How to Make a Croquembouche

12 Parts:Making the Choux or Cream Puff PastryMaking the Sweet Choux PasteMaking the Confectioner's Custard (Pastry Cream)Making the Choux or Cream PuffsMaking the Croquembouche BaseFilling the Choux or Cream PuffsMaking the Clear CaramelAssembling the Base of the CroquemboucheMaking the Caramel GlueAssembling the Choux or Cream Puffs on the CroquemboucheFinishing the CroquemboucheAlternative Approach for Faster Croquembouche Creation

A classic wedding, birthday and festive/Christmas season dessert, the croquembouche is a work of art to behold. As with a work of art, it also requires considerable effort to make and put together, but the effort is well worth the delight of those consuming it. Be aware that you will need to have made the choux puffs and the vanilla cream prior to making the croquembouche; these can be made a day ahead, as needed, but do not fill the puffs until you are ready to assemble and serve the croquembouche. Time is of the essence with this creation.


  • Choux (puff) pastry
    • 1 egg
    • 125g / 1 1/4oz / 1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
    • 85g / 3 oz, 2/3 cup icing (confectioner's) sugar
    • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground almonds
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 vanilla pod/bean, seeds scraped from it
    • 200g / 7 oz / 1 3/4 cups flour, sifted
  • Sweet choux paste
    • 250ml / 8 fl oz / 1 cup water or milk and water
    • Large pinch salt
    • 65g / 2 1/2 oz / 5 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
    • 2 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar
    • 125g / 4 1/2 oz / 1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
    • 4 eggs
  • Confectioner's custard (pastry cream)
    • 50g / 2 oz / 1/2 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
    • 175g / 6 oz / 3/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
    • A pinch salt
    • 15g / 1/2 oz/ 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
    • 4 whole eggs
    • 1 vanilla pod (bean)
    • 500ml/ 17 fl oz/ 2 cups milk
    • 50ml/ 3 tablespoons rum, kirsch or Grand Marnier
  • Clear caramel (to be made twice)
    • 350g / 12 oz sugar cubes
    • 200ml / 7 fl oz / 3/4 cup water
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
  • Choux pastry puffs
  • Vanilla cream filling
  • Melted chocolate (quality)

Part 1
Making the Choux or Cream Puff Pastry

  1. 1
    Mix the egg and butter mixture together.
  2. 2
    Add the ingredients to the mixing bowl in the following order. Add the icing (confectioner's) sugar, ground almonds, salt, vanilla pod seeds, egg and butter mixture and finally, the sifted flour. Stir well after each addition.
  3. 3
    Form the pastry into one large ball shape. Wrap with plastic food wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill.

Part 2
Making the Sweet Choux Paste

  1. 1
    Make this paste the day before using it in the choux/cream puffs.
  2. 2
    Measure the liquid into a saucepan. Add the salt and butter pieces.
  3. 3
    Add the caster (superfine) sugar.
  4. 4
    Heat gently to melt the butter. Bring to the boil when the butter has melted.
  5. 5
    Remove the saucepan from the heat once the mixture starts to boil.
  6. 6
    Add the flour to the mixture. Mix quickly to avoid creating lumps.
  7. 7
    Place the saucepan back on the heat. Cook to thicken it, stirring constantly. When the paste starts to leave the sides of the saucepan, it's ready. Remove immediately.
    • It should thicken and become ready within a minute.
  8. 8
    Allow to cool slightly.
  9. 9
    Beat in 2 eggs, then another 2 eggs. Add one after the other. Beat after the addition of each egg. Continue beating forcefully until the paste forms a glossy texture. It's now ready for use.

Part 3
Making the Confectioner's Custard (Pastry Cream)

  1. 1
    Make this custard the day before using it in the choux/cream puffs.
  2. 2
    Use a heavy-based saucepan. Add the flour, caster sugar, salt, unsalted butter and eggs. Whisk together.
  3. 3
    Add the vanilla pod (bean) to the milk in a separate saucepan. Bring to the boil, then remove. Pour in the liqueur of choice. Then pour the liquid mixture into the other mixture.
  4. 4
    Stir well to combine. Return to the heat and warm for a few minutes at a boil. Stir constantly as this will prevent the custard from sticking to the base of the pan.
  5. 5
    Fish out the vanilla pod (bean). Pour the custard into an earthenware dish and allow to cool. Stir occasionally.

Part 4
Making the Choux or Cream Puffs

  1. 1
    Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF.
  2. 2
    Place the choux or cream puff pastry batter into a pastry or piping bag.
  3. 3
    Line the baking trays or sheets with parchment (baking) paper.
  4. 4
    Pipe out approximately 75 balls (choux puffs or buns) onto the lined trays or sheets. There should be some pastry remaining to make the round required at the base of the croquembouche.
  5. 5
    Bake in the preheated oven for around 10 minutes.

Part 5
Making the Croquembouche Base

  1. 1
    Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
  2. 2
    Roll out the remaining piece of choux or cream puff pastry. Roll into a circle shape measuring approximately 23cm or 9 inches in diameter. It should be around 5mm/ 1/4 inch thick.
  3. 3
    Place on a lined baking tray or sheet. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.
  4. 4
    Remove when baked. This will form the base of the croquembouche.

