Are you ready for a challenge?
After months of hesitation, I finally found the courage to face one of the behemoths of pastry: the famous Saint-Honoré cake.
What is the Saint-Honoré cake?
A Saint-Honoré is a complex cake with a base of puff pastry and choux pastry, a ring of caramel-glazed cream puffs on the border and a Chiboust cream filling.
The different components of a Saint-Honoré cake
It is traditionally decorated by using a piping bag fitted with the St. Honoré tip.
The somewhat-tricky Chiboust cream today is often replaced with a lighter Chantilly cream, and sometimes the base is made of tart dough rather than puff pastry. For this post, though, I tried to respect the traditional recipe as much as possible.
What’s the story behind the Saint-Honoré?
This famous French gâteau was created in the 1800′s by a pastry chef named Chiboust, who had a shop in Rue Saint Honoré.
On a side note, a baker in 1202 offered his money to build a chapel in Paris in honour of Saint Honoré: the chapel became one of the richest of the city and in 1400, the bakers of Paris established their guild in the church of “Saint Honoratus”, who is now the patron saint of bakers.
Techniques you need to master for a Saint Honoré
Oh, so you like the Saint-Honoré and you would like to make it. Fine, I just hope this is not the first pastry attempt of your life!
This cake is not impossible at all, but it requires a lot of time, a good mastery of some fundamental techniques, and most importantly of all a perfect organisation and planning.
I was so happy with the decoration that I had to ruin it with the last touches :)
I suggest you try the following techniques at least once before attacking the Saint-Honoré:
The way I structured my work is the following. I tried to optimize time as much as possible (I recognize there might be better methods):
- Puff pastry: you can even make it a few days in advance
- Make the choux pastry: you need to make it the same day
- Bake the cream puffs
- Bake the cake base (puff pastry + choux pastry)
- Prepare the pastry cream
- Chill a part of the pastry cream and keep the rest for the Chiboust cream
- Make the Italian meringue
- Prepare the caramel
- Fill the choux with the chilled pastry cream
- Glaze the cream puffs
- Glue the cream puffs to the chilled cake base
- Fill the cake
The Saint-Honoré before the filling stage
If you’re not scared by this complex cake, then it means that you can make it (or that you’re too self-confident!), so here is the full, step-by-step recipe of this Saint-Honoré with Chiboust cream.
Saint-Honoré with crème Chiboust
|200g||Eggs (~ 4 eggs)|
|1||Vanilla bean (seeded)|
|195g||Egg yolks (~ 10)|
|180g||Egg whites (~ 6 egg whites)|
|40g||Glucose or corn syrup (optional - can be replaced with the same quantity of granulated sugar)|
| Choux pastry|
Prepare the choux pastry: bring to a boil the milk, water, salt and butter in a saucepan. Make the sure the butter is fully melted.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately add all the sifted flour.
Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon then put the pan back on the heat and continue beating the dough
Keep drying the dough up on the heat only for a few minutes until it comes away from the sides of the pan and leaves a thin film on the bottom of the saucepan
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and let it cool down for a few minutes
Add an egg and stir until it is completely absorbed in the dough
Add all the other eggs one at a time. Slightly beat the last egg before adding it then pour it slowly little by little on the dough, checking frequently if the dough has reached the right consistency
When the dough is shiny but firm (i.e. not runny), it is ready to be used with a piping bag. Pipe 20 small 3-4cm rounds in staggered rows on a slightly buttered pan. Piping technique: 1) with the piping bag held vertically on the pan, start piping while lifting the bag slightly; 2) when you've reached the right size, stop piping and keep the bag still; 3) quickly "draw" a circle on the puff with the tip of the bag as you lift it over the choux
Bake the choux pastry for at least 35-40 minutes at 180°. The final product must be relatively crispy, so don't take the baked pâte à choux out of the oven if it is still soft.
Keep the remaining choux pastry in the piping bag for the moment.
| Cake base|
Prepare the cake base: roll out the puff pastry to a rectangle about 5mm thick and 24cm wide at least
Using a pan (or any round object), cut a round of puff pastry that is 24cm of diameter and prick the dough with a fork. Place the round on a pan covered with parchment paper.
Pipe one round of choux pastry on the edge of the puff pastry round with a single movement (i.e. don't stop until the end). Technique: keep the piping bag perpendicular to the pan and around 3cm over the dough; press the bag while moving it around the edge
With the same technique, pipe a smaller round in the center of the cake base.
