by Barry Lewis

Prep time
60 mins
Bake time
420 mins


Choux pastry

450ml water

400g unsalted butter

25g caster sugar

Pinch salt

550ml milk

550g plain flour

16 large eggs


Crème Patissiere

2 vanilla pods

1.3L milk

18 eggs, yolks only

350g caster sugar

120g cornflour

120g unsalted butter, cubed


Toffee sauce

200ml water

240g liquid glucose

650g caster sugar

So the mighty croquembouche! I have always wanted to give this a go, I reached out to you guys on Twitter to tell me which chef is the croquembouche master and the popular choice was a chap called Adriano Zumbo, apparently he’s a wizard of them on Masterchef in Australia and beyond, so here we go, lets do it. Fof reference this took me a full day to make from scratch, even with filming it’ll take some time folks so buckle up! This was a recipe I was sent to attempt in my own words…..

Oh I used a traffic cone as you’ll see in the video, but you can get away with making one by shaping baking parchment into a cone or actually purchase a proper croquembouche cone

Alright then lets get cracking on the choux pastry. Get a large saucepan and add the water, butter, sugar, salt and milk. Warm over a hob on a medium heat and stir until warmed and all the ingredients are melted and merged together, bring it to just a boil.

Take off the heat and dump in the plain flour, beat well and it will thicken quickly, add back on the heat and keep stirring it for a good few minutes, this will cook the flour. As you heat the mixture and beat it it will take some of the moisture out and it will start to come away from the sides, when it is regularly coming away from the sides after a few minutes remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Gradually beat in the eggs one at a time, don’t add them too soon if the mix is still hot, so you don’t cook the eggs! Beat them in, as you add them at first the mix goes wet but after a few beats of a wooden spoon it thickens up again. Keep doing this until all the eggs are done, once the last egg is in give it an extra long mix and it should have a glossy appearance. The choux pastry is ready!

Pipe balls of the mixture onto a lined baking tray(s) and sprinkle a little water on the tray too, but don’t put it on the balls, sprinkle it in between the gaps. All you can do now is bake away in batches for 23-25 mins at 210c/190c fan or equivalent. The water helps to create steam and rise the balls a bit. Once baked place on a wire rack and repeat – you’ll need 90-100 balls with the mix.

I recommend mastering the first batch and keeping an eye on them (I used two baking trays)… then get going on the custard filling as this needs to be chilled!

Get a large saucepan and add the milk and the vanilla seeds from two pods and the pods too if you wish. Bring to a simmer slowly. Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a large bowl. Pour the hot milk over the yolk mixture and whisk briefly removing the vanilla pods. Add this back into the saucepan and keep whisking over a medium heat, it may not seem like it’s doing much at first but then it will suddenly thicken up. Once thickened take off the heat, and pour into a shallow wide dish if you have one. By whisking it, this will cool it down quicker too, you need to really get this to about room temperature so put it in a cool place, before then whisking in the room temperature butter (it tastes good without the butter I found!) but I followed the steps I was sent! Whisk the butter in until fully merged with the custard, then chill in the fridge.

Please consider that during the above step you’ll be making all those choux buns too but it is important to get the custard done to give it time to chill and have a nice cold custard going into the buns… of course looking back, making the custard first could work and give it a lovely chill.

With all the buns piped and the custard made, using a piping bag with a small nozzle poke a hole on the flat bottomed side and inject dollops of the custard, making sure you have enough for all of them! Now the tricky / dangerous part – the toffee sauce that holds them together!

Again in a large saucepan gradually mix the sugar and the water, over a low heat stirring until it is dissolved, do this in 3 or 4 batches. Then stir in the liquid glucose briefly, but do this before it starts to simmer / bubble, once the water is simmering do not stir it and bubble until it turns light brown, turn off the heat and let the bubbles reside you are left with a hot, sticky, tasty yet dangerous toffee sauce! Now load up the cone you are using with one facing upwards for the top, then very carefully dunk just 1 side of another bun into the toffee sauce and stick it to the top one side on so the tops face outwards, I found doing the first few joins outside of the cone really helped. This is very hot stuff so keep a bowl of cold water close and remember you will need to warm it up regularly to keep the sauce fluid. Repeat and build the cone fully, filling the centre areas to so that the cone is strengthened. Stand it up and remove the cone after a few minutes, as you’ll notice the toffee sauce sets very fast indeedy it should be able to hold it’s weight.

Warm some more sauce up and using a couple of forks or spoons carefully shake some of the toffee sauce on the croquembouche tower to create a witches hair kind of sugar strand coating for the tower. This was an absolutely epic thing to attempt, but it was fun, I really hope I’ve inspired you to give it a go! Good luck and remember Adriano Zumbo is the real master of this so check his site out for even crazier ideas that I may just well try some day!

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