Naked cakes took the world of cake decorating by storm a couple of years ago as a pared back antidote to the layers of fondant or swathes of buttercream that cakes were being decorated in. And brides, in particular, have continued their love affair with this rustic and romantic style of cake decorating.
But for those who want to step up their naked cakes game, Masterchef finalist Hannah Miles has put together a stunning selection of recipes that will never leave you short of ideas for inspiring naked cake flavour pairings and fillings ever again.
And while we selected one of Hannah’s classic recipes for this week’s feature (simply because Cake-Geek is obsessed with croquembouche!), it will be the book’s fabulous new and refreshing cake recipes that will feature in our families’ celebrations for a long time to come.
In saying that, croquembouche is perhaps the original naked cake, where the decoration is really from the stunning mound of profiteroles themselves rather than any fancy icing. So here goes – enjoy!
Croquembouche Ingredients (Serves 20–30)
For the choux pastry:
- 260 g/2 cups plain/all-purpose flour, sifted twice
- 200 g/1 3⁄4 sticks butter, cut into cubes
- a pinch of salt
- 8 eggs
For the filling:
- 600 ml/2 1⁄2 cups double/heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons icing/confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
To Assemble & Decorate the Croquembouche:
- 600 g/2 cups caster/granulated sugar
- food-safe flowers, such as jasmine flowers, to decorate
- 4 baking sheets, lined with baking parchment or silicone mats (rewash and dry between use)
- 2 piping/pastry bags fitted with round nozzles/tips
- a large sheet of thin cardboard
- clear adhesive tape (Scotch tape)
To Make the Croquembouche
Heat the butter in a large saucepan with 600 ml/2 1⁄2 cups of water and the salt until the butter is melted. As soon as the butter is melted, quickly add the sifted flour all in one go and remove the pan from the heat. Do not let the water boil for longer than it takes to melt the butter, as it will evaporate. Beat the mixture very hard with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball and no longer sticks to the sides of the pan. At first the mixture will seem very wet, but it will come together after a few minutes. It is important to beat the mixture well at this stage. Let cool for 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, then beat them into the pastry dough, a small amount at a time, using a wooden spoon or a balloon whisk. The mixture will split slightly at first, but this is normal and the dough will come back together as you continue to beat. Beat the mixture very hard at each stage. The mixture will form a sticky paste that holds its shape when you lift the whisk up. (You may prefer to make the choux pastry in 2 batches, as it is easier to beat this way.)
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6. Spoon the choux pastry into the piping/pastry bag and pipe about 80 small balls of pastry onto the baking sheets. Using a clean, wet finger, smooth down any peaks. Sprinkle a little water into the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake the first baking sheet of profiteroles for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4 and bake for 10–15 minutes more until crisp. Cut a slit into each profiterole to allow any steam to escape, then let cool on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining sheets. (You can cook the sheets at the same time, but the lower choux will take longer to cook.) Once cool, make a small hole in the base of each profiterole using a sharp knife.
For the filling, whisk together the cream, icing/confectioners’ sugar and vanilla to stiff peaks, then spoon into the second piping/pastry bag. Pipe a small amount of cream into each of the profiteroles.
Make a cone with the cardboard, trimming the base so it stands flat, approximately 40 cm/16 inches high and 18 cm/7 inches in diameter across the base, securing in place with Scotch tape. Place on a cake stand.
In a saucepan set over medium heat, heat the sugar until melted. It is best to do this in two saucepans, heating half the sugar in each. Do not stir, but swirl the pan to ensure that the sugar does not burn. Once the sugar has melted, carefully dip each bun into the caramel using tongs. Place the dipped profiteroles in a ring around the base of the cone. Repeat with all the remaining profiteroles and build them up around the cone. Reheat the sugar if it becomes to solid. Once the tower is assembled, dip a fork into the remaining sugar and then spin it over the tower of profiteroles in thin lines.
Serve at once, as the spun sugar will soften over time.
Extracted with permission from: Naked Cakes: Simply Stunning Cakes by Hannah Miles, Ryland Peters & Small 2020. (Photography by Steve Painter © Ryland Peters & Small, 2015).
Readers might also be interested in the following recipes and tutorials:
- Vegan Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Terrazzo Frosting
- Easy Summer Fruit Tart Recipe
- Chocolate Salted Caramel Dream Cake from The Cutter & Squidge Bakery
- Malted Chocolate Cake with Bailey’s Irish Cream Ganache
- Decorated Jelly Roll/Swiss Roll Tutorial
- The Perfect Drip Cake Tutorial
- Vintage Piped Cake Tutorial
- Buttercream Flower Tutorial – The Garden Rose
- Llama Cake Tutorial
- Fairy Cake Topper and Fairy Toadstool Cake Tutorial
- Heirloom Rose Tutorial by PetalSweet’s Jacqueline Butler
- Easy Gumpaste Antlers Tutorial for Woodland Style Wedding Cake
- Floral Wreath Cake Tutorial for a Boho Style Wedding Cake