Here in the King Arthur Flour test kitchen we often get folks poking their head in the door, asking quite literally, "What's cookin'?"
The responses to what we're making that day can range from "Yeah, chocolate!" to "Oh. Thanks anyway." The day I made this Boston Cream Pie, though...
...I was completely surprised by the number of exclamations of "My FAVORITE," and "I LOVE Boston Cream Pie."
So many folks were so excited to see this classic dessert coming down the line, it made me wonder why we don't see it in restaurants and bakery cases more often.
Do bakers think it's too difficult? It isn't really. Too time consuming? It's faster than many other layer cakes.
Too old-fashioned? This, in my opinion, is the culprit behind the decline of Boston Cream Pie in the limelight.
In a world of triple chocolate cakes with three kinds of mousse filling, cupcakes with filling, frosting, and fondant, and gourmet ice creams galore, the humble Boston Cream Pie has been lost to modern technology.
Well, no more I say, no more. Pick up the banner, my friends, we're going to bring this vintage delight back to glory. No one puts Boston Cream Pie in a corner.
Our cake for today is a hot milk cake. Rich and tender, it has a delicate, eggy flavor that's missing from plain vanilla cakes.
Combine 2 large eggs and 1 1/2 cups sugar in your mixer, and beat on high speed until pale yellow and thick. When you lift the beater, the egg should run off in a thick stream. In the photo, you can see we aren't quite there yet.
In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup milk and 5 tablespoons butter to a simmer. You should just see bubbles beginning to break the surface all over, but not become a vigorous boil.
Ah, that's the sign we were looking for: a nice, thick ribbon of batter falling off of the beater.
Blend in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Ed. note: Hi, this is P.J. – MaryJane, thanks for letting me get my 2¢ in here! Vanilla Bean Crush is one of my favorite products. It has a wonderful aroma, with pure vanilla flavor. And, since the pods are crushed during the brewing process, it includes both seeds, and gorgeous flecks of the bean itself.
It's also nice that, for every bottle of Vanilla Crush sold, Sonoma Syrup donates 10% of the retail price to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a foundation supporting breast cancer research. As an 11-year cancer survivor – I appreciate that! – P.J. Hamel
Time to add the hot milk.
Stream the hot liquid down the side of the bowl while you continue to mix on low speed. Keeping the batter moving and pouring in a steady, thin stream is the key to getting a good blend without cooking the eggs.
Once the milk is blended in, sift together 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Lightly sprinkle this over the top of the cake batter and mix on low speed just until combined.
Note: You can add the sifted dry ingredients before the hot milk mixture, if desired; there won't be any difference in outcome.
...And yes, my poor mixer has an injury. The PTO cover has come loose and tends to drop into the bowl at random times, mostly when I'm making buttercream. Clang!
Pour the batter into a 9" x 2" round parchment-lined cake pan. The pan must be 2" deep or your batter will overflow and make a mess of the oven. Break out the ruler for this one if you have any doubts.
Also, check for any lumps of flour as you pour the batter. Remove them with a small spoon and discard.
Bake the cake at 325°F for 50 to 60 minutes.
When done, the cake will be a deep golden brown and will pull away from the sides of the pan. See what I mean about the pan needing to be deep enough? This cake rose nearly to the upper rim, so better safe than sorry.
Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
To assemble the cake you'll need about 1 1/2 cups of prepared pastry cream. You can use our Pastry Cream recipe, or pastry cream filling mix (my favorite) or even a good vanilla pudding mix made with heavy cream instead of milk.
Using a long sharp serrated knife, divide the cake into two equal layers. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to torting, cakes so take your time.
Heap the bottom layer with the cold pastry cream and spread right up to the edges. Use an offset spatula to smooth the pastry cream to an even layer.
P.S. You can never have too many offset spatulas. They solve so many kitchen woes. Treat yourself, you won't regret it.
Why spread right up to the edges? Why not leave a little space, like you do with fillings or buttercream?
Two reasons. One, pastry cream is much thicker than buttercream and won't squash out the sides as easily when the top layer is added.
And two, a little bulbous ridge of pastry cream around the equator of a Boston Cream Pie is pure perfection. You know you won't miss out on one bite of creamy goodness when the center is so full.
The perfect chocolate glaze is the hallmark of a great Boston Cream Pie. Not too sweet, not too thin or thick. It isn't a fluffy frosting, for sure, but a thick ganache.
In a measuring cup with a pour spout combine 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon corn syrup, 3/4 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or disks and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
Heat in the microwave for 1 minute, or until the cream is very hot and the chocolate is beginning to melt. Stir together until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is very smooth.
Let the glaze sit for about 10 minutes to cool a bit and to thicken just a touch.
Pour the warm glaze over the cake very slowly. Use an offset spatula to help coax the chocolate towards the edges. Allow the chocolate to flow, rather than try to force it. You want some to dribble down the sides a little, but more of the glaze should remain on top of the cake.
Oh yes, that will do very nicely, thank you.
For easier slicing, allow the cake to sit in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes to firm up the glaze. If you don't have the patience, it's fine to serve right away, too.
Personally, I'm looking forward to sharing this cake with my husband. We both grew up in families with big Sunday dinners, and this kind of dessert just takes me back to those days.
How about you? Does Boston Cream Pie hold any special memories in your family? Perhaps this is your first time making it? Share your stories with us in the comments section below; we'd love to be part of your baking memories.
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