This French cake is traditionally made to celebrate a christening, a first communion or a wedding. We’ve given it a modern twist by creating several smaller versions for individual tables to share and enjoy. The second batch of caramel is used as spun sugar to decorate the finished arrangement.
45 choux buns
750 g (1 lb 8 oz) crème patissière
2 quantities caramel
To assemble the cake
small sharp knife
piping bag and no. 4 nozzle
baking sheet or greaseproof paper
7 cm (3 inch) round polystyrene block,
10 cm (4 inches) deep
plate or cake stand
edible gold leaf
1)Use a small knife to make a hole in the top of each bun.
2) Fill a piping bag with crème patissière and use a no. 4 nozzle to fill the buns.
3) Carefully dip the bottom of each bun into the first batch of the caramel then transfer them to a lightly oiled baking sheet or greaseproof paper. Press down slightly on to the surface and leave to dry for about 5 minutes.
4) Place a circular block in the centre of a plate and surround it with buns, dipping them into more caramel so that they stick in place. Add a second row in the same way, holding each bun in place until it sticks, then carefully remove the polystyrene block.
5) Stick a further row of buns
in position, placing them on the inside edge of the row below and positioning them so that they tilt slightly inwards.
If you cannot fit a whole bun in to finish a row, use a sharp knife to trim a little
off the adjacent buns to make room for the final one.
6) Continue adding rows of buns in the same way, topping the arrangement with a single bun.
7) Hold two forks back to back and dip them into the second batch of caramel. Spin the caramel in circles around and over the buns, separating the forks to make longer trails. Caramel strands that trail over the edge of the plate can be broken off by your fingers or with a knife. You can also use your fingers to tease out strands of caramel and position them on the buns.
8) Hold a sheet of gold leaf close to the croquembouche and use a sharp knife to scrape tiny pieces of gold leaf off the sheet and on to the caramel.
Variation)To make a traditional, large croquembouche, line the inside of a special croquembouche mould with greased foil. Fill it to the top with the filled, dipped buns, dripping on hot caramel as you go to act as glue, then invert and remove the mould carefully so that the conical pile of buns stands on a plate. Decorate with caramel as above. To serve as below, dip in caramel and then immediately in caster sugar.