Posts Tagged With: sponge cake

Boston Cream Pie

A slice of life

Birthday cakes can be tricksy at times.  You are trying to make something that both appeals to the person in question AND to the other guests AND to yourself (in this case).  You don’t know if folks are wild about frosting, or prefer cake.  What about ice cream ?  Should candles grace the top ?  Far too many questions.  I’m already overwhelmed.

While I was home, my dad celebrated his birthday (he’s probably 21* now, quite the young’un).  He notoriously doesn’t like to eat white sugar.  Or chocolate.  Or sweets in general when attempting to be healthy.  However, I (being his daughter) know his weakness :  Boston Cream Pie.  When my sister and I were younger, he would sneak one out of Roche Bros. supermarkets as a treat or a fun dessert – which is how I came to know what Boston Cream Pie even was, for it is somewhat of an obscure dessert, with origins both in New York (for the original “pudding cake”) and in Boston (from the Parker House, which copied the NYC cake but topped it with chocolate glaze).  A nice, light, vanilla sponge cake filled with rich vanilla cream and slathered with fine chocolate ganache, this is a surprising birthday gateau – no ice cream necessary and yes, the candles will stay on and no – there is NOT very much butter involved.  It is surprisingly simple to make (once you get over the fact that yes, you need a billion eggs) but will take time and patience, for each component has to be done at a separate time.  If you have a snow day to spent inside, give this “pie” a whirl !

Pastry Cream :

1/4 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1/8 cup flour
3 tbsp cornstarch (scant – err on the side of LESS)
1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

I like to make the cream EITHER before I make the cake OR while the cake is cooking – it just depends on your preference, for the cream will need to chill for awhile.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the egg yolks and the white sugar.  Whisk together until nicely ribboned.  Ribboning is when the sugar and the eggs are combined so that the whisk, when lifted out of the pan, causes the mixture to run in a nice, thin ribbon of light yellow goodness back into the bowl.

Mmm. Yolky.

Mix mix mix

Finished product !

Add the flour and the cornstarch and mix again until smooth and pasty.  It should seem very thick and remain a light yellow. The flour and the cornstarch will act as thickening agents for the cream.  When they are heated, they release amylose, a starch molecule, that expands when exposed to water.  The eggs are also thickeners – as they cook, their protein structure changes to become less fluid and more solid.

Flour power

Extremely viscous.

Set aside for the moment.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk until it is barely boiling.  You will see steam rising from the milk and small bubbles forming on the sides of the pan.  THIS NEXT STEP IS IMPORTANT SO PAY ATTENTION :  We are going to do a little pouring and it might get messy but “if you’re alone in the kitchen, who’s to see ?” (Thank you Julia Child/Meryl Streep).  Here is the game plan : because the eggs are not hot, but the milk IS hot, we don’t want to just dump the eggs into the milk as they will cook/curdle/the cream will not be creamy.  It will be lumpy.  No one wants tapioca-like cream when tapioca is not an ingredient.  So, we have to temper the egg yolks – give them a chance to get used to the heat before throwing them into the fire..rather like when you don’t want to get into the cold ocean right away and you slowly tiptoe your way in.

Pour half of the hot milk into the egg mixture being sure to WHISK FRANTICALLY.  Then, pour the eggy concoction into the OTHER half of the milk, do not stop whisking, and place THAT back on the heat.  Whisk whisk whisk until you think your wrist is going to cry.  The mixture should instantly start to thicken. Add vanilla.  When it looks like custard, remove from heat and transfer to a clean bowl.  Place this bowl IMMEDIATELY into the fridge or into an ice bath to stop the cooking.  I never use the ice bath – I just chill mine – and all is usually well.

I've a frisky whisk...

You should be able to sample without drippage.

Let chill until cold and ready to use as filling !

Sponge cake :

5 large eggs
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp butter
1/8 tsp cream of tartar (for egg whites)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two 9” round pans with parchment paper (or grease well with butter).  Sponge cakes can be a little tricky, so using parchment paper takes some of the anxiety out of the removal process.  Separate three of the five eggs and allow them to come to room temperature before using.

In another bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  I love nutmeg and I think it tastes really nice sprinkled into the cake batter, so I add a few shakes of that to the flour mixture.

Place the milk and the butter in a saucepan over low heat and remove one the butter has melted.

Butter me up ;)


In a mixer (or by hand in a large bowl), beat 6 tablespoons of sugar with the yolks and the two eggs until they lighten significantly in color.  Just as we did with the pastry cream, make sure they from a thin ribbon when lifted from the beater.  Add the vanilla and mix well.

L'eggo !


Frothy (like my name)

In another bowl, beat the three egg whites (with a pinch of salt and the cream of tartar) until they resemble soft peaks.  If you are doing this by hand, it can be very tiring – soft peaks should allow the whisk to lift up, make a poof, and then that poof will stay stationary.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the warm milk mixture until just combined. Be careful not to overmix as the batter has yet to be folded.

Blending the flour.

