Tuesday, August 02, 2022

"Nutella" Crêpe Cake


Since my last two crêpe cakes were poorly received by the kids, I set out to adapt this Nutella crêpe cake to reconcile them with the dish. In my recollection, however, the filling was something like chocolate spread folded into whipped cream, but in reality, it was much closer to buttercream frosting. It wasn’t what I wanted to eat, but I decided to make it as is anyway, because I didn’t have it in me to look up another recipe to make a lighter filling. 

I did make some changes, such as using 600 grams of dairy-free Laura Secord dark chocolate spread instead of 13 ounces of Nutella. I didn’t use parchment paper at all, without any problems, and am modifying the recipe below to reflect that (the original recipe had you use about a forest’s worth of paper). What was not clear to me before starting the recipe is that it would really be best made a day ahead. You see, the crêpes needed a lot of time to cool, even once I had put them in the fridge – they were still a bit warm when I was assembling the cake, so my tower of crêpes was leaning like the tower of Pisa at one point! It was better once the cake had been stored in the fridge for a while. 

This was very rich, and we got enough servings to feed an army because we had to keep them small. It was much more like a dessert cake than a dish for brunch, which is to say it was actually too sweet for me. The Little Prince loved it, though, and the Fox ate the crêpes after scraping off the frosting. Honestly though, even though I’ve used that crêpe recipe once since, I would prefer a lighter filling. 

For the crêpes 
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar 
1 ¼ tsp. salt 
3 ¾ cups lactose-free cream or half-and-half, plus up to ½ cup more as needed (I used mostly milk the second time I made this) 
8 large eggs, beaten 
2 tsp. vanilla extract 
4 Tbsp. (½ stick) lactose-free butter, melted and at room temperature 
neutral oil, such as canola or safflower 

For the “Nutella” filling (makes about 4 2/3 cups) 
1 pound lactose-free butter, at room temperature 
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted 
1 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 (13-ounce) jar lactose-free chocolate spread (about 2 1/3 cups) 
1/2 cup lactose-free cream, at room temperature 
powdered sugar, for dusting (optional) 
½ cup dark or semisweet chocolate curls or shavings (optional) 

For the crêpes 
Sift the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment or blender. (You can also use an electric hand mixer, immersion blender, or whisk and a large bowl.) Add the cream and eggs. Process or blend until thoroughly combined into a batter that is smooth, lump-free, and a bit frothy and bubbly on top, 20 to 25 seconds (or mix with a handheld tool for about 1 minute). If there are any lumps, pour the batter through a fine-mesh strainer into another bowl and discard the lumps. 

Add the butter and mix until fully incorporated. 

Cover with plastic wrap, or if using a food processor or blender, transfer the mixture into a bowl and then cover. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. 

Position a cooling rack near the stove. Heat a 7- or 8-inch nonstick crêpe pan or 9- to 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the pan lightly with oil, just enough to coat the bottom. Heat until very hot, about 1 minute, and then place the pan on an unheated burner for a moment. 

Using a ¼-cup measuring cup or ladle, pour the batter into one spot on a bottom edge (but not side) of the pan. Immediately pick up the pan, tilt it, and swirl the batter around the entire perimeter and then across the whole bottom to completely coat it in as even and thin a layer as possible. Pour any excess batter back into the bowl. Place the pan back on the heat. Cook until the edges are lightly browned and the bottom has become a pale golden-brown, 45 seconds to 1 minute (peek by lifting an edge slightly with a spatula). Gently work the spatula under the crêpe and carefully flip it over, helping it with your fingertips if necessary. Cook the second side until it has a few brown speckles and there is no raw batter visible, 45 to 50 seconds. Pick up the pan and slide the crêpe onto a plate. (At this point, if you are going to refrigerate the crêpes before assembling the cake, it would be wise to put a sheet of parchment or wax paper between each, but I didn’t wait as long and therefore didn’t need it.) 

Repeat the process with the remaining batter, stacking about 15 crêpes per plate. If the batter thickens beyond the consistency of heavy cream as you cook, add a little more cream or half-and-half, 1 tablespoon at a time, and stir to combine before making more crêpes. Brush the pan with oil after 8 to 10 crêpes are made to ensure that they will be easy to turn and slide neatly out of the pan. You should have about 30 crêpes when finished. 

Wrap the stacks, still on the plates, in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes before assembling the cake. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. 

For the filling 
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until soft and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and beat on medium speed, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, until fully incorporated, about 2 minutes. 

Add the vanilla and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the Nutella-equivalent and continue to beat on medium speed until fully combined and there are no streaks of Nutella or the butter-sugar mixture. 

Add the cream and beat until the filling is lighter in color, very fluffy, and easy to spread, about 3 minutes. 

Remove the crêpes from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Take 1 crêpe from the pile (the original recipe said to always keep the top crêpe covered with parchment as you assemble so that it doesn't dry out, but in my experience crêpes aren’t that finicky) and use kitchen shears to trim any untidy strands or uneven edges if needed (I didn’t take it that far). Place the trimmed crêpe on a serving platter or plate. Using an offset spatula, gently spread 2 generous tablespoons of the filling (I used more) evenly over the crêpe, leaving about a ½-inch border uncovered. 

Trim another crêpe as needed. Place it on top of the first and repeat with spreading on the filling. Repeat with 12 more crêpes. As the crêpes are stacked and each layer gets filled, the weight of them will gently push the filling out to the edges. 

Stack and fill 10 more crêpes, leaving a ¼-inch border uncovered on each one. 

Stack and fill 5 more crêpes, spreading the filling all the way to the edges. Place the last pretty crêpe on top, but do not cover it with filling. Wrap plastic wrap around the cake and under the serving plate to cover the entire thing. Refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 45 minutes and up to 1 day. 

Unwrap and garnish the top with powdered sugar and chocolate curls or shavings if desired. The cake is best sliced cold: warm a long heavy knife by running the blade under hot water and then drying it with a paper towel before cutting. The warm blade cuts through far better and gives very clean cuts with fewer smudges and drags. Warm and dry the blade between cuts.