Tips and advice when it comes to choosing, displaying and cutting through a French-style wedding cake, otherwise known as a Croquembouche.

What is a Croquembouche?

In one of those strange twists of linguistic fate that happens from time to time, if you mention a croquembouche to someone French, they will tilt their head, regard the crazy ‘Anglaise’ (sic?) in front of them and wonder what on earth you are talking about.

Rather like the notion that we use the French vernacular when shouting ‘encore’ at a performance (where the French would say ‘Bis!’) 19th Century French cookbooks mentioned a croque-en-bouche – something that “crunches in the mouth” – but these were only ever savoury, and the term doesn’t appear to have made it into the 20th Century on that side of the Channel. A croquembouche, it seems, isn’t a croquembouche at all, but one could stand tall and proud in the corner of your wedding venue.

The croquembouche is no less popular at weddings in France compared to the UK, and no less popular than it was in the 19th Century, yet it quickly became known as a ‘Piece Montee’, which, you guessed it, is a general French term for ‘Wedding Cake’. Confused? Don’t be, happens all the time and both sides are convinced there is a conspiracy afoot (excuse the pun) to pull the rug from under each other’s culinary chefs clogs.

How to Make a Croquembouche

However, back in good ol’ Grande Bretagne, ask your wedding cake supplier for a croquembouche and you will get exactly you expect: a cone or pyramid of choux buns, with a light crunch on the outside, soft in the middle and filled with a delicious cream known as ‘crème patissier’ or, in less confusing parlance, pastry cream. Wrapped in a fine thread of spun sugar or drizzled with chocolate, whatever it’s called, it’s a classic that every pastry chef knows to be a standard for anyone taking him or herself seriously. The art of the choux bun is one that demands respect and practice, it’s hard physical work to make and doesn’t fair well in a machine, and it requires absolute precision in order to avoid a deflated catastrophe. With the buns made, perfectly, the pastry cream needs to be sweet, light, and set perfectly, not too much, not too little, to avoid either a school-custard disaster or crème Anglaise pouring out of the buns, and the spun sugar needs to be worked and worked, again by hand, to a fine thread that breaks on the lips. Not only is this classic demonstration of the skill of the ‘Patissier’ a delight to behold, it’s undoubtedly delicious to taste and provides the perfect antidote to the sense of overwhelming that can accompany the wedding cake decision.

A Unique Wedding Cake Alternative

Not alone as a genuinely practical, attractive and tasty alternative to a more traditional wedding cake, it finds itself in a genre made up of strange bedfellows: cakes of cheese and cheesecakes, pork pie cakes and macaroon towers couldn’t be more different yet they are all taking their rightful place as popular ‘piece montee’ as the world becomes smaller, as each day passes, and as inspiration becomes ever closer at hand. These days, it would appear, ‘de rigueur’ is whatever you want it to be. If you aren’t a fan of the traditional fruit cake or are having a wedding with a French theme, a croquembouche could be an ideal choice.

How to Cut and Serve a Croquembouche

There are a number of different ways in which to cut through a croquembouche.

Your croquembouche would typically stand on a very flat surface, such as a traditional, slightly raised cake stand or a large cake base to reduce the risk of slippage.

With a Knife

As with a traditional wedding cake, the newlywed couple can simply cut their croquembouche from the middle, down – depending on the texture of the glaze. The tower of small choux buns will then typically be taken away and distributed in a way previously discussed with your catering team.

With a Hammer

If the croquembouche has been finished with melted toffee or a layer of caramel, it may require a hammer in order to break through the top layer. Hammering through the croquembouche could result in some comical wedding photography.

With your hands

If the couple do not wish to make a mess when cutting (or hammering) through their croquembouche, they can simply take a choux bun each, from the top of the display, and feed it to each other. Just remember to let your baker know so they can leave a few choux at the top loose for you to easily access.

How to Decorate a Croquembouche

There are several ways to decorate a croquembouche. Each couple will have a different style, depening on the them or colour scheme of their wedding. Below, we’ve listed 10 different ways to enhance the look of a croquembouche.

• Fresh flowers
• Ribbon or organza
• Fairy lights
• Fresh fruit
• A drizzle of chocolate
• A string of pearls
• Colourful macarons
• Iced motifs such as butterflies or flowers
• Powdered sugar
• Edible glitter