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Lady J cake
Lady J cake

Lady J cake - Learn this impressive dessert in 3 easy steps.

For a special occasion, I decided to try my hand at an ever so popular dessert: the crêpe cake. It sells for around $80.00 in certain cake shops in the city but I can tell you you will not spend more than $10.00. So, keep your "sang froid" and take the plunge! Here below is my own version to share. For a weekend dessert, it's better to do this in steps: start the crêpe batter on Wednesday. Pastry cream and crêpe making on Thursday. Assemble on Friday for a Saturday dessert. On the day you can sprinkle the top with turbinado sugar and torch (if you have one) and/or sprinkle gold eatable flakes for a stupendous effect.

The recipe is nothing new. The famous pastry chef, Pierre Hermé published his recipe, followed by Amanda Hesser of the New York Times Food Section. The latter is easy to follow, but I will add some notes so you will not run into trouble along the way. 

Ingredients:

FOR THE CRÊPE BATTER: Time around 10 minutes - it sits overnight 
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
6 eggs
1 ½ cups flour
7 tablespoons sugar
 Pinch salt

FOR THE VANILLA PASTRY CREAM: Time: 20 minutes - it cools overnight 
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup cornstarch, sifted
3 ½ tablespoons butter

For the crêpes: Time: 30 minutes - cover each crêpe with parchament paper and stack.

FOR THE ASSEMBLY: Time: 20 minutes
Vegetable oil (canola, corn, anything but olive)
16 ozs or 2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar or more
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or Rum
1 tablespoon Confectioners' sugar

PREPARATION
Day 1: make the crêpe batter. In a small pan, cook the beurre noisette (brown the butter). Set aside. In another small pan, heat the milk until steaming; allow to cool for 10 minutes. In a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter. Pour into a container with a spout, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Day 2: Pastry cream: Bring the milk with the vanilla bean (and scrapings) to a boil, then set aside for 10 minutes; remove bean. Fill a large bowl with ice and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and be placed in this ice bath.
In a medium heavy-bottomed pan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk, then place pan over high heat and bring to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes. Press the pastry cream through a fine-meshed sieve into the small bowl. Set the bowl in the ice bath and stir until the temperature reaches 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Stir in the butter. When completely cool, cover and refrigerate.
Day 3: Make the crêpes and assemble the cake: Bring the crêpe batter to room temperature. Place a nonstick or seasoned 9-inch crêpe pan over medium heat. Watch the video!  Swab the surface with the oil, then add about 3 tablespoons batter and swirl to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crêpe with your fingers (use rubber dish gloves to avoid getting fingers burned). Cook on the other side for no longer than 5 seconds. Flip the crêpe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crêpes.
Pass the pastry cream through a sieve once more. Whip the heavy cream with the tablespoon sugar and the Rum or Grand Marnier until stiff. Fold it into the pastry cream.The pastry cream will be dense and thick, use a wire whisk to break up cream and fold together. 
Lay first crêpe on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, completely cover with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup). Cover with a crêpe and repeat to make a stack of 20, with the best-looking crêpe on top. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set out for 30 minutes before serving. If you have a blowtorch for crème brûlée, sprinkle the top crêpe with 2 tablespoons sugar and caramelize with the torch; otherwise, dust with confectioners' sugar. Slice like a cake. Batter adapted from ''Joy of Cooking.'' Pastry cream adapted from ''Desserts,'' by Pierre Hermé and Dorie Greenspan. Recipe adapted from Amanda Hesser of the New York Times food section.

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