Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Boston Cream Pie

I love a good Boston Cream Pie, and I attempted to make one for a friend this past weekend.  It was her birthday on Thanksgiving, but we weren't together that day so I conspired with her other half to make her a cake for our Tapas night, cause I knew we would have a houseful of mutual friends, and it seemed to be a fitting thing to do.  Last year I baked her a cake as well, a Vandbakkelser.   And she enjoyed it.  Or at least she was polite and said she enjoyed it.

But this year, I got ambitious and made her a full fledged Boston Cream Pie, from scratch.  No shortcuts.   The whole magilla.  What's a magilla anyway?    And what was I thinking?  Not only was I going to make a kinda fussy cake, but I was doing it on a day when I was expecting a lot of people.  Sometimes, I think I need something examined.     My head for starters.

I thought I had a recipe for it, but ended up googling for it.  And then I didn't do something smart like go to Foodgawker, no, I had to go to Epicurious, for their Classic Boston Cream Pie cause I figured they'd know how to do it right.   Well, gee, the instructions said to bake it for 55 minutes, but when I checked at 40 minutes, it was done.  I also should have paid more attention to the cake pan size, cause mine kinda, ballooned out and over.

 I ended up cutting the 'muffin top' off.     I made my own custard from scratch, and didn't follow their instructions. Mine was better, I think.     The cake was so tender that it fell apart when I cut it into two layers.
The top totally fell apart, so I thought I would try to stabilize it by skewering it with some bamboo skewers, and then putting it in the fridge.   It didn't work.  I ended up sliding it into a bowl, where the whole thing came together nicely.  Then forgot to take a picture.  So here's one of what was left after the party.   It's amazing how much a good ganache can cover, isn't it?
 Horribly out of focus, but I think you get my drift.   The bottom picture is all that remained. sigh.  

The next time I make Boston Cream Pie, I'll just make a Genoise cake and then go from there.   I have to admit to being a little disappointed.  The glaze and custard were very good, but I didn't follow their recipe for either one.   I used my own.

Here's the recipe's:

Grease and flour a 9 inch cake pan or 9 inch springform pan and turn oven on to 350 degrees.

Cake recipe
3/4 cups unsalted Butter, softened
1 1/4 cups Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract  (I used my own home made Vanilla, recipe at the end)
2 large Eggs
2 cups Cake Flour (I didn't have cake flour so used 1/4 cup Potato starch in place of 1/4 cup of flour, sifted together two times)
2 1/2 teaspoons double acting baking powder  ( I prefer Calumet brand)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 Cups of milk

In the bowl of stand mixer, if you're lucky enough to have one, place the butter and sugar and beat together until really light and fluffy.  Test after a few minutes, you want the sugar to be dissolved into the butter as much as possible.

 You can also tell by how light the butter sugar mixture gets.   I used to do this by hand, and my mom would check it out and she was never satisfied, I'd end up beating it some more.   I was so glad when we got a hand mixer. The muscles in my arm got a workout when we baked cakes.   Sorry, got sidetracked there.   Keep beating the sugar/butter mixture til it's very smooth and the sugar granules have disappeared.  Then add one of the two eggs, it helps if you mix it up with a fork just a little bit before adding it in.  Beat that in really well, then add the other slightly beaten egg.  Continue to process a couple more minutes.  Then add the vanilla.   At this point you add the flour/baking powder/salt mixture a little at a time, just let it incorporate.  You alternate adding the milk at this point.   Finish it off with the flour, and place into a 9 inch pan or 9 inch spring form pan.    Don't be like me and put it into an 8 inch pan, you get 'muffin tops' that way.

Bake for 40 minutes and check for doneness.  My cake took about 40 minutes and I checked it at the 30 minute mark.
Take out and let cool on a rack.   Split the cake into two pieces, using a serrated knife or my trick, I use unflavoured dental floss and just use that to cut it into two pieces.  It's really pretty slick that way. 

Make your own favorite custard or use my recipe and use the cooled custard to place in between the cake layers.    I guess since I mentioned my recipe for custard you want it.  So here goes.  And I make it a little different each time, but I'm still playing with it.

2 cups whipping cream or half and half.
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
2-4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cold butter cut into cubes (optional, if using heavy whipping cream you may not need or want this)

Mix cream, sugar, cornstarch together and heat to almost boiling, whisking it as you go.    You do need to constantly whisk this, it can scorch in a distracted second.  Believe me on this, please.

  Beat the egg yolks together with a tablespoon of cream, then temper the eggs by pouring a little of the hot cream mixture into them, (if you don't, you get scrambled eggs) Then pour the tempered egg yolks through a strainer back into the cream, whisking it all the time.  This can get a little tricky, but I have faith you can do it too.

The reason for the strainer, well, you know those little bits of white that get stuck to the yolk, this strains them out and you don't have to strain the custard later.   Let the custard come to a low boil, it will thicken nicely.  If too thick, you could thin it, but I've never felt the need.  After it's thickened, whisk in the butter, and pour into a bowl.  Place a piece of plastic wrap over the custard, pressing it onto the surface and put the custard in the fridge to cool a little.

 To assemble the cake, spread the cut side of the cake with the custard and then top it with the other half of the cake.   So that the cut sides sink in to the custard.  I like to spread the custard between the cake halves while it's still a little warm, it seems to sink into the cake a little more that way.   Cover the cake loosely with some plastic wrap, and set aside while you make the glaze.  Well, I like to make a ganache, and spread it over top.  This was a special occasion cake so I went all out.

4 squares Bakers Semi-sweet chocolate, chopped up a little  You can use a good Valhrona or even semi sweet baking chips. Whatever kind of chocolate you like.  
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Heat the cream to boiling and pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk together.  You can also make this over a double boiler if you like.   Just make sure you don't get any water in the ganache, otherwise it will 'seize' up and won't be useable.  Edible, but not spreadable.
Set this aside for a couple of minutes, let it start to set up a bit, then spread it over the top of the cake and put in the fridge for a couple of hours or so before you serve it.

And my recipe for making my own Vanilla Extract.
One vanilla bean, opened and the seeds scraped out
1 half cup of Brandy
Open the vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a sharp knife.   Place vanilla bean and the seeds back into the little bottle you bought the bean in, and pour brandy over it.  Make sure the bean is submerged.  Cap it and place in the cupboard for one month.   Every couple of days, take out the bottle and turn it over a little, just shake it up.   After one month you can start using it.   And the best part, after using some, just fill it up with a little more brandy (if you didn't pour it all over the fruitcake), cap it and let that little bean perform some more magic.  

So there you have it, my adventures with a Boston Cream Pie.     Next time, I'll do a better job, well at least I'll try.  
Sidsel Munkholm - Author
Sidsel Munkholm - Author

Sid loves to cook, feed people and have fun in the kitchen. She shares her successes and the involuntary offerings she sometimes gives the kitchen goddess as well. And she's still looking for the mythical fairy to help her clean the kitchen after a marathon cooking session. Currently working on a cookbook showcasing the recipes from her Danish heritage.

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