Love and Pastry Cream

September 15, 2009 at 9:39 pm 50 comments

I’d like to clear something up – not everything goes according to plan. In fact, I probably endure more angst and heartbreak in the kitchen than in my high school. Sure there’s homecoming coming up and some share of senior year drama, but really, it’s all minor compared to some of the disasters that come out of my oven.

I’ve had meltdowns in the kitchen. Lie-on-the-kitchen-floor, seriously-consider-smashing-plates, cry-and never-want-to-get-up meltdowns. Some of the mistakes have been simply frustrating, like the Daring Baker milanos that just did not want to be oval shaped. Some have been so meaningless that I shrugged, threw out the inedible bits, and moved on. Some have been genuinely funny, like the blueberry corn pancakes I made for breakfast (see above photo) where in the end I stopped putting blueberries in because honestly, why waste blueberries on awful pancakes?

But my worst baking failures, the most bitter disappointments, have all somehow been father related. My very first ambitious project was for my dad’s birthday a few years ago. I tackled a triple mousse chocolate cake which… well, five hours passed and all I had for my effort was a sticky, teetering pile of dishes and a failed mousse that could only be described as a waste of ingredients.

For father’s day, I knew I wanted to make eclairs. Although my dad is a great cook he isn’t a huge fan of baking, but he has always baked to make my birthday special. One year, he made large chocolate eclairs for every girl at my party. Before and since then, I’ve always loved his eclairs. I’d never made pate a choux or pastry cream before but figured it couldn’t be that difficult. Oh, boy.

The first time I overbaked the eclairs and the pastry cream was eggy and rubbery. You’d think that anything with milk, cream, butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla would be wonderful – but now, I know better. The morning of, I decided my overdone eclairs wouldn’t cut it and tried again. This time, scared, I underbaked them. I didn’t have time to make more pastry cream, and the chocolate glaze… I don’t know how I ruined chocolate glaze, but there was too much corn syrup and it had the consistency of gloop. Dad tried to scrape some up with a spatula, but it slid right off. That stuff could make pans nonstick, if you could get it to stick to the pan.

For dad’s birthday this weekend, I was determined to get it right. I was going to make Boston Cream Pie, one of his childhood favorites. I would get pastry cream and chocolate glaze right, or die trying. I decided to go with a sponge cake instead of yellow cake for a lighter pie, and simply crossed my fingers.

Maybe I’d stocked up on good karma, or maybe I really have learned a thing or two, but somehow, it all went according to plan. The sponge cake was light and spongy, the pastry cream was sweet and creamy and rich, and the chocolate glaze was perfectly shiny and thick. When Dad came into the kitchen and dipped a finger in the pastry cream, I held my breath. “Pretty good,” he said, and I felt it would all be okay. When he’d finished his first slice before I’d cut my own, I knew it was more than okay – it was great.

I’d like to give a shout out to my dad, who will probably be the first and last person to read this post. He checks my blog more often than I do; he has always supported me in baking. Even when I break 18 eggs or serve him gross blueberry pancakes (which, by the way, he ate) he supports me.  He was the only person I told when I got my very first comment on this blog, and he kept me going even when I thought I was going no where. He is the first person I bounce Daring Baker ideas off of at the beginning of each month and, okay, his ideas are usually better than mine.

I have wanted to write this post since Father’s Day and it’s a shame I had no dessert to write about then. But at the moment there is no Boston Cream Pie left, as he took the last “slice” (about a third of the whole thing) last night. As he closed the refrigerator door he commented, “Leftover pastry cream and ganache… sounds like you should make eclairs.”

Happy birthday dad, I love you!

It’s been a while since my last post and it’s because of school. Even though senior year comes with a lot of freedom and independence, it’s still extremely busy. And I have some fantastic exciting news that I’m dying to share with you, but I think I’ll save it for another day for now… :) Thanks for staying with me!

Most recipes say that boston cream pie is best the day it’s assembled. I liked my first slice the best, since the cake was the lightest and fluffiest. But dad liked the cake better after an overnight sit in the fridge. The cake became denser, the pastry cream was cold, and the chocolate glaze had become much thicker. Your preference!

Basic Sponge Cake
Makes two 8″ or 9″ cakes
From Fresh from the Oven

1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease two 8-or-9-inch cake pans and cover pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.

Whisk/sieve the flours, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside. Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter melts. Take the sauce pan off the heat and add in vanilla extract; keep the mixture covered and warm.

Separate the eggs, placing the whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer or whisk) and reserving the yolks in a small bowl. Beat the whites on high speed until foamy. Gradually add 6 tablespoons of the sugar and the cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites to soft, moist peaks. If using a standing mixer transfer the beaten egg whites to a large bowl and add the egg yolks to the standing mixer bowl (you don’t need to clean the bowl).

