Boston Cream Pie

Another gem from “Sky High,” a cookbook dedicated to layer cakes.

As anyone who has ever dipped a fork into a wedge of the luscious dessert knows, Boston Cream Pie isn’t a pie at all. It’s a vanilla sponge cake filled with rich vanilla pudding. The original was topped simply with a shower of confectioners’ sugar. Then in 1855, a French pastry chef hired to develop desserts for the newly opened Parker House in Boston added an intense bittersweet glaze, which dripped down the side like chocolate icicles. The reason this cake is called a pie and not a cake is that pie tins were more readily available than cake pans. Thus, it became known as Boston Cream Pie.

Boston Cream Pie

Yield: 9-inch triple-layer cake; serves 16 to 20

For the Cake: 

2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
8 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Vanilla Custard
Chocolate Glaze

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottoms of three 9-inch round cake pans with a round of parchment or waxed paper.

2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Set these dry ingredients aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, oil, and vanilla until blended.

4. In a large clean mixer bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup sugar and continue beating until moderately stiff peaks form that droop slightly.

5. Mix a quarter of the whipped whites into the yolks, then carefully and gently fold the yolk mixture back into the remaining whites without overmixing. Now sift about a third of the dry ingredients over the egg mixture and carefully fold in. Repeat this step in 2 more additions. You don’t want to deflate the batter by handling it roughly or by dumping a large quantity of flour into the bater all at once. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared cake pans.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a cake tester stuck into the center of each layer comes out clean and the cake springs back when touched lightly. Let the layers cool completely in their pans on a wire rack. To unmold, gently run a blunt knife around the edges of each pan, then invert to turn out the cakes. Carefully peel off the paper liners.

For the Vanilla Custard:

2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. In a large heatproof bowl, combine the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of the milk. Stir until smooth and free of any lumps. Whisk in the egg yolks and set aside on top of a pot holder to anchor the bowl as close to your stove as possible.

2. In a medium stainless steel of enameled saucepan, combine the remaining 1 3/4 cups milk and the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

3. Ladle about one third of the hot sweetened milk into the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk this egg yolk mixture into the remaining hot milk in the pan. Whisking constantly, bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and boil gently, still whisking constantly, for 1 minute.

4. Transfer the custard to a bowl and whisk in the vanilla. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled.

For the Chocolate Glaze:

1/4 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (about 6 ounces), in small pieces

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the half-and-half and corn syrup. Bring to a simmer over moderately low heat, stirring to blend. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk until smooth.

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