Sunday, January 17, 2010

Boston Cream Pie

Most commercial Boston Cream Pies leave a lot to be desired. They are made with shortening, artificial vanilla flavoring, and who knows what is in those too-sweet chocolate glazes?

While most cookbooks claim that Boston Cream Pie is traditionally made with spongecake, I hail from New England and am here to tell you this is not so. I checked my The All New Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fanny Merrit Farmer (10th edition, copyright 1959, published by Bantam in 1965) and she uses a regular butter cake. The Yankee Magazine website has a Boston Cream Pie recipe with an almost identical cake recipe except it is made with shortening. (To be fair, they have four Boston Cream Pie recipes; one uses a sponge cake and two of them, including the one from the Parker House--which claims to have served it since opening, if not invented it--use rum in the filling, which is an unnecessary rarification. But then again, they are now the Omni Parker House and therefore part of a chain..........)

Well enough run-on sentences. On to the recipe.
(This recipe makes my personal Hundred Best Recipes List, even though the list isn't finished.)

Boston Cream Pie

Vanilla pastry cream (make first)

1 cup half-and half or whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
small pinch salt
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 Tbsp (4 1/2 tsp) cornstarch
2 Tbsp butter
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Heat the half-and-half or milk, 3 Tbsp of the sugar, and the salt in the top of a double boiler (or in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat) until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a bowl until thoroughly combined, then whisk in the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch and continue whisking until the mixture is creamy and thick, about 30 seconds.

3. When the half-and-half/milk mixture is at a full simmer, gradually whisk it into the yolk mixture, then return to the pan and whisk contantly until the mixture is thick (coats a spoon even when the spoon is removed). Off the heat, whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and then the vanilla.

4. At this point, you can strain the mixture if you like. Place plastic wrap right on the surface (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate at least 3 hours.


1/2 cups cake flourk like Swansdown or Softasilk
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Butter, line with parchment or wax paper, and butter again two 8" round cake pans.

3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar, vanilla, and egg.

5. With beaters on low, beat in 1/2 cup of the flour mixture, then 1/4 cup of the milk.

6. Beat in another 1/2 cup of the flour mixture, and another 1/4 cup milk. Add the remaining flour and beat to blend.

7. Spoon into the pans. Eyeball so they have approximately equal amounts of cake batter or weigh the two pans.

8. Bake approximately 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans to finish cooling on cake racks.

Chocolate Frosting

1 square (1 ounce) unsweetened baking chocolate
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk
2 c. confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla

1. In the top of a small double-boiler or in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the chocolate with the butter and the mild. Let cool to lukewarm, then transfer to a mixing bowl.

2. Add half the sugar and the vanilla, and beat until the sugar is incorporated. Add the second half of the sugar and beat it in, too. Use immediately.

Assembling the cake

Trim the tops of both cake layers, if necessary, so they are flat. Brush the crumbs off of one of the cake layers, and put it on a cake plate. Spread the pastry cream on the layer, stopping 1/4" to 1/2" from the edge. Put the second layer on top of the pastry cream, bottom side up. Frost with the chocolate frosting all the way to the edge of the top layer, letting some run over.


(even though the post heading gives some date in January, I didn't post this until 10 February. Blogspot has some quirks.)

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