Recently we were discussing food items that we love but had not seen on a menu in ages. Boston Cream Pie was one that we both brought up. This got me to thinking that I needed to revisit this little jewel and give my hand a try at making one. I will add a disclaimer right now that while it seems pretty simple – 2 layers of butter sponge cake, pastry cream filling with a ganache sauce over all – sounds easy enough, right? WELL….as I discovered, this is definitely a weekend/special occasion recipe for one simple fact – IT’S TIME CONSUMING. I ask that you not allow this factor to prevent you from trying this yourself. Cooking quickly is not always necessarily a good thing and sometimes preparing dishes that require more time are what makes cooking a joy and also special. There is nothing hard about this recipe, just more time than say making a cake out of a box and slapping some icing over it.
Okay, Boston Cream Pie. Immediately you think, but isn’t it a cake? I think it’s a cake but its official name says it’s a pie. Why is that? Here’s what I found:
- In the olden days (think New England colonies), families only used pie tins to bake. When this dessert was first crafted – as a pudding pie cake – it was made in a pie tin.
- A New York newspaper first ran the recipe as Pudding Pie Cake back in 1855.
- Armenian-French chef M. Sanzian was credited for creating the first Boston Cream Pie in 1856 at the Parker House Hotel. This is the same origin of Parker House Dinner Rolls. Remember those??
So there you have it. There appears to be some differing of opinions on which of the above is the correct but regardless of the name or origin, it’s delicious! The recipe I found came from one of my vintage cookbooks called Elegant Desserts from the Culnary Arts Institute, Chicago, IL circa 1955. The book itself is beautiful with whimsical illustrations and vintage photos of desserts.
The first time I remember having Boston Cream Pie was at a restaurant chain popular in the 70’s and 80’s called Morrison’s Cafeteria. There was one inside the Cloverleaf Mall where everyone in our small town went to shop. It was the first mall I remember being built in our area and we thought it was Mecca. At Morrison’s you got in line and went down this long isle. You’d pick up your tray, plate, utensils, glass and move along the line. As you came to the different sections of food, you told the server on the other side what you wanted and they served it up on your tray. At the end of the line were desserts and drinks. I remember seeing the Boston Cream Pie and thought it looked delicious. I loved it and therefore got it every time we dined there which was every time we went to the mall.
Bringing the Old Back:
You start by making two butter sponge cakes or if you like to go the way of the French, Genoise (gen-o-wiece – think niece). You start cooking on top of the stove in a double boiler. I’m blessed to have inherited my mother’s metal double boiler that sits on top of a sauce pan. If you do not have one, use a glass bowl that fits on top of your two-quart sauce pan. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. You will also use the double boiler when making the ganache.
I would suggest you get all ingredients ready to go before starting. This will save time and trust me, you will be glad you did. Make the liquid portion of the cake first. You must let it cool before adding the flour so while that is cooling, work on the pastry cream. Actually, you will need to cool the layers once baked, and the pastry cream before preparing the ganache topping. The pastry cream needs to chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.
Once the layers and the pastry cream are cooled, assemble by spreading the pastry cream over the top of one layer. You will have enough cream to have a really thick layer – this is okay and how it is supposed to be. Place the other layer on top and start the ganache glaze.
Once the chocolate and cream are melted with no lumps, add the vanilla. Pour the glaze on the top layer right in the middle so it will run evenly over the sides. It’s going to be runny and you will also think there is not enough glaze, but it’s fine. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least an hour before serving.
This is a great dessert for an elegant dinner gathering or special occasion. It’s definitely a recipe for the weekend due to the time involved. Again, nothing difficult just timely compared to most desserts. It’s totally worth it!
The Recipe: Boston Cream Pie (recipe circa 1955)
For the Cake:
3 T butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar minus 1 T
¼ t vanilla
1/8 t almond extract
1 ¼ cups cake flour, sifted
For the Pastry Cream:
2 ½ c milk
½ c sugar
¼ t salt
1/3 c cornstarch
3 large egg yolks plus 1 whole egg
2 t vanilla
For the Ganache:
¼ c heavy whipping cream
1/3 c chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
½ t vanilla
1.Butter the bottom of two 8’ round cake pans. Line bottom of cake pans with wax paper cut to fit. Butter the top of the wax paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 325.
- Melt butter and set aside to cool.
- Put into top of double boiler the eggs and sugar. Allow water in bottom of double boiler to come to a simmer. With an electric hand mixer, beat constantly for 10 minutes. Remove from water and continue beating until mixture is cold. Mixture will be very velvety and pale yellow.
- Once mixture has cooled, blend in vanilla and almond extracts.
- Divide into four parts and sift one portion of flour at a time into egg mixture. Gently fold in each portion until all flour has been added.
- Gradually fold in melted butter until all is incorporated.
- Divide batter evenly between the two cake tins.
- Bake at 325 for about 30-40 minutes or until a pick inserted comes out clean.
- Loosen sides with a spatula and remove wax paper from bottoms as you place on wire rack to cool.
- To make the pastry cream – place 2 cups of the milk, sugar and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, cornstarch and remaining ½ cup milk.
- Mix a little of the milk mixture into the egg/cornstarch mixture to temper the eggs so you do not get scrambled eggs.
- Gradually whisk the egg mixture into the milk mixture. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly and cook for 2 minutes. It will begin to thicken quickly.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Place plastic wrapped sprayed with cooking spray over the top of the cream so it will not form a skin. Chill for 30 minutes.
- Once cake layers and cream are cooled, spread the pastry cream on top of one layer. Place the other layer on top.
- To make the ganache glaze: Place cream and chopped chocolate in top of a double boiler. Stir until the chocolate has melted and there are no lumps left. Stir in vanilla.
- Pour glaze over the top of the cake right in the middle so it will drip evenly over the sides.
- Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving over until ready to serve.