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52 Weeks of Baking: Week 3 - Boston Cream Disaster

Last weekend I went to a friend's house for a small birthday party. I told them not to worry about the cake because I would take care of it. (After all, I like baking and this will be a great excuse for my 52 weeks of baking.) So when I asked what the birthday boy's favorite cake was, I was expecting it to be something standard like chocolate, carrot, coconut, you know, a normal "cake" flavor. I was not expecting Boston Cream Pie! I wasn't even sure I'd actually ever eaten one before, and I knew I sure as heck hadn't made one before. But, since I'm always up for a challenge, I said, "That sounds fun! I'll make one!"

That, my dear friends, turned out to be not such a great idea. I was doomed from the beginning and it turned out disastrously. I even contemplated not sharing this recipe with you guys, but no one's perfect (and I certainly am not), so here it is. To read about my Boston Cream Disaster,

Let me start by saying, I'm 100% sure it was me and not the recipe. I've heard of people having great results with this recipe, so if you try it, please let me know how it turned out. Second of all, I'd like you to know that today's baking experiment is really a demonstration of why proper planning, timing and equipment are CRUCIAL to a successful baking endeavor.

Having said that, let me get on with my story.
My friend's house is about an hour away, so I didn't want to make the cake, and have it sit in the car for hours (we had a few errands to run that were on the way there). In hindsight, this was my downfall (after all, it was cold enough) and the fact that I had to bring all the equipment and most of the ingredients with me, didn't really help either.

I ended up arriving at my friend's house at 6pm.
Pastry Cream

, for those of you that don't know, needs at least 3 hours to set up, if not longer. Unfortunately, it didn't get into the fridge until almost 7. Also, the fridge itself was packed (ie: not very cold) and the opening and closing for beers didn't exactly make for the best cooling environment in the world.

After the pastry cream was put into the fridge, I started on the
Foolproof Sponge Cake

. Sadly, I had forgotten the baking pans at home (the kitchen in this house is pretty bare) and ended up using a sheet pan instead. Luckily it worked out and I was able to cut the cake in half to make a rectangular layer cake instead.

Around 10 we decided that it was getting close to cake time, so I started on the glaze. When the glaze was ready, I went to take the cream out of the fridge, but WHAT!? it was still pretty liquid-y, like condensed milk. So I stuck it in the freezer for 30 minutes, but still no luck. At 10:45, I gave up and tried to assemble the cake anyway. There weren't any plates large enough to hold the cake, so I used a baking dish and thank goodness, because the pastry "cream" oozed everywhere.

By this point, the glaze had started to firm up. I had tried to keep it warm, but hadn't been keeping an eye on it the entire time, so it was no longer the best glaze in the world. It was thick and messy, and I think I used too much chocolate. In the end I literally slathered it onto the cake. It was more like a ganache frosting than a "glaze."

The end result looked horrible to me. I had this vision of a beautiful cake and ended up with slimy, sticky goo. However, it tasted pretty good and the folks ate it up, so I really can't call it a total failure.

Note: I told PartySugar about the whole thing and she said I should have served it in wine glasses. DANG! Where was she on Saturday night?! That would have made for an elegant boston cream parfait!

DSC_8031.JPGBoston Cream Pie
From Baking Illustrated

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pastry Cream

, chilled

Foolproof Sponge Cake

, baked and cooled


  • Bring the cream and corn syrup to a full simmer over medium heat in a medium saucepan.DSC_8024.JPG
  • Remove from the heat and add the chocolate; cover and let stand for 8 minutes. (If the chocolate has not completely melted, return the saucepan to low heat; stir constantly until melted.)DSC_8025.JPG
  • Add the vanilla; stir very gently until the mixture is smooth.
  • Cook until tepid so that a spoonful drizzled back into the pan mounds slightly. (The glaze can be refrigerated to speed up the cooling process, stirring every few minutes to ensure even cooling.)DSC_8027.JPG


  • While the glaze is cooling, place one cake layer on a cardboard round on a wire rack set over waxed paper.
  • Carefully spoon the pastry cream onto the cake and spread it evenly up to the edges.
  • Place the second cake layer on top, make sure the layers line up properly.
  • Pour the glaze onto the middle of the top layer and let it flow down the cake sides.
  • Use a metal spatula, if necessary, to completely coat the cake. Use a small needle to puncture any air bubbles.
  • Let the cake sit until the glaze fully sets, about 1 hour. Serve the same day, preferably within a couple of hours.

*Note: My experience was more of a Boston Cream Disaster, however I know someone who has used this recipe and had fantastic results.

