Last weekend I went to a friend's house for a small birthday party. I told them not to worry about the cake because I would take care of it. (After all, I like baking and this will be a great excuse for my 52 weeks of baking.) So when I asked what the birthday boy's favorite cake was, I was expecting it to be something standard like chocolate, carrot, coconut, you know, a normal "cake" flavor. I was not expecting Boston Cream Pie! I wasn't even sure I'd actually ever eaten one before, and I knew I sure as heck hadn't made one before. But, since I'm always up for a challenge, I said, "That sounds fun! I'll make one!"

That, my dear friends, turned out to be not such a great idea. I was doomed from the beginning and it turned out disastrously. I even contemplated not sharing this recipe with you guys, but no one's perfect (and I certainly am not), so here it is. To read about my Boston Cream Disaster, read more

Let me start by saying, I'm 100% sure it was me and not the recipe. I've heard of people having great results with this recipe, so if you try it, please let me know how it turned out. Second of all, I'd like you to know that today's baking experiment is really a demonstration of why proper planning, timing and equipment are CRUCIAL to a successful baking endeavor.

Having said that, let me get on with my story.
My friend's house is about an hour away, so I didn't want to make the cake, and have it sit in the car for hours (we had a few errands to run that were on the way there). In hindsight, this was my downfall (after all, it was cold enough) and the fact that I had to bring all the equipment and most of the ingredients with me, didn't really help either.


I ended up arriving at my friend's house at 6pm.
Pastry Cream

, for those of you that don't know, needs at least 3 hours to set up, if not longer. Unfortunately, it didn't get into the fridge until almost 7. Also, the fridge itself was packed (ie: not very cold) and the opening and closing for beers didn't exactly make for the best cooling environment in the world.

After the pastry cream was put into the fridge, I started on the
Foolproof Sponge Cake

. Sadly, I had forgotten the baking pans at home (the kitchen in this house is pretty bare) and ended up using a sheet pan instead. Luckily it worked out and I was able to cut the cake in half to make a rectangular layer cake instead.


Around 10 we decided that it was getting close to cake time, so I started on the glaze. When the glaze was ready, I went to take the cream out of the fridge, but WHAT!? it was still pretty liquid-y, like condensed milk. So I stuck it in the freezer for 30 minutes, but still no luck. At 10:45, I gave up and tried to assemble the cake anyway. There weren't any plates large enough to hold the cake, so I used a baking dish and thank goodness, because the pastry "cream" oozed everywhere.

By this point, the glaze had started to firm up. I had tried to keep it warm, but hadn't been keeping an eye on it the entire time, so it was no longer the best glaze in the world. It was thick and messy, and I think I used too much chocolate. In the end I literally slathered it onto the cake. It was more like a ganache frosting than a "glaze."

The end result looked horrible to me. I had this vision of a beautiful cake and ended up with slimy, sticky goo. However, it tasted pretty good and the folks ate it up, so I really can't call it a total failure.

Note: I told PartySugar about the whole thing and she said I should have served it in wine glasses. DANG! Where was she on Saturday night?! That would have made for an elegant boston cream parfait!


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Boston Cream Pie
From Baking Illustrated

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pastry Cream

, chilled

Foolproof Sponge Cake

, baked and cooled


Glaze:

  • Bring the cream and corn syrup to a full simmer over medium heat in a medium saucepan.
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  • Remove from the heat and add the chocolate; cover and let stand for 8 minutes. (If the chocolate has not completely melted, return the saucepan to low heat; stir constantly until melted.)
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  • Add the vanilla; stir very gently until the mixture is smooth.
  • Cook until tepid so that a spoonful drizzled back into the pan mounds slightly. (The glaze can be refrigerated to speed up the cooling process, stirring every few minutes to ensure even cooling.)
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Cake:

  • While the glaze is cooling, place one cake layer on a cardboard round on a wire rack set over waxed paper.
  • Carefully spoon the pastry cream onto the cake and spread it evenly up to the edges.
  • Place the second cake layer on top, make sure the layers line up properly.
  • Pour the glaze onto the middle of the top layer and let it flow down the cake sides.
  • Use a metal spatula, if necessary, to completely coat the cake. Use a small needle to puncture any air bubbles.
  • Let the cake sit until the glaze fully sets, about 1 hour. Serve the same day, preferably within a couple of hours.

*Note: My experience was more of a Boston Cream Disaster, however I know someone who has used this recipe and had fantastic results.

Pastry Cream
From Baking Illustrated

2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    • Heat the half-and-half, 6 tbsp of the sugar and the salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.
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    • Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.
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    • Whisk in the remaining 2 tbsp sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.
    • Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
    • When the half-and-half mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering half-and-half into the yolk mixture to temper.
    • Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.
    • Remove from heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.
    • Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.
    • Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
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    • Refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.


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Foolproof Sponge Cake
From Baking Illustrated

1/2 cup plain cake flour
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar

    • Preheat oven to 350F.
    • Grease pan and cover bottom with parchment or waxed paper.
    • Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt into medium bowl.
    • Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add vanilla. Cover and keep warm.
    • Separate 3 eggs, placing whites in the bowl of standing mixer, reserving the 3 yolks plus the remaining 2 whole eggs in another mixing bowl.
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    • Beat the 3 whites at low speed until foamy.
    • Increase the mixer speed to medium and gradually add 6 tbsp of the sugar; continue to beat the whites to soft, moist peaks. (Do not overbeat.)
    • Transfer the egg whites to a large bowl and add the whole-egg mixture to the mixer bowl.
    • Beat the whole-egg mixture with the remaining 6 tbsp sugar.
    • Beat at medium-high speed until the eggs are very thick and pale yellow color, about 5 minutes. Add the beaten eggs to the whites.
    • Sprinkle the flour mixture over the beaten eggs and whites; fold very gently 12 times with a large rubber spatula.
    • Make a well in one side the batter and pour the milk mixture into the bowl.
    • Continue folding until the batter shows no trace of flour and the whites and whole eggs are evenly mixed, about 8 additional strokes.
    • Immediately pour the batter into the prepared cake pans; bake until the cake tops are light brown and feel firm and spring back when touched, about 16 minutes for 9-inch cake pans and 20 minutes for 8-inch cake pans.
    • Immediately run a knife around the pan perimeters to loosen the cakes.
    • Place one pan on a towel and cover the pan with a large plate.
    • Using the towel to protect your hands and catch the cake, invert the pan and remove the pan from the cake.
    • Peel off the parchment.
    • Reinvert the cake from the plate onto the rack.
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    • Repeat with the remaining cake. Cool cake layers to room temp before proceeding.
  1. Note* I made this cake at someone else's house. This was the only cake pan they had. It still turned out perfectly.