Thursday, May 22, 2014

a marriage of chocolate and vanilla

BBQ season is in full-swing (I've already used our barbecue three times this week) and with Memorial Day around the corner, the char-grilled invites may be poring in. Or maybe you're the one hosting the outdoor extravaganza. Regardless, you never want to show up empty-handed to a party and here's a classic cake that will keep getting you invited.

A Boston Cream Pie (although it's really a cake, so I don't know why they call it a "pie". Do you?) is the perfect merging of my two favorite flavors: chocolate and vanilla. The cake is technically a sponge (which is not my favorite) but this recipe isn't spongey at all- it's just fluffy, tender and really light. I used a vanilla pastry cream filling that is a divine pairing with that glossy, dark chocolate ganache enveloping the entire cake. 

This cake never fails to impress and is devoured by kids and adults alike. The best part of making this is that it needs to be cold, so you could make it the night before the party and then breezily walk into the party looking relaxed and confident- because you weren't putting it together last-minute and freaking out about being late (because that never happens to me, of course).

Boston Cream Pie
Recipe adapted from here and the pastry cream recipe is from ‘Baking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America’ cookbook
Serves 8-10

Recipe Notes:
- A 9-inch round, two-inch high cake pan is a necessity when baking the cake. If it’s less than 2 inches high then the cake will overflow.
- I didn’t love the original vanilla pudding recipe so I substituted it with my favorite pastry cream recipe, which is much tastier. 
- The pastry cream needs to be made in advance since you need it to be cold and completely set-up. I usually do this the day before.
- In the fridge, keep a box of baking soda next to the cooling Pastry Cream so that it doesn’t absorb any other odors.

For the pastry cream:
¼ cup cornstarch
¾ cup sugar, divided
2 cups whole milk, divided
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
pinch of salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. unsalted butter

For the cake:
1 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup whole milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the chocolate ganache:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

For the pastry cream:
1. Combine cornstarch with ¼ cup of sugar in a mixing bowl, then stir in ½ cup milk. Blend egg yolks into the cornstarch mixture and stir until completely smooth.
2. Prepare an Ice Bath (take a large bowl and fill it with lots of ice and cold water-put aside for now).
3. Combine the remaining 1½-cup milk with the remaining ½ cup sugar and the salt in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat.
4. Temper the egg mixture by gradually ladling in the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly. Add the remaining milk mixture into the egg mixture. Return the combined mixture into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, vigorously stirring with a whisk, until the mixture comes to a boil and the whisk leaves a trail in the pastry cream, 3-6 minutes. As soon as the pastry cream reaches this stage, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Put the pan in the ice bath and stir occasionally for 30 minutes.
5. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and press pastry cream through the sieve. This creates a perfectly smooth, lump-free pastry cream.
6. Transfer the pastry cream to tightly sealed storage container and place parchment or waxed paper directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days.

For the cake:
7. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a two-inch high, 9-inch-round cake pan, then line it with a piece of parchment paper.
8. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Beat the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, on high speed until pale and tripled in volume, about 15 minutes. Add the milk, vegetable oil and vanilla and beat with the mixer until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture in and blend until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.
9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack. Invert again and cool completely.
10. Slice the cake, with a long serrated knife, into two even layers. Place the bottom half of the cake cut-side up on a platter. Top with the pastry cream, spreading it to about 1/4 inch from the edge. Carefully place the other cake half on top, cut-side down, pressing gently.

For the chocolate ganache:
11. Heat the chocolate, cream, vanilla and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring, until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes. Let cool, at room temperature, for 15 minutes, then pour over the cake and smooth with an offset spatula. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 4 hours before serving. Cake should remain refrigerated until 20 minutes before serving.


  1. One of my faves...looks delicious!

  2. Oh my! This looks too good. I love the tablecloth in your picture too. Where is it from?

    1. Thank you Tracy! I bought the tablecloth (on sale) from Williams Sonoma like, 3 million years ago. Ok, more like 5 or 6 years. Regarless, it was a long time ago. I'm glad you like it!

  3. I just made this yummy cake for the BBQ our family went to and everyone LOVED it! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. YAY! Thanks Tracy for letting me know- I'm so glad it turned out well!