The Cats licked the Croquembouche

This entry is VERY late, three days late to be exact. Humidity turned caramelized sugar to croquembouche goo and well, I almost gave up.  I’m glad I didn’t, so better late than never (are you listening, BOT?).

When I was in my early 20’s, I constructed my first croquembouche (aka Piece Montee).  I saw it on the cover of a Good Housekeeping magazine at the market and bought that magazine because I had to attempt it.  That combined with having seen a classic Martha Stewart repeat, in all of her 90’s wedge-cut glory, dipping a snipped whisk into caramelized sugar and spinning it around and around this extraordinary, cone-shaped tower of cream puffs. I watched in awe as she formed golden strand after golden strand around that croquembouche, which was seducing me like no pastry had before.  Before I continue, the infamous blog checking lines;

Croquembouche Vase with cut-out fruit flowers

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

So, I decided that a croquembouche would be the perfect, and most impressive, dessert to bring to a boyfriend’s Christmas day family gathering.  After a few issues with the creme patisserie, which I hadn’t made before, I spent hours building this tower of beauty, decorating it like the one on the cover of the aforementioned Good Housekeeping issue, with silver dragees, red and green Jordan almonds, and of course, that gorgeous angel hair mane of spun sugar.  It was ahh-mazing; it actually looked like a golden Christmas Tree! I was ecstatic to show this baby off, but even more excited for everyone to take a bite of the caramel coated cream puffs and discover the rich, creamy centers in various flavors (vanilla ginger, chocolate truffle, and salted caramel).

Surely they would marvel at my artistry and ability to make something that looked so good, taste SO delicious!!

Cream puffs for Croquembouche Vase with cut-out fruit flowers

When we got there, the both of us holding a side of the croquembouche platter like it was a newborn baby; walking in slow motion, then scoping the room for any stable place to put it down, everyone did marvel.   Excited gasps and exclamations of  “WOW, I can’t believe you made that!” and “HOW GORGEOUS!!”, peppered the room .

I was totally basking in a  “D’s chick is a supergirl – what a catch!” kind of moment.

His brother took a side of the platter and helped us place it smack dab in the middle of the main dinner table; the centerpiece!! As more people arrived, their eyes went straight to my croquembouche, asking where they bought this amazing, edible tower.  Of course they were shocked to find out that I made it all by my  lil’ ol self.  To say I was lovin’ it is such a freakin’ understatement, it isn’t even funny.  I was the bomb diggity bomb that day! I was SO full of my pastry self (inwardly, of course) it was almost humorous, and I couldn’t wait until everyone experienced crispy, creamy profiterole pleasure on their palates!

Croquembouche Vase with cut-out fruit flowersNotice the pool of melting sugar at the bottom from the humidity.  It seeps through the dang walls no matter how high you have the AC or CA blasting. Within an hour, the puffs started to keel over and roll off.  Even the perfect dip of sprinkles on several of the cream puffs wouldn’t hold and started to melt off – as well as the spun sugar, which literally disintegrated before I took photos. This is why croquembouche is NOT a summer dessert, IMO.

Well, you all know what’s coming.  This kind of self-congratulatory euphoria cannot take place without some form of karma, can it?

We were all sitting in the living room, our bellies full after a lovely dinner, chatting away until said bellies made room for dessert. Everyone kept commenting on how they couldn’t wait to dig into my tower of croquembouche cream puff gorgeousness, so much so, that the Italian pastries, pies and cakes were all but kicked to the side of the table. My croquembouche stood in full view; grand, tall and proud, glistening like an actual Christmas tree with lights; lights that were winking at us in a come hither way, luring all to pull off a cream puff or three.

Suddenly, someone said “Oh, look, Socky and Basher love the croquembouche too!”  I looked over and saw that their cats were ON THE TABLE investigating this odd upside- down cone, with intense curiosity.

