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Wednesday 30 January 2013

Sluttishly Sweet: Mille Crêpes No-bake Cake

Two days ago, I found out about the wonder that is Mille Crêpes Cake. Anyone who knew about this cake before now and neglected to mention it to me - friends, family, casual acquaintances, and the entirety of the French nation - is henceforth sacked from my life. Reason for dismissal? Withholding important cake information. Perverting the course of cakely justice, if you will.  

Martha Stewart, on the other hand, is welcome for tea whenever she likes. Because Martha bothered to tell me about it. It takes something like this to find out who your real friends are. 

This French no-bake cake is translated as 'a thousand crêpes', mais calme-toi because it seems that we are cooking in a tiny little happy maths-challenged bubble where 1,000 = 20. In simple terms, it's a stack of crêpes with crème pâtissière sandwiched between each layer. But it's so much more than that. It's... life affirming

As a token of my gratitude to Martha, I have completely bypassed her recipe, because on closer inspection I thought it sounded a bit rubbish (It looked lovely, though, Martha. Kiss kiss. Get those tax returns done now). Instead, I've gone for my usual crêpe recipe, and a standard crème pâtissière, to which I've added lavender and lemon. May I remind you all here that crème pâtissière is GLORIFIED CUSTARD, and therefore I declare myself officially in the running for the SPOON OF GLORY in this month's Just Desserts club. Let me at it.*

I won't lie to you: there's an element of faff to this recipe, mainly because you have to prepare the crêpe batter and crème pâtissière in advance, so that they can chill. After that though, it's a doddle. Yes, you have to make 20 crêpes, but there's a certain therapeutic element to that.

Flavour the cream as you wish - anything goes. I chose lemon and lavender because they're ace partners in crime, and I wanted to dye the cream lurid shades of lilac and yellow. This would be just as delicious with no added flavourings at all.

*Whaddya mean I'm not allowed to win the spoon?! Outrage. 

Mille Crêpes No-bake Cake (serves a hell of a lot of people)

You'll need:

For the crêpes
  • 85g unsalted butter
  • 720ml whole milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 185g plain flour
  • 85g caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying 
For the crème pâtissière
  • 480 ml whole milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (or one pod, sliced lengthways and seeds scraped out)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 40g cornflour
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • A dusting of icing sugar
For the assembly
  • 480ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • Flavourings of your choice - I used lemon extract and lavender extract
  • Food colourings of your choice - I used yellow and lilac
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp warm water
  • Things to garnish your cake - I used culinary lavender and the zest of one lemon
Make it!

The crêpe batter:
  1. Heat the butter in a small saucepan until nut brown. Meanwhile, beat together the eggs, sugar, flour, and salt. 
  2. Slowly pour in the milk and melted butter and continue beating until smooth.
  3. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for at least five hours, preferably overnight.
The crème pâtissière:
  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan until it just boils. Remove from the heat, and add the vanilla extract or vanilla seeds and pod. Set aside for five minutes to cool slightly. 
  2. Either in a large saucepan or a mixer, whisk together the egg yolks, cornflour, and sugar. Pour the warm milk in gradually, whisking constantly.
  3. If you're using a mixer, transfer the mixture to a saucepan. Bring to a boil over a high heat, whisking ALMIGHTILY until all of a sudden, the liquid becomes an almost gelatinous. STOP beating and turn off the heat.
  4. Press the crème pâtissière through a sieve using a wooden spoon. This will catch the lumps and *gasp* any bits of cooked egg that may have mistakenly happened. BOAK.
  5. Plunge the bowl into a larger bowl filled with cold water. Stir the crème pâtissière for about a minute, then add the butter and stir some more until it's incorporated into the mixture.
  6. Sprinkle the surface of your amazing crème pâtissière with icing sugar to prevent it forming a custardy skin. Cover and stick in the fridge to chill for as long as the crêpe batter.
A few hours later...
  1. Make the crêpes! Allow the batter to reach room temperature. Swab a little vegetable oil over the surface of a crêpe pan or smallish, flattish frying pan (I used a 10" crêpe pan from Ikea). Over a medium heat, pour in 3-4 tablespoons of batter and swirl around until the surface of the pan is covered. 
  2. Cook until the bottom of the crêpe starts to turn golden brown. Flip and cook for a further 10-15 seconds on the other side. 
  3. Place on a piece of parchment paper and REPEAT x 20.
  4. Now whip the double cream and sugar and fold it into the crème pâtissière, along with any flavourings and colourings you want to use. 
  5. Once the crêpes have cooled, place one on a plate and use an icing spatula to spread a thin layer of crème pâtissière all over the surface. Cover with another crêpe and repeat the process until you have finished your stack. Place your most handsome crêpe on top.
  6. I made a glacé icing to finish my cake, simply mixing icing sugar with warm water and stirring until smooth. I also added a little yellow food colouring and lemon extract, because pourquoi pas?
  7. Sprinkle any garnishes you want to use all over the cake, and chill for at least two hours.
  8. Use a very sharp knife to slice and serve, to preserve your layers of cream within.
  9. Holy crêpe! You've made a Mille Crêpes Cake!


  1. It looks like ham and cheese! Wait, could I make this with ham and cheese?

  2. Replies
    1. It tastes pretty amazing too! I was very pleased with the end result. It was a nerve-wracking moment when I first sliced into it!

  3. I was once instructed in this by friend (who I didn't fully believe that it was a thing) at a friends birthday party where there was no cake. After a few drinks we decided to layer up premade (eugh) pancakes and nutella then microwaved it and it worked surprisingly well.
    I think this looks much better though so maybe I'll give it a second go now I know it's really a thing

    1. Ha! As I was making this last night, Vicky, I kept thinking how a bit of Nutella - and perhaps a smidgen of peanut butter - would be a perfect filling!

  4. Oh I am giving this a go on pancake day... 'cept I live in a house where there's only two of us. Maybe I could make a smaller version.

    1. I also live in a house of two, Theresa. And one of us doesn't like the taste of lavender... looks like I'll be eating the whole thing myself, then! Hope yours is a triumph on Pancake Day! Let us know how you get on! (And you could definitely make a smaller version - either fewer crêpes, or halve the recipe and use a smaller pan.)

    2. Aaaah, just invite lots of people over. They'd love you forever.

    3. Good idea. Invite us, Theresa. I'll be finished eating my cake by then, and ready to start chomping a new one.

  5. I made a version of this with my friend when we were younger using whipped cream and fruit. I want that, this AND ham and cheese versions now.

    1. I sense that I will be experimenting A LOT with different fillings!

    2. And then will need A LOT of fillings in my teeth...

  6. I would advise you to Google "pannkakstårta" to see the Swedish version. Oh, the swedest thing...

    1. Pancake day just got serious.

    2. Pannkakstårta looks wonderful. Also very much enjoying your pun, Anon.

  7. Not French, apparently. You should be getting mad at the Americans - it's their invention according to folk on Twitter. Huh.

    1. Huh. No wonder Martha likes it! HOWEVER I think the Americans stole it from the French, because apparently it is a modern version of gateau de crêpes, an old French recipe (which is more or less exactly the same principle - a stack of pancakes). But then, I also just read that it was invented in Japan...

    2. Also I just found an amazing old Julia Child recipe for a savoury one involving béchamel sauce. GIMME.

    3. Y'know... some mini crepes, some cheese slices, bechamel and ham in some muffin tins and you'd have yourself some bloody excellent Things That Don't Even Have A Name Yet.

    4. Quick! Trademark 'Things That Don't Even Have A Name Yet'! Country of origin: Sianyland.


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