Jordan: This is a tale of two cakes.
Kitra: For the first time in decades, marmalade has wronged someone. And that someone is me.
Our plan here was to offer you two beautiful crepe cake recipes: One Nutella, and one with alternating layers of marmalade and pastry cream. But instead we have a beautiful Nutella crepe cake and… a cautionary tale.
I would like to say, for the record, that my cake was stellar at first. Pastry cream and marmalade taste great together, and it was a tall, ruffled dream. Until I came back after an hour in the fridge and all the marmalade had turned into… water? I still don’t understand what happened.
So as not to scare you off, we’ll start by talking about the good things that are happening here. There’s browned butter. There’s pastry cream. There are 16 or so delicious mini crepes that you can make with any flour you have on hand.
It’s not all wedges of egg, covered in orange water and cream. You, dear reader, will not end up with a pile of wet crepes, where every one of its component parts would be better off in anything else. You will have the cake I could have had if I hadn’t put my trust in marmalade.
Kitra put all of her photos in a folder and titled it “Tall stack egg bois.” Her cake slice fell apart when she tried to eat it, so when she took a bite all I heard her say was “mmm, triangles.” Meanwhile I was over here shaving chocolate and trying not to flaunt my lovely, not-sad cake. You can do this, reader. You can make a crepe cake and not be disappointed.
I may have brought this upon myself by being VERY showy about how perfect and easy my crepes were. Not a single bad crepe, just the 19 most beautiful crepes I’ve ever made.
Don’t say that, Kitra. No one deserves that mess. Not even a crepe show-off.
Y’all, I have this cake on a paper towel in the fridge to soak up all the marmalade runoff. Just make it with Nutella. (I would have been better off with even the vaguely chocolate peanut butter that I got at the store when there were no Nutella-adjacent options.) If you’re like me, and you think flavoring a pastry cream is a waste of mankind’s greatest creation—pastry cream—let me tell you: It is not. But a wet marmalade egg puddle sure is. Add the Nutella.
We’ll also give you some other options too, if Nutella isn’t your thing but pastry cream is.
I’m going to go stick my finger in the jar of leftover pastry cream now.
We just have so many questions about what happened here. Was Kitra’s particular brand of marmalade the problem? Would this have happened with any jam we tried because crepes aren’t really absorbent? Is marmalade just that much thinner than other jams? If you’re a marmalade-ologist, please call us. We need answers.
Nutella Crepe Cake
You can use basically any kind of flour in these crepes. Kitra used regular all-purpose flour, while Jordan used a mix of white and brown rice flour. You could also use buckwheat, whole wheat, oat flour, or anything else you have on hand except for nut flours. Know that if you’re using a gluten-free flour, you’ll want to stir the batter well each time you take a scoop.
Browning your butter makes both the crepes and the pastry cream extra rich and delicious, and it’s not much work, but if you decide you’d rather not bother, you can substitute plain butter. You’ll need 3 tablespoons melted butter in the crepes and 4 tablespoons cold butter in the pastry cream.
Finally, if Nutella isn’t your jam, there are a lot of ways you can jazz up your pastry cream. Scrape a vanilla bean into the milk at the start of the process, or steep a tea bag in the milk. Mix some orange zest or lemon curd into the finished cream. You could also very thinly slice some fruit and layer it on top of the pastry cream at each layer. This would also be lovely with a ganache on top, whether or not you go the Nutella route.
- ½ cup (4oz, 1 stick) butter (some will be used for the pastry cream)
- 1 cup milk
- 4 eggs, preferably at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup flour of your choice (see note; weight will vary by flour)
Ingredients: Pastry Cream and Assembly
- 2 cups milk
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon (110g) sugar
- ¼ cup (32g) cornstarch
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup (150g) Nutella
- powdered sugar, shaved chocolate, and/or toasted hazelnuts, to serve (optional)
First, brown the butter. In a small pan, melt the stick of butter over low heat. Let it cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to foam up and the solids at the bottom turn brown. This will take about 5 minutes, but keep an eye on it. Once it gets foamy, it will go from zero to burnt pretty quickly. You want to pull it off the heat when it smells nice and nutty and the solids are golden brown.
While the butter is cooking, pour the milk into a large mixing bowl and microwave until it’s slightly warm to the touch. Set it aside until the butter is done.
When the butter is nicely browned, immediately remove it from the heat. Pour ¼ cup into a separate container for the pastry cream and put it in the fridge/freezer to solidify. Pour the remaining butter into the mixing bowl with the milk and whisk to combine. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth, then the vanilla, sugar, and salt. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and set in the fridge to rest for at least one hour or overnight.
While the batter chills, make the pastry cream. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, vanilla, and salt over medium-low heat until it is almost, but not quite, boiling. While the milk heats, combine the cornstarch and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs and whisk thoroughly.
Once the milk is about to boil, remove it from the heat. Whisking consistently, add about half of the milk into the egg mixture, one ladle at a time. (You’ll want to go slowly and keep whisking to avoid cooking the eggs.) Add the egg mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk and return to medium-low heat. Set a mesh strainer over a bowl (you can use the one you just emptied) to have it ready.
Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens and you see a couple of slow bubbles—this will only take about two minutes. Immediately scrape the pastry cream into the strainer and press it through with a spoon.
Grab the ¼ cup of browned butter you reserved earlier, hopefully now solidified. (If it’s not quite solid, that’s fine.) Add a scoop at a time into the pastry cream, whisking after each addition. Add the Nutella one scoop at a time, and whisk that together as well. Press a piece of plastic wrap on top of the pastry cream and refrigerate it until you’re ready to assemble.
Next, make the crepes. Heat a small nonstick pan over the medium-low heat and remove the batter from the fridge. Add a small amount of butter to the pan. (You probably won’t need to re-grease after this, but feel free to add more butter if the crepes start to stick at any point. You can also skip the initial buttering and just accept that your first crepe will stick.) Scoop 2-3 tablespoons of batter into the pan and swirl it so that it forms a rough circle. Cook until the top is set and the edges are starting to crisp up, about 30-45 seconds. If the top still seems sticky, flip and cook on the other side just 15-30 seconds more, then transfer to a plate or a cooling rack. Repeat until you run out of batter.
Let the crepes cool completely before assembling—spreading the crepes out on a cooling rack will make very quick work of this. Lay one crepe on a plate/cake stand and spread with about 2 tablespoons of pastry cream, then top with another crepe. Repeat until you run out of crepes/pastry cream, or until you begin to doubt the structural integrity of the whole thing. Loosely cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before topping with powdered sugar, chocolate, or nuts and serving.