I get a ton of emails regarding New England foods, and questions relating the origins of some Yankee recipes. The past 2 weeks, however, I have been inundated with requests for an original Boston Cream Pie. You know who to go to for anything Yankee, and I am deeply grateful for your questions and the fact that you take the time to write to me.
I am sitting here just thinking if there is one item or recipe that embraces New England cuisine completely. Would it be maple syrup? Chowder? Pumpkin? Cranberries? The answer is probably all the above, and as I reference in my cookbook, it is the way we prepare our ingredients that separates us from the rest of the country. We, as Yankee’s, know how to turn our apples into the best Apple Cider Pie and our cranberries into decadent Cranberry Orange Coffee cake. But there is one dessert that has been part of our heritage for over a century and a half. That would be the Boston Cream Pie. Although I believe Chef Sazian, of the Parker House in Boston, got his inspiration for this “pie” from a New York column the same year(1856), it is still a beloved pie to us New Englanders’, regardless who first created it. By the way, did you know the Parker House is haunted? In my cookbook, I tell the story as told to me last year by the manager, very interesting to say the least.
Now for those of you who just don’t have the time to take the necessary steps to prepare this delightful recipe, using a yellow sponge cake recipe, prepared vanilla pudding and chocolate fudge heated in the microwave suffices for the most part. But why not take a little time and make it just once in your life so you can enjoy the taste of real Boston Cream pie.
The Yankee Chef’s Boston Cream Pie
Notice I don’t use salt in the recipe. It does absolutely NOTHING, so why add the extra salt? But I will give you one great hint. Want just a little more New England flavor? Add some thawed, chopped frozen cranberries to the cake batter. Seeing cranberries studding the inside of that yellow sponge cake is not only gorgeous to look at, but gives it a tangy bite that sits well with the buttery, sweet flavors you are about to enjoy.
2 c. sifted cake flour*
2 t. baking powder
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla extract or 1 T. imitation
3/4 c. light cream or half-and-half
1 recipe Vanilla Bean Pudding, recipe below
Chocolate Glaze, recipe below
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper or generously spray with nonstick cooking spray and lightly dust with flour, tapping off excess that doesn’t stick to pan. Beat the butter and sugar together at medium-high speed until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the vanilla extract. Stir the cake flour and baking powder together using a whisk in a separate bowl. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat the flour mixture into the butter-egg mixture, adding it in thirds while alternating with the cream. Beat until the batter is smooth.
Transfer to the prepared pan and bake on the center shelf of the oven until the cake tests clean when a toothpick is inserted into the center, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
To assemble, split the cake using a long serrated knife. Spread Vanilla Bean Pudding over the bottom half of the cake and place the top layer over the pudding. Pour Chocolate Glaze over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake.
*You don’t very often see The Yankee Chef use cake flour, but in a delicate cake such as Boston Cream Pie and Angel Food Cake, I prefer it and let me tell you why. If you were to substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour, the result will be a little off because not all flours are created equal. All different types of flours have different protein, or gluten, contents and weights, resulting in various results. All purpose flour has roughly 11 % protein content while cake flour has between 6-8 %. Many recipes need that low protein content to remain tender and light, such as our recipe here. Other recipes, however, can stand up to the difference and accept the substitution reliably, such as most cakes and breads. Keep in mind that all-purpose flour is strong.
If you need to substitute all-purpose instead of cake flour, take out 2 T. per cup of all-purpose if you don’t have any cornstarch at home. If you do, I highly recommend replacing the deleted 2 T. with 2 T. cornstarch. Why? Because cornstarch is gluten free, thusly ending up diluting the gluten content while replacing the original amount of flour taken out.
Vanilla Bean Pudding
(Or if you are in a higher tax bracket than I am, you can call it Creme Patisserie).
3/4 c. milk
1 c. light cream
1 vanilla bean
3 egg yolks
2 T. cornstarch
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 t. butter or margarine
Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into a pot that contains the milk and cream. Add the scraped bean pod as well; simmer over medium heat until scalding, whisking almost constantly. Whisk the eggs, cornstarch, sugar, and salt together in a separate bowl. Slowly ladle a cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk well. Slowly add this bowl of egg/hot cream mixture back into the pot and continue whisking over medium heat until it thickens and just begins to boil. This is called tempering. Immediately transfer to a bowl and remove and discard the vanilla bean. Stir in the vanilla extract and butter. Let cool, whisk again before filling the cake. By all means use all vanilla extract if desired, using an extra tablespoon, adding along with the butter. Just don’t use imitation vanilla, it doesn’t do the pudding any favors.
1/2 c. heavy cream
8 oz. chopped dark chocolate*
1 T. butter or margarine
3 T. maple syrup
Heat the cream to a boil over medium heat, whisking almost constantly. The second it starts to come to a boil, remove from heat and pour into a sturdy bowl and add the chocolate, butter and maple syrup. Whisk and let cool to tepid and thickened. Whisk again before glazing.
*This could even be a chocolate candy bar if need be.