Can you imagine living in a country that doesn’t have maple syrup? I can’t. I feel especially fortunate to have grown up in Quebec, one of the central maple-producing provinces of Canada – meaning we poured maple syrup generously on our warm breakfasts of pancakes, crêpes, French toast, and waffles. Growing up, my mom would collect bowls of snow during a heavy snowfall and make us maple taffy, since we were stuck inside. Even though we’re lucky to have access to it year round, maple syrup remains an ingredient to be celebrated and cherished in the spring time. There is no substitute. It’s the best.
Crêpe cakes may seem daunting, but they shouldn’t be. The pastry cream, crêpes, and maple-glazed pecans can be made ahead so all you have left to do is assemble it and chill for a few hours. If anything, crêpe cakes are a great opportunity to sharpen your crêpe-making skills. When I pour the batter in the hot pan, I like to use a jiggle-motion, moving the pan back and forth, to distribute the batter to the edges, then I finish it off with a swirling motion by tilting my wrist. The goal is to thinly yet evenly distribute the batter throughout the pan.
It’s not hard, it just takes practice. Since this cake calls for 30-some crêpes, you have plenty of time to figure out the crêpe-cooking technique that works for you. And if you don’t feel like assembling a whole cake, you can serve the crêpes filled with pastry cream, rolled or folded into neat triangles, perfect for a spring brunch with a generous drizzle of maple syrup.
A note on skillets: For this recipe, I used a 10-inch non-stick fry pan, which has sloped sides and therefore yields 8-inch crêpes, as the pan size is often measured at the top, where it’s widest.
Serving Size: Makes one 8-inch cake (serves 10–12)
Prep Time: 45 min
Cook Time: 60 min
For the maple pastry cream:
2 1/4 cups milk (2% or whole milk is best)
3/4 cup maple syrup (medium)
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1–2 tablespoons Gelinotte maple liqueur or a splash of vanilla extract
For the crêpes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 large eggs
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons oil, plus more for cooking the crêpes
For the maple-glazed pecans:
1 cup pecans
3 tablespoon maple syrup
Lots of maple syrup
1. First, make the maple pastry cream. Place a strainer over a large bowl and have it ready next to the stove for later.
2. In a large saucepan, heat the milk with half the maple syrup on medium–high heat. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl and gradually whisk in the flour, cornstarch and the rest of the maple syrup. Whisk mixture well, to try and eliminate all the lumps before proceeding.
3. When the milk is almost boiling, pour it over the egg mixture to temper the eggs, whisking constantly, then transfer it all back to the saucepan.
4. Whisk the custard over medium–high heat to bring it up to a boil, then boil for 2 minutes to thicken it. Don’t stop whisking because it can catch on the bottom of the pan and may burn. When the pastry cream has thickened, immediately pour it through the strainer to remove any lumps.
5. Cover with plastic wrap placed directly in contact with the custard so it doesn’t dry on the surface. Wrap well and refrigerate until completely cooled, preferably overnight.
6. When you are ready to assemble the crêpe cake, whisk the pastry cream to loosen it and smooth it out, then whisk in the maple liqueur or a splash of vanilla.
7. Prepare the crêpe batter by blending together all the ingredients with a hand-blender. Let sit for at least 30 minutes (or overnight) in the fridge before making the crêpes. Cook the crêpes in a 10-inch non-stick fry pan set over medium–low heat. You should make about 32 8-inch crêpes, using a scant 1/4 cup batter per crêpe.
8. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat the pecans with the 3 tablespoons of maple syrup. Lightly toast them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet for about 6 minutes, stirring them half-way through the baking time. Let cool completely.
9. To assemble the crêpe cake, place a crêpe on a cake stand or plate, then spread a thin layer of maple pastry cream (a little less than 2 tablespoons-worth). Top with another crêpe and then more pastry cream. Continue layering until you have used all the crêpes and pastry cream.
10. Chill the cake for a few hours so that it firms up, then decorate the top with the maple-glazed pecans (either kept whole or chopped) just before serving. Serve with lots of maple syrup.
Janice Lawandi is a PhD-chemist-turned-baker with a serious sweet tooth, working as a recipe developer and food stylist in Montreal, Quebec. To learn more about Janice, visit her blog Kitchen Heals Soul.