Beat the egg yolks with the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is very thick and turns a pale lemon color, about 5 minutes. Add in the beaten egg whites to the yolks, but do not mix.

Sprinkle/sieve the flour mixture over the egg whites and mix on low speed for 10 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer, make a well in one side of the batter and pour the melted butter mixture into the bowl. Fold gently with a large rubber spatula until the batter shows no trace of flour and the whites and yolks are evenly mixed, about 8 strokes. Also make sure that you have incorporated the butter into the mixture. There should not be visible grease/oil as you pour the mixture into the cake pans.

Immediately pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake until the cake tops are light brown and feel firm and spring back when touched, about 16 to 18 minutes for 9-inch cake pans and 20 to 22 minutes for 8-inch cake pans.

Cool completely on racks. Run a thin knife around the inside of the cake pans and then invert them onto the racks (or onto cardboard rounds or tart pan bottoms) to release the cakes from the pans. Remove the parchment paper.

Pastry Cream
Makes lots of leftovers
From The Omni Parker House

1 tbsp butter
2 cups whole milk
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
3 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Bring butter, milk, and cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and eggs in a mixing bowl and whip until ribbons form.

When the milk mixture reaches boiling point, whisk in the egg mixture. Boil for one minute, then transfer and strain into another bowl. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill, preferably overnight. Once thoroughly chilled, whisk in vanilla extract until smooth.

Chocolate Glaze

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp butter

Bring cream and butter to a boil over medium heat, then pour over chocolate. Sit 3-5 minutes, then stir to combine.

To Assemble: Level cooled sponge cakes if necessary. Spread pastry cream in a thick layer on one cake, then top with the second. Pour cooled, thickened chocolate glaze on top and serve. Keep in fridge.

Printer Friendly Version – Boston Cream Pie

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Fall Leaves and New Love Cello Birthday Cake

50 Comments Add your own

  • 1. JoJo  |  September 15, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    your awesome. Got your email, my dad’s birthday is on September 12. Scary! I spent all night making ‘earth cookies’ for my environmental club and I still haven’t started my homework. I’ll send you pics and write soon! -JoJo

    Reply
  • 2. JoJo  |  September 15, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    P.S. I remember my very first day at citizen cake. I made pastry cream with one of the chefs, and I had no idea what is was! haha Those Julia Child tarts I was making all the time a few weeks ago are all filled with pastry cream, so I have been getting good. I should try this recipe, looks fantastic!

    Reply
  • 3. chocswirl  |  September 15, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Wow that looks awesome! I’ve been making chocolate eclairs (or rather trying to make chocolate eclairs) the last few weeks and it all ended in frustration, they’re eluding me. I’m def gonna try this recipe tho!

    Reply
  • 4. Marian  |  September 16, 2009 at 7:06 am

    These look so decadent and enticing… Glad they worked out this time for you! Can’t wait to hear your exciting news!

    Reply
  • 5. Amanda  |  September 16, 2009 at 7:06 am

    hahaha… Your first attempt at pastry cream sounds just like my first (and only!) attempt at pastry cream. It was soooo gross… I just haven’t had the heart or stomach to try again. :)

    The Boston Cream Pie looks sooo fab though. I wish I could be eating it right now during my office hours. It would certainly liven things up.

    Reply
  • 6. Yumi  |  September 16, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Okay, see now we have a problem here. I’m sitting in 2D class (which doesn’t end for another hour) and your photos are making me hungryyyyy….

    Reply
  • 7. Dolce  |  September 16, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Soooo have you tried yet working again on eclairs??? ;)
    The Boston Cream Pie looks gorgeous. And what about the exciting news???

    Reply
  • 8. Jennifer  |  September 16, 2009 at 8:55 am

    That is one BEAUTIFUL Boston Cream Pie! I was going to attempt one for my hubby’s birthday back in July but the sponge cake …. well… it wasn’t spongey and it tasted like eggs. So I figured I’d just make a yellow cake instead but the pastry cream was harder than I thought it would be… it was granular. So I failed miserably the first time I tried it. I’ve been a little intimidated to try it again but your post gives me courage!

    Reply
  • 9. Eliana  |  September 16, 2009 at 9:02 am

    what a great way to celebrate your dad’s special day. you’re a wonderful daughter.

    Reply
  • 10. Kim, Rambling Family Manager  |  September 16, 2009 at 9:33 am

    A lovely post and now I’m hungry for Boston Cream Pie! :)

    Reply
  • 11. chatdechocolat  |  September 16, 2009 at 10:10 am

    My God, I never actually knew what Boston Cream Pie is, but yours looks awesome and is exactly the thing I’d eat and eat and eat…Maybe I’ll make some after my boyfriend comes back home. he might enjoy it, too, if not, I could not care less :P

    Reply
  • 12. Valérie  |  September 16, 2009 at 10:57 am

    We all have melt-downs. The kitchen wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t.