We all watched in horror as both cats started licking my croquembouche.  Not just little licks, but rapid, ravenous licks, along with (which was sort of even worse), long, sensuous rubs against the sides of the croquembouche with their flanks, their hair sticking to every puff.  They were courting my croquembouche! They even sat up on their hind legs and licked the top and all around the top! OMG, they weren’t going to leave one area untouched!

Croquembouche Vase with cut-out fruit flowers

Soon, everyone started to laugh, and I had to join in so the sight of my head deflating wouldn’t be too obvious. It went from light laughter to extremely loud guffaws, with comments like..

Looks like we won’t be eating THAT for dessert!


I had no idea your cats were into French desserts, Jack!

I wanted to crawl under the table and remain there for eternity, or at least until I didn’t feel like sulking or crying anymore.

Of course everyone was nice, sweet, and apologetic about it, but I was so disappointed because no one was going to be able taste it, unless they liked cat hair cream puffs.

I did make several more of the croquembouche in coming years, with no kitty foreplay rendering them inedible, but whenever I make or even hear the word ‘croquembouche’, my mind always races back to that first moment of glory turned gloom.

Croquembouche Vase with cut-out fruit flowers               I cut and pulled off the bottom layer of puffs to give it a more ‘vase’ shape.

Onto the challenge.  No tower this time, but a croquemVASE filled with fruit! Papaya hearts (dipped in strawberry sugar, which melted, on one side, just because..), watermelon flowers with mango centers, pineapple-melon kebabs (there is actually a few chunks of Yubari King Melon on some of them!), strawberries etc.  It turned out messy because the fruit was drippy and slippery due to the weather, and by the time I got to the fruit kebabs, I just shoved uneven chunks (instead of the beautiful balls of fruit I was going to scoop) onto the skewer because I was fed up and DONE!

Initially, I was going to make a croquem’bowl’, but as I kept building toward the ceiling, I realized a bowl wasn’t to be had. In France, a croquembouche is usually presented as a wedding cake, but I always associate it with cold weather holidays, so an elaborate cone tower in this sweltering heat was not in the cards.  Well, since we’re in the dog days of summer, why not morph the croquembouche into ‘springy/summery’ goodness with a bouquet of fruits in a VASEmbouche?

Well, that’s what I did.

I filled the pate a choux puffs with a simple soft chocolate ganache, sort of emulating a chocolate fondue you’d be dipping the fruit into.  Bite of fruit, bite of crispy with oozing chocolate, bite of fruit, bite of crispy with oozing chocolate, lather, rinse, repeat et al.

To be honest, I always felt a croquembouche could do without the hard caramel coating as far as the taste and texture goes, but it makes such a pretty presentation, I can never resist.  Next time I may just use chocolate and save the ‘shimmer’ for holidays.  At the very least, cool weather eliminates the muggy humidity that results in gooey, melting sugar, also known as the croquembouche killer.

How to Make a Croquembouche

For the master recipe for croquembouche, click HERE.

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60 Responses to The Cats licked the Croquembouche

  1. Suz says:

    Oh my goodness. I think I’d have cried if that happened to me!

    Ahhh, I don’t think I have the words to sum up my reaction to your croquembouche. It’s GLORIOUS! STUNNING! There have been some amazing takes on the challenge this month, but this has to be my favourite. Wow!

  2. Rosa says:

    What a gorgeous croquembouche! I love the decorations. Definitely worth the wait!



  3. bakingaddict says:

    I really felt for you reading your story! Great croquemvase!! Amazingly creative.

  4. Jessica says:

    Your story gave me a great laugh! But i’m still sorry to hear! Anyway, your design is amazing, and i’m sure it tasted that way too!

  5. crumbsoflove says:

    What a beautiful presentation. The fruit looks so pretty. oh, by the way, I would have killed the cats!

  6. marcellina says:

    What a beautiful croquem-bowl! So creative and unique. Kill the cats!

  7. Michelle says:

    That, my dear, is the most beautiful croquemVASE I’ve ever seen. 😉 Beautiful, beautiful execution… as always!

