Daring Bakers – Piece montée

Finally a Daring Bakers challenge that I made before the reveal date 🙂 This month’s challenge was to make a Piece Montée (also called croquembouche).

I made the cake for my middle son’s birthday party so I wanted to go with a more child-friendly decoration than caramel. Instead of caramel to build the tower, I used molten white chocolate (with a little coconut fat added). I submerged the puffs completely to get a uniform white chocolate look. Besides the white chocolate I also used toothpicks to keep the puffs together. Being naughty I didn’t use the required crème patisserie to fill the puffs but used raspberry whipped cream that I stabilized with gelatin. I needed to have the cake ready on a schoolday at 9:30 a.m. so I didn’t have the time to finish filling and building the cake in the morning. Besides that I was afraid that the crème patisserie wouldn’t give as good a result the next morning as the whipped cream would, in other words I was hoping for a less soggy result. After building the puffs into a tower I wasn’t too sure that the cake would look decent. Fortunately after the chocolate hardened in the fridge it already looked much better. The decoration was made out of marzipan that I just moulded into various shapes (the little guy loves snails and worms so I made those). As there were lots of girls coming to the party I added some little flowers too. I let the marzipan dry a bit overnight and painted the shapes with slightly diluted gel coloring (first time doing that and liked the end result a lot). I must say that I was very happy with the outcome, they looked pretty (though maybe yucky to some too 😉 The birthday boy was really smitten with the cake 🙂

No real challenge’s for me personally this challenge but I loved doing it anyway. If I ever make one again I’ll do the traditional one and do a little spun caramel around the tower too 🙂

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.


For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)

1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk 2 Tbsp. cornstarch 6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar 1 large egg

2 large egg yolks 2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter 1 Tsp. Vanilla


1. Dissolve cornstarch in 1⁄4 cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

2. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks 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.

3. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking. 4. 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.

5. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

For Chocolate Pastry Cream (Half Batch Recipe):

Bring 1⁄4 cup (about 50 cl.) milk to a boil in a small pan; remove from heat and add in 3 ounces (about 80 g.) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, and mix until smooth. Whisk into pastry cream when you add the butter and vanilla.

For Coffee Pastry Cream (Half Batch recipe)

Dissolve 1 1⁄2 teaspoons instant espresso powder in 1 1⁄2 teaspoons boiling water. Whisk into pastry cream with butter and vanilla.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)

3⁄4 cup (175 ml.) water 6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter 1⁄4 Tsp. salt 1 Tbsp. sugar 1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour 4 large eggs For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:

1. 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.

2. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

3. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.

4. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. 5. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.

6. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Piping batter:

1. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

2. 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.

3. Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).


1. Bake the choux at 425â—¦F/220â—¦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

2. Lower the temperature to 350â—¦F/180â—¦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in an airtight box overnight.


1. 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.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

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.

Hard Caramel Glaze:

1 cup (225 g.) sugar 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a metal kitchen spoon stirring until the sugar resembles wet sand. Place on medium heat; heat without stirring until sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Begin to stir sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally until the sugar is a clear, amber color. Remove from heat immediately; place bottom of pan in ice water to stop the cooking. 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. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then 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 (careful it may be still hot!), 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. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place)

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11 Responses to Daring Bakers – Piece montée

  1. Cakelaw says:

    I love this garden themed piece montee – fabulous!

  2. Wolf says:

    That is so cute! I bet your son really liked it.}:P

  3. Rosa says:

    So pretty! Your pièce montée is a real work of art!

    My post will be up tomorrow…



  4. LOVE THIS ONE! so fun.

  5. This is the cutest thing I have ever seen! Great job!

  6. chef_d says:

    So cute! I adore the decorations 🙂

  7. natalia says:

    Ciao Linda ! I love your worms ! i’m sure it was very appreciated !! Love

  8. willemien says:

    Wow, ziet er echt mooi uit. mmisschien gee nchallenge voor je, maar zoiets past zo in een klein etalagetje bij de cupcakewinkeltjes hier!


  9. Ruth H. says:

    This is beautiful! I love the while chocolate covered pastries! And the raspberry whipped cream sounds delicious!!

  10. I absolutely LOVE the decoration! Even the slug! Cuteness overload!

  11. vincent says:


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