Old friends are special.
Especially ones that will gobble a whole dozen donuts with you and will always be ready for more. Yeah. He’s that kind of friend. A keeper.
With his shock of stark, yellow hair, prominent, French nose and his Banana Republic air to him – it was hard not to notice him in a crowd. Frenchy had always been this way – striking and distinct, but always warm and happily magnetic in person.
He is affectionately called “Frenchy” by his old high school friends because his family is actually French. Though he was born in the U.S., Frenchy spent over seven years living in France. Anyone from the European continent felt exotic to us high-schoolers at the time and so Frenchy’s persona was born!
I remember one year, for my birthday, he brought me the best surprise – crepes! We had them with Nutella and sugar and I thought I was the most special girl to deserve such a surprise.
Recently, I begged him to show me how he made crepes. It didn’t take much arm-twisting. He enthusiastically agreed and was excited, as was I, at the prospects of gorging ourselves on crepes for a night.
I was curious as to exactly how “French” it was to enjoy crepes. I found out from Frenchy that his family made crepes together from time to time and would make a whole meal out of it. They would use crepes as a part of the main dish – with savory elements such as eggs, bacon, vegetables and whatever else they liked. They would then round off the meal with crepes for dessert – something simple like sugar and lemon juice or Nutella and banana slices as the filling.
Frenchy was so skilled at turning out crepes. He made many in no time at all. He told us about a French holiday tradition (the holiday of la Chandeleur in which it is a custom to have crepes on that day) that if you hold a coin in the same hand that you are holding the crepe pan in and you successfully flip the crepe, it will bring you good luck!
Some of us were not so successful in our crepe-flipping endeavors. It was a fun experience nonetheless! I felt so very French while making and flipping crepes!
We decided, early on, that we would make a crepe cake. Aside from the fact that I’m a terrible traditional cake-maker (I am always too manic and impatient. I end up putting the icing on too soon and it all melts into a horrible, sugary mess), I was also desperately craving eclairs. So we decided to make a horrible, wonderful bastardization of two French classics and thus, the Eclair Crepe Cake was born!
Layers upon layers of crepes, vanilla pastry creme and tempting, tantalizing, titillating chocolate ganache.
Did we devour this? Oh yes. Yes, we did.
And now, it’s your turn!
Eclair Crepe Cake
What You’ll Need:
For the Crepes:
You will need about 20-25 crepes
A non-stick crepe pan or shallow skillet
- 1 cup of flour
- 2 cups of milk
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons of melted butter
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- 1 tsp of sugar
- Combine all of your ingredients, EXCEPT for the butter, in a large bowl.
- Once all your liquid and dry ingredients are just combined – do not overmix – add in your melted butter last.
- Set batter aside in the fridge to rest while you work on the pastry cream.
- Once the pastry cream is made – heat your lightly-greased crepe pan or non-stick skillet to medium heat. (You can wipe the pan with a bit of olive oil or melted butter). Pour 1/8 of cup of batter into the center of the pan and swirl the batter in the pan so that the batter covers the pan evenly.
- Cook for about 30 seconds or until the sides of the crepe are just cooked and then flip to finish cooking. (Don’t be nervous about flipping. It’s just like a pancake. Be confident! You’ve totally got this!)
- Repeat until your batter is finished or until you have the 20 or so crepes you desire.
For the Pastry Cream
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 tsps of orange zest
- 2 tblsps of orange juice
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together 2 1/2 cups of the milk, the sugar, and the salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, flour, and egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup milk in another bowl.
- Whisk some of the hot milk mixture with the egg yolks to temper them. This keeps the yolks from scrambling when you add them to the simmering milk.
- Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the remaining simmering milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the mixture thickens.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, vanilla extract, orange zest and orange juice.
- Rub an additional piece of butter over the surface of the cream, top with a piece of plastic wrap (make sure it touches the top of the pastry cream so it doesn’t develop a skin), then refrigerate until cool.
For the Chocolate Ganache:
- 1 1/4 cup or 10 ounces of dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream
- 3 tblsp of brewed coffee (or 1 tblsp of instant coffee granules)
Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each 30-second session until the chocolate has just melted. Takes about 1 minute – 1.5 minutes total. It’s okay if you still see lumps of chocolate chips. Keep stirring and the mixture will continue to heat and melt the chocolate and you will have a luscious ganache.
To Assemble the Cake:
Gather your cooled crepes. Place the first one on you platter and spread a thin layer of pastry cream (around 2-3 tablspoons of cream). Start from the middle and push the cream outwards. Do this for three crepe layers.
On the 4th layer, spread about two tablespoons of the chocolate ganache, working from the inside out. I like this alternation so that the rich chocolate doesn’t overpower the pastry cream and you can taste all the layers more distinctly.
Repeat 5-7 times until you have the desired height and layers of your crepe cake.
Top the cake with a thick layer of chocolate ganache (1/4 cup or thereabouts) and dot with blackberries or sliced strawberries.
My best advice to you is to make this cake in advance. The cake cools, settles and tastes better if it is left to sit overnight.
With that being said – I definitely did not do that. In fact, it was close to 11pm and the friends I was cooking with were worn out and hankering for a slice of the cake. Our sweet, French man cut the cake for us and we devoured our warm, chocolate-seeping slices in a weary but oh-so-satisfied silence.
Eat and be merry! Be French!