I have heard that the gateau st. honore is used as a test for pastry school students, as the dessert forces students to use a variety of baking skills to make it. Whether it really is used as a test or not, I 100% agree that a gateau st. honore is not for the faint of heart.
Even done the “easy” way, like I’ve done here, this is the kind of dessert a comfortable baker should only attempt. I say that not because I doubt a beginner baker could create this, but because it requires the stamina and energy that an experienced baker would have to carry out this dessert.
Because creating a gateau st. honore takes some serious effort.
Gateau St. Honore
But first, let me explain the name. Gateau is, of course, French for cake, but the st. honore part of the name comes from the French saint of bakers and pastry chefs, Saint Honoré. The dessert was invented in a bakery on Rue Saint-Honoré and named after the Saint.
I think it’s a fitting name for such a majestic dessert.
The Basic Components
The basic components of a gateau st. honore are a puff pastry base, pate a choux pastry (both a ring and puffs), creme patisserie, creme chiboust, and caramel.
Creme chiboust is like a pastry cream that’s been lightened up with Italian meringue mixed into it.
While a traditional gateau st. honore is darling, I like going for the drool-worthy effect by dousing mine in caramel. Salted caramel, to be specific. Mmm.
In the recipe I’m sharing today, I simply used creme patisserie (no creme chiboust), and simple creme chantilly (sweetened whipped cream).
I also piped my cream using a plain tip on my pastry bag rather than the iconic st. honore tip. I find that the st. honore tip doesn’t hold its shape as well with creme chantilly vs. creme chiboust (creme chantilly is usually too soft). Regardless, I’ve seen the cream piped a variety of ways, so you could technically pipe your cream in star shapes or swirls if you wanted.
Since I drizzle caramel all over the cake, the piping design gets covered up anyways so no point in fussing too much with it.
While making a gateau st. honore can be challenging, the end result is definitely rewarding. The variety of textures in a gateau st. honore is so pleasing.
You get the crisp puff pastry with the chewy pate a choux, and then velvety creme patisserie and delicate creme chantilly. Oh and the salted caramel…don’t even get me started. Divine!
If you have some free time on your weekend and feel up to the challenge, I highly recommend giving a gateau st. honore a try!
Gateau St. Honore with Salted Caramel
A decadent French pastry made with puff pastry, cream puffs, pastry cream, and salted caramel.
For the Puff Pastry
- 1 sheet of puff pastry
For the Pate a Choux
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
For the Creme Patissiere (pastry cream)
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
For the Creme Chantilly (whipped cream)
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
For the Salted Caramel
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp salt or more to taste
To create the pate a choux
Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the water, unsalted butter, sugar and salt together. Once the butter has melted, remove the saucepan from the heat.
Pour in the all-purpose flour and stir together to combine. Move the saucepan over to low heat, and stir the now-formed dough/paste until it no longer sticks to the bottom of the pan (about 30 seconds to 1 minute).
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the eggs, one at a time. It will be slightly difficult to mix the egg into the dough, but just keep vigorously stirring and eventually they'll become incorporated. Temporarily set this aside.
Creating the puff pastry base and pastry puffs
Cut out a 7" round from the puff pastry. You can use a bowl, pan, pot lid - whatever you have that will help you cut out a nice 7" circle (or simply trace it after measuring with a ruler - perfection isn't necessary!). Place this puff pastry circle on one side of a baking sheet fitted with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Fill a pastry bag (no tip attached) with the pate a choux dough that you created in your saucepan. In one continuous motion, pipe the dough out along the edge of the puff pastry circle (creating a sort of wall for the puff pastry). Now, pipe out approximately 16 small mounds on the open side of the baking sheet, spacing the mounds slightly apart. Smooth out any ridges or pointed tips using your fingers.
Bake the pastry for 10 minutes at 425°F, then WITHOUT opening the oven door, bake the pastry for another 18 minutes at 375°F, until they're a deep golden color. Place the pastry ring and pastry puffs on a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Create the Creme Patissiere
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, cornstarch, flour, egg, and egg yolk together.
Once the milk is hot and steam is beginning to rise from it, stir in the vanilla bean paste (if using extract, hold off for now). Then, pour half of the milk into the egg mixture, whisking the egg mixture vigorously as you do. Pour the rest of the milk in, and continue to whisk vigorously.
Transfer the entire batter back into the saucepan and whisk over medium heat. It will take about 5 minutes for the cream to thicken up into a pudding-like consistency. Just keep whisking the whole time.
Once the cream is starting to look like pudding, quickly remove the cream from the heat. If you're using vanilla extract, stir the extract in now. If there are any lumps in your cream, just whisk the cream really vigorously to smooth them out.
Transfer the cream to a clean bowl and cover the cream with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly onto the cream (this will prevent a filmy layer from forming). Chill the pastry cream in the refrigerator.
Create the Creme Chantilly
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the heavy cream on high speed until indentations begin to appear. Pour in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar, then whisk on high speed until a frosting-like consistency is formed.
Create the caramel
In a medium saucepan, add the sugar + 1/4 cup of water. Do NOT stir the two together. Simply place the saucepan over medium-high heat, and allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Watch the sugar-water bubble for approximately 7 to 8 minutes, watching it go from white-ish/clear to a dark amber color. Do NOT step away from the caramel as it can burn in a matter of seconds.
Once the caramel has reached a dark amber color and is JUST beginning to smoke, quickly remove the caramel from the heat. Carefully pour the heavy cream into the caramel (it will bubble), then stir to combine. Add the salt, and again stir to combine.
Fit a pastry bag with a long, narrow filling tip. Fill the pastry bag with the creme patisserie and then pipe this into the pastry puffs. Flip the pastry puff upside down so that the flat side is facing you, then dip the top in the salted caramel. Gently give it a shake to pour off excess caramel, then carefully dip the bottom of the pastry puff in caramel too.
Place the pastry puff onto the pate a choux wall that you created on top of the puff pastry circle. The caramel will act like a glue. Continue until you've got a ring of pastry puffs.
Scoop the remaining creme patisserie onto the center of the puff pastry. Fill a new pastry bag fitted with whatever tip you like (plain, star, st. honore) with the creme chantilly, and pipe the creme on top of the pastry cream.
Stick one final pastry puff in the center of the dessert, then drizzle caramel all over. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
You will end up with extra salted caramel (which I like to refrigerate for later use), and a few extra pastry puffs.
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