Some desserts were just made for Pinterest — and for the adoring oohs and aahs of a rapt crowd. It was only a matter of time before the delicate French classic, gâteau de crêpes, became the dessert that slays. A stack of what seems like a thousand paper-thin crêpes, sandwiched with billowing cream, this dessert was born hundreds of years too early for Instagram, but it's back — and it's an internet sensation.
If you've seen these chocolate and Nutella crêpe cakes in your Pinterest feed, let us be the first to tell you: they are not so difficult, and if you're ready to try, we have the best, most foolproof method for creating a crêpe cake that will stun your friends and make you beam with accomplishment.
Heavenly Nutella Crêpe Cake: Watch the Video
Nutella crêpe cake might just be the best no-bake dessert you haven't made yet, and that's OK because this recipe has every intention of making your first try at preparing this towering confection — sometimes called gâteau de crêpes, mille-crêpe cake, or thousand-layer crêpe cake — a successful one.
With layers of thin, lacy pancakes suspended between swirling clouds of a rich chocolate and hazelnut cream, the secret to this dessert is a filling that stays put once chilled. No slipping and sliding here! When your knife slices through the cake, the neatly stacked layers of crêpes and Nutella cream are revealed, showing off all your hard work.
In this recipe we're going to walk your through our easy, fail-proof method for making crêpe cake. It includes a smart crêpe batter and a filling you're probably already familiar with. Together with a few extra tips woven into every step, you're on your way to a towering crêpe cake worthy of all the effort and adoration.
What Is a Crêpe Cake?
A crêpe cake, or gâteau de crêpes, is a French dessert made of many crêpes layered with filling in between. This cake has been around for a few centuries, but it wasn't well-known in the United States until about a decade ago, when some bakeries started honing it and cake-lovers went mad for it. When the Nutella craze met the crêpe cake phenomenon, a dessert sensation was born.
The Best Crêpes for This Cake
This recipe is so simple, really! It only has two major components, and in that it's way easier than even the simplest buttercream-festooned birthday cake.
The best crêpes for crêpe cake are a bit different from those you'd make to serve with lemon and sugar. They have a particular job to do here; mostly to be the delicious-yet-sturdy layers that don't go soggy in the face of all that delicious buttercream. In this recipe our crêpes have a bit more stability, thanks to an extra egg in the batter and a longer rest time in the fridge. Here are a few key tips on making the best crêpes for this this cake.
1. Crêpe cakes work best with a thin crêpe, but not too thin.
Traditionally, crêpes are ultra-thin, almost diaphanous, and lacey. In a crêpe cake, stability is imperative and a pinch more thickness goes a long way. Not pancake thick, but not doily thin either. There is one more egg in the batter than usual, and it's allowed to sit even longer than usual than the fridge. This means it has time to combine fully, which adds the extra binding power while still staying light. It's not a huge difference, but the little change really helps.
2. Crêpes need to taste good, too.
No one wants to eat a layer of cardboard, no matter how yummy the filling is. For a cake, crêpes should be a touch sweet, a bit salty, and mildly flavored. It's the Academy Award-level supporting player in this cake, so it needs to give a good performance on its own.
3. Crêpe cakes can have straight or wavy edges.
When making crêpes, the edges can sometimes become over-crisp and break. They also tend to get wavy on the edges as they dry. There are two solutions.
- To prevent dry crêpes: Stack still-warm crêpes between layers of parchment paper so they don't dry out as they cool.
- To combat thin edges: A slight variation on crêpe technique helps solve the thin-edge conundrum. Usually crêpes are made by pouring some batter into the middle of the pan and swirling it around, which results in very thin edges. Crêpes started with batter poured into an edge, swirled from edge to edge around the perimeter and across the middle and then back to the perimeter, helps make a more even crêpe.
The first one or two crêpes are considered the "throwaways" and will likely not look as nice as the rest of the crêpes, but there is extra batter here, so you will have plenty to choose from when you assemble the cake. The less lovely crêpes that are the unused will still taste great and can be wrapped and frozen with parchment paper between the layers, and stored for up to a month (that is, if nobody gobbles them up first!).
The Best Filling for Crêpe Cake
Crêpe cakes work best with a filling that is both easily spreadable at room temperature (so it won't yank or tear the crepes) and strong enough (so it holds up the layers of crepes and keeps them apart). The filling is the spacer between the crêpes, and looks best when it's equally thick as the crêpe. When it comes to taste, the filling is the star. Fluffy Nutella buttercream offers a solution to both issues.
- Butter is soft and can be whipped into a fluffy frenzy at room temperature and yet it solidifies in the refrigerator. It maintains the air that gives this cake its lift.
