Introduction: Moth Nest Croquembouche

I've always been fascinated by moths, somehow they make me think of ancient, elegant & mysterious times. I mean, people treat them as the ugly cousins of butterflies, but actually they are as delicate and fragile as them. And equally beautiful and deceptive in nature.

So when I saw this contest I couldn't be happier!! I knew immediately that moths must be the focal point on the piece. And I knew the perfect dessert to show what I wanted: a Croquembouche.

The cake itself is a representation of a nest of moths and their daintiness, and I also wanted to portray their life cycle in the same piece, but in a quirky yet eerie way.

Step 1: The Croquembouche: the Choux Balls

The first step to make this dessert is to prepare a Croquembouche, which will be the structural base. For those who don't know what is that, a Croquembouche is a french desert made of "profiteroles" (balls made of choux pastry),which I decided to fill with "Crema pastelera" (a spanish filling similar to custard). This balls are piled into a cone, and they are attached with caramel. Usually is decorated with threads of spun sugar. This is a bit time consuming, but the result is worth it.

Ingredients (Choux pastry):

- 375ml water

- 150g butter, cubed

- 175g plain flour

- 5 large eggs, beaten (You can also use Medium sized eggs, or 4 XL eggs)

*You will need a spatula, a piping bag, and a rounded nozzle to make the balls

The preparation steps are the following:

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (gas), or 200ºC (fan).

2. Pour the water and the butter into a saucepan, and cover it with cling film to assure that any of the ingredients escape.

3.Bring it to the boil, and once you reach that point, remove the cling film from the top and add all the flour in one go, very quickly; this way the flour will "semi-cook", like what happens with the "Churro pastry". Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and then beat the mixture profusely until you get a firm shiny paste, stirring it continuously. Once everything is smooth and firm, transfer the paste into a bowl and let it cool for 5-8 minutes.

4. When the time has passed, add the beaten eggs, just a little at a time, stirring continuously, until you get a smooth, creamy and glossy appearance. You will get a mixture with a ribbon consistency once you add all the eggs.

5. Now you have to transfer the batter into a piping bag, with a rounded nozzle of about 1cm diameter. Make small rounds of 3-5cm diameter, leaving space between every "puff" to allow the spreading of the mixture. Tip: use a finger dipped in cold water to flatten the peaks that appear after piping the batter.

6.Bake for 20 minutes until the balls are golden and risen. After this time, remove the baking sheet and with a straw or skewer, make a hole in the base of each bun to allow steam to escape, and return to the oven for 3 more minutes to dry out.

7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on wire racks

Step 2: The Croquembouche: the Filling

Once the profiteroles have cooled is time to fill them. You can skip this step if you want or simply change the filling for another if you prefer it that way.

Ingredients (Filling):

- 3 egg yolks, M-L sized

- 500ml milk

- 6tbsp white sugar

-40g of corn flour or glutinous rice flour

-OPTIONAL :1 packet of Flan mix (to give more texture and vainilla flavour to the filling)

*You will need a spatula, piping bag, and an elongated nozzle

The preparation steps are the following:

1. Mix in cold the corn flour, egg yolks, sugar, Flan mix and milk in a medium sized saucepan. Once everything is integrated, put it in medium heat and stir continuously. When the custard starts to thicken, remove from the heat and let it cool for 10-15 minutes.

2. Once the filling has cooled, transfer to a piping bag with an elongated nozzle, and taking the profiteroles one by one, fill it through the hole you made in the base.

3. Let the filling settle in the balls for 5 minutes.

Step 3: The Croquembouche: Assembling the Cone

Now is time to build the Croquembouche. You will need to prepare the caramel for that. I decided to build it in a different way than the traditional also using melted dark chocolate and piling the balls in horizontal instead of vertical, in order to get more resemblance to a nest of moths; this way you don't need a special Croquembouche mold, just the caramel and the chocolate to attach the profiteroles into a cone shape. You will also need a plate or cake base. I also dipped the buns in royal icing, to make the nest more realistic, but it's an optional step.

Ingredients (Chocolate)

- 300g dark chocolate

-Water (for boiling)

The preparation steps are the following:

1. Pour some water in a Saucepan, and place a glass bowl on the top, touching the water with its bottom.

2. Pour the chocolate on the glass bowl and stir. The heat from the water will warm the glass and the chocolate will melt. This technique is called "Baño María" in Spain.

3. Once it's melted, remove the saucepan and the bowl from the heat; the warmth of the water will keep the chocolate melted for a while, which is what we need.

Ingredients (caramel):

- 300g Sugar

-225ml Water

The preparation steps are the following:

1. Pour the water and the sugar into a small saucepan, making sure to dissolve the sugar on low heat. Set it in medium heat and stir continuously, bringing it to boil.

