If you’re in the mood for a delicious little treat, you might consider a return to an old-fashioned American classic from the mid-1800s, Boston Cream Pie. You know the one - it’s the pie that is really a cake, picking up its name because it was probably first baked in a pie plate long before the advent of cake pans. It’s such a simple and delicious concoction it’s hard to imagine improving upon it. Delicate yellow cake, luscious vanilla cream and a gooey chocolate glaze make this a really great birthday or special occasion dessert.
I’ve chosen to make individual cakes for a more playful presentation. I begin with a perfect yellow butter cake recipe from Flo Braker. It’s really the best of its kind. It has a nice delicate crumb, it’s very moist and has lots of delicious buttery vanilla flavor. Once the cakes are cooled, I use a melon baller to scoop out a portion of the cake. Then they’re filled with a loose vanilla cream and drizzled with a beautiful robe of chocolate glaze. Once you finish the assembly, it will be hard to fight off a roomful of anxious tasters. My advice is to just stand back and let the cake crumbs fly.
- I added some orange zest to the cake batter for a little citrus buzz.
- The secret to making great cake is to 1) make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature to ensure that they will completely emulsify in the mixing process; 2) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy; 3) add eggs one at a time and give each one time to be completely incorporated and emulsified into the butter and sugar mixture; 4) scrape down the bottom and the sides of the bowl a couple of times while mixing so that all the ingredients are properly distributed and mixed together; 5) mix thoroughly but don’t overdo it; 6) make sure your oven is at the right temperature; 7) since all ovens vary, check the cake a couple of minutes before the stated baking time to avoid overbaking and dry cake. Pay attention to the spring in the cake when it is lightly touched with your fingertip. Knowing when a cake is done relies on your senses: sight, smell and touch.
- I think these paper baking cup molds (2 3/4” in diameter x 2” deep) are the perfect size. If you can’t locate them, make regular cupcakes. You’ll probably get closer to a dozen cakes. Check them after about 16-18 minutes in the oven.
- The corn syrup in the glaze is to make it shiny and easier to pour. It can certainly be omitted.
Makes 8 individual cakes
Yellow Butter Cake
adapted from The Simple Art of Perfect Baking by Flo Braker
2 C cake flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/8 t salt
2 eggs @ room temperature
2/3 C buttermilk @ room temperature
1 t vanilla
4 oz (1 stick) butter @ room temperature
1 C sugar
zest of 1 orange
8 baking cups, 2 3/4” in diameter and 2” deep
Vanilla Cream Filling
1 C milk
2 egg yolks
1/4 C sugar
1 T cornstarch
1 T flour
1 oz (2 T) butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 C heavy cream
6 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 C heavy cream
1 T corn syrup
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and very light in color. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add the orange zest. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to be sure all the ingredients are being incorporated thoroughly. The mixture should look fluffy, white and increased in volume. Add 1/3 of the flour. Then add half the buttermilk. Alternate adding the remaining flour mixture and the buttermilk, ending with the flour. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and mix until smooth and well blended. Portion the cake batter into 8 baking cup papers and set them on a baking sheet.
Bake for about 18 - 20 minutes or until the top of the cakes are lightly browned and they spring back when touched lightly in the center with your fingertip. Cool the cakes completely on a wire rack.
To make the vanilla cream, heat the milk until it just comes to a slow simmer. Whisk together the yolks, sugar, flour and cornstarch until thoroughly combined and the mixture is thickened and lightened in color. Add a little bit of hot milk, whisking until the mixture is completely blended. Add the rest of the milk and whisk to thoroughly combine. Return the mixture to the pan and heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a slow boil. Continue cooking for a couple more minutes until the cream has thickened. Take off the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla. Cool completely, pressing a piece of plastic into the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
Remove the cakes from the paper cups. Use a melon baller or a sharp paring knife to carefully scoop out some of the cake in the center, down to within about a 1/2” of the bottom so there’s lots of room for the cream.
Whisk the 1/2 cup of heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold into the cooled vanilla cream. Spoon or pipe the filling into each cake.
To make the chocolate glaze, place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the 3/4 cup of heavy cream on low until it just begins to simmer. Stir in the corn syrup and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit undisturbed for a couple of minutes. Slowly whisk the chocolate until it has melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny. Pour the chocolate glaze over the cakes and let them set up for a few minutes.