It’s funny that I should make my first Boston Cream Pie during a trip away from Boston. In fact, I was out in central Massachusetts to celebrate my second brother leaving for college even FURTHER west in the state, all the way out in Amherst.
When I asked him what he wanted for dessert, my brother suggested a few things, including Boston Cream Pie. Boston Cream Pie caught my attention since I’ve been spending some lovely hours with Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking, which is beautifully photographed and a fun read even when I’m out of butter (which happened two days ago), and has a great recipe for the cake.
One Nigella-technique I love is using the food processor to mix cake batter. I enjoy doing things the old fashioned way, but without a stand mixer or electric beater (ugh, I’m working on it), creaming butter and sugar by hand gets old. Now I’m getting comfortable throwing it all in, pulsing, and pouring!
I found this cake supremely easy to make and put together, especially since I knew my dad, stepmom, and brothers would hardly be a critical audience for a confection made of butter, sugar, and chocolate. I would definitely recommend allowing a couple of hours to make it, though, since the cake, custard and ganache need time to cool before assembling the final version.
One thing that did go wrong: my camera died right in the middle of taking the final assembly pictures, and of course I’d forgotten my battery charger. I think the last shot should suffice in convincing you how great this cake is, though.
The Victoria Sponge cake is super flexible, so if Boston Cream Pie isn’t your thing feel free to use the recipe for everything else. The creme patisserie (custard) and ganache are also from Nigella.
Victoria Sponge Cake
Adapted from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
1 cup unsalted butter, very soft
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups cake flour
3 tsp baking powder (reduce to 2 if NOT using food processor)
2 Tbsp cornstarch
4-5 Tbsp milk
2 8-inch cake pans (about 2 inches deep), buttered
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Put everything except milk in the food processor and process until batter is smooth. Gradually pour milk through the funnel while pulsing until batter is a soft, dropping consistency. (To make without a processor, cream butter and sugar, add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, then gradually add flour and cornstarch and mix. Add milk if needed after incorporating flour).
Pour batter into pans and bake for 25 minutes, until cakes start to pull away at the edges and a tester comes out clean. Leave the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then turn out to cool.
Custard (Creme Patisserie)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a boil, then remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar until creamy and light yellow. Whisk in flour until smooth.
Slowly (and I mean SLOWLY) add the warm milk mixture to the eggs while constantly stirring. This will prevent your eggs from forming curds–nobody wants scrambled eggs in place of custard! Once the milk is incorporated, add the vanilla and pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Stir gently over low heat until the custard thickens, then remove from heat, pour into a wide bowl, and cover it with wetted wax paper. Let cool. (Don’t put it in the fridge under any circumstances, according to Nigella!)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp unsalted butter
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I only had semi-sweet chocolate chips on hand and they worked just fine)
Warm the cream, vanilla, unsalted butter, and chocolate (chopped fine if using baking squares). Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and whisk until thickened. Let cool somewhat, though you want it runny enough for icing.
To assemble the Boston Cream Pie, place one cake on your serving platter top-down so that the flat side is facing up. Spread the creme patisserie on the cake, leaving about 1-2 inches on all sides with more creme in the middle so that it doesn’t squirt out when you place the second cake on top. Gently place the second cake on the creme with the flat side (bottom) down, and wiggle if necessary to spread the creme. Finally, ice the cake by slowly pouring about half of the ganache on the top, letting it spread, and using a spoon to pour the rest on where it’s needed. Let the icing drip down the sides of the cake, and let it all cool for a bit before serving.
Nigella recommends laying down wax paper along the edges of the cake so the drips don’t make a mess, but I actually liked the way it pooled and I took the wax off, and everyone thought it looked great!