Let them eat cake!

by Don Bingham

Cakes are treasures from every age! We all have shelves and recipe files full of wonderful cake recipes from our families, church cookbooks and cookbooks of favorite chefs.


Most of us are constantly on the prowl for that different, incredible, new cake — all the while, refusing to give up the favorites that must appear on our feasting table at special times of the year. New cakes arrive on the scene, but many of the methods and techniques are unchanged. Even our favorite brand names used in the ingredients list must be the same!

Cake recipes should be followed precisely for success; substituting different types of fat or flour can cause problems. Even when reducing or increasing quantities proportionally, we have to bear in mind that baking temperatures and times may change, as well.

Dense, solid cakes can be due to inadequate beating or whipping of the mixture or insufficient amounts of sugar and/or raising agent.

Sunken or sticky cakes can be due to undercooking, too low an oven temperature, too much raising agent or too much liquid in the mixture.

Uneven raised surfaces can be due to a high oven temperature or overbeating the mixture.

There are simple tests that will tell you when baked goods are ready to come out of the oven. A cake is done when the top springs back if lightly pressed with your fingertips and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. A baked cake will also lightly come away from the side of the pan.

The crepe cake featured on the cover of this issue is a creation of Chef Dan Darrah, on staff at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. He is a chef of many talents and yet a star producer of the “over the top” pastries, desserts and cakes!

Chef Darrah’s background includes training at Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, with internship at Pebble Beach Golf Course in Monterey, Calif. Before joining the Governor’s Mansion, he served as executive sous and executive chef at the Alotian Club in Roland.

The Holiday Crepe Cake is one of those showstoppers! It is not difficult to create. It just takes a little practice and undivided attention. The cake pictured is 40 layers of luscious crepes, interspersed with 40 layers of filling, including a layer of strawberry gelée thickened with agar, and a layer of mascarpone and cream cheese filling with lemon and lime zest — with a slight touch of Chambord (raspberry liqueur).

“The secret to making this cake is to layer the filling onto each cake before attempting to assemble this showstopper production,” said Chef Darrah. Speaking from experience, Chef Darrah encourages this step to be a definite must in the presentation of the Holiday Crepe Cake!

Chef Darrah shares his Holiday Crepe Cake with our 501 LIFE readers:

Crepe recipe:

12 oz. cake flour
12 oz. bread flour
6 oz. granulated sugar
4 teaspoons iodized salt
12 whole eggs
12 egg yolks
12 oz. butter
6 cups whole milk
2/3 cup brandy or orange brandy

Place the milk and butter into a sauce pan and place over low to medium low heat until the butter is melted. While waiting, sift the flours, sugar and the salt together. Lightly beat the eggs and yolks until thoroughly combined. Gradually stir the eggs into the dry ingredients. Add the butter, milk and brandy to the egg mixture and mix until smooth. Allow the batter to rest for 15 minutes.

Use a non-stick egg pan over medium heat for the crepe cookery. For the first crepe, lightly spray (or coat) the pan with oil. Use just enough batter to coat the pan with a thin layer and allow it to cook until the edges begin to turn dry and lightly brown. Flip the crepe over and repeat. After the first crepe is made, you will not have to grease the pan again. Toss (or eat) the first crepe because it will absorb the majority of the oil and then continue the process until all of the batter is used. Allow the crepes to cool before beginning the layering process. Any excess crepes may be stored in the freezer for future use by alternating parchment in between to prevent them from sticking together.

Mascarpone filling:

4 cups mascarpone cheese
2 cups softened cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons Chambord
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lime zest

Place the cream cheese into mixer and with the paddle attachment, whip until it is completely smooth. Add the mascarpone and sugar. Mix until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix on low speed until smooth. This is ready for the assembly process. If desired, the mix may be refrigerated for up to five days before building the cake, but be sure to allow it to come to room temperature before trying to coat the crepes. They are too fragile and will tear unless the filling is very soft.

Strawberry gelée:

16 cups strawberries (stem removed)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
5 teaspoons agar
5 1/2 teaspoons Locust Bean Gum Powder

Combine the strawberries, lemon juice and sugar and cook over medium heat for 8-12 minutes. Blend and strain. Add the agar and Locust Bean Gum Powder and blend for 30 seconds to ensure they are fully incorporated into the liquid. Return to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 4 minutes. Allow the strawberry mixture to cool until it begins to thicken and immediately begin the assembly process.


Separate the crepes into two equal numbered stacks.

Spread a thin layer of the mascarpone filling across a single crepe ensuring as even of a coating as you possibly can muster. Repeat this process until all of the first stack of crepes are covered.  

Pour a small amount of the strawberry gelée over a single crepe. Be sure to get an even coating across the entire crepe. This will make the building process easier once the cake gets more than 30 layers. If the mix gets too thick before this portion of crepes are coated, the mixture can be returned to the stove to thin back to the desired consistency. Allow the coated crepes to cool completely before actually sta
cking them for the final cake gloriousness.

Begin to stack the crepes in alternating layers until every coated crepe is used.

Garnish and serve.

If there is limited space to create the coated crepes in their entirety, steps 2-4 may be repeated in an appropriate manor. Just be sure to allow them to cool before actually stacking, otherwise the cake will slide.


Recognized throughout the state as an accomplished chef, Don Bingham has authored cookbooks, presented television programs and planned elaborate events. Today, he is the administrator for the Governor’s Mansion.


Don Bingham
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