Just two more days, and two more lunches to make. I can’t believe it, could summer possible be here? My younger daughter asked me tonight – while she was changing out of her bathing suit after swim team – if I thought this summer it might actually get warm? What a funny question - I guess not so funny in Seattle though. I told her I didn’t know, but I sure hope so. The kids here are used to going in the water when it is barely 60 degrees out – the idea of hot weather means the coaches actually go in the water too. I will keep my fingers crossed, although there is one thing I don’t like about hot weather…no baking.
My older daughter’s birthday was Memorial Day weekend – and I asked her what kind of cake she wanted. Before she could answer me, I asked her if she wanted a Boston Cream Pie. She asked some questions about it – and when she found out it wasn’t a pie at all, just a moist vanilla cake with vanilla custard and a chocolate glaze – she was sold. Finally. I have been wanting to make a Boston Cream Pie from Cook’s Illustrated for years – yes, literally years. I think the recipe was sitting in the pantry for over 3 years. Each week when I would go through the stack, I would look at this longingly, wondering when I would ever find the time to make this beautiful specimen. I knew it would come eventually – and I was finally right.
I was so excited to dive into this adventure. I started with the cake – and that was rather easy. The batter was pretty different looking, but I was not turning back. When I started the pastry cream – I tried not to focus on the number of egg yolks I was using and instead focus on making sure I didn’t make scrambled eggs. Fortunately that did not happen. When it was time to put the cake together, I was amazed at how light it was. It was at this point that I realized, I had never really had a real Boston Cream Pie. I have had things like it before, but never the real thing. I was getting more and more excited. The glaze was slightly thicker than I imagined, and decided just to glaze the entire outside of the cake – I thought it looked prettier than gobs of chocolate trying to drizzle down the side.
We waited the required refrigeration time that the recipe suggested, and then I cut a slice. I almost starting jumping up and down. The slices looked beautiful – but not nearly as gorgeous as it tasted. This was – hands down – the best cake combination I have ever had in my life. Ok – I do love a good red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, but even this was better. The cake was so moist, even after being refrigerated – and the pastry cream had such body and taste – and that chocolate glaze – just the right richness to counter balance the sweetness of the cake and cream. It was a birthday to remember.
So – even though I am excited for summer to come – I am not ready for a baking break just yet. I need to make this recipe into cupcakes next…
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
- Pinch of table salt
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon table salt
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
For the pastry cream
Heat the half-and-half in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it just simmers. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt until smooth. Add the flour to the yolk mixture and whisk until incorporated. Remove the half-and-half from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add 1/2 cup to the yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to half-and-half in saucepan.
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.
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.
For the 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 small saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add vanilla and cover to keep warm.
In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and sugar at high speed until light and airy, about 5 minutes. Remove mixer bowl from stand. Add hot milk mixture and whisk by hand until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and whisk until incorporated.
Working quickly, divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake until tops are light brown and toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes.
Transfer cakes to wire rack and cool completely in pan, about 2 hours. Run a small plastic knife around edge of pans, then invert cakes onto wire rack. Carefully remove parchment, then reinvert cakes.
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 layer 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.
For the glaze
Bring cram and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove fro heat and add chocolate. Whisk occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.Pour glaze onto center of cake. Use offset spatula to spread glaze to edge of cake, letting excess drop decoratively down sides. Chill finished cake 3 hours before slicing. Cake may be made up to 24 hours before serving.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
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