  8. Evelyne says:

    Oh lord, what a funny, funny story. For sure that comes back to mind every time. Glad my cats hate human food. But great job on this new vase version. Stunning as usual.

  9. Megan says:

    It looks gorgeous! You’re always so creative. I love how you made it into a vase. I actually learned how to make the spun sugar at the bakery last Christmas, and I thought it was so much fun to drape the wispy strands around the croquembouche.

  10. Leslie says:

    Oh the horror! I might have cried if it were me, but I know you made the best of it. This croquembuche is a sight to behold and I’m sure it was delicious.

  11. That story of the cats is so funny and sad at the same time I can feel your pleasure and pain!

    That photo of the complete tower (vase) of delicious puffs is absolutely amazing the height and the shape are wonderful. Superb effort on this and as always the photographs are stunning.

    I really like the coloured 100s and 1000s on the centre of the tower.

    Exquisite work on this challenge.

    Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  12. chef_d says:

    Hmmm…the cats have good taste! Congratulations on this croquembouche, it looks so beautiful with the fruit “flowers” sticking out of the top. Excellent job!

  13. Sue says:

    Oh my gosh, you must have been mortified!!! You tell such a humorous tale though, I HAD to read this aloud to my husband:)

    This is the most original croquembouche ever! How do you come up with such great ideas? Your cream puffs look textbook perfect! SO beautiful!

    Lisa, Once a friend made me a beautiful homemade gingerbread house. I placed it on our tea cart to display before we left the house for a couple of hours, and when we returned it was gone! We were perplexed until we looked around and saw our dog(a lab mix)…he must have eaten it!?! There was not a crumb to be found anywhere!

  14. ap269 says:

    OMG, I can’t believe the cats ate your very first croquembouche. I think I would have started crying… Anyway, this croquembouche is just gorgeous. I LOVE the idea of a vase filled with “flowers” – looks soooo lovely! Wonderful job on the challenge!

  15. Eric says:

    Beautiful like you 🙂

  16. MandyM says:

    I LOVE your vase!!! The fruit flowers are soooo cool. What a great way to make this into something more spring/summer like.

    Your story was absolutely hysterical! I’m sure it wasn’t funny at the time, I would absolutely hate it if my hard work and effort was ruined by something so silly as that, but I’m glad you can share it for a laugh with us 🙂

    Damn frisky cats!

    Loved this, great baking as always 🙂

  17. Lis says:

    It was totally worth the wait – GORGEOUS! I love the sprinkled row.. gives it that extra OOOOMPHHH! hehe And the idea of a croquemVASE is genius! I totally get the fruit/crispy chocolate thing.. delish!

    I totally visualized the cat fiasco too.. my cat doesn’t like people food (thank God) but she rubs up against anything and everything, so I could totally see your gorgeous tower covered in cat hair. heeee!

    Love you!

  18. Lis says:

    Like totally, dude. Uhmm.. when did I go valley? 😛 xoxox

  19. Dan says:

    Very very cool. Ooey and gooey. Looks very yummmy. Nice job – again!

  20. You have definitely triumphed. The vase is extraordinary. Each individual puff appears divine and the spun sugar is just- well… a feat unto itself. And, in this weather! An odd challenge at this time of year…but, it is winter somewhere. I am super impressed with your ability. Outstanding. Thank you for sharing it – and the photos while making it. I find those particularly helpful. My husband loves eating these one after the other… pop pop pop… but I have not mastered making them on my own – YET!

  21. Angelica says:

    omg this is BEAUTIFULLLL! THe fruit sticks are such a great idea, and they’re perfectly cut out. Great job!

  22. Jessica says:

    Aw I’m so sorry about the cats hair/licks, but that is just too funny! I suffer from pastry hungry cats as well, so I feel your pain. Aside form that and the humidity, this came out gorgeous! Cute idea with the vase and the fruit flowers on top. Great job!

  23. Lori says:

    Oh man! Thats sucks…hm or should I say that licks… Oops I am sorry. You deserve all that praise. You are an amazing pastry creator, cook, chef…all of the above. Nice,stupendous, fantastic beautiful job. Tres chic!

