It’s The Boyfriend’s birthday today! I obviously had to celebrate by posting a cake and I love this one because it’s a little out of the ordinary. Instead of the typical cake + lots of super rich frosting, Boston Cream Pie has a vanilla pastry cream filling and a chocolate ganache glaze. Considering I’m not the biggest fan of frosting (gasp!) and could eat an entire bowl of pastry cream for dessert and be completely satisfied, this cake is definitely a big winner in my book. And The Boyfriend will eat any cake, so I excitedly set about making it for the first time.
I definitely suggest you do a little bit of weight-lifting in the days prior and have a book on the ready, because you’re going to be whisking this pastry cream on the stove for a good 10 minutes or so. The cake is a “hot-milk sponge cake” and it’s made in a bit of an unusual way–instead of the typical mix the dry–mix the wet–mix together method, you mix the dry, heat the wet, beat the eggs and sugar, add the hot liquid and add the dry ingredients in. It’s really quite easy, just different!
A warning that you should have plenty of time to make this cake, though, as the pastry cream needs to refrigerate for 2 hours, the cakes need to cool fully before you assemble the cake, and the whole thing should chill for 3 hours before cutting so that it stays intact. Long story short: make the cake the night before you need it and don’t start making it at ten o’clock at night.
Wicked Good Boston Cream Pie
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated March 2011
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- pinch of table salt
- 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- Heat half-and-half in a saucepan until just simmering. While that’s heating, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add flour and mix thoroughly.
- Once the half-and-half is just starting to simmer, turn off the heat and measure out a 1/2 cup of the half-and-half. Whisking the mixture constantly, slowly pour the 1/2 cup of half-and-half into the egg yolk mixture. I have a great set of mixing bowls that have rubber on the bottom so they don’t slide on the counter when doing tasks like this…but I wasn’t using a bowl from that set this time, so I had to request The Boyfriend’s assistance to hold the bowl for me while I whisked and poured at the same time. For those who like fancy cooking terms, this is called “tempering” and the goal is to warm up the egg yolks before adding them to the hot half-and-half. If you were to just dump the yolks in cold, the eggs would cook and you’d end up with scrambled eggs instead of pastry cream.
- Now that the egg yolks are warmed up, turn the burner under the saucepan up to medium and whisking constantly again, pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the half-and-half. Whisk for a full minute then reduce the heat to medium-low and continue whisking for 8 minutes. (I was reading my recipe off my laptop so I was able to peruse the internet during those 8 minutes.)
- After the 8 minutes, turn the heat back up to medium and whisk for 1-2 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when if you stop whisking just for a second, big bubbles will burst on the surface of the cream.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter chunks until melted and incorporated.
- Strain the pastry cream through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Lightly grease a piece of parchment paper and press it, greased side down onto the cream and move the bowl to the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
- Heat oven to 325 degrees and make sure the oven rack is in the center position. Grease two 9″ cake pans, cut rounds of parchment paper to fit in the bottom, and grease those on top, too.
- Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl.
- Heat milk and butter and vanilla in small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted (turn off the heat once the butter melts so that the mixture can cool for a little bit before the next step). In the meantime, whip the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes on with your mixer on high speed for 5 minutes.
- Whisking constantly, pour the warm milk mixture over the egg-sugar whipped mixture and whisk until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and whisk thoroughly.
- Immediately pour the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-22 minutes until tops are light brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Let cakes cool for 2 hours in the pan (I just let mine sit out overnight and made the glaze and assembled everything the next morning, knowing we wouldn’t dig into the cake until later in the day). To get the cakes out later, run an knife around the edge of the pan and invert the pans and carefully peel the parchment paper off.
- Place one cake on the platter you intend to serve the cake on. Remove the parchment paper cover and stir the pastry cream just to loosen it up, then spread it over the first cake with an offset spatula. Place the second cake on top of the pastry cream with the flat bottom side up. Refrigerate again while you’re making the glaze.
- Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Turn off the burner and add chocolate and stir until smooth. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Pour glaze onto center of cake. Use an offset spatula to spread glaze around the top of the cake, letting it drip over the sides. Chill finished cake 3 hours before slicing. Enjoy!