use of both chocolate and caramel.

  43. shayma says:

    Deeba, I have so much admiration for you- you have no idea. An amazing cook/pastry chef, a loving mother, wife- and a great friend. i cant wait to cross the border to come and visit you. x shayma

  44. Swathi says:

    Looks really awesome deeba.

  45. Patricia says:

    Just beautiful and so delicious looking, I wish I could eat the whole pyramid right now…great photos as ever!! Thanks! Patricia

  46. My o my… luxury at it's best indeed… so very well done, Deeba, amazing.

  47. bcswerit says:

    ahh I knew that would be a winning combination! I will be doing that next time! congratulations on a beautiful challenge

  48. Sinful Southern Sweets says:

    Beautiful Job!!

  49. maybelle's mom says:

    I totally agree that it was so satisfying to feel them fill up. You never cease to amaze.

  50. Betty says:

    what an amazing piece of food art well done xxx

  51. Sue Sparks says:

    Your croquembouche looks like a museum piece! Gorgeous! I love the overhead shot!
    Thank you for your kind comments on my blog regarding my "beehive" and my munchkins(grandchildren)! :)

  52. tease-spoon of sugar says:

    Your photos are outstanding! What a beautiful job you did- stunning!

  53. Simply superb!!! Don't have words to justify the piece of art!!!!

  54. Simply superb!!! Don't have words to justify the piece of art!!!!

  55. All Our Fingers in the Pie says:

    This is so beautiful! Great job. Love all the chocolate.

  56. Aparna says:

    Your chocolate drppied choux tower looks very pretty. Good to know they weren't "eggy"! :)

  57. Your tower looks wonderful. I do this once a year on New's Years Eve. It is a labor of love for me. My family loves it and despite the work I just can't say no. You did a great job with the challenge. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  58. This is absolutely amazing, Deeba~ Your photos are so beautiful and exquisite!!

  59. Junglefrog says:

    You've done a great job making this, especially considering the hot weather you are having! I would struggle in our current climate, let alone do this in very hot weather… I would be covered in chocolate.. Haha.. Looks gorgeous!

  60. Meetu says:

    The presentation is absolutely stunning and i am sure would have tasted awesome too. The caramelized sugar threads look divine.

  61. Jamie says:

    Oh, as usual the prettiest of all! No, the pastry queen is sitting right here at Passionate About Baking! Gorgeous Deeba, just gorgeous. And your sugar is stunning so no complaining! I want you to cater my next party….

  62. ParisBreakfasts says:

    THIS is magnifique!
    Thanks for stopping by.
    Food glorious food :)

  63. Sinful Southern Sweets says:

    Just beautiful! I'm definitely going to use chocolate next time!

  64. Baking Addict says:

    What a beautiful work of art! Love your spun sugar decoration. Coffee cream sounds delicious. Great job!

  65. Renata says:

    Deeba, thank you for your lovely comment on my post. It's an honor to have someone like you say such nice things about my work. I admire you and your amazing blog. Everything that you post is absolutely beautiful and elegant. Thank you very much!

  66. Muneeba says:

    Deeba, your photos rock my world! Like this wasn't a pretty darn gorgeous dessert to begin with … u just take it over the top with that chocolate and whimsical sugar sculpture on top!

  67. Nicisme says:

    OMG, that is a work of art! I LOVE it Deeba! And your sugar work is gorgeous too.

  68. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    An awesome pièce montée! I love the decoration on the top. Great job!



  69. Marcellina says:

    Wow, Deeba, chocolate and caramel how delicious. I must try this next time because I know there will be a next time. Beautiful croquembouche!

  70. Cherine says:

    Beautiful. Great job!

  71. so very pretty!!

  72. tasteofbeirut says:

    Your creation is absolutely stunning! I share your love for coffee and I wont get an eclair unless it is filled with coffee pastry cream! You had a stroke a genius to add the chocolate glaze prior to gluing them with the caramel, as it is not traditional. Bravo Deeba you outdid yourself!

  73. Cristina says:

    OMG! Your croquembouche turned out beautiful and you got such height on it. You did both chocolate and caramel/sugar. I had such a hard time with the caramel. Lovely presentation and photography.

  74. culinography says:

    Beautiful as always, Deeba! Love, love, love the final presentation!

  75. sweetakery says:

    Wow looks gorgeous dessert!! and i bet tastes amazing!!

  76. crumbsoflove says:

    Very impressive- especially in 44 degree heat! I'm jealous- it's been snowing here in Calgary fro the past 2 days!!!

  77. This is just brilliant Deebs!! I wish i had found the time to make it but just couldnt! This is simply superb!

  78. Ciao Chow Linda says:

    You created a masterpiece and that little curly caramel coil on top is just the cutest thing.

  79. Thank you for visiting my blog : ) I love yours.

    This dessert is gorgeous. I think this is a much better option for a wedding cake, better than the frosted, towering, American ones.

  80. Lisa Michelle says:

    Deeba…after seeing your croquembouche a few weeks back in the DK forum, I was inspired to get something even close to that beautiful. I didn't..but it's fun to look at yours again :) I don
    t like coffee, but I would devour those chocolate covered, coffee pastry filled puffs in a heartbeat! Beautifully done as always!!!

  81. Peter M says:

    Ooh La La to your tres chic Croquembouche! No doubt in my mind that you would pull this challenge off.

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