This cake is a very old, traditional yet still famous French specialty. It was created in 1910 by a baker named Louis Durand. He was inspired by a bike race organized for the first time in 1891 between Paris and Brest in the West of France. Originally, it was shaped as a bicycle wheel (Dutch people, why didn’t you think about it earlier? there are more bikes than people in this country!!!) but now it is simply shaped in a circle or a crown.
It is made of choux pastry filled with a praliné cream and decorated with almonds and icing sugar.
Choux pastry (you can divide this proportion by 2 – I got a lot of dough and made little “chouquettes” with it) :
150g of flour
100 g of butter
125g of milk
125g of water (you can use only water instead of milk and water)
5g of salt
flaked almond for decoration
Praliné cream (I used Ladurée recipe) :
- 185g of soft butter
- 380ml of whole milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 120g of sugar
- 25g of cornstarch
- 100 g of praliné
Start with the first step of the cream (the day before is best).
Bring the milk to a simmer in a pan. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar until it gets a bit lighter. Add the cornstarch. It will look a bit thick and difficult to mix but that’s normal.
Pour a third of warm milk into this preparation and keep whisking. Don’t pour all the milk in one go otherwise the eggs will clot.
Add the rest of the milk and pour everything back in the pan.
Bring to a boil while stirring with the whisk until the cream thicken. Remove from the heat and let it cool down for about 15 mix. Add a third of the butter. Mix well until the butter is completely incorporated.
Cover the cream with plastic foil and let it cool down at room temperature. Put it then in the fridge overnight.
The day after, prepare the choux pastry.
Put the milk, water and butter in a pan a bring everything to a simmer. The butter needs to be completely melted.
Then turn off the heat and add the flour and salt in one time. Stir well with a spatula or wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated.
Put the pan back on heat and keep stirring for a minute or 2 to dry out the dough. It should not stick to the pan but only leave a thin layer at the bottom. Turn off the heat, put the dough in the bowl of your kitchen robot and let it cool down for few minutes.
Whisk the 4 eggs in one bowl.
Start the kitchen robot on low/medium speed. Add the eggs little by little. Keep a tiny bit of beaten egg for the decoration.
The dough should be sticky but if you lift it up with the spatula, it should be thick enough to fall down like a wave.
Pour the dough in a piping bag.
On a sheet of baking paper, trace a circle of about 20 cm. Using the piping bag, make a first ring of dough on this circle. Make another ring next to it on the inside part of the first circle.
Make a third ring on top of the first 2 you just made. Try to make it even everywhere but it does not have to be perfect.
Brush it with the remain of egg yolk and sprinkle flaked almonds.
Bake it at 180˚C for about 35-40 min. Then turn off the oven but leave the choux crown cool down inside. Leave the door a bit open to allow the humidity go out. The idea is to get the choux pastry to dry out and prevent it to get flat.
In the meantime, take the cream you made the day before out of the fridge to bring it back to room temperature.
Once the cake has cool down, finish the praliné cream.
Pour all the cream in the bowl of your kitchen robot and whip it a couple of minutes.
If the praliné is a bit thick, add a spoon of the remaining butter and warm it up in the microwave for few seconds. Mix well and add it to the cream with the last 2/3 of butter. Keep whipping until the butter is all incorporated.
Tip : if you still see some pieces of butter in the cream and/or the cream gets a bit “granulated”, use a hair dryer to warm up the outside part of the robot bowl. Keep whisking while doing that. It will help to melt the remaining butter. It may take some time.
Pour the praline cream in a piping bag and leave in the fridge for few minutes.
Using a bread knife, cut the choux crown in 2 pieces. Sift some icing sugar on the top part.
Then, take the praline cream out of the fridge and fill in the lower part of the choux crown. I poured a first ring of cream and then tried to give a nice shape to the cream but I think I didn’t use the proper nozzle. You may have to much cream for the cake. Don’t pour too much or it can be too heavy for the amount of dough.
Place the top part of the choux pastry on top of the cream and leave it in the fridge until serving.
It is best served on the same day because the choux pastry will get soft overnight.
Bon appétit !