    It’s great that you can express your love for your father with baking! My Dad isn’t much of a gourmet, but he’s picky at the same time. He likes simple things, which means he’s likely to be happier with a bar of fine dark chocolate than with an elaborate cake.

    I’ve always found it better to overbake than underbake choux pastry, when in doubt. Still, the balance is delicate.

    Gorgeous cream pie! I love the shiny, thick glaze!

    Reply
  • 13. Making my Mark  |  September 16, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Oh, I’m so glad it turned out great. I also know the privilege of having a parent that supports you no matter what. That makes all the difference.

    I agree. You should make some eclairs. :)

    Reply
  • 14. Kerstin  |  September 16, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I live in Boston and so need to make a Boston Cream Pie! Yours looks delicious – Happy Birthday to your Dad!

    Reply
  • 15. chocolate shavings  |  September 16, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    That cake looks amazingly decadent!

    Reply
  • 16. nutmegnanny  |  September 16, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Your cake looks great! I bet your father’s stomach was happy and he was proud of you.

    Reply
  • 17. amer  |  September 16, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe. It really was everything the title said
    I think its nice recipe & yummy .I really liked it

    Reply
  • 18. Austin  |  September 16, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Haha I bet i just sound like a yes-man but those blueberry pancakes actually look pretty good :P

    Reply
    • 19. Elissa  |  September 17, 2009 at 3:20 pm

      Austin - Thanks, but that’s because you didn’t try them. Oh man.

  • 20. Gala  |  September 17, 2009 at 2:19 am

    Wow looks yummy love the shiny chocolate glaze

    Reply
  • 21. Laurel  |  September 17, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    How lucky are you? What a wonderful bond you have with your dad. He’s right you know, (dads are) it’s time for more eclairs!

    Reply
  • 22. Melissa Peterman  |  September 17, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Um. WOW! You’re incredible and at such a young age. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • 23. Baking Monster  |  September 17, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I have experienced all of that I know how you feel! I love boston cream pie and this looks really good. It’s all worth it when you get something good.

    Reply
  • 24. Monica H  |  September 17, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    This is such a lovely post and tribute to your father. What a beaitful cake too. Well done myfriend.

    Reply
  • 25. Charmaine  |  September 18, 2009 at 3:16 am

    mmm, that really looks great!

    Reply
  • 26. Boston Cream Pie « Foodshots  |  September 18, 2009 at 8:21 am

    [...] I’d like to clear something up – not everything goes according to plan. In fact, I probably endure more angst and heartbreak in the kitchen than in my high school. Sure there’s homecoming coming up and some share of senior year drama, but really, it’s all minor compared to some of the disasters that come out of my oven … [read more] [...]

    Reply
  • 27. Jet  |  September 18, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Surely you know by now that your blog is followed by many. And we love it! Your photos and recipes are brilliant, but I am most taken with your writing. Beautifully written.

    Reply
  • 28. Diana Hu  |  September 27, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Hey Elissa! I have to admit that, out of all your blog entries, I loved this one the most! I love the writing, and in all your posts, the photos make me hungry! Even the picture of the pancakes that you said were a failure. I hope you keep this blog, even after high school, so that I can continue my lurking habits. haha!

    Reply
    • 29. Linda  |  November 19, 2010 at 5:21 pm

      I know, right! Her photos are great. She’s inspired me to keep up my new found love of baking. She is bookmarked as a go to resource and I like what you said about your “lurking habits” LOL. Even if I’m not eating, I can at least look at Elissa’s photos. Hey, no harm in looking! Her passion for baking and food is contagious and I like 17and baking…it’s a cozy place!

  • 30. The Gin Djinn  |  October 17, 2009 at 1:39 am

    I made this from your recipe since I was on holiday this week, although my glaze is a bit more… uhh… icing, than glaze (‘cool’, not ‘refrigerate’, numbskull self). I left the last segment with my mum, and got a message from her an hour later saying it was the best cake she’d ever had, and that my stepdad didn’t even want to eat his peice, because then it would be gone, and he might plunge into a depression. I had no troubles at all with the pastry cream, which was like the most delicious custard ever, and made sponge from my grandma’s recipe, all of it with duck eggs. It was so fabulous, thank you so much for your blog! (and don’t go to mine it doesn’t really exist)

    Reply
  • 31. Barbara  |  October 22, 2009 at 6:15 am

    Your cake looks amazing! How nice that your dad is a fan of your blog. I can’t even get my husband to read mine.

    Reply
  • 32. Elissa's Dad  |  October 29, 2009 at 10:17 am

    It was a Happy Birthday…and I love you too!

    Reply
  • 33. catherine  |  November 3, 2009 at 9:37 am

    your boston cream pie looks yummy! you’re incredibly talented. keep it up!