2. When it reaches 150ºC , remove the pan quickly from the heat, and to prevent the temperature from rising plunge it into a pan of cold water, or the caramel could burn and be wasted.

Now is time to build the cake!!!

The assemblage steps are the following:

1. Holding each profiterole on its side, dip into the caramel (be careful, it will be vey HOT).

2. After that, dip the base (where the hole is) into the melted chocolate, and stick the choux bun onto a plate or cake base. The chocolate is a great agent to attach them together, because it hardens very fast.

3. Repeat that with all the buns, and layer them up, following a conic pattern. If the caramel thickens, just place it on low heat until it's melted again, and repeat the previous step.

4. Once assembled, leave the caramel and the chocolate to set for at least 30 minutes.

Step 4: The Moths: Meringue Queen

After having the nest built, it's time to start with the moths! For this we used two materials: Swiss Meringue for the queen/bigger moth (the "adult" one), and Fondant for the little ones.

Since the meringue takes a while to cook, we will start with the bigger moth.

Ingredients (Meringue moth):

- 3 egg whites

- 150g of white sugar

-1/4tsp Cream of tartar

-OPTIONAL: Vanilla extract.

*You will also need a spatula, piping bag and a flat or rounded nozzle.

The preparation steps are the following:

1. Preheat the oven at 110ºC.

2. Place egg whites in a large bowl and beat them, (vanilla) and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. I did this on the mixer, with a temperature of 40ºC, about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff peaks form. Keep beating it for 10 minutes without temperature, still on medium speed.

3. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag with a flat or rounded nozzle. Start piping the meringue onto parchment paper in the desired shape. I did the body and the wings with the meringue (the head, legs and antennae). Try with different moth sizes so when you finish you will have more than one option to choose.

4. Put the baking sheets on the oven for 1 hour at least. This step will dry out the meringue, so if you make the pieces too thick, you will need to bake more time the meringue.

5. Once it dries out, remove from the oven and let it cool.

I decided to give them a more realistic appearance, so I used Velvet effect sprays. For the decoration process you will need:


-Velvet effect sprays (I have white chocolate and dark chocolate)

-Silver, golden and bronze powder edible pigments.

Place the stencils onto the meringue pieces and spray them with the sprays until you get the desired design, and let it dry for a couple minutes. After that you can paint the body and the wings with the powder edible pigments with a brush.

Step 5: The Moths: Tiny Fondant Babies

Now is time to make the little ones, and we will use fondant for that. We will sculpt now the head and remaining parts of the meringue ones.

Material needed:

- White fondant

- CMC (it will harden the fondant) or icing sugar

- edible glue or water

- Black fondant or black food coloring

-Sculpting tools

The sculpting steps are the following:

1. We will make the wings. Just take a small amount of fondant and flatten it to a 1mm of thickness, shaping it into your desired wing shape. With the scalloped cone tool you can sculpt the wing veins. Repeat this step 4 times per moth.

2. For the bodies roll the fondant into a cylinder. With the semi-circle sculpting tool add texture to the body. Make 3 tiny holes on each side to attach the legs.

3. For the legs, roll small cylinders of fondant with pointy ends, and bend them into the desired shape. With edible glue or water stick them to the body. Make two more pointy cylinders for the antennae.

4. For the head grab a ball of fondant and place 2 holes for the eyes, and 2 holes for the antennae. Stick 2 small balls of black fondant on the eye holes, and stick the antennae into the two remaining holes. Let it dry for a couple minutes and then stick it to the body. For the head of the meringue moth, repeat the process at a bigger scale and stick it to the meringue body once the sculpting process is finished, and spray then with the velvet sprays in order to have the same texture in the head as in the meringue body.

5. While the fondant figures and the glue dry out, you can paint the wings with edible powder pigments. I painted the wings with gold and bronze pigments, the antennae with gold, and the bodies with silver. Finally, stick the wings to the body with glue or water.

Step 6: Moth Nest Decoration

And now the funniest part! Is time to decorate our nest with the moths! We have the eggs (the profiteroles), so now we have to attach our baby moths and the adult moth.

I sprayed the whole nest with edible gold spray to go along with the decoration of the moths.

Warm up the chocolate we had left from before, which we will use as glue. With a tiny brush, paint the bottom of the moths with chocolate and then stick them to the egg/Croquembouche nest.

The last part is to attach with chocolate the meringue wings to the meringue body of the bigger moth. Be very careful since meringue is very delicate, and repeating the previous step, paint with a brush and chocolate the base of the wings and stick them to the moth meringue body.

Now you can enjoy your extraordinary, special, delicate and most important, DELICIOUS Moth nest!! I hope you liked it as much as I did!!

I really had a lot of fun making this project, and I'm looking forward to make more things like this in the future :D

Thank you for reading, and make sure to ask if you have any doubts!!!

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