HERE COMES THE BEST PART !  Fold the egg whites into the batter very gently.  In a sponge cake, the egg whites are the rising agent – there is no baking powder that causes the cake to expand.  Instead, it is the air trapped in between the newly-arranged proteins of the egg white that give the cake is sponginess/spring.  That said, if you mix too much, it will fall and taste rubbery.  Not enough ?  You’ll have blips of egg white (that don’t taste like anything) interspersed throughout.  It’s a delicate balance but aim for a swirled effect and the cake should turn out fine.

IMG_8621 IMG_8622

Pour into prepared pans and bake until golden brown and springy to the touch – about 20 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven.

The cake is a lie.

Chocolate glaze :

6 ounces (or so) of nice dark chocolate, chopped (I use chips)
1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 tbsp butter
Optional :  A little amaretto or frangelico adds a nice touch.

Place the cream and the butter in a pan over low heat.  Once it begins to simmer, pour the chocolate in and let stand for 2 minutes (off the heat) before whisking smooth.  Add the liquor if desired.

Butter and milk, again. Brown gold.


Assembly :

First, take one layer of the cake and dust the top with confectioner’s sugar – this will make it less sticky and easier to handle when placing it on the cake stand (or plate).


Remove the cream from the fridge and spread over the cake layer – don’t be afraid to load it up. Some might ooze out the sides, but that can be tidied up later.  The cream is my favorite part, so I’m not really fussed if it’s a smidge messy.

Oh creamy goodness.  Come to mama.

Place the final cake layer on top of the cream and slowly spread the warm chocolate ganache over the layer.  Do one thin layer, wait until it cools a little, then add another layer to avoid too much dripping.  That said, I think part of a Boston Cream Pie is a few rivulets of chocolate down the sides…but it’s up to you.

IMG_8653 IMG_8664


Bon appétit !

Happy Birthday !

Categories: English | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Strawberry Sponge Cake (Un Fraisier)









Normally, I post a picture of JUST the final product here…but I feel like we need to gaze at these strawberries for a minute. I love these small, red fruits.  My mom picked up a pint of berries (locally grown!) from a farm stand and they just looked so…delicious.  Delectable.  RED.  They made me think of this children’s book that my sister and I would always read (and quote) :

In any case, my sister found this gorgeous cake recipe that I figured we had to try as it featured strawberries as the star.  It is a riff on the French “fraisier,” a creation that is creme and strawberries between layers of thin yellow cake.  Our spin uses a very light sponge cake with a rum glaze, whipped cream and strawberry filling smothered in sliced almonds.  For a summer night, it’s essentially perfect.

For the cake :

6 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
2 pints fresh strawberries
2 cups sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans – I usually use parchment paper to line my pans but I’m all out…so wax paper will have to do.

It usually works fine but can be a little tricky if you let the cake cool in the pan.  You have been warned.   Separate the eggs, putting the whites aside for later and placing the yolks in a large mixing bowl.

Add the vanilla and turn on mixer to medium speed, beating the yolks.  As they start to change color, pour the sugar in slowly.  Beat until the yolks take on a light, lemony yellow color.

This is called ribboning, a process where you beat air into the yolks and dissolve the sugar.  When the egg mixture cooks, this intense beating keeps it from turning grainy.  Add the water and the flour, mixing until just combined – no more.  The batter will be mixed more when the egg whites are added.

Speaking of egg whites…in another bowl, combine salt, cream of tartar, and egg whites.  Beat on high until stiff but not dry.  They should form peaks that hold all on their own – like little mounds of snow.  When eggs are beaten, the proteins in the white are sort of…taken apart and put back together again in such a way that the eggs hold air bubbles really well, allowing them to double in volume.

Fold the egg whites into the batter, being careful not to over mix.  The whites add the spring to the cake and will give it that “spongy” texture.









Pour into the pans and bake for about 20-25 minutes and golden brown on top.  You’ll know they are done when you can poke them with your finger and the cake bounces back.  Let cool.









For the syrup :

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup rum

Pour the sugar and water together and boil over medium heat until everything is dissolved. Add rum.  Set aside and let cool.








For the whipped cream :

3 cups heavy (whipping) cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Prepare your bowl by placing it in the freezer before pouring the cream in.  Beat on high speed, adding the sugar and vanilla while mixing.  The whisk beats in air to the cream, whose fat particles trap it and allow the cream to double (triple?) in size.

Assembly :

Take one layer of the cake and place it on a cake plate (or platter…or something….).  Paint the top with the rum syrup.  I love this flavor, so I think adding plenty of it is a nice idea BUT if you aren’t a fan of rum, just paint lightly.

Place the whipped cream on top and smooth out.  Place strawberries on top, being sure to distribute evenly.

Put more whipped cream over those berries, followed by the second cake.  Again, paint with the rum syrup and then cover the entire cake with whipped cream.

Plop the rest of the strawberries on top of the cake.  We made a nice design but I think it would be just as lovely with a heaping pile of red, juicy joy.

Cover the sides of the cake with sliced almonds.  We did this by essentially throwing almonds at the side of the cake.  You can achieve this look by taking handfuls of almonds and just smothering the sides of the cake OR rolling the entire cake in the almonds….that seemed too daunting for my sister and I so…chucking almonds at the side of the cake was our choice.  It worked out just fine…aside from the mess.  🙂

Slice and eat on a hot summer night…maybe after a daiquiri…or two.

Bon appétit !

Categories: English | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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