Boston Cream Pie
Welcome to the anniversary special: Boston Cream Pie.
My friends, Dear Husband and I have hit a milestone: our 10 year anniversary. TEN. I think back on our years together and it has been a ride. We first bonded in college over coffee, then went on cheap dates exploring nature trails and picking wild black raspberries (and making jam with them). He taught me the correct way to pour soda, roll a burrito, and grate block cheese, and I taught him how to do everything else.
Just kidding. I’m a lucky woman and I know this every day.
We have always bonded over food. In the five years we spent before having kids, we cooked a lot, cheaply, and with strange ingredients and complicated recipes, trial and error. Just because, that’s what we liked to do.
Every year I make him his birthday cake (and now the kids too). I will never forget the first one I ever made him: a Boston cream pie. I was a nervous wreck making the intimidating vanilla custard, convinced I’d mess it up and have to chuck it and admit failure. But I made it. Then the cakes. Then the chocolate glaze. When I ever-so-carefully put it together on our chipped glass cake plate, I stared at it for a good ten minutes in awe, proud, excited, hungry, and covered in batter and chocolate. I was in heaven.
And check this out: I went through my old pictures and found a picture. It’s also the very first picture of my own food that I ever took.
Pretty sweet, right? Love those onions.
So to celebrate this milestone, I think it’s time to revisit this creation, yes? You with me? Let’s do it.
Boston cream pie, noun: an insanely delectable dessert, that’s actually a cake, with two layers of fluffy yellow cake enveloping a layer of homemade vanilla custard in between, with silky smooth chocolate ganache oozing over the top.
The cake is a straightforward yellow cake, which you will rock at making since you’ve been loyally reading my blog and are familiar with the basic steps. Sift dry ingredients. Next, cream butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla, add dry ingredients until mixed. For this cake you’ll also add some milk and beat it for a bit before pouring into two 9-in round pans and baking.
A quick word about nonstick spray and parchment. USE THE PARCHMENT. Spray the pans, cut out circles of parchment, lay in the bottom of the pans, then spray them too. When the cakes come out of the oven, let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes and turn them out onto racks. If you only use spray, the cakes will stick like glue as they cool. I have done this. It’s a mess. Don’t do what I did.
The daunting and most delicious part. It is not hard, it’s just all about timing, and a little magic. Give yourself a few minutes alone to concentrate here. Hand the kids a snack and go for it.
This recipe for pastry cream is pretty basic. It’s rich but not too heavy, and you can also use it to fill cream puffs, eclairs, or in a fruit tart. Which you should do, because yum.
You will start by adding the milk, sugar, and salt into a saucepan and scalding it, making sure the sugar dissolves. In a separate bowl, whisk some egg yolks and cornstarch. Then, quickly and thoroughly, you’ll temper the eggs with the scalded milk until it’s all combined, then pour it all back in the pan. As you whisk constantly for a couple of minutes, the custard will approach a boil and thicken (the magic part), and immediately you’ll take it off the heat, whisk in butter and vanilla, and cool it.
For cooling, I use an ice bath in the sink and stir in every couple of minutes until it’s mostly cool (20 min), then put saran wrap directly on the top (to prevent a skin) and refrigerate it until ready to use.
If you pull it out of the fridge and it’s gotten too thick, you can whisk in a bit of milk to loosen it up.
This is easy to make, but important to do correctly because it’s the shiny crown on top. Put the chocolate in a bowl, heat some cream and corn syrup, pour it over the chocolate, and let it sit. Then, stir until it’s gorgeous and let cool for a few minutes before pouring over the cake.
Yellow cake on bottom, top facing up. Glide the cream on and spread it out. Flip the other cake upside down and place it onto the cream. Press down just enough so it’s set, but the cream is not oozing out the sides (you can use an offset spatula to smooth it if it does, though, as pictured). Finally, my favorite part, take that beautiful bowl of silky smooth ganache and pour it over the top. I usually just pour in the middle and watch it ease out to the edges and down the sides a bit. A stunning work of dessert art and there is no better kind.
AND, at long last, you have a Boston cream pie. Step back and look at the amazing creamy dreamy creation that you and your special someone get to eat. How do you feel? Proud? Excited? Hungry? Covered in batter and chocolate?
Made in heaven.
It’s a memory you won’t forget.
And I won’t forget.
Here’s to another 10.
- 2 1/4 c flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 c granulated sugar
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/4 c whole milk
- 2 c whole milk
- 1/2 c granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 5 egg yolks
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 c heavy cream
- 1 tbsp light corn syrup
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray 2 9-in round cake pans with nonstick spray, line with parchment, and spray again.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, using a mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating for a minute before adding the next.
Add vanilla, beat until combined.
Add dry ingredients, beat on low until combined.
Add the milk, beat on low until combined, then increase to medium speed and beat for 3 min.
Divide evenly into cake pans and bake 25-30 min until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool for 10 min max, then turn out onto wire racks and peel parchment. Let cool completely before building the cake.
In a medium saucepan, add the milk, sugar, and salt. Heat over medium-high until it is scalded and just under boiling. Be sure to whisk thoroughly to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Then, take it off the heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and cornstarch until smooth.
Working quickly and whisking constantly, use a ladle to pour the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, about 1/4 cup at a time. Do this until it is all combined, then pour back into the saucepan.
Bring the milk/yolk mixture to just under a boil over medium high heat, still whisking constantly, for about 2 min. The custard will thicken, then immediately take it off the heat. Whisk in the vanilla and butter. Cool in an ice bath, then put in the fridge until ready to use.
In a small bowl, add the bittersweet and semisweet chocolate.
In a small saucepan, heat heavy cream and corn syrup until hot. Pour over the chocolate and let sit for 3 min. Whisk until it becomes smooth and shiny.
On a cake plate, place one cake round top side up. Scrape the cooled pastry cream into the middle, and spread out to the edges.
Turn the other cake upside down and place it on top of the cream. Gently press down a bit, being careful not to let the pastry cream ooze out the sides. If you prefer, run an offset spatula around the edges to smooth.
Pour that beautiful glaze over the top of the cake in the middle. Watch it dribble over the side and look glorious. Put the cake in the fridge for an hour to set.
This cake should be stored in the fridge.