Daring Baker’s Challenge – Piece Montee’


Pssst… this is my very FIRST Daring Baker’s Challenge evah so BE NICE ; ) You all know I’m not much of a baker so this is really taking me WAY out of my comfort zone, which hopefully will end up being a good thing. Vediamo ; ) The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri. 

There are a lot of different names for this, Piece Montee {Mounted Piece} Croquembouche {Crunch in the Mouth} Cream Puff Cake {okay I totally made that one up but it’s catchy no? LOL} I was giddy when I found out that this is a traditional French Wedding Cake {hello how cool is that} and is also served on other celebratory occasions. This is truly a GREAT idea! I mean your guests can just come by, pluck one, two or THREE tee hee and off they go… NO cutting, no serving. Easy Peasy! And what a fantabulous centerpiece? I mean really!

For this tasty tree of treats you’ll make a Pate a Choux {which is just your batter} a Creme Patissierie {the filling} and last a hard caramel glaze! Sounds easy enough right? Well…

Everything went fairly smoothly UNTIL I got to the glaze. I followed the recipe to the letter and it was going fine until about the 10th cream puff in it decided to harden up on me. I’m talking hard as a BRICK! I truly thought I had ruined my pan {my FAVORITE saucepan} sigh…Not to mention I was panicking that I wouldn’t be able to finish my Cone o Cream Puffs…but fear not, the lovely & talented RACHAEL saved the day. I called her and she walked me through it, sent me a new recipe and it worked liked a charm. Mwah! I love my foodie friends.

So I was back in no time, dipping the creampuffs into the caramel, burning my fingers, YES baking is dangerous stuff people! That Caramel is smoking HOT! Be careful! I began to construct my mini cream puff cone ehem croquembouche and all was going well until I finished, stepped back to take a gander at my mini masterpiece and realized she was the leaning tower of creampuffs SIGH… Maybe a little decoration will help : ) Kind of like cake makeup LOL…

I decided being it’s Memorial Day this weekend here in the states to decorate her accordingly! Red White & Blue! {and I fell in lurve with those red pinwheels, YES they even spun} I did also have the cutest little flags that were SUPPOSED to go on here but some 3 year old got a hold of them {good thing that boy is cute} This would also be PERFECT for a 4th of July celebration centerpiece!

& in case your’e wondering, YES it was quite tasty {& didn’t last long at all LOL} ; )




Recipe Source:The recipes for this month’s challenge come from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and were originally created by famed pastry chef, Nick Malgieri.

For the Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425?F/220?C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide. Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of chouxwhen piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top. Brush tops withegg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt).

Bake the choux at 425?F/220?C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350?F/180?C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat. Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up. (You may want to use toothpicks to hold them in place – see video #4 below).

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate. Have fun and enjoy!

Bon appétit!


  1. 1

    OH MY!! Paula, è il più bello che abbia visto in giro! è meraviglioso!!! mancavi proprio nella grande famiglia DB! stupendo!

  2. 2

    Paula it’s absolutely spectacular!!!! I took a lot of liberties with my challenge this month but I was most happy that I was able to successfully create the choux pastry!! Next time, I will make the real deal but I was happy with my (ice)cream puffs this time!!

  3. 3

    Paula! Gorgeous job. It looks delicious, but I am with you, making anything with hot caramel is treacherous.

  4. 4

    It looks beautiful!!! Very 4th of July 🙂
    I haven’t done a Daring Bakers (or Cooks) challenge in several months: just no time.

  5. 5

    Oh, honey, that looks delish. I’m terrified of the modbakers and I DO mostly bake, so props to you for stepping out of your comfort zone!!! 🙂 Maybe one day I’ll join you… 🙂

  6. 6

    oh you did a wonderful job! it’s so festive and just right for this holiday weekend. great job!

  7. 7

    Sorry, that should have read Daring Bakers, not modbakers. Modbakers don’t scare me at least not yet 🙂

  8. 8

    I looks fantastic! I was immediately intimidated by the whole hot molten sugar thing, so I chose the chocolate glaze route, but major props to you for pulling it off! I can’t wait to see what you do with future challenges!

  9. 9

    Leaning or not, it’s adorable. Well done on your first Challenge!

  10. 10

    Paula, it looks absolutely wonderful! Congrats on your first challenge – I hope to see many more :).

  11. 11

    Wow! It’s beautiful! I love your decoration – French colours. 😉 When your caramel hardens, just put it back on the stove at lowest heat. It’ll melt and you get your caramel again. To wash off your harden caramel from the pot, just soak them in boiling water. Hope this helps.

  12. 12

    Paula, it looks gorgeous!!! You are a natural 😀

  13. 13

    Haha, cute! It might be a little lopsided, but it sure has a lot of character =)

  14. 14

    Wow, this is beyond gorgeous!! Love the photos!

