Things Fall Apart

The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a pièce montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

We know I often find the Daring Bakers challenges true to their name. I think this is the first time, however, that I actually cried.

It started well enough. The mixing and piping of the pâte à choux was not hard, after all the practice I got in school. The little puffs did their thing and puffed. I filled them with a raspberry diplomat cream I was pretty happy with (diplomat cream is a blend of pastry cream and whipped cream; the recipe follows).

But what happened next was not pretty. Let’s see… there was something about my wanting to use white chocolate to glue the whole thing together because I thought it would go better than caramel would with the raspberry filling, and last longer too. Something about melted white chocolate being slippery, not sticky, when wet. Something about every attempt at building some semblance of a cone resulting in a heap of increasingly-chocolate-encrusted-choux rubble. Something about the baker also becoming increasingly white-chocolate-encrusted and finally being reduced to a whimpering heap of rubble herself.

The good thing (which would have been an even better thing had I thought about it from the beginning) is that melted white chocolate does eventually become sticky enough to use as glue once it cools a little. Unfortunately by this time my choux were just looking pretty gruesome from their ordeal.

Nothing to do but try to camouflage the damage with chocolate glaze, raspberries the size of the Liberty Bell, and sucre neige. On the bright side, it tasted good.

On the even brighter side, there are lots of DB pièces montées to gawk at today!

Raspberry Diplomat Cream


  • 300 g chilled raspberry pastry cream (recipe below)
  • 150 g heavy cream


  1. Whip the cream to soft peaks.
  2. Whisk the pastry cream to loosen it, then fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream.

Raspberry Pastry Cream


  • 232 g whole milk
  • 47 g egg yolk
  • 47 g sugar, divided
  • 16 g conrstarch
  • 35 g butter at room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 50 g raspberry puree, thawed
  • 7 g (1.5 t.) raspberry or pomegranate liqueur


  1. In a medium heat-proof bowl, combine the cornstarch and half of the sugar. Add the egg yolk and whisk gently to combine. (Avoid whisking vigorously as you don’t want to incorporate air.)
  2. Combine the milk and the rest of the sugar in a medium saucepan.
  3. Heat the mixture over medium heat until it just starts to boil.
  4. Pour one-third to one-half of the hot milk into the sugar/egg mixture, whisking constantly.
  5. Whisk this mixture back into the milk in the pan, and return to medium heat.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for another two minutes, whisking constantly.
  7. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted, then the raspberry puree and liqueur.
  8. Pour into a small rimmed baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. Place more plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate immediately. Use when cooled.

CommentsLeave a comment

  1. says

    Wow, it looks fabulous! I’ve been planning to try my hand at a croquembouche for ages, but can’t bring up the courage and keep putting it off to the next big family event every time. The caramel bit being the most scary part.

    White chocolate sounds like a very good alternative and I suspect the thing must have tasted divine, if you’d ended up with loads of white chocolate over the little choux :-)

    Well done, Susan!


  2. says

    it really looks delicious and knowing what you had to do to get there makes it a pretty amazing thing.
    we all know better for the next time. you not to use to warm chocolate and I know not to let hot caramel drop under my fingernail.

  3. says

    great achievement – food is especially frustrating when it refuses to behave but at least this sounds delicious and it looked great in the long run

  4. says

    Oh dear! I think it looks absolutely beautiful and never would have guessed at the struggles to get it to the final photo. You did a terrific job with the challenge and I can’t wait to try that raspberry filling!

  5. says

    Great job Susan! I personally hate white chocolate, too much trouble to work with. I almost never use it. I love the flavor combination though, very classy.

  6. says

    What a beautiful piece! If you didn’t say it, I wouldn’t have guessed it was rebuilt of a failed montee. :) What’s most important is that it tastes good. Everything else is secondary.

  7. says

    I think it is pretty good looking, actually!

    I admire you for going ahead with it, there is NO way I would ever attempt a croquembouche… way too tricky, and profanity-prone


  8. says

    Nobody would guess that you have to struggle so much to get such a pretty photo! The raspberry filling for the cream puffs sounds great. Untill now I used only a vanilla cream to fill them, but I have to try the raspberry one soon!

  9. says

    I agree with a few other comments that it still looks amazing despite the problems you had in creating it. It is a very difficult dessert to make. Now, next time will be easier, right?

  10. says

    I never would have guessed, from the beautiful photo on top, that you had any trouble with this challenge! The white chocolate definitely sounds like a good idea to me as well. I bet it tasted wonderful with raspberries and two types of chocolate!

  11. says

    Oh and what a cover it is! Mine did the same thing- with chocolate. It rather muggy- around 90 degrees- so I think I will blame it on that. This way I keep my ego safe.

  12. says

    I cried, too. I am so glad I wasn’t the only one. This challenge definitely earned its title. Despite your problems, I think your croquembouche looks fantastic.

  13. says

    I think it is very pretty but I have to laugh because I had a similar experience: not wanting to make caramel, I dipped my choux in melted chocolate which, when dried, became a dull matte brown and heavy looking. So I took what was left and just drizzled a bit of chocolate over them. Oh well, I think they are delicious and yours are pretty! I’ll bet they are all eaten up by now anyway.

  14. says

    I’m afraid my attempt would not be up-to-snuff for any photo-op. I would have consumed the evidence while those beauties were naked and stuffed with the diplomat cream.
    Who needs excess when success was achieved at points one and two?

    P.S. Ain’t no way you are going to convince me that yours ain’t perfect. I can tell by the photo that you iz joshing.

    Here, borrow this tissue while I consume the evidence.


  15. says

    Aw…sorry you had some troubles this month, but it did end up looking fantastic in the end! :) I love the sound of the raspberry diplomat cream.

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