  24. Wolf says:

    Awesome croquembouche and even better story to go along with it!

  25. Renata says:

    STUNNING!!!! You were so creative with your vase of “flowers”! The fruits pair perfectly with the chocolate filling… wow I’m drooling! Your photos are wonderful! Your Croquembouche is a masterpiece!
    Thank you for your lovely comment on my post, but I’m the one in awe now, after seeing yours! Congratulations for all your artistic creativity!
    And, the cat story… well… I would’ve cried and cried and cried….

  26. I think you did a great job! Perhaps all the (mis)adventures created this wonderful presentation! Can’t believe your cat wanted dessert!

  27. Good heavens, this is so fabulous! Unique form and beautiful decoration. Love how you incorporated the fruits…..

    I enjoy visiting your blog and admiring your challenge post just as much 🙂

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  28. suezumout says:

    I wasn’t sure if you were going to post this one. It’s amazing! Love the size of your tower and the fruit on top is perfect. This is one happy croquembouche! Dishes like yours would be hard for me to eat – just too pretty.

  29. Laura says:

    Wow! Lisa, what an awesome vasembouche! What a clever idea, and beautifully executed. Love the little ring of spinkle covered cream puffs around the center. Really nicely done. Great fruit flowers, too. As always, you came up with something really creative, something I would never have thought to make. Now you have me thinking about doing this. I’m thinking: you know, you could fill the vase with caramel glazed berries, or chocolate berries, on sticks, too. Wow!
    And that story is great, too. Love it. I can relate.

  30. Your croquembouche is AMAZING Lisa! Such a creative idea! And you poor thing with your other croquembouche. Those naughty cats-clearly it was very irresistible! 🙂

  31. Mary says:

    That is the nth degree of gorgeous. You really did a great job with the challenge. It may be too soon for you to smile, but years from now you’ll retell the cat tale with great glee. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings…Mary

  32. HAH! One of our cats is a total carbaholic. He’d eat anything with flour in it! I can’t believe they rubbed up on the caramel! What a mess! Beautifully done, I love your presentation!!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. Julie says:

    I definitely would have shed some tears over a cat-demolished croquembouche! I’m thankful that you were able to get over the memories to make your croquemVASE 🙂 Fabulous!

    Julie @ Willow Bird Baking

  34. Mallika says:

    Hey Lisa, ur croquembouche looks just amazing. Looks like u need a lot of patience to set this up! Fabulous job!

  35. susie says:

    You are much braver than I. I omitted the spun sugar knowing that no amount of AC can cancel out Memphis humidity. Late or not, yours is a masterpiece! Bravo.

  36. Wow! A hilarious kitty cat story! I would have Croak’em cats for touching the Croquembouche! Trebuchet anyone? Onto this challenge, you really outdone yourself with your CroquemVoze. The fruit is spectacular too. They look like fireworks. You might have to make this a 4th of July centerpiece san chaton. As always, a wonderful job with the challenge and a humorous relate.

  37. Mary says:

    I don’t even know where to start: with the cats or your beautiful creation! It is absolutely gorgeous, and the most clever one I’ve seen. As for the cats, I don’t know how you didn’t roar at them and chase them around with a weapon of sorts. I do love cats, but not draped over my desserts!

  38. I would have wanted to kill the cats if they licked my masterpiece. But then I’m a dog person. Your creation is spectacular. I agree, next time I’m using chocolate.

  39. Sabiilaa says:

    Oh WOW! What a gorgeous croquembouche! I love the decorations! looks so yummm!!..thank you for the comments!

  40. 5 Star Foodie says:

    Your croquembouche is stunningly beautiful! Amazing presentation!

  41. Natalie says:

    What a funny story! And what an amazing croquembouche this is one of the best ive seen its so pretty i cant believe it!

  42. Esi says:

    Oh my goodness! That edible arrangement croquembouche is to die for!! Sorry about the melty sugar, but I think this looks quite impressive.

