If crepe cake making was a sport, assistant food editor Amelia Rampe would have a shelf full of gold trophies. When developing our brand-new crepe cake recipe, she tested the 25-layer pastry five times, making 125 crepes in the process.
It looks intimidating as hell, we know, but it’s not as hard as beautiful Instagram photos would lead you to believe. Once you’ve mastered the easy crepe technique, it’s all about stacking gently, not over-filling with pastry cream, and building it tall enough that you can get a dramatic, stunning slice. The best part is that most of the steps can be done ahead, and the crepe batter is made in a blender.
Want to impress your best friend for his or her next birthday? Feel like making your entire house smell like a French creperie? We have nine tips to get you started.
1. Sleep In (Make Your Batter the Night Before)
It takes only five minutes to make the crepe batter in a blender—4 large eggs, 4 cups whole milk, ⅔ cup granulated sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt—and it should sit for at least an hour. Impatient? Sleep while it rests in the fridge overnight, because you can’t over-chill it.
2. Set Up Your Station
We’re not going to sugar-coat things (yet): you’re going to spend an hour making this cake. To set yourself up for success, make sure everything is in place. To the left of the stove, keep the pitcher of batter, a ¼ measuring cup in a bowl (to catch any drips!), and a whisk to give it a gentle stir in case it settles. On your right side, keep a rubber spatula ready for flipping, a bowl of melted butter (4 Tbsp.), and a pastry brush to coat the pan. Your non-stick large (9″) skillet is the No. 1. essential tool, which should be over medium-low heat in front of you, ready to fill with crepe batter. Things move pretty fast in crepe-cooking, so you don’t have a second to spare to grab a spatula or melt more butter.
3. Don’t Over-Butter Your Pan!
A suuuuper light brushing of butter is all you need, otherwise the crepes may bubble and brown too quickly. You also don’t want them to get greasy, or else the beautiful custard may slide right off them when you build the cake.
4. Control the Pan with Your Dominant Hand
Our instructions are for someone who is right-handed—if you’re a lefty, swap everything we said in the setup above. You want to control the crepe-batter-swirling with your dominant hand on the pan handle. By pouring with your non-dominant hand and forming the crepe with your dominant one, you have better control over its shape. Pour batter slightly off-center and make a large circle, twisting your wrist until the crepe batter coats the entire bottom of the skillet. You don’t want it to coat the sides of the pan—just the bottom, which is a good guideline for making 25 evenly-sized crepes.
5. Don’t Overcook, or You’ll Have Tough Crepes
The ideal heat is medium-low, but you can adjust the temperature up or down if you’re worried they’re cooking too fast or browning too much. You want the crepes to be light golden brown without much color so they are very tender. It will get tougher the more you cook it, and after you work this hard, you don’t want to bite into a tough cake! This should take about 2 minutes on the first side and only 30 seconds on the second. Crepes can be made a day in advance if doing all of this in one day seems daunting.
6. Don’t Throw Away Imperfect Crepes
Every crepe isn’t going to be perfect, and the really bad ones can be reward snacks later. Like pancakes, the first one is probably going to be bad, and that’s okay. If your batter is too thin in the middle and rips when you flip it, don’t toss it—you can dab a little batter (we just used the same measuring cup we plopped the batter from) like a crepe Band-Aid and fix it with some patchwork. There are two extra crepes in the recipe so you have room to make a mistake.
7. There’s a Very Specific Ideal Custard-to-Crepe Ratio
After five rounds of testing, we discovered a scant ⅓ cup (somewhere between ¼ cup and ⅓ cup) is the perfect amount of custard between crepe layers. Use an offset spatula to spread the custard as evenly as possible to just shy of the edge. If you lay crepes away from you, they’ll stay flat, and you should keep an eye on the edges to keep the circumference of the cake as even as possible. All in all, you’ll have 25 layers of crepes and 24 layers of cream. Initially we had 20 layers, but decided on 25 to make it as dramatic and tall as possible without breaking your wrist from crepe-making.
8. Let It Chilllllll
As with your batter, you need to let the crepe cake chill. Leave it alone for at least two hours, lightly covered in plastic. In that time, crepe cakes will absorb the custard a little and everything will firm up so you can cut that perfect slice. Cover it with whipped cream afterward so the plastic wrap doesn’t ruin the beautiful top. We used a regular chef’s knife to cut into it, and suggest at least 3″-wide slices so it will stand up on the plate. (It will still look—and taste—great if you serve it on its side!)
9. Get Creative with Your Flavors
Our recipe has an orange-cardamom custard, but lemon, grapefruit, or all three citruses could work. Simple vanilla could be a hit, or using jam swirled in, or even Nutella. If you want to make a really decadent version, pour a chocolate ganache over top so it’s all covered in a hard shell. And if you’re more of a savory person, try decreasing the sugar in the crepe batter and making a spiced crème fraîche and smoked salmon version. Holy crepe, there are a lot of ideas here—go make one now.
Here’s the epic crepe cake recipe.