Friday, August 6, 2010

Individual Boston Cream Pies


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.

Bench notes:

- 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.

Individual Boston Cream Pies
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

Chocolate Glaze
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.


Audrey said...

these look wonderful...I love the idea of individual servings for this dessert.

Tara said...

Those look adorable and delicious!!

sally said...

I love the idea of individual boston cream pies and these look delicious!

Kate said...

You've transformed an old-fashioned stand-by into a finale worthy of the grandest dinner party. I love it!

Heather said...

These are beautiful little cakes! I like the idea of using a melon baller to scoop out the top.

Ben David said...

These look great, but I really like the pastry cream. And the original recipe calls for splitting the cake and sandwiching a layer of pastry cream - which looks like more (and possibly thicker) cream than your version.

Will your cream hold up as a separate layer?

pastry studio said...

Hi Ben David. I hear you on the pastry cream. This is the recipe I use if I'm making a regular cake version:

2 C milk
1/2 C sugar
6 egg yolks
2 T cornstarch
2 T flour
1 t vanilla
2 oz (4 T) butter

The method is the same. I do not fold in any whipped cream. The cake and the glaze ingredients are the same.

pastry studio said...

Oh, and I should add that I bake the full cake version in a prepared 9" x 2 1/2" cake pan at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes. Let it cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around the edge and de-pan the cake. Let it cool completely before splitting into 2 layers.

Mimi said...

Beautiful cakes!

Unknown said...

Great cake! I have heard of Boston Cream pie but didn't know what it was. Looks delicious!

Lucie said...

Oh my--those first and last shots with the chocolate are to die for!

Kathleen said...

*can't talk because dizzy from banging head on computer screen while lunging toward the Boston cream pies...*


Jane said...

I love the technique of just scooping out some of the cake and using that was the little reservoir for the cream. Your version makes a really lovely presentation, and your photos are absolutely beautiful.

Tara Barker said...

As a child, Boston cream pie was one of my favorite desserts at a local diner-type restaurant. Thanks for reminding me about this perfect flavor combination, and nice 21st-century update!

Ben David said...

Thanks for the advice and the cream variation!

I didn't realize how small yours were until I re-read the recipe - almost like petit fours.

Bryan said...

Yum! i made just the cakes because they were kind of calling to me. i'm glad i did. this butter cake is really delicious, especially with the addition of orange. i like how it recalls the flavor of a classic sponge cake.
Simple Art of Perfect Baking is such an awesome reference book.
maybe my technique is getting better but this cake is moist and tender and i love the barely-caramelized tops.

next time i'll add the creme and the sauce!

pastry studio said...

Yes, this is definitely an amazing cake, my go-to recipe when I need this kind of thing. I can see why you would eat it plain because it's just that good. Flo Braker has the cake thing down! So glad you enjoyed it and it does sound like your technique is flawless. Bravo!