This is what happens when your kids watch Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef Jr, and this is why I love cooking shows.  Never in a million years would have I thought to make this recipe with my kids (ages 7 and 9 at the time), yet I did. The results were surprisingly decent.  Croquembouche pronounced “croque-en-bouche”, is a beautiful French dessert consisting of choux pastry balls, filled with rich pastry cream, pilled into a towering cone, and bound with spun sugar.  In France and Italy, a croquembouche is commonly seen at special life events such as weddings, baptisms, and first communions.


Croquembouche can be traced back as far as 1806 where it’s referenced in Alexandre Viardi’s culinary encyclopedia, Le’ Cuisine Imperial, and refined in early texts as an elaborate dish served between courses during large banquets.  If you have ever seen one in person, they are truly stunning works of art, that are often elaborately decorated with sugared almonds, chocolate, and even edible flowers.

Growing up, I distinctly remember a little bakery on Bleecker Street in New York City, near where I lived, which showcased their towering croquembouche creations during the holidays. I was intrigued, even as a young child, and amazed by their beauty and size.  One year my mom got me a croquembouche instead of a traditional birthday cake, it did not disappoint.


A few years ago, the television show MasterChef Jr. featured a mini croquembouche challenge, and my kids were hooked. How could these young kids possibly complete this task, they wondered?  But they did, and very well I may add.  My seven-year-old quickly questioned if I was “capable of making such a dessert“, and if so, could we?  As a parent, I felt compelled to show him my “capabilities“. So, much to even my surprise, I agreed to this ask to attempt making croquembouche with them one weekend.  Despite cooking with my kids all their lives, this was a large endeavor, huge really, but it was not impossible.


The three recipes that are needed to make a proper croquembouche, pate a choux, pastry cream, and caramel, are all ones you learn in culinary school. On their own, they are somewhat simple, but the assembly of a croquembouche was another story entirely.  This was a great culinary cooking challenge, it took hours, too many to remember, the kitchen was a complete disaster and I may have raised my voice more than a few times, but we did it!


The boys were so impressed by the result, that our beautiful, slightly lopsided, croquembouche was featured at dinner that night as our starting course.  I will never forget the joy and sense of accomplishment on their faces as they devoured our tower (or a good portion of it) with great joy and satisfaction.  Thankfully, for me, I have a wonderful husband who cleaned up the kitchen.

I recently decided to make another croquembouche, this time without my boys’ help, and this is the one you see here. A croquembouche, with or without the elaborate spun sugar, is a labor intensive endeavor, but if like me, you’re back in COVID lockdown, it fills time.  This French classic makes a great celebration dessert, so if you happen to be looking for a show stopper at your Christmas or New Years meal this year, look no further.

Note on Assembly

To assemble the croquembouche, first get everything neatly organized, you will need all the help you can get.  Before you make the caramel, fill the pastry choux. Fit a pastry bad with a small star tip.  Transfer some of the chilled pasty cream into the bag.  Working one choux at a time, gently pipe some pastry cream in to fill, be careful not to overfill or they will split apart.  Place the filled choux back on the sheet tray.  The pastry will begin to get soggy as soon as they are filled, so wait until just before serving to fill.  Once all the choux has been filled, set aside and make the caramel.

Croquembouche Assembly

Carefully, working one at a time, dip the top third of the filled choux into the warm caramel and place caramel side up on a large round serving platter.  You want just enough caramel to allow you to glue the pastries together.  If the caramel become too hard while doing this, reheat over a medium low flame to loosen.  Try to use 10 of the largest choux pastrias to make the bottom layer.

Next, set out 9 choux pastries to make your second layer (you may not need all of them). Dip in the caramel as you did with the bottom layer, placing then caramel side down and trying your best to secure the choux in the spaces between the bottom choux (this will make the croquembouche more sturdy).

Continue to build your croquembouche, making slightly smaller circles for each layer reheating the caramel as needed.  Complete the tower with one choux on top.  Feel free to make a small one if desired, you will have extra choux, but remember this is an ambitious dessert, it is completely fine to start small and make it larger a second time if you enjoy.

Spun Sugar Decoration

Once the croquembouche is assembled, let the caramel in pan cool until it begins to form a thread when you lift it from the pot with a fork.  The cooler the caramel gets, the faster it will begin to harden literally in the air, so you need to work quickly.  Dip your fork in the caramel and quickly circle over and around the croquembouche, letting the caramel fall where it may.  The puffs will become encased by the threads of caramel. This is what makes the pastry so stunning to look at. Let the caramel harden slightly before serving and congratulate yourself for a huge endeavor!

About the Author

Andrea Potischman

I am a professionally trained NYC chef turned CA mom and food blogger. I post about real food, with doable ingredient lists that are family friendly.

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