When my nephew asked me to make him a Boston Cream Pie Cake, I wondered why it was called a pie cake. After reading Wilkipedia, I learned that it is really a cake, not a pie.
A Boston cream pie is a cake that is filled with a custard or cream filling and frosted with chocolate. Although it is called a Boston cream pie, it is in fact a cake, and not a pie. Created by Armenian-French chef M. Sanzian at Boston’s Parker House Hotel in 1856, this pudding and cake combination comprises two layers of sponge cake filled with vanilla flavored custard or crème pâtissière. The cake is topped with a chocolate glaze (such as ganache) and sometimes powdered sugar or a cherry.
I am loving Carole Walter’s book Great Cakes. There are not a lot of pictures, but the written descriptions are good enough for me to imagine how good the cake will be. Her recipe for Boston Cream Pie Cake was spot on and resulted in a wonderful cake.
I had to make the cake part twice, because the first time, I misread the measurement for sugar and instead of using 3/4 cup, I used 1/4 cup. As a result, the cake did not rise. At least I think that is why it did not rise. (I need to invest in a magnifying glass for my cookbooks, so this does not happen again). You know, I should have known when I tasted the batter that it was missing sugar, because it did not have the sweetness I am used to tasting. But I let it go into the oven. I think this was a good lesson for me. If it does not taste good as a batter, then it will not taste good as a cake.
The directions say that the cake should rise to the top of the 9″ x 2″ cake pan. Mine did not. It came about 3/4 of the way up. But it was good enough for me to slice in half. Then I added the custard. I love making custards and pastry creams. They are so easy, but seem so hard if you have never done it.
Next came the chocolate icing. My daughter L helped me with this part.
The icing is poured on top, spread, and allowed to drip down the sides a little. The end result was a beautiful cake.
Here is a cut through of the cake.
While I really loved the cake, next time I will double the recipe and make a taller cake by either stacking two cakes, or slicing the two cakes horizontally – making a 4 layer cake.
As is, the cake was a hit with my nephew. It was his 9th birthday. Happy Birthday, D!
Boston Cream Pie (from Great Cakes by Carole Walters, copyright 1991)
Hot Milk Sponge Cake
“This cake can be made in under 15 minutes, but be sure to follow the directions carefully. To ensure proper volume, the hot milk must be beaten rapidly into the batter, and the flour added immediately, When correctly made, the cake should rise to the top of the pan.” (Carole Walters, page 262-263, Great Cakes, copyright 1991)
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup superfine or strained sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Position rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter a 9- inch round layer pan and line with a parchment circle.
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter to almost boiling. Set aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a triple sifter. Set aside.
- Beat the eggs on medium-high speed in an electric mixer fitter with beaters or a whip attachment for about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, taking about 4 to 5 minutes to blend it in well. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. The mixture will thicken and turn light yellow in color.
- Reduce mixer speed to medium. Add the vanilla, then pour in the hot milk in a steady stream, taking about 10 seconds. Immediately add the dry ingredients all at once, and beat just until blended, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat 10 seconds. The batter will be very thin. Remove the bowl from the mixer and quickly pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake begins to come away from the sides of pan and is golden brown and springy to the touch.
- Set on a cake rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides of the pan to loosen. Invert pan onto the rack sprayed with nonstick coating and peel off the parchment paper. Invert again to finish cooling right side up.
The Vanilla Custard Filling:
1 1/3 cups milk, divided
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon flour
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
The Chocolate Icing:
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups strained confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons boiling water, plus a few extra drops for thinning glaze
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- To make the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup of milk and the sugar, and bring to a slow boil over low heat. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and flour. Gradually stir in the remaining 1/3 cup milk, whisking until very smooth. Then whisk in the whole egg and the egg yolk. Add to the hot sugar/milk. Bring to a boil on low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick and smooth. Cook 30 to 45 seconds after the mixture reaches a boil, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to prevent scorching.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Press a piece of buttered waxed paper onto the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until filling is chilled.
- To make the chocolate icing: Place the chocolates in a medium mixing bowl. Melt slowly over a low flame in a skillet containing 1/2 inch of hot water.
- Remove the bowl from the skillet. Stir chocolate to blend. Add sugar alternately with hot water, four parts sugar to three parts water, beating well after each addition.
- Beat in corn syrup and vanilla. Icing should be pourable, the consistency of chocolate syrup. If too tight, add a few drops of boiling water until the desired consistency is reached. The frosting will tighten as it cools. If you are making it ahead of time, place the bowl in skillet filled with 1/2 inch of hot water to keep warm.
To Assemble the Cake:
- Divide sponge cake horizontally into 2 layers. Set the bottom layer cut side up on a serving plate. Cut 4 strips of waxed paper, each 4 inches wide, and slide under edge of the cake to keep plate clean while you frost.
- Cover cake with a 1/2-inch layer of custard. Then position second layer over the first, cut side down. Holding the bowl 10-inches over the center of the cake, pour on the chocolate icing. Using a 10-inch metal spatula, quickly ease frosting to edges of cake. Allow it to drip randomly down the sides; frosting will set almost immediately.
Storage: Store uncovered in refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes to set. If you wish, the cake can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 6 to 8 hours before serving. Remove 1/2 hour before serving. Leftover cake should be stored in the refrigerator, loosely covered with a foil tent. The cake will keep up to 3 days.