  43. Jenni says:

    Lisa, this is absolutely fantastic! I almost died laughing from the cats – I can just see fluff balls sticking to the tower, not to speak of the gooey sticky mess that no doubt got all over the cats!! haha!

    This vase is beautiful – I love the little row with sprinkles!

  44. I’m debating as to whether I will ever share my half-assed attempt. I so wanted to do a big one and bring it to the park for our first Concert in the Park Culinary Challenge, but I knew the result would be devastating. Yours is very dramatic, unique and beauteous! Haven’t visited in a while, so thought I would wish you a Happy Summer!

  45. FOODESSA says:

    For the last little while I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing several masterpieces from this particular challenge.
    However…I have to tell you how impressed I am with yours. Absolutely stupendous!
    Lisa…as a side note…I’d like to inform you that in my post tomorrow you will be showcased due to the fact that you had posted a cannoli challenge on the daring kitchen a while ago. If you do end up reading the article…it will all become clear to you.
    All this has brought me to discover your blog…I’m thrilled and will from now on keep following your journey.
    All the very best and flavourful wishes, Claudia

  46. Sophie says:

    Hello my friend!

    You said to me that I had to open a bistro for soups & sandwiches well, will have to open a Patisserie,..I know that for a very long time!!
    This is the far most beautiful, stunning creation that you ever came up with!!!

    Looks marvellous & I so love the inside topping of fresh fruits on lollipops!! hahaha,..very clever thinking!

  47. Summer says:

    Lisa, this is so so beautiful..i love ur combis so so muc!!!
    Oh i wish i was there too:-)
    My taste buds tell me they would have loved this deliciousness and the creation is so so so beautiful!
    Ur always so creatively gogrgeous and dis one is no exception!
    HAve a wonderfully Sparkling weekend!

  48. jo says:

    What a gorgeous creation – absolutely stunning and you made it so fun as well.

  49. Katrina says:

    Well you certainly got some great photos of it before it starting losing it! Gorgeous and delicious.

  50. Oh my goodness, what a tropical looking beauty. Awesome job, this obviously takes a lot of skill.
    Hope you are having a wonderful weekend.
    *kisses* HH

  51. Arlette says:

    What a gorgeous masterpiece croquembouche and so pretty,
    looks awesome, and you are a pro my friend.
    I love the lovely fruits decoration on top.

  52. shaz says:

    Oh LIsa! What cheeky cats, I don’t think I would have been so calm abotu it though. Bravo on your “vase”mbouche 🙂 Very clever, very pretty and chocolate goes so well with fruit!

  53. This is the most stunning and creative croquembouche I have seen! Definitely worth trying again! the cats are not to be scolded for they know a good thing when they see one.

  54. Aparna says:

    You had me rolling with laughter reading about your feline croquembouche love affair story. 😀

    This one looks fantastic. Love the unusual presentation.

  55. oh wow! that’s one gorgeous dessert! I’ve been MIA from Daring Kitchen for quite a while: just too much to do.

    Thank you so much for your lovely comment on my blog 🙂 It made my day!

  56. Koko says:

    What a story! That’s absolutely hilarious and mortifying at the same time- I think the only thing you COULD do is laugh!! This croquembouche vase looks beautiful.

  57. Jamie says:

    Oh Lord, as I read I should’ve seen it coming, but cats? Well, you were grace under pressure because I would’ve exploded and taken them all with me! Cats! Ugh! And I hope that is now an ex-boyfriend! Laughing like that! But love your croquemvase or vasembouche! Love the lovely fruits on top. That chocolate ganache filling is heaven! Mmmm. And personally, I no longer do caramel as I burned a pan doing the caramel for the DB gingerbread house. Ooof!

  58. waltenire says:

    This is a fantastic blog you have here. I visit here every week. I have already subscribed to your rss feed to help me stay update with your publication. Are you on twitter so that I can follow you?

  59. Wow, that’s cool man

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