Bake for around 50 minutes at 180°C
| Pastry cream|
Prepare the crème Chiboust: heat the milk with half of the sugar and the vanilla bean in a saucepan. In the meantime, let the gelatin soften in cold water.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and corn starch
When the milk is boiling, pour it in three times over the egg mixture and quickly mix every time to prevent the yolks from curdling
Put back the liquid mixture into the saucepan and cook on medium heat whisking continuously
Allow the pastry cream to boil for 2 minutes then remove from the heat. Cover a pan with plastic wrap and pour 1/3 of the hot pastry cream in it. Cover with the remaining part of the plastic wrap and store in the fridge
Place the other 2/3 of the cream in a clean bowl, add the gelatin and stir to dissolve.
| Chiboust cream|
Cover the bowl with plastic film on the cream and set aside. Reducing the amount of air in contact with the cream will result in the formation of less bacteria.
In the meantime, do not refrigerate nor allow the cream to set while preparing the Italian meringue.
For the Italian meringue, start preparing a sugar syrup by placing the sugar and then the water in a saucepan on medium heat
When the syrup reaches 110°, start whipping the egg whites on medium-high speed
When the syrup reaches 119°, the egg whites should be whipped to soft peaks. Now you can pour the syrup slowly on the whipped egg whites while the mixer is running at high speed. Pour in a steady stream between the side of the bowl and the beater.
Continue whipping at high speed until the syrup is incorporated, approximately 1 minute
Quickly incorporate one third of the hot meringue into the warm pastry cream with a spatula
Gently fold in the remaining meringue until no strikes nor lumps remain: you now have a Chiboust cream. Keep it covered at room temperature, or better on a bain marie of slightly simmering water.
| Caramel glaze for cream puffs|
Make a hole on the bottom of the choux with a knife and fill them with pastry cream (when the cream is cold). This action can be performed while preparing the Italian meringue.
Prepare the caramel glaze: put the sugar, glucose and water in a saucepan on medium heat. Don't stir with a spatula or a spoon, just leave it there...
After a few minutes the syrup will boil and eventually become of a brown colour. When this happens, quickly place the pan for a couple of seconds in a bowl of cold water to stop it from cooking
Dip the top of the filled choux in the caramel (wait for the caramel to thicken a bit if necessary). Yes I made the mistake of stirring the caramel which crystallized on the border...
Place the glazed choux on a silicon mat with the glazed surface down and press gently to flatten it
| Cake assembly|
When the caramel on the choux is solid, slightly dip the bottom of the choux in the caramel then arrange them all on the baked choux pastry around the edge of the cake base. Here less caramel than in the previous step is needed as "glue" for the choux. It might be necessary to reheat the caramel if it thickens too much
Pour some cream in the cake base so to have a 2-3cm layer
Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining cream using a piping bag fitted with the famous St. Honoré tip
Pâte à choux:
- This dough can be used immediately or even frozen
- It is very important that the butter be fully melted when the milk and water come to a boil and for this reason it must be diced (it will melt faster): if it is not melted when the liquids are at 100°, you'll have to wait before adding the flour and waiting means the water will evaporate, changing the proportions of ingredients in this delicate recipe
- Always add the last egg little by little, checking frequently if the dough has reached right shiny, firm texture
- Leave the oven door slightly open only after the first half of the baking process
- Steam is necessary at least for the first half of the baking process, so don't open the oven door until your pâte à choux has fully risen! Be careful as well of excessive steam, since it might contribute to an uneven development and to the formation of cracks on the baked pastries.
- To test for doneness, I usually touch the touch in the oven and if they seem hard, they're done. Otherwise, you can remove one unit and let it sit for 2 minutes at room temperature: if it doesn't collpase, it means the choux are ready! :-P (Don't worry, pâte à choux doesn't burn easily if baked for a longer time...)
- Please remember that the Crème Chiboust is very delicate and can become "dangerous" since the pastry cream is left at room temperature for some time, during which bacteria could form in it.
- To avoid risks while you prepare the meringue, you can cover the bowl with plastic film on the pastry cream and additionally you could also place temporarily the bowl on a bain marie: this will keep the cream at safe temperatures and prevent the formation of bacteria.
- If the cream needs to be baked (e.g. to fill tarts), you can omit the gelatin.
- It might be necessary to let the cream set a few minutes in the fridge before it can used in a piping bag.
- When the sugar starts boiling, always keep an eye on it as caramel might burn quickly
- When you're glazing the choux, make sure not to touch the caramel with your fingers, because even if it is not boiling, its temperature might be well above 150°C!