  15. 15

    I LOVE CROQUEMBOUCHE!!!! I keep wanting to make one, but haven’t had an occasion… soon!

  16. 16

    Love it! When I live in italy the best thing was going to the bakery and picking different flavor “Beignets”, my nonna taught me how to make the when I was older and now I have another way to present them. Birthday tower in the horizon!

  17. 17

    Wow!!! Very festive and fun! And I am all about anything with goo dripping off of it!!!

  18. 18

    Fabulous! Congrats on your sweet success.

  19. 19

    Your profiteroles look so delicious! I’m sure they didn’t last long. 🙂

  20. 20

    They scare me – but then I look at those sweetly, scrumptious results and think,”Why not?” Gorgeous.

  21. 21

    GORGEOUS!! I love your decorations… They are spectacular. Looking at this makes me want to do it all again.

  22. 22
    Alda /

    looks great, makes you want to grab one and eat…..

  23. 23

    oh my goodness…how fabulous would this piece be in lieu of a wedding cake?! that would be SO AWESOME 🙂

  24. 24

    Superb! And inspiring….you make me want to jump into a challenge. Congratulations on a job well done. Hope your fingers have bounced back.
    Love the decorations, so festive! Have a happy Memorial Day weekend. 🙂

  25. 25

    Congrats! It’s beautiful!

  26. 26

    Congrats on completing your FIRST DB challenge! It looks GREAT! And hey…a leaning tower is proof that it’s homemade with love, right?! Good job Paula!

  27. 27

    Holy cow, lady. Your tower is HUGE. I think I’m having tower envy. 🙂 Is that all from 1 batch of the choux?? amazing!

    I’ve got 2 fingers with blisters from that darn caramel too. I’m glad i’m not the only one who called rachael to help me with the pan clean up and recipe!!! 🙂

    Beautiful job…

  28. 28
    Christy /

    Love it! Looks amazing!!
    You can always blame the ‘leaning’ on your love for all things Italian. I think you subconsciously were paying homage to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

    Ahem ~ I remember one really awesome trip there. You scared me half to death running around the top of that thing!

  29. 29

    Congrats – what a brilliant first challenge! I love all the decorations.

  30. 30

    Your first challenge? You’d never know. It looks like it was made by a pro. I love the personal Memorial’s Day touches.

  31. 31

    Great job on your first challenge! The decorations are so festive for the upcoming holiday 🙂 I ran into the same problem with my caramel and was able to slowly heat it back up again without burning it. I am glad that it all worked out for you!

  32. 32

    when i read about you using sugar on twitter, i wondered if you had joined. YOu did a spectacular job. fabulous.

  33. 33

    Congrats on your first Bakers Challenge sweetie. I think you did a Fabulous job!


  34. 34

    congratulations to this delicious mouthwatering first challenge. it looks stunning. great job.

  35. 35

    Very nicely done! Love it!

  36. 36

    Welcome to the Daring Bakers Challenge – AWESOME job on your first challenge. You post was so fun to read and your pictures are fantastic. And that cream puff cake (I like that!) looks beautiful and oh so festive!! Great work!

  37. 37
    Mary Garcia /

    Beautiful tower of tasty goodness! Yum!

  38. 38

    How festive! You did a great job on the challenge!!

  39. 39
    Schmidty /

    C’est magnifique!!

  40. 40

    I think it’s fabulous!

  41. 41

    Looks great !!! It was my wedding cake nearly 7 yrs ago.

  42. 42

    You are one brave soul and for now I will live vicariously through your baking accomplishments. Although I would love the fruits of your labor. They do look so delectable. and welcoming.

  43. 43

    Gorgeous!! I love the festive flair 🙂 The dripping caramel has me salivating.

  44. 44
    LoriAnn /

    Did I miss the glaze recipe?

  45. 45

    I cannot believe that you do not like to bake. What a beautiful job that you did!

  46. 46

    Amazing job on your first challenge!!! Fantastic!

  47. 47

    Well I say you did a pretty awesome job for not being a baker!

  48. 48

    Absolutely stunning – and looks like it will just melt in your mouth. Wonderful! I need to learn to bake now…

  49. 49

    This looks great! And so festive!

  50. 50

    You did such an amazing job! And bravo on your first ever Daring Bakers challenge! YOU GO GIRL!!!

  51. 51

    Congratulations on having made such a fabulous first Daring Bakers challenge! Your piece montee looks so divine, and has made me quite envious and with a craving for cream puffs 🙂

  52. 52

    Very well done! I love the “theme” to match the holiday. Lovely 🙂

  53. 53

    Wow this looks fabulous. Congrats on becoming a DBer

  54. 54

    I love how festive this is! You did a wonderful job!

  55. 55

    Your piece montee turned out picture perfect! Congrats on your first DB Challenge!

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