    Reply
  • 34. Catherine  |  November 9, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    This looks superb!

    Reply
  • 35. olivia  |  January 15, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Elissa you are an incredible baker and are very talented. Someday I hope I can be a good baker like you. Iam getting the hang of it. love baking. peace

    Reply
  • 36. janice  |  March 26, 2010 at 1:50 am

    so i just wanted to let you know that i was completely inspired by this post for a cake to make for my relative’s birthday. being asian, my relatives aren’t the biggest fans of overly sweet frostings or sugary cakes. i was beginning to get desperate for recipes that were simple yet elegant, and appropriate to their taste buds.

    after looking at this page everyday for a week, i finally committed to making this boston cream cake & carrot cake cupcakes (using the ginger carrot cake recipe) and they’ve been raving about them ever since.

    thanks for the inspiration, and congrats on a year of inspiring many, many more people like me! ;)

    http://jcyjanice.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/img_5293c.jpg

    Reply
  • 37. Jill Lu  |  May 27, 2010 at 6:25 am

    I gave this recipe a shot last night, and the sponge cake seems to have turned out perfect. My pastry cream did not however. In the recipe it says to pour the egg yolks into the milk slowly, but I think in doing that it cooked the eggs immediately. Next time I’ll do the opposite, poor the milk slowly into the eggs. Did I miss a step or do you have any suggestions so this doesn’t happen again?

    Reply
    • 38. Elissa  |  June 13, 2010 at 7:46 pm

      Jill Lu – I’m so sorry for taking so long to get to your comment! It slipped past me :( It worked alright when I did it, but I’d suggest tempering the yolks first. Pour some milk into the yolks, whisk, and finally add the whole thing back into the milk mixture.

  • 39. bell  |  July 21, 2010 at 9:13 am

    i’ve also had my fair share of pastry cream related problems. just tried your version this morning and it all went very smoothly in all respects! thanks for the recipe, i’ve got my profiteroles in the over and can’t wait to fill, fill, fill!!

    Reply
  • 40. Linda  |  November 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Delish! I made this using a different recipe, but I want to check out Elissa’s ganache recipes. Her overall creations are amazing and comfy! Her photo of this pie looks ready to dive into!

    Reply
  • 41. Isabel Kitchen  |  April 4, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    This looks amazing! I can totally relate to kitchen melt-downs. About six years ago when I was eleven years old I had my mind set on making a tres leches cake. The first attempt completely failed when all I could taste was scrambled eggs yuck! I was so disappointed and determined that I attempted the same cake three times the same day! Now six years later it’s one of my favorite things to bake.

    Reply
  • 42. Jasmine  |  April 5, 2011 at 4:18 am

    This recipe sounds like a challenge that’s all worth it in the end.

    Reply
  • 43. Uriel  |  April 20, 2011 at 3:21 am

    I loved your post so much that I decided to do a take on it with some mangoes. http://www.amateurpalette.com/?p=190

    Reply
  • 44. Mango Cake - Amateur Palette  |  April 28, 2011 at 2:40 am

    [...] Basic Sponge Cake Adapted from Fresh from the Oven found at 17 and Baking [...]

    Reply
  • 45. Melissa  |  July 12, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    haha – this looks like a cake worth making ! the crazy thing with kitchen disasters is my kids love them the most! I tried to make my daughter a chocolate mousse mud cake for her 14th birthday two years ago and it was a complete disaster, melting all over the plate in a huge blob of gooey soft chocolate mousse and ganache, yet for the last 2 years when I’ve offered Red Velvet cake, layered chocolate black forest cake, and lots of other delicious ideas, she asks for the “disaster cake” – she says it was the most delicious thing she has ever eaten :).

    Reply
  • 46. jackiehale  |  September 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Hi Elissa,
    I want to ask you permission to use the foto of your Boston Cream pie for my blog’s October favorites round up. All credit will be linked to your blog as I normally do with all my round ups. You can respond to my request via my email and consider this an invitation to visit my little humble blog. Thank you,
    Jackie

    Reply
  • 47. Elizabeth  |  November 24, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Your recipe is delcious!!!! i made it for Thanksgiving at my boss’s today and she and her husband LOVED it. Your directions were easy to follow and the cake was divine.

    thanks!!

    Reply
  • 48. restaurant  |  January 11, 2012 at 7:18 am

    restaurant…

    [...]Love and Pastry Cream « 17 and Baking[...]…

    Reply
  • 49. midnitechef  |  January 14, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    This is great, your dad is sweet! My dad always loved my cookies in high school, I still make a batch for him to take with him on the plane when he visits.

    Reply
  • 50. Buttercream in Bloom | VIVIMETALIUN  |  December 6, 2013 at 9:18 am

    […] Boston Cream Pie to Lemon Chiffon Cake, the treats I bake for my family inevitably turn out well and become […]

    Reply

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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