- 2 ½ cups whole milk
- 6 eggs
- 4 Tbsp + 4 Tbsp butter, melted & divided
- 6 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ¾ cups flour
- 2 Tbsp sesame powder
- 2 ½ cups whole milk
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 packet powdered gelatin
- 3 Tbsp cold water
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ½ vanilla bean
- 6 egg yolks
- 4 Tbsp butter
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
Optional Whipped Cream Topping:
- 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- Whole black sesame seeds
This recipe makes two 6” cakes, roughly 20 crêpes each. It’s best to make and chill the crêpes the day before you make the filling and assemble. This is a time-consuming recipe, and will take up the majority of two days to complete.
Make the crêpes: Place all crêpe ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Scrape the sides of the blender and double check for any lumps of flour before you proceed. Set up your crêpe-making station - keep the 4 Tbsp of melted butter nearby with a pastry brush. Heat an 8” nonstick omelette skillet over medium-low heat. Transfer your crêpe batter to a bowl and use a ¼ cup measure to scoop your batter - you’ll measure out just under the full ¼ cup for each crêpe - roughly 2 Tbsp. Brush a thin layer of butter on the warm skillet and then follow with the scant ¼ cup of batter. Swirl the batter to cover the surface of the pan. Let the crêpe cook for a minute or two, and use a small rubber spatula to lift the edges and check for doneness. Flip and cook the other side for no more than 30 seconds, then transfer to a plate and repeat. Plan to make at least 40 crêpes, if not more. You will want a few extra crêpes to account for mess-ups and tearing. The crêpe-making portion of this recipe is time-consuming, so you may want to pull up a chair. Once you’re done, let your crêpe stack cool to room temperature, then place a square of parchment or waxed paper in between each crêpe and wrap with plastic or store in a gallon-sized zip-top bag and refrigerate.
Optional: Trim the edges of the crêpes using a sharp knife and a 6” round cake board as a guide to ensure all crêpes are the same size for stacking.
Make the diplomat cream: Start by scalding the milk and the vanilla in a saucepan. Meanwhile, dissolve the gelatine in the water. Whisk the eggs, cornstarch, salt, gelatin mixture and sesame powder in a separate bowl. Add the warm milk, a ladle at a time, into the egg mixture, while whisking to temper. Once tempered, return to the saucepan and bring up to medium heat while whisking until thickened. Remove from the heat and add in the butter, a tablespoon at a time, while whisking to fully incorporate. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic, allowing the plastic to touch the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for two hours. Once the custard is chilled, whip the cup of cream to stiff peaks and gently fold into the custard.
To assemble: using a plate or cake board, spread a small amount of diplomat cream down as a sticky base. Layer your first crêpe next, and top that with about a heaping tablespoon diplomat cream. Use an offset spatula to evenly distribute the cream over the surface, just near the edge, leaving a small gap around the circumference. Continue on, layering and turning the plate or board as you go to ensure your stacking is even. Stack about 20 crêpes and 20 layers of cream for each cake. Chill the cakes until ready to serve. Serve with whipped cream and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Toasted sesame powder can be purchased online or at a well-stocked international grocery store. I found it at H Mart in California. Be sure to check the expiration date. You can opt to make sesame powder by grinding black sesame seeds as well, but your results may vary depending on your equipment.
I chose to make two small cakes instead of one large cake because I wanted nice high sides and no sloping. During my research, I noticed the larger examples of crêpe cakes tend to slope on the sides. As the recipe states above, this is a time consuming process, so expect to spend a whole weekend making this cake. The payoff is worth the effort - the cake is visually impressive and delicious as well. The toasted sesame flavor is nutty and smooth and pairs well with vanilla and cream. The wafer thin crêpes make each bite feel airy and light, although don’t be fooled, this is a hefty cake. A small slice will go a long way.
If you’ve never made crêpes before, I might try doing a basic crêpe recipe first to get the hang of the swirl and short cooking time. Once you’re comfortable, I think making crêpes is fairly simple. No special equipment or crêpe maker necessary, just an appropriately-sized pan.
Diplomat cream is a custard with whipped cream folded in. This one is stabilized with gelatin to ensure that it will retain some volume in between layers, and will help prevent the cake from falling or melting (it’s not totally preventative though; I wouldn’t let this cake sit out in the sun). I also chose to stabilize my whipped cream topping with gelatin to ensure both cakes would survive a day or so in the refrigerator as well as a photo session under lighting. Make sure the cake is very chilled before you attempt to slice it, and use a very sharp knife. I just purchased a new Shun utility knife and it was perfect for this task.