Pastry Cream
From Baking Illustrated

2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    • Heat the half-and-half, 6 tbsp of the sugar and the salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.DSC_7978.JPG
    • Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.DSC_7979.JPG
    • Whisk in the remaining 2 tbsp sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.
    • Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
    • When the half-and-half mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering half-and-half into the yolk mixture to temper.
    • Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.
    • Remove from heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.
    • Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.
    • Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.DSC_7992.JPG
    • Refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

DSC_8021.JPGFoolproof Sponge Cake
From Baking Illustrated

1/2 cup plain cake flour
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar

    • Preheat oven to 350F.
    • Grease pan and cover bottom with parchment or waxed paper.
    • Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt into medium bowl.
    • Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add vanilla. Cover and keep warm.
    • Separate 3 eggs, placing whites in the bowl of standing mixer, reserving the 3 yolks plus the remaining 2 whole eggs in another mixing bowl.DSC_7999.JPG
    • Beat the 3 whites at low speed until foamy.
    • Increase the mixer speed to medium and gradually add 6 tbsp of the sugar; continue to beat the whites to soft, moist peaks. (Do not overbeat.)
    • Transfer the egg whites to a large bowl and add the whole-egg mixture to the mixer bowl.
    • Beat the whole-egg mixture with the remaining 6 tbsp sugar.
    • Beat at medium-high speed until the eggs are very thick and pale yellow color, about 5 minutes. Add the beaten eggs to the whites.
    • Sprinkle the flour mixture over the beaten eggs and whites; fold very gently 12 times with a large rubber spatula.
    • Make a well in one side the batter and pour the milk mixture into the bowl.
    • Continue folding until the batter shows no trace of flour and the whites and whole eggs are evenly mixed, about 8 additional strokes.
    • Immediately pour the batter into the prepared cake pans; bake until the cake tops are light brown and feel firm and spring back when touched, about 16 minutes for 9-inch cake pans and 20 minutes for 8-inch cake pans.
    • Immediately run a knife around the pan perimeters to loosen the cakes.
    • Place one pan on a towel and cover the pan with a large plate.
    • Using the towel to protect your hands and catch the cake, invert the pan and remove the pan from the cake.
    • Peel off the parchment.
    • Reinvert the cake from the plate onto the rack.DSC_8028.JPG
    • Repeat with the remaining cake. Cool cake layers to room temp before proceeding.
  1. Note* I made this cake at someone else's house. This was the only cake pan they had. It still turned out perfectly.
























Food Food 10 years
Thanks for all the good thoughts everyone! Now that I've had more time to think about what went wrong, I'm sure I was in such a rush to get it in the fridge, that I didn't heat the cream long enough. Also, I kept stopping to take pictures, which sadly didn't even turn out well enough to put on the site... also, puddinpie, extra heavy cream would've been a great save, but this kitchen was bare!
LaylaCams LaylaCams 10 years
Aw, Yum! You busted your ass for this cake! I still think it looks yummy, but it is a little too advanced for me so it looks like I wont be baking this week. :innocent: But atleast you gave it a shot!
puddinpie puddinpie 10 years
^I respectfully disagree :) I would whisk the cornstarch with some sort of liquid (like the yolks, as the recipe states, or the yolks plus some of the cream from the pan) until it dissolves. Otherwise, cornstarch may form lumps in the cream as soon as it hits the pan. I suspect the pastry cream doesn't contain enough cornstarch (it is a little less than what I use for 2 cups of liquid), and perhaps you didn't heat it long enough so the cornstarch didn't reach its full thickening power. In a pinch, you can also whip up some heavy cream and then carefully fold it into your thin pastry cream so it has more body and is thicker. Anyway, I'm sure it tasted fine and it's the thought that counts!
sunnygordy sunnygordy 10 years
The easiest & most foolproof way to make sure you never have the Pastry Cream disaster again is to whisk together the sugar & the cornstarch together & then add to the milk. Heat all of this to boiling, whisking constantly, & then temper w/ the yolks. Add the tempered yolks to the pan & bring everything back up to the boil. Immediately remove from the heat & strain...perfect consistency every time. Try it next time & see! The genoise looked beautiful, btw...
crispet1 crispet1 10 years
Look at all your hard work! Now, who couldnt appreciate that!?
lickety-split lickety-split 10 years
my fool proof recipe: marie calendar's makes boston cream pies fresh everyday. if they delivered i'd be thrilled, but as is i'm willing to send dh for it.
jennifer76 jennifer76 10 years
You're a trooper, Yum!! It's always so disappointing when the result doesn't match the plan. :( Sounds like it was yummy, and the birthday boy was probably touched by your effort!
mandiesoh mandiesoh 10 years
AND im gonna add this to my faves. :p
mandiesoh mandiesoh 10 years
in all honesty, it still looks delish to me :DROOL:
rubialala rubialala 10 years
Oh my gosh, that is the funniest story! It's nice that it ended up tasting okay even though it didn't look so great.
Katharine Katharine 10 years
Oh I love Boston Creme Pie. Sorry yours didn't turn out well :(
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