Recently I had to make a pie.
It turned out this wasn't actually a pie, despite it's name.
Boston Cream Pie.
I'd heard of it, but I'd never seen one or tasted one.
Of course when the customer asked if I could make one for his Wife's birthday (It's her favourite cake in the whole world! NO PRESSURE THEN!!) I instantly replied "Yes of course I can".
I always do this. I say that of course I can do this, even when I have no idea what they are talking about. The wonders of the modern world mean that I can get the answer at the click of a button, so I don't worry if I haven't come across something before.
I went to my trusted source in these matters - Pinterest.
This is my favourite place in the whole world! The answer to my "What the hell is Boston Cream Pie?", delivered the answer to my screen in seconds.
Wait a minute I asked for Boston Cream PIE, that is most definitely not a pie.
I then went to YouTube. I entered the same search and it came up with the same answer as Pinterest.
Boston Cream Pie is in fact a Cake!
Click here to take you to the video I used.
Looking into the history of the pie I soon discovered why it was called a pie when it's a cake.
Here's the history bit:
Cooks in New England and Pennsylvania Dutch regions were known for their cakes and pies and the dividing line between them was very thin. This cake was called a pie because in the mid-nineteenth century, pie tins were more common than cake pans. The first versions were baked in these pie tins so the cake was called a Pie. Boston Cream Pie is a remake of the early American ”Pudding-cake pie.”
Ok so I wasn't going mad, and Pinterest was correct with the recipes it gave to me.
Boston Cream Pie is 2 layers of sponge cake filled with pastry custard, topped with chocolate ganache.
Read the whole of this blog and the recipe before you begin because there's a lot to take in.
Make this first.
Inspite of me being a baker for a very long time, I have never actually made Pastry Cream (also called Creme Patissiere or creme pat). I know how to make it, I've seen it made on lots of food programmes, but never needed to. My husband has because he spent his summers working in a bakery when he was younger.
I could have cheated and got him to make it but I don't cheat. I would have to make it at some point in the future so it might as well be now.
This recipe uses flour as the thickening agent where some recipes use cornflour. What this means is that you will have to cook it for longer and you won't really be able to tell if it's thick enough until it's cold, but it will be a more stable custard than with cornflour.
Firstly you will heat the milk. You can use which ever milk you prefer, I used semi skimmed.
Heat the milk until you see the bubbles coming to the surface (simmering) but just before it comes completely to the boil.
Whilst the milk is heating up mix the egg yolks and sugar together in a separate bowl. Whisk in the flour.
This part is the most important part of this recipe: Adding the hot milk to the eggs without scrambling them.
This stage is called 'tempering the eggs'. Add a splash of the hot milk to the eggs and whisk. Add another splash and whisk again. Then, whilst continually whisking, add the rest of the milk slowly. The custard will start to thicken but it needs to be thicker.
Return the custard to the pan and cook over a medium heat for about 7-8 minutes, stirring continuously. Do not allow it to bubble at this stage. If you don't stir the custard it will stick to the base and burn.
Turn the heat up and allow to start bubbling. Whisk for a further minute and then remove from the heat.
Cut the butter in to 4 small pieces and whisk into the hot custard until completely melted, along with the vanilla extract.
Place in a bowl and cover the surface of the custard with clingfilm so that it doesn't form a skin whilst cooling.
Put it in the fridge to go completely cold : about 4 hours.
The sponge isn't your traditional sponge cake : it's made using the hot milk sponge method. I'd never even heard of this method so I had to do some more research. It can seem daunting for the novice baker but it's actually easier than a standard sponge cake.
Firstly you’ll warm the milk & butter until the butter has just melted. Leave to one side and cover to keep it warm.
Using a free standing mixer, whisk the whole eggs and sugar together until they are light and creamy. This takes about 4 minutes. You can tell they are at the right stage because when you trail the batter over the surface it stays there before dispersing back into the batter. If it disappears immediately it's not ready and you should whisk it for longer.
Whisk the warm butter + milk mixture into the whipped eggs/sugar, then whisk in the dry ingredients. The warm milk keeps the butter melted so that it mixes seamlessly into the batter.
Divide the batter between 2 cake tins and bake.
Important note : LINE YOUR CAKE TINS! This batter will stick to the tin so you must line them.
This is the only part I had actually made before, and is the easiest bit.
Make sure you use double cream and not single cream.
If you are using a bar of chocolate make sure you chop it into smaller pieces so that it melts faster.
Make just before you are ready to pour it onto the cake.
Place the cream and the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl, and heat for 1 minute at full power. Leave it to stand for a minute and then stir the mixture. The chocolate won't be fully melted but if you heat it too fast it could split. Depending on how small you cut the pieces it may only need another 30 seconds. The chocolate and cream will combine fully and will be glossy in appearance. Let it cool for 5 minutes and then pour over the cake, teasing it over the edges with a spoon.
The Finished Cake
The whole cake comes together in no time at all once everything is made and cooled.
The quantities in this recipe are sufficient for a single 8" round cake.
The cake must be stored in the fridge unless you are eating it straight away.
I know it's all a bit long winded, and you will use quite a few bowls, but the upside is that you will have a really great dessert, and someone else can do the washing up : after all, you have worked really hard on making this lovely cake, that's called a pie, but most definitely isn't a pie!
Let me know how you get on and share your photos. if you have any questions then pop them below and I will answer as soon as I can.