Friday, June 17, 2011

Boston Cream Pie

As I’ve lately dedicated one or two recipes, let me send this one to the Boston Bruins, who this week took home hockey’s Stanley Cup. Let me also dedicate it to every Bostonian, whose charmingly vibrant city is exceeded only by the beauty of the state of Massachusetts.
Boston Cream Pie is a small, delicate sponge cake, split into two layers, filled with custard cream, and topped with a chocolate glaze. The cake is thought to be called a “pie” because - having no actual “cake” tins - New England’s colonists resorted to baking cakes in pie pans. The dessert’s origins lie in New York, where a version of both cake and cream filling was topped with powdered sugar. It took a Boston restaurateur to omit the sugar topping and replace it with chocolate glaze, upon which the name “Boston Cream Pie” eventually took hold.
On the assumption that some of you are novice cooks, I’ve given you very precise instructions for making this cake. I’ve also mentioned a couple of favorite kitchen gadgets I used in the process. While special tools make any job simpler, you’ll do just fine if you don’t have them. Cooking is my hobby, so I'll be the first to admit that I probably have many more tools than I need!
Boston Cream Pie:
To Prepare the Sponge Cake:
1-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. granulated sugar
1-½ tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
¾ c. milk
⅓ c. shortening
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
20 (yes! 20) drops of gel food coloring (see Note)

Combine and beat all ingredients

Pour into prepared pan

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Grease and flour 9-inch circular cake pan. Place all ingredients in mixing bowl, beating 1 min. on low speed with an electric mixer and scraping down sides of bowl. Beat 3 min. on high speed, continuing to scrape down sides of bowl each minute. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 35 - 40 min., until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool cake on rack. After 30 min., run edge of knife around cake in pan, placing rack over top of cake to gently ease from pan. Cool completely, 30 min. longer. Split cooled cake horizontally into two thin layers. See second Note

Note: You will think this is far too much food coloring. In principle, I agree. I used gel food coloring made by Wilton, the bakery specialists. Achieving even the palest shade of yellow required 20 drops. This is outrageous. In future, I’ll use a liquid or paste concentrate. Measure drop by drop or bit by bit, to achieve the light golden color that makes a classic Boston Cream Pie
My German-made
cake splitter - a
perfect cut every time!
Note: For picture-perfect layers, use a professional cake splitter. Mine is the German-made “Westmark Simplex Duo” brand. I paid $18 for it several years ago at Dean & DeLuca in New York; you’ll find it online for roughly $20 plus shipping. This is one of my favorite kitchen tools!
To Prepare the Cream Filling:
⅓ c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch or tapioca starch
Dash of salt
1-½ c. milk
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
As cake cools, prepare Cream Filling. Combine sugar, cornstarch or tapioca starch, and salt in medium saucepan. Whisk together milk and egg yolks. Gradually stir into sugar mixture. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for 1 min. Remove from heat. Stir several times while cooling to room temperature, Stir in vanilla while Cream Filling is still warm, but not hot. To cool Cream Filling faster, decant from cooking pot to bowl, cooling on rack. Cool to room temperature - not in the fridge.

Transfer cream filling from pot to
bowl to cool faster
Spoon filling over bottom layer

Place top layer lightly on cake - don't compress!
Cream Filling will be quite firm when it has fully cooled. Carefully spread over bottom layer to edge of cake. Gently top with second layer, being careful not to compress or “sandwich” layers together. See Note. Wipe any excess filling that oozes beyond the layers. Pop one or two tall toothpicks through assembled cake to keep top layer from sliding. Refrigerate cake while preparing Chocolate Glaze.
Note: I transport delicate cake layers into plates with another great kitchen tool - a metal spatula that fans out as three connected parts. This tool is exactly right for the job! I love it! It’s an oldie but goodie (why, thank you, Dollinks, but I’m talking about a kitchen gadget). I inherited it from my much-beloved mother-in-law, some 35 years ago.

This wonderful spatula opens ...
... as wide as a fan for cakes

To Prepare the Chocolate Glaze:
⅓ c. butter or margarine
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 c. icing sugar (“confectioner’s sugar”), sifted
1-½ tsp. vanilla
2 - 4 tbsp. boiling water
Prepare Chocolate Glaze while filled cake is cooling in refrigerator. In medium saucepan on low to medium heat, melt butter or margarine with chocolate, stirring constantly. Blend in sifted sugar, mixing well. Add vanilla. Stir in boiling water until glaze is desired consistency - still pourable, but not too thin. Stir well, pouring glaze through sieve to remove small, persistent lumps. 

Sift confectioners' sugar into
chocolate sauce on stove

Spoon glaze over top layer so it drips down sides

Decant from cooking Stir glaze several times as it cools. Glaze will thicken slightly. When chocolate has reached room temperature, pour over top of chilled cake, allowing to drip over sides randomly. Return cake to refrigerator until ready to serve. Remove toothpicks before serving. 
Note: This cake’s several steps and assembly may look daunting, but it’s tremendously simple to make! It’s just one layer of cake, split in two, so it usually goes fast. Men always ask for seconds. That’s what I like best about this delicious “pie” - no leftovers to call my name in the middle of the night!

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