Back when I was catering in the early nineties, my business partner Nic would always talk about making a croquembouche one day. “It’s gonna be three feet high,” he’d say. “Yeah Nic, it’s going to be three feet high and sparkle like gold,” I’d respond knowing there was no way we’d ever be able to afford to make one with the money we had. But I didn’t want to to crush the dream that kept him going.

After a while it was all he talked about, croquembouche this, croquembouche that and it all got too much and I just had to tell him straight that there was never going to be a croquembouche. I’d never seen him so angry as he pushed past me and ran out the door, grabbing the keys to the limited editon Group A Walkinshaw Camira I’d been working on to try and raise some more money. He was half was down the street before I could get my shoes on. Back then, during the recession and before flexible home equity financing, there was only one way you could get your hands on money quickly – speedway racing.

I must have used all 10 speeds on my bike getting to the track, only to hear the sound of metal. Pushing my way through the pits, I got to Nic just as they were pulling him out of the crushed body of the Camira. “I guess I screwed up pretty badly this time,” Nic whispered, trying not to put pressure on his broken ribs. “No Nick, you did great. Now try to relax.” “It’s gonna be three feet high…” and with a smile Nick said his last words. And in the middle of the track I cried hot tears that day, fifteen years ago – so this one’s for you Nic, we finally made it.

Some notes:
– choux pastry is, funnily enough, like a roux but with egg yolks incorporated.
– crème pâtissière uses milk rather than cream. For this one I flavoured it with passionfruit pulp passed through a sieve to remove the seeds and dark chocolate.
– if the chocolate isn’t melted properly it will block the pastry bag and cream will come out the other end, onto the bench and cookbook and then floor.
– melted sugar is facking hot so wear shoes
– for fine golden threads, put a little of the hot caramel on a puff and pull the spoon back and stretch the thread.
– you don’t need a cone, although it helps
– I’d like to try a savoury one with pate.


  1. Anonymous’s avatar

    I remember that Group A Camira before you hotted it up, tooling around Northbridge with the rest of the croquembouche posse, mad for that pastry and god help anyone who got in our way.

    Those were the days – young and reckless and filled with lust for exotic desserts. What happened?

    Simon J

  2. Anthony’s avatar

    Hey Snake
    Long time muchacho.
    That crazy pastry summer felt like it was never going to end. But I guess after the accident something else died and we stopped being boys, and became men.

  3. patrick’s avatar

    I second your motion regarding piping bags and melted chocolate. I learned that one the hard way, or rathe the slippery, greasy creamed-socks way.

  4. Barbara’s avatar

    That’s beautiful…and sad.

    I’m intrigued with the Suki Tawdrey tag on your gmail. Bryan has some Lottie Lenya trivia he loves to tell everyone who mentions Mack.

  5. Anthony’s avatar

    Yeah there’s got to be a better way, for a brief moment I was thinking silicon gun. I’ve seen little piping bags of folded greaseproof paper which seem a little more manageable, they keep them soft by leaving them on top of the oven.

    He was a beautiful man.
    Yes Mack the Knife, so now you have to tell us some Lottie Lenya trivia.

  6. Jeanne’s avatar

    Great post – and I love the idea of the Pastry Posse! Thanks for the NB tips on chocolate & pastry bags – and as for hot sugar, I was reliably told by a chef this weekend that hot sugar is the single most dangerous thing in the kitchen! So my wussy fears are apparently well-founded. Who woulda thunk.

  7. KathyF’s avatar

    Wow. This is so touching. New heights and all that.

  8. Anthony’s avatar

    Hey Jeanne
    What do you got to say about this
    A force so strong that you can’t resist
    You may as well join ’em – you know you can’t beat ’em
    Pack a hundred people – ya know ya gonna need ’em
    Straight with the system is down by law
    Cause every half hour they get nine more
    They run all the crullers that come in town
    So either join the crew or get beat down

    And yeah, 180C and sticky is just very bad news.

    Hi KathyF
    I don’t care what they say, there was no touching.

  9. Barbara’s avatar

    So Anthony – Lottie Lenya was the wife of the composer Kurt Weill who wrote Mack the Knife. She had a bit part in From Russia With Love.

  10. Santos’s avatar

    let me guess, steve mcqueen plays the part of nic, and you would be ali macgraw? or is that ally mcbeal?

  11. Anthony’s avatar

    I was kind of hoping I could be Tariq Ali.

  12. Gracianne’s avatar

    Sad choux story.

  13. Morris’s avatar

    the story sounds not as sweet as the dish but i am inspired all the same.

  14. Anna Winter’s avatar

    So I’m thinking… you could make the three feet croquembouche into a lovely dress, which I could wear in Spice magazine. I’d be Demi to your Annie Leibovitz.

  15. Robert’s avatar

    A 3 ft dress? That sounds revealing!

  16. FXH’s avatar

    0.91 metres doesn’t sound as romantic.

    So anyway you fixed the diff and crankshaft in the kitchen?

  17. Anthony’s avatar

    I never knew she played Rosa Klebb, that’s very cool.

    Sad but choux

    To go to the speedway?

    That caramelised sugar’s really hot.

    My Mum’s about 5’and her wedding dress was a mini so that sounds about right.

    I’ve been seen at a kitchen table staring blankly at carburettor bits.

  18. Anna Winter’s avatar

    Of course, I’m much taller than 5ft ;)

  19. Anthony’s avatar

    Aye that’s true, modesty would suggest another batch then. (You haven’t joined the Exclusive Bretheren have you?)

  20. The Daily Magnet’s avatar

    That’s the biggest pile of croquembouche I’ve seen in a long time. MMmm, savoury…

  21. Anthony’s avatar

    I know. Those cups are actually 5 feet high.

  22. Pavlov's Cat’s avatar

    I did small savoury eclairs once with a sort of smoked salmon mousse. Worked fine.

  23. Anthony’s avatar

    Wow you really are a cat.

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