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Crêpe lapis*

Monday, May 3, 2010

Like a many-tentacled being making its way out of... er... forget that and just enjoy the cake. 
(* lapis = Malay for layer)

The picture of Martha Stewart’s Darkest Chocolate Crêpe Cake has haunted me since I first saw it in her January 2006 issue of Living magazine. It’s a 32-layer tower of thin chocolate-flavoured pancakes filled with hazelnut cream and enveloped with chocolate glaze, then adorned with dramatic looking caramelised sugar-coated hazelnuts. (You can see the cake, embellishments and how to make all the components here.)

The recipe seems a lot to handle and I have been too intimidated to try it. Also, the cake was a previous challenge on Daring Bakers and the reviews were not encouraging. Apparently, the recipe didn't work well.

But when the egg challenge came along for the Don't Call Me Chef column (see tab above; the link to the pdf file with the recipe will be up soon is now up; click here), my mind immediately went to that impressive cake. A similar version is called a Mille Crêpes, or Thousand Pancakes. Apparently, Nadese Patisserie in Malacca and Humble Beginnings are some cake businesses in Malaysia that specialise in these cakes.

But after reading several recipes, I knew there had to be any easier way to make the confection. And so I fiddled around with tried and tested recipes and made it easier on myself. The crepe recipe is from Wicked Sweet Indulgences, from the Australian Women's Weekly cookbook library (a good series to have), and the pastry cream is from Joe Pastry (the measures are converted to metric and I made only half the amount).

I don't think the cake is difficult to make yourself although standing at the stove to cook 20-25 pancakes is a bit of a pain. Each one takes only seconds to make, though, so it's tolerable. And the vanilla pastry cream recipe is straightfoward. Use vanilla beans if you can (I got my supply at Bake with Yen in Petaling Jaya for RM1 a pod some time ago; I don't know how good they are but they do have a nice smell) for the tiny black specks and true taste of vanilla.

The caramelised hazelnuts, however, took a bit of work. It requires cooking sugar, not always an easy task, and things can go wrong in the blink of an eye. If you look at Martha's and compare her garnish with mine, you'll see that mine is darker. That's because I kept the sugar too long on the heat (read that as I burnt the sugar). The ones on Martha's cake have long, straight ends but mine are squiggly because I didn't let the caramel-coated hazelnuts drip enough before allowing the sugar to harden. But they have a certain charm, don't you agree? Like Medusa's snaky tresses.

Go on, count them. Not a thousand layers, but 23 is a good number to have. (Wasn't that Michael Jordan's jersey number when he played for the Chicago Bulls? This is almost as airy.)


  1. I like the artsy decor on top of the cake.

    Food Foundry (Section 17) serves a really delicious crepe cake (stackes of crepe like layers filled with cream). But cannot eat too much as the cream fills up the tummy pretty fast and in my case, made me feel like barfing.

  2. Then you might want to try Humble Beginnings' Mille Crepe!

    Best I've had.


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