As you are likely well-aware, Paris is my favorite place. The monuments, fashion, way of life—it’s all fabulous, but let’s be real. It’s the food that’s the real star of Paris. Remember how much I gushed about the macarons? Well I also have another love from France: crepes! I honestly don’t know how many crepes I had in Paris, but you better believe that I cherished every one. And my topping of choice? Nutella of course, duh.
So you can only imagine my enthusiasm for crepe cakes. First they’re in cake form. Which is always a winning way-to-go. But they’re also so pretty. Every time I see photos of them, I can’t help but stare. And guess what? I made one! A mini one!
This one features orange-scented crepes with Nutella in the filling and a chocolate ganache over the top for good measure. Plus I got fancy and made candied hazelnuts because I couldn’t help myself.
A ganache is actually very complicated structure-wise. It’s a combination of an emulsion and a suspension. The emulsion consists of fat droplets from the cream and chocolate in a water-based sugar syrup with the cocoa particles in suspension. Yep, like I said. Complicated. Basically there are two rules you’ll need to worry about for the perfect ganache. Follow me!
The first rule: when you pour the hot cream over your chocolate, do not stir! Let it sit. You’re essentially letting the hot cream slowly melt the fat in your chocolate. Eventually you want the fat from the cream and chocolate to incorporate into one fat phase. You need to let the chocolate and cream meld together. For this, you want the chocolate and cream to end up being the same temperature before you stir. If you stir too early, the fat components won’t be able to fully incorporate into an emulsion, and you’ll get a separation of phases.
The second rule: do not vigorously stir! Gently stirring is the secret. If you stir too hard, you may incorporate air bubbles. Air bubbles are kind of pesky for the smooth texture, but they could also break the emulsion. Stirring too vigorously could also cause a decrease in temperature too quickly. That will encourage the fat to solidify and separate from the emulsion creating a coarse, unpleasant texture.
And there you have it! The secret to rich and smooth ganache. Now about this mini cake…
Mini Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake
Orange Liqueur Crepes
Adapted from Alton Brown
2 large eggs
¾ cup milk
½ cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for the pan
2 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Cointreau (or liqueur of your choice)
- In a blender, combine all of the ingredients together and pulse for about 10-15 seconds. Refrigerate the batter for 1 hour to get rid of the air bubbles.
- Heat a small non-stick pan over medium/low heat. Add a small smidge of butter to coat. When hot, pour 1 tablespoon of the batter into the pan. Working quickly, swirl to spread the batter evenly to create a crepe about 5 inches in diameter. (Alternatively, use 1 oz of batter for more normal sized crepes)
- Cook for about 30 seconds and flip with a rubber spatula. Cook the other side for about 15 more seconds. Remove from the pan and lay it flat on a plate or cutting board to cool.
- Repeat with the batter until it’s gone. You’ll get a lot of crepes! Add butter every 3 or so crepes. If it begins to get too hot, reduce the heat.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
A big pinch kosher salt
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-safe bowl. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream, corn syrup, and salt to a boil over medium heat.
- Pour the heavy cream over the bowl of chocolate. Let sit for 8-10 minutes. Stir gently until smooth. Let cool.
Optional: Candied Hazelnuts
Adapted from Martha Stewart
3-5 hazelnuts, toasted and peeled (toasting instructions here)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
- Gently pierce the hazelnuts with a pointed wooden skewer. Place a cutting board along the edge of a countertop, and set a baking sheet below on the floor to catch any sugar fragments.
- Cook the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Without stirring, bring the syrup to a boil and cook until it turns an amber color. About 5 minutes. Let cook for about 10 minutes.
- Dip a skewered hazelnut into the sugar syrup coating it completely. Hold it above the syrup and let excess drip off. When the drips become a thin string, slide the skewer under the cutting board letting the hazelnut hang off of the edge over the pan on the floor. Don’t worry about the strings bending downward. You will take the hazelnuts off of the skewers eventually.
- After the caramel has hardened, carefully remove the skewers and break the strings to size.
Crepes (see above)
1 jar Nutella
Small wooden dowel(s)
Raspberries, for serving
- Prep a pastry bag or Ziploc bag for the Nutella. Spoon the Nutella into the bag and twist the top to seal it. I used almost a whole jar, but you may use more if you’re not as much of a sweet tooth.
- Put a dab of Nutella on the cake plate and put a crepe on top. Pipe a bit of Nutella (it doesn’t matter really how you pipe it, it could be one glob in the middle or a smiley) on top of the crepe and put a crepe on top to create the second layer. Repeat until you have used all of the crepes. If you start to see sagging on the sides, pipe closer to the edges for a few layers.
- Put your small wooden dowel through the cake (or three small skewers) to keep the cake from falling. This mini cake will be more likely to fall, but if you do a larger one, it will be much shorter and more stable.
- Pour the chocolate ganache as desired over the cake. Assemble your candied hazelnuts on top as you wish. I crushed one up and sprinkled it over the top as well.
- Refrigerate until the ganache has set—about 45 minutes. Serve in slices (carefully) with raspberries.