- Powdered sugar and its pinch of cornstarch offer sweetness and a touch of stability.
- A little bit of cream (just a little) added into the butter and Nutella emulsifies and makes this cream airier than most simple buttercream frostings.
Even at room temperature this mixture holds with just enough friction to grip the crêpes, so slipping isn't a problem at all.
If you find while building the cake that the pile is not as straight as you'd like, you can gently nudge it up against a ruler, wrap it quickly, and pop it in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes. Make sure to wrap the entire cake in a cylinder shape when you refrigerate.
Why Not Use Whipped Cream and Nutella?
Many crêpe cake recipes use whipped cream, which doesn't keep terribly well and it weeps. When you whip cream and allow it to sit, the milky portion seeps out. For a crêpe cake, whipped cream, even with Nutella added, leaks enough to make the cake wet, or even gooey, so a flavored buttercream is a better bet.
Getting Picture-Perfect Slices
Crêpe cakes can be made a day in advance of serving, wrapped well and refrigerated. Just before slicing, warm a long heavy knife (a chef's knife works well) by running the blade under hot water and drying it with a paper towel. Sliced while still cold, the warm blade cuts through far better and gives very clean cuts with fewer smudges and drags. Wash and wipe the blade between cuts.
How To Make Nutella Crêpe Cake: An Easy, Fail-Proof Method
What You Need
For the crêpes (makes about 36; you will need 30):
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 3/4 cups light cream, heavy cream, or half-and-half, plus up to 1/2 cup more as needed
8 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and at room temperature
Neutral oil, such as canola, peanut, or avocado
For the Nutella filling (makes about 4 2/3 cups):
1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon hazelnut liqueur (optional)
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Food processor, blender, or mixing bowl with handheld electric mixer, an immersion blender, or a hand whisk
7- or 8-inch crêpe pan or 9- or 10-inch nonstick skillet
1/4-cup measuring cup or ladle
Cake plate or platter
Small offset spatula
Serving platter or plate
- Prepare the parchment paper: Cut or tear 39 (10-inch or a little larger) square pieces of parchment paper. Line 2 large plates each with a sheet of parchment and set the rest aside.
- Prepare the batter: 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: Add the butter and mix until fully incorporated.
- Chill the batter: 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.
- Heat the pan: 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.
- Cook the first crêpe: Using a 1/4-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 1 of the plates lined with parchment. Cover the crêpe with another sheet of parchment.
- Cook the rest of the crêpes: Repeat the process with the remaining batter, stacking about 15 crêpes on each plate with parchment between each. Cover the top crêpe of each stack with parchment. 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 or 10 crêpes are made to ensure that they will be easy to turn and slide neatly out of the pan. You should have 32 to 34 crêpes when finished.
- Wrap and chill the crêpes: 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.
- Cream the butter and sugar: 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 flavorings: Add the vanilla and hazelnut liqueur if using, and beat on medium speed until combined. Add the Nutella 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: Add the cream and beat until the filling is lighter in color, very fluffy, and easy to spread, about 3 minutes.
- Start to assemble and fill the crêpe cake: Remove the crêpes from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Take 1 crêpe from the pile (always keep the top crêpe covered with parchment as you assemble so that it doesn't dry out) and use kitchen shears to trim any untidy strands or uneven edges. Place the trimmed crêpe on a serving platter or plate. Using an offset spatula, gently spread 2 generous tablespoons of the filling evenly over the crêpe, leaving about a 1/2-inch border uncovered.
- Layer the next 13 crêpes: Trim another crêpe as needed. Place it on top of the first and repeat with spreading on the filling. Repeat with 12 more crêpes. You will have some extra crêpes, so if one isn't the loveliest, set it aside and continue with the next crêpe. As the crêpes are stacked and each layer gets filled, the weight of them will gently push the filling out to the edges.
- Layer the next 10 crêpes, leaving a smaller border: Stack and fill 10 more crêpes, leaving a 1/4-inch border uncovered on each one.
- Layer the final 5 crêpes with no border: Stack and fill 5 more crêpes, spreading the filling all the way to the edges. Place the last pretty crêpe on top (the 30th), but do not cover it with filling.
- Wrap and chill the cake: 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.
- Garnish and slice: 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.
- Make ahead: You can make the crêpes in advance, wrap them well, and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month. (If frozen, defrost in the refrigerator overnight.) The filling can be made, covered, and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead. Let it sit at room temperature for about 1 hour to soften, then mix with an electric hand mixer or whisk until lighter in color and very fluffy, about 2 minutes, before filling the cake.
- Storage: The finished cake can be kept, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.