Eating Boston Cream Pie in Louisville, KY

When my husband and I were invited to a birthday gathering for a dear friend, my first question was, “Can I bring the birthday cake?”  It’s important that the celebrant receive all possible wishes, so next I asked “What’s his favorite?”  The title of this post will tell you the answer to the question, Boston Cream Pie. 

Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie

The Parker House Hotel, operating since 1856 is credited with originating the Boston Cream Pie.  Not really a pie at all, but two layers of yellow cake filled with a thick pastry cream and glazed with chocolate.  Research shows that it might have been baked in pie tins, therefore the name. 

My version is pulled together from three distinct recipes: one for the cake, one for the pastry cream and one for the ganache ‘icing’.  Each has a history with me, as does the dessert itself.  The cake is Rose Levy Beranbaum’s ‘All Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cake’, the Pastry cream I gathered from my first year in culinary school, and the ganache is my stand-by semi-sweet chocolate ganache – perfect for all things chocolate.

At our friend Carson’s birthday on Saturday, and after a great meal of barbequed baby back ribs, salad and creamy, cheesy potatoes, the Boston Cream Pie was enjoyed al fresco.  At that point, the group could only perform our impersonations of  Buhhda while we waited for the fire to begin it’s roar and the evening to gentle-down into a blissful state

Boston Cream Pie – the recipes

Yellow Cake – adapted from The Cake Bible

3 large eggs at room temperature

1 cup whole milk

2 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups cake flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 Tbls +1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

12 Tbls unsalted butter (3/4 cup)

Beat the eggs, 1/4 cup of the milk and the vanilla in a small bowl or measuring cup. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk together.  Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup milk and mix with the paddle attachment or beaters until well combined.  Mix for another minute or so, scraping down the sides occasionally.  Add the remaining wet ingredients in three distinct stages, mixing and scraping between additions. 

Meanwhile, butter a 10 inch cake pan or springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Butter the paper, then lightly flour the interior of the pan.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Scrape the cake batter into the prepared pan and level it.  Bake for about 35-45 minutes or until the cake just slightly pulls away from the edge of the pan and the center is no longer wet.  Allow to cool in the pan for a bit, then turn out onto a rack to cool.  Split the cake with a strong thread while still a bit warm and separate the layers to cool completely.  Prepare the filling.

Vanilla Pastry Cream

2 1/2 cups whole milk

2 Tbls unsalted butter

1/3 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup + 2 Tbls granulated sugar

2 whole eggs

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Bring the milk and butter to a boil in a 2 quart saucepan.  Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch then whisk in the eggs.  While whisking, pour the hot milk over the egg and sugar mixture and continue whisking until smooth.  Return to the pan and cook over medium heat until the custard comes back to a boil, stirring constantly.  Once thickened, remove from the heat.  Stir in vanilla. 

Cool the pastry cream by pouring the mixture into a stainless steel bowl, then placing that bowl inside a larger bowl that is filled with ice water.  Stir or whisk until completely cool.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Chocolate Ganache

12 oz heavy whipping cream

2 tsp unsalted butter

2 tsp sugar

12 oz (weight) chopped semi sweet chocolate or 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Bring the cream, butter and sugar to a boil and turn off heat.  Add the chocolate and shake the pan to submerge all the chocolate under the surface of the cream.  Allow to rest for 5-7 minutes, then gently stir with a whisk until perfectly smooth.  Stirring without allowing the rest period will result in a very lumpy mess. 

Set the chocolate aside and cool until it reaches a thickened state and is nearly room temperature.

Now that all the components are finished, the assembly begins.  Place one half of the cake on a large serving plate.  Top with the entire amount of the pastry cream.  Smooth the cream in an even layer over the entire top of the cake layer, leaving only about 1/2 inch edge.  Top with the second layer and press down gently to ‘glue’ the layers together and push the filling out to the edge of the cake.

Pour about 1 cup of the ganache in the middle of the top layer.  With an icing spatula, smooth and push the ganache over the edges, quickly working to catch and smooth the dripping ganache onto the side of the cake.  The ganache will only form a thin, almost translucent icing on the sides.  Make room in your freezer and place the entire cake inside to chill and set the ganache.  After about 5-8 minutes, remove the cake from the freezer and pour the remailing ganache over the cake.  This time, it will be easier to get the ganache to ‘stick’ to the sides as the cold ganache will sort of ‘glue’ the new layer of ganache to the cake.  If you like, reserve a bit of the ganache to pipe a decorative border around the top of the cake, or simply swirl the ganache in a decorative pattern on the top of the cake. 

This cake easily serves 10-12 people.  It may seem like a bit of bother to orchestrate this 3-part cake, but it is really worth it.  The yellow cake can be used in a number of ways:  try it with fresh peaches or strawberries with just a dusting of powdered sugar.

Enjoy!

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