How to Make a Croquembouche

The ultimate celebration pastry is easier than you think.

I’ll admit that when I decided to tackle croquembouche, I was a little bit nervous. A pile of filled pastries literally glued together with homemade caramel? Delicious yet daunting, right?
 
I’m happy to say I was wrong. A croquembouche is time consuming, but it actually isn’t hard. I broke it down into three parts: pastries, filling and caramel. Then I broke those parts down into steps. I included lots of photos to help you recognize what the dough should look like in various stages. At the end of this process I was so proud of myself. You will be too! This dessert tower is definitely one that will impress your guests. The fact that you can make all of these components happen with very basic kitchen staples is even more impressive!
 
A note about my “tower” of croquembouche: I opted to build mine with a wider base using slightly larger pastries for the ease of showing you how I worked this out. But you can use the same amount of dough and filling, make smaller pastries, and get pretty sky high with your croquembouche if you’d like.

get the genius kitchen app.

Watch on your iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Android, Roku, or Fire TV.

Learn More

PART 1: PASTRY DOUGH

To make the dough for the pastries, you need to bring 2 cups of water, 1 cup of unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon of table salt, and 3 teaspoons of granulated sugar to a boil in a large sauce pan. Add 2 cups of flour all at once and use a sturdy spoon or spatula to stir until it’s all incorporated.
 

Then you’re going to scrape the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on medium and add six eggs, one at a time. You’ll mix each egg until it’s completely incorporated and then turn the mixer off so you can scrape down the sides of the bowl in between each addition.
 

The picture above is after five eggs. Once you’ve added your sixth egg, you want to pay close attention to the texture. You’re looking for smooth, glossy dough that is thick but still slowly falls away from the paddle attachment with ease. Seven eggs ended up being perfect for me, but you may need as many as eight.
 

The dough pictured above is ready to pipe into pastries.
 
Preheat the oven to 425°F and line several baking sheets with a nonstick liner or parchment paper.
 
Scrape the prepared dough into two big pastry bags fitted with large plain tips. Then carefully pipe the dough into big kisses. This is EXACTLY what it sounds like! Squeeze the pastry bag firmly to create the wider bottom and then ease the pressure as you pull up. You’ll have trays of dough that look like Hershey’s kisses but larger.)
 
Whisk together 2 eggs and 3 teaspoons of water and then brush the top of each dough kiss to knock down the points. Bake for 15 minutes at 425°F. Then reduce the heat to 375°F and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes. Check them at 15! The pastries will be puffed up and golden brown on top. Let them cool on the baking sheet and get ready to move to part two!
 

Advertisement

PART 2: PASTRY CREAM

Heat 4 cups of milk and 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Carefully bring it to a boil. Milk has a tendency to want to boil over so watch it closely.
 
In a medium or large bowl, whisk together 12 egg yolks and 1 1/3 cup of granulated sugar. Then stir in 1/2 cup of cornstarch until smooth. Remove the milk from the heat and gradually add it to the egg/sugar mixture.
 

TIP
This is called tempering the eggs. You’ll see this technique used in puddings and ice creams. You are basically raising the egg temperature very slowly so that it cooks but doesn’t scramble.

Drizzle the hot liquid in 1/2 cup at a time, whisking as you pour. Pour the liquid (that now includes milk, vanilla, eggs, sugar and cornstarch) back into the saucepan. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until it’s thick and very slowly boiling. (Be careful — this liquid will want to spit!).
 
Let the filling cool and then cover with plastic wrap. Ensure the wrap is touching the top of the filling as this will prevent a skin from forming.
 
You have to let the filling chill for at least 2 hours.
 

After the filling has chilled, fill another pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (shown). Use the tip to poke a hole in the bottom of each pastry and fill.
 

Now you have a big pile of filled pastries. Try hard not to eat them because it’s time for part three!
 

PART 3: THE CARAMEL

I’ve made an awful lot of homemade caramel. This homemade caramel is the prettiest amber color and consistency, and it cools into this crisp, caramel candy that crunches — which is why a croquembouche is called a croquembouche!
 
“Croquembouche” means “crunch in the mouth” in French.
 
To make my new favorite caramel, you will need 2 1/2 cups of sugar and 2/3 cup of water. Pour both into a small saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil, then drop the heat to medium high. Watch it carefully, but it will need to cook for around 10 minutes (this time depends on a few factors, including the type of cookware and burner you use, so just be patient and keep an eye on it). You are watching for that slight amber caramel color.
 
While your caramel cooks, prepare an ice bath by placing a metal colander in the sink (or a large pot) and filling it with ice.
 
As soon as you see that your sugar/water is caramel colored, place the pan in the ice bath and stir. You want to cool the caramel and stop the cooking.
 

Now it’s time to work fast! You need the plate that will be the foundation of your croquembouche.
 
WARNING: The caramel is HOT! It will burn you! Proceed carefully.
 
Grab a spoon and spread some of the caramel on the first pastry. Use the caramel like glue to stick the pastries to the plate. You want to form a circle with the tops of the pastries facing out. Use 10-20 pastries to form the bottom layer (depending on the size of your finished pastries and your plate).
 
Make a second row on top of the first, but pull it in slightly so that you are making a cone shape as you go up.
 

See all the strings of caramel? Those are okay! They happen as you build and the caramel cools.
 
THE CARAMEL WILL COOL! That’s why you need to work quickly. If it starts to set up in the pan and you aren’t finished yet, place the pan back on medium low heat. If you do this, you’ll need to stir constantly.
 

TIP
If the caramel starts to harden and the stirring makes it brittle and no longer clear, turn the heat up higher and keep stirring. It will eventually return to its workable state.

When you finish building and are ready to serve, the pastries break off in these pretty pieces. The best part? They're filled with your very own homemade pastry cream. Ta-da — you did it!
 

About Heather T.

Heather, who runs SugarDishMe.com, has been making messes in the kitchen since she was a little kid when her mom handed her a cook book and told her, “If you can read, you can cook.” Today she serves up fresh, healthy eats, easy weeknight meals and decadent sweet treats.