Braden Bochner and Juliette Deutsch, staff writers
8718 West 3rd Street Los Angeles, CA
One of New York’s most well known cake boutiques has landed in Los Angeles. After opening four locations in Manhattan, including one at the renowned Plaza Food Hall, Lady M has arrived on the West Coast. Located near Robertson Boulevard, the bakery has foodies of Los Angeles lusting after its sweet confections, including its signature Mille Crepes cake, which was named one of America’s Ten Best Cakes by Bon Appetit Magazine. Twenty handmade paper-thin crepes are layered with a light pastry cream and finished with a caramelized layer, like the top of a creme-brulee. Seasonal variations include chocolate, coconut, citron, and green tea.
The bakery’s small and minimalistic, stark-white space serves as the perfect backdrop for a variety of specialty cakes. Lady M classics include the Apple Tapestry, which consists of sliced apples fanned and layered over a thin puff pastry and baked to perfection, and the delicate and decadent Banana Mille Feuille, which is comprised of vanilla sponge cake and fresh bananas, layered between wafer-thin puff pastry sheets and topped with fresh whipped cream.
Another confection popular among Lady M regulars is the Checkers Cake: vanilla and chocolate sponge cake stacked and held together by fresh whipped cream and drizzled in a rich, dark chocolate ganache.
Each creation at Lady M is extraordinarily delicate, almost too pretty to eat. Pastry chef Ken Romaniszyn has mastered the art of creating light, fresh pastries. The often complex combination of ingredients creates flavors that are original, yet familiar.
Most Lady M fans report that once they’ve found their favorite, they become almost “addicted.” Some brave souls have even attempted to recreate these gourmet cakes. If you happen to be one of them, below is a recipe to try:
Mille Crêpes Cake
(Makes about 1 eight-inch cake)
For the crêpe batter:
6 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups flour
7 tablespoons sugar
A pinch salt
For the vanilla pastry cream:
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
For the assembly:
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoon sugar or more
Make the crêpe batter and the pastry cream the day before.
Crêpe batter: In a small pan, cook the butter until brown. Set it aside. In a small pot, heat the milk until it starts steaming and then set it aside to cool for 10 minutes. On medium-low speed with your mixer, beat together the eggs, flour, sugar, and salt. Slowly add the hot milk and browned butter to the mixture. Pour the batter into a container, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Pastry cream: Flatten the vanilla bean and slice it open with a sharp knife. Peel the bean open and scrape the seeds out with the knife. In a small pot, bring the milk with the vanilla bean with scrapings to a boil, set it aside to cool for 10 minutes; remove bean. Fill a large bowl with cold water (or ice). In a medium sized pan or small pot, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together. Gradually whisk in the hot milk. Place the pan over high heat and bring it to a boil, whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes. Set the bowl in the ice bath or cold water and stir until the temperature reaches 140°F (60°C) on an instant-read thermometer. Stir in the butter. Cool, cover, and refrigerate.
The next day, bring the batter and pastry cream to room temperature. Place a nonstick 8-inch pan over medium heat. Swab the surface with the oil, then add about 2-3 tablespoons of batter and swirl to cover the surface. Cook until the bottom just begins to brown, about 1 minute, then carefully lift an edge and flip the crêpe. Cook on the other side for no longer than 5-10 seconds. Carefully flip the crêpe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat until you have 20 perfect crêpes.
Use a mixer to whip the heavy cream with the sugar – it won’t hold strong peaks. Fold it into the pastry cream.
To assemble, lay a crêpe on a plate. Pipe or use an icing spatula to completely cover the crêpe with a thin layer of pastry cream (about 1/4 cup). Cover the pastry cream layer with a crêpe and repeat to make a stack of 20, with the best-looking crepe on top. Chill for at least 2 hours. Set it out for 30 minutes in room temperature before serving.