Sunday, April 10, 2011

Wicked Good

I love making birthday cakes for people.  It's honestly one of my favorite things to bake because it's a treat that was especially made for that one person. I think there is something special about that. The little boy I work with asked me to make him a cake for his birthday and he even had a request all ready for me. This 6 year old wanted a Boston Cream Pie. He had never had this cake before, and neither had I. I had never made, tried or even seen a Boston Cream Pie before. Probably because I always assumed it was a pie. Nope, I was wrong. It's definitely a cake and a challenging one at that. I almost just made a different one to see if he even remembered what he asked for, but little kids seem to remember everything.  It's kind of insane. He asked for this cake weeks before his birthday and proceeded to ask for it every single week leading up to it, there was no tricking him. So, I accepted the challenge and made the damn cake.

This cake requires a lot of reading. Honestly, when a recipe is an entire page long I normally skip over it assuming it's much to difficult for my baking skills.  I read over this recipe I bet five times before I finally made it. I found the perfect recipe in Cook's Illustrated magazine.  I love this magazine because they give you each step in detail so you really can't get it wrong.  It's America's Test Kitchen, they know what's up.

Wicked Good Boston Cream Pie

Pastry Cream
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 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

1. PASTRY CREAM: Heat half-and-half in medium saucepan over medium heat until just simmering.  Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.  Add flour to yolk mixture and whisk until incorporated. Remove half-and-half from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add 1/2 cup to yolk mixture to temper.  Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to half-and-half in saucepan. 
2. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 1 minute.  Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 8 minutes. 
3. Increase heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until bubbles burst on surface, 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove saucepan from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is melted and incorporated.  Strain pastry cream through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl.  Press lightly greased parchment paper directly on surface and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
4. MAKE CAKE:  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl.  Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted.  Remove from heat, add vanilla, and cover to keep warm.
5. Whip eggs and sugar at high speed until light and airy, about 5 minutes.  Add hot milk mixture and whisk by hand until incorporated.  Add dry ingredients and whisk until incorporated. 
6. Working quickly, divide batter evenly between prepared pans.  Bake until tops are light brown and tooth pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. 
7. Transfer cakes to wire rack and cool completely in pan, about 2 hours.  Run knife around edge of pans, then invert cakes onto wire rack.  Carefully remove parchment, then reinvert cakes.
8. TO ASSEMBLE:  Place one cake round on large plate. Whisk pastry cream briefly, then spoon onto center of cake.  Using offset spatula, spread evenly to cake edge.  Place second later on pastry cream, bottom side up, making sure layers line up properly.  Press lightly on top of cake to level.  Refrigerate cake while preparing glaze.
9. FOR THE GLAZE:  Bring  cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.  Remove from heat and add chocolate.  Whisk gently until smooth, 30 seconds.  Let stand, whisking occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.

10.  Pour glaze onto center of cake.  Use offset spatula to spread glaze to edge of cake, letting excess drip decoratively down sides.  Chill finished cake 3 hours before slicing.  Cake may be made up to 24 hours before serving. 

Folks, this was one amazing cake, I'm serious.  Whisking that pastry cream, for what seems an eternity, was entirely worth it. My pal suggested that I just use vanilla pudding instead, but after having the real deal I don't think it could even compare. The glaze, which resembles a ganache, set so perfectly on top and was so shiny!  I made this for some dinner guests before I made it for the birthday party, and I think they would agree when I say this was perhaps the best cake I've ever made. Needless to say, the birthday boy was pretty jazzed as well. I really hope you get a chance to make this cake. If you do please leave a comment or a picture and tell me how it went! You have to put in some time and effort, but it's completely worth it. Happy Baking!!


  1. thank you for not implicating me as the one who told you to do the cop-out pastry cream...

  2. My birthday was in January, can I get a post dated one? Lucky little scruffer.