Thai Milk Tea Mille Crêpes Cake
Subtly-Flavored Pastry Cream Tucked Between Layers of Lacy Crêpes
(makes 21-23 crêpes total; 20 crêpes needed for cake)
6 tbsp unsalted butter [85 g]
3 cups whole milk [710 mL]
6 eggs [300 g without shell]
1/3 cup granulated sugar [67 g]
1/2 tsp salt [2.85 g]
1.5 cups cake flour [170 g]
1/2 tsp unsalted butter for greasing pan [2.4 g]
Thai Milk Tea Pastry Cream:
4 cups whole milk [960 mL]
6 (2-gram bags) organic black tea bags [12 g]
4 anise stars
2 green cardamom pods (seeds + shell, crushed)
4 whole cloves
1/8 tsp orange food coloring (optional)
8 egg yolks [160 g]
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (half of 14-oz can) [160 mL]
1/3 cup cornstarch [40 g]
1/2 tsp salt [2.85 g]
4 tbsp unsalted butter [57 g]
2 tbsp vanilla extract [30 mL]
4 cups cold heavy cream [960 mL]
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (the other half of 14-oz can) [160 mL]
Making the Crêpe Batter:
Take a small skillet, and heat over medium heat. Add in 6 tbsp of unsalted butter, and brown it till it starts to smell nutty. Set this aside.
In a small saucepan medium heat, add 3 cups of whole milk and heat it till it's steaming, but not boiling. Allow this to cool for about 10 to 15 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, add in 6 room temperature eggs, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Whisk this together till it's combined. Then using a sieve, sift in 1 1/2 cups of cake flour, and whisk this in. Slowly whisk in the warm milk and browned butter, and mix till there are no more large lumps. Be careful not to over beat the batter.
Pour the batter through a strainer to remove any lumps into a container with a spout. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and rest it in the fridge overnight.
Thai Milk Tea Pastry Cream:
In a mortar and pestle, take 2 pods of green cardamom and crush the seeds and shell together. In a tea infuser (can also use a cloth filter) add in 4 anise stars, 4 whole cloves, and the crushed cardamom seeds/shells. Close the tea infuser (or tie up the cloth filter).
In a medium-sized sauce-pan, add in 4 cups of whole milk and bring to a gentle boil on medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to prevent the milk from bubbling over. Once it is boiling add in six 2-gram bags of organic black tea (or 12 grams tea total), we like to use a blend of Assam and Ceylon black tea, and the tea infuser full of spices. Let the tea and spices gently simmer in the milk for 5 minutes. Then remove it from the heat.
Let it continue steeping for 2 hours at room temperature to maximize the flavor. At this point you can add an optional 1/8 tsp of orange food coloring to the milk tea and mix it in. The popular orange color of traditional Thai milk tea is from artificial coloring, and adding a pinch of orange food coloring will help to imitate that. For an all-natural alternative, you can leave the orange food coloring out, and your resulting Thai milk tea pastry cream will have a more natural light brown color.
When the Thai milk tea mixture has steeped for 2 hours, take a medium-sized saucepan and add in 8 egg yolks, half a can of sweetened condensed milk (which is about 2/3 cup), 1/3 cup of cornstarch, and 1/2 tsp of salt, and whisk them together.
Then slowly add in the steeped room temperature Thai milk tea, while whisking so no lumps form, and then place the saucepan over medium heat and bring this to a boil, and once it starts boiling, continue cooking while whisking constantly for another 2 to 5 minutes, or until the pastry thickens.
When the mixture looks thickened, remove it from the heat. Stir in 4 tbsp of unsalted butter and 2 tbsp of vanilla extract. Continue to stir until combined. Strain this pastry cream mixture to remove any remaining lumps, then cover with plastic wrap pressing the plastic wrap against the surface of the custard. This will prevent a skin from forming as it cools. Let this pastry cream rest in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight. If you're in a rush, put the saucepan in an ice-bath, stirring occasionally, to speed up the thickening process.
Cooking the Crêpes:
Let the crêpes batter and pastry cream come to room temperature. Note: the crêpe batter is supposed to be very liquidy and look watery (not a thick batter like pancake batter).
Take a 10" non-stick skillet / frying pan, and heat on medium heat. Using a pastry brush, coat the pan with 1/2 tsp of unsalted butter. The butter should sizzle when it hits the pan.
Before each crêpe, mix the batter a bit to make sure it is uniformly mixed. Then pour the batter into a 1/4 cup measure. Lift the pan off the fire, and quickly pour the 1/4 cup of batter while simultaneously swirling the batter in the pan as you add the batter.
Work quickly to spread the batter evenly all the way to the edges of the pan to make a circle. Continue swirling the pan to move the batter and fill the middle as evenly as possible. Once the bottom of the pan is evenly coated, place it back on medium heat.
Cook the crêpe for another 30 seconds from when you place the pan back on the fire. Just until the batter is set. Do not flip the crêpe. When the batter is set, using a spatula, gently lift the crêpe off the pan and transfer it to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Repeat steps 3 to 5 until all the batter is used up. Make sure to mix the batter a little before each crêpe, but do not add any more butter before making the subsequent crêpes (brushing with butter is only for the 1st crêpe).
This recipe should make about 21 to 23 crêpes total. We're only using 20 crêpes for the cake - so you will have some extra or room for error/practice crêpes. Stack the crêpes on top of each other, slightly staggered, as each one gets done cooking. This will help the crêpes stay soft and prevent them from drying out.
When all the crêpes are done, set them aside to finish cooling.
Preparing the Thai Milk Tea Cream Filling:
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add in 4 cups of very cold heavy cream.
Whisk a whisk attachment, beat on medium speed till the whipped cream gains some volume, about 50% increase in volume.
While continuing to whip, add in the remaining half from the can of sweetened condensed milk, which should be about 2/3 cup. Continue whipping till the whipped cream mixture is thick and billowy, forming medium to stiff peaks.
Gently fold this whipped cream into the cold Thai Milk Tea pastry cream till it's uniform and smooth. This will be your cream filling between the crêpe layers.
Assembling the Cake:
Take a flat surface or cake board that's 10" in diameter bigger, and place it on a revolving cake stand. Place the 1st crêpe in the middle of the cake board. Set aside the best-looking crêpe for your top layer.
Using a 1/2 cup measure, add a heaping 1/2 cup of the Thai Milk Tea cream filling on top of the crêpe and using a spatula, spread it evenly towards the edges while rotating your cake stand. Stop about 1/4" from the edge, and try not to get any cream on the sides of the cake.
Add the subsequent crêpes in this same way. Try to add the same amount of the Thai Milk Tea filling (a heaping 1/2 cup) for each layer, so that the layers look evenly spaced. Repeat this with 20 crêpes, so that there's a thin layer of Thai Milk Tea cream filling between each crêpe (19 layers of filling and 20 layers of crêpe). Be sure to finish with the last good-looking crêpe on top.
Cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Let this rest in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours, preferably overnight for the cake to set and for the crêpes to soak in the Thai Milk Tea cream filling. Slice and serve chilled. Enjoy!