Part 6
Filling the Choux or Cream Puffs

  1. 1
    Do this only on the day of serving the croquembouche, to ensure absolute freshness and crisp textures.
  2. 2
    Mix the sweet choux paste and confectioner's custard together.
  3. 3
    Place the custard mixture into the pastry or piping bag. Attach a small, fine nozzle for piping.
  4. 4
    Pierce a hole into the first choux or cream puff ball with the tip of the pastry (or piping) bag nozzle.
  5. 5
    Fill with custard.
  6. 6
    Repeat for each of the choux or puff pastry balls made.

Part 7
Making the Clear Caramel

  1. 1
    Place the sugar cubes and water into a saucepan. Add the vinegar––this prevents crystallization.
  2. 2
    Heat gently to dissolve the sugar crystals in the water. Remove from the heat in readiness for use.
  3. 3
    Dip each choux or cream puff ball in the caramel, then place on a parchment-lined tray.

Part 8
Assembling the Base of the Croquembouche

  1. 1
    Place the cooked pastry circle onto the base tray or dish used for holding the croquembouche.
  2. 2
    Wipe oil around the edge of a 14cm/5 inch bowl. Place this bowl upside down in the exact center of the pastry circle. The croquembouche will be built around this base.

Part 9
Making the Caramel Glue

  1. 1
    Use the exact same method and amounts as for the "Making the clear caramel" above. However, this time, don't dip the choux or cream puffs in it.

Part 10
Assembling the Choux or Cream Puffs on the Croquembouche

  1. 1
    Use the caramel "glue" just made. Dip the base of each choux or cream puff in the caramel, then arrange neatly around the bowl place on the pastry base. The caramelized tops of each puff must be placed to face outward, for best effect.
  2. 2
    Remove the bowl. The oil on it should assist with this, without disturbing the round of puffs already made.
  3. 3
    Dip and add the remaining puffs in ever-decreasing circle sizes, atop the previous circle of puffs. Continue upwards, forming a tower shape, until you can add no more.

Part 11
Finishing the Croquembouche

  1. 1
    Decorate the croquembouche. Use the caramel to attach decorative items such as candied almonds, nougat pieces, brandy snaps, marzipan sweets, crystallized (candied) or sugar-coated fruits, etc. Spun caramel or drizzled chocolate are another alternative for decorating the croquembouche.
  2. 2
    Serve immediately. This is best eaten soon after it is made. If it needs to be kept longer, keep in a cool place.

Part 12
Alternative Approach for Faster Croquembouche Creation

This method uses pre-made choux or cream puffs, a cone and chocolate drizzle, for a fast version of croquembouche.

  1. 1
    Make the choux or cream puffs according to your recipe. Alternatively, purchase them frozen (they may also be pre-filled).
  2. 2
    Fill the puffs with vanilla pastry cream, if not already pre-filled.
  3. 3
    Make a cone of stiff paper. Cover it in wax paper (or make the cone of a clean nonstick material).
    • You might be able to purchase these from cake decorating suppliers, if preferred.
  4. 4
    Melt chocolate and have this sitting in a bowl next to your building project. Dip each choux or cream puff in melted chocolate.
  5. 5
    Start at the base of the cone and work around the base first. Attach each choux or cream puff to the cone using a toothpick. Stick each toothpick in all the way. Sometimes the toothpicks are really hard to push in; don't worry about that because at the very end you will push them all in with a thimble on your finger.
    • "Flat" toothpicks are less stiff and pointy than "round" toothpicks. They'll be harder to push into the cone, but less annoyingly sharp in the course of eating the croquembouche.
  6. 6
    Use the melted chocolate to "cement" the puffs together.
  7. 7
    Work your way in rows up to the top of the cone. Pin the top puff to the cone from the top angle, rather than from the side.
  8. 8
    Use a thimble to press in all the toothpicks to the assembled choux or cream puffs. You're done; the croquembouche is ready to be served.


  • Make sure that the pastry choux puffs are not undercooked or they won't hold their shape when assembled. You can test this by opening them up and looking at them in the middle. They should be completely dry on the outside and just a little bit moist on the inside.
  • If using chocolate, temper the chocolate first for strength, gloss, and snap like a commercial chocolate bar.
  • If you use a caramel coating, assemble your croquembouche within about 2 hours prior to serving in order to avoid "melting" it with water absorbed from the air. (A cover might not help much because the puffs themselves have a lot of moisture to give off.)
  • Croquembouche is often used as a traditional wedding cake.


  • Sugar melts at high temperatures. Melted sugar can easily burn skin.

Things You'll Need

  • Method 1
    • Heavy based saucepans
    • Mixing implements
    • Whisk
    • Bowl
    • Base for croquembouche
  • Method 2
    • Toothpicks (about 60)
    • Cone
    • Thimble
    • Base for croquembouche to sit on (a cake board or flat plate are ideal)
    • Bowl for melted chocolate (and bain marie to melt it)

Sources and citations

  • Method 1 adapted from Videojug
  • Method 2 adapted from Larousse Gastronomique, (2009), ISBN 978-0-600-62042-6

Article Info

Categories: Christmas Cooking | French Pastries