Eric Akis: When crêpes become cakes

Eric Akis

If you need a cake for a special occasion and want to switch things up, don’t bake it in the oven, get out a skillet instead. You’ll need it to make the base for the cake: crêpes.

The concept is simple. Make a batch of crêpes, spread each one with a divine filling, stack them on a cake plate, let cake chill awhile so the layers fuse together, decorate cake and serve.

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The result is a multi-layered, pretty and impressive looking cake that tastes divine. The latter is especially true if your filling contains rich and flavourful things, such as mascarpone, lemon curd and cream, as my recipe does.

I did use the word “simple” above, but the truth is making nicely formed, round crêpes, spreading them with a filling and then stacking them can be a little fussy. That’s particularly true if you don’t make crêpes very often, or have never made them.

The good news, though, is that you can make the crêpes the day before you need them for the cake. So, if you mess up and some crêpes tear while making them, you can always make another batch of batter and make some more. If you do that and end up with more crêpes than you need for the cake, enjoy them for breakfast the next day or day after that.

To more easily spread the filling on the crêpes, and to create a nice even stack of them, I don’t try to do that work right on the cake plate, as the crêpes will slide around during the process.

Instead, what I do is set a crêpe on a parchment paper-lined work surface. I then spread the crêpe with the filling, and then carefully lift and set it in on the cake plate. I then keep spreading, lifting and stacking the crêpes in this manner until all are used.

I decorated and served my crêpe cake with lemon zest, berries and mint, which made it look and taste even more splendid.

Crêpe Cake with Mascarpone, Lemon and Berries

Layering crêpes with a divine mascarpone mixture is how you make this luscious and lemony cake.

You can make the cake many hours before needed. In fact, you’ll have to, because it needs time to set in the refrigerator before serving.

Preparation time: 25 minutes, plus time to make crêpes and to chill cake

Cooking time: None

Makes: eight servings

1 (475 gram) tub mascarpone (see Note 1)

3/4 cup icing sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup lemon curd (see Note 2)

• lemon zest

16 (6- to 7-inch wide) crepes (see recipe below)

1 1/2 cups fresh berries, such as whole raspberries or blackberries, or sliced strawberries, or a mix of berries

• a few fresh mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)

• icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Place the mascarpone, icing sugar and whipping cream in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment (see Eric’s options). Whip these ingredients until well blended. Scrape sides of the bowl and then whip a few seconds more. Now add the lemon curd and whip until it’s blended in.

Set and spread 1 Tbsp of the mascarpone filling in the centre of a cake plate. Set a piece of parchment paper flat on a work surface. Set a crêpe flat on the parchment paper.

Now carefully spread it with 3 Tbsp of filling, ensuring it reaches the edges. Carefully lift crêpe and set it in the centre of the cake plate.

Spread, lift and stack 14 more crêpes on top of the first one you set on the cake plate.

Set the last crêpe on top of cake. Gently and evenly press down on that crepe to very slightly compact the layers below. Spread top of cake with the remaining mascarpone mixture. Loosely tent cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours, or up to 12 hours, before serving.

When ready to serve, decorate top of cake with a few berries, lemon zest and a mint sprig or two, if using. Dust cake with a little icing sugar, if desired. Cut cake into wedges and serve with remaining berries.

Note 1: Mascarpone is sold in tubs in the deli department of most supermarkets and at Italian-style foods stores. I used Tre Stelle brand.

Note 2: Lemon curd is sold in jars in the jam/jelly aisle of most supermarkets. I used Robertsons brand.

Eric’s options: You can also mix the mascarpone and other ingredients together in a medium bowl with a hand mixer.

Plain Crêpes

This recipe will yield the number of crêpes you need for the cake. You can, of course, also use these crêpes in other recipes, or simply enjoy them as is for breakfast with a little butter and syrup, or sugar, lemon zest and berries.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: About 20 minutes

Makes: 16 to 18 crepes

3 large eggs

1/2 cup cold water

1 tsp granulated sugar

• pinch salt

3 Tbsp melted butter, plus more butter for cooking

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

3/4 cup milk

Place eggs in a medium bowl and beat until yolks and whites are well blended. Whisk in the water, sugar, salt and 3 Tbsp butter. Gradually whisk in the flour until mixture is completely smooth. Whisk in the milk, creating a thin batter.

Place an eight- or nine-inch non-stick skillet or well-seasoned crêpe pan over medium heat. When pan is hot (see Note), coat the pan’s cooking surface with a tiny bit of melted butter. (You should have to do this only once to ensure the first crêpe is easy to flip. After that, the butter in the batter should ensure they easily do so.)

Pour 2 Tbsp of batter into the pan. Lift the pan up, and then tilt and swirl the batter in the pan until it evenly coats the bottom and a little bit up the sides. Cook the crêpe until it’s almost dry on the surface and very light golden on the underside, about 40 to 50 seconds. Use a thin spatula to flip the crêpe over and cook about 20 seconds on the other side.

Invert or slide the crêpe onto a wide plate, ensuring it’s sitting flat. Cook the rest of the batter, slightly overlapping and stacking the hot crêpes on the plate as you go along.

Cool crêpes to room temperature, and they are ready to use for the crêpe cake.

Note: You know your pan is hot enough to make crêpes when you add a tiny drop of water to it and it quickly bubbles and evaporates.

Eric options: You can make the crêpes a day before needed for the crêpe cake. To store, once cooled to room temperature, tightly wrap, layered in two or three stacks, in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. There’s no need to layer them between wax or parchment paper as the fresh-cooked crêpes should not stick together, particularly if you let them warm up at room temperature 30 minutes before using for the cake.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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