Friday, 3 May 2013

Willow's first birthday (Boston cream pie)

Today is Willow's first birthday. Its amazing to think that my little bird has been in my life for a year already. A friend once said "you never notice how time flies until you start measuring it against your children."

One of the best things about the kids being so little is that they really get no say in what kind of birthday cake I make them. In a few years, sure, I'll let them decide, but for now it's all me, baby!

After doing some thinking and looking around in Gojee (love that app!) and allrecipes, I decided to attempt a Boston Cream Pie. Which, interestingly, is not a pie at all. It is a custard-filled layer cake with chocolate ganache on top. I couldn't find a single recipe I liked, so I used three separate recipes: vanilla custard, white cake and ganache.

The custard turned out perfectly! I love custard, so I'm pretty excited to have found this recipe. I want to try different flavours now....

The cake, though delicious, was not the best choice for a Boston Cream Pie. I think instead of a white cake I should have looked for a sponge cake. It was too dense and when we cut it all the custard squished out. I will definitely use it for cupcakes, though.

I ran out of white sugar and used brown to make up the difference, which leant the cake a nice caramel-ey flavour and a lovely light brown colour. I also ran out of butter and didn't feel like going downstairs to get more (Willow was in a clingy mood and I didn't want to deal with the screaming....) so I ended up using about 2/3 butter and 1/3 applesauce. An interesting thing my-sister-the-chef taught me is that although you can sub out applesauce for fat in most baking recipes, you should always retain at least 1-2 tablespoons of the fat to keep the crumb.

The ganache.... Was disappointing. I tried a different recipe and - although it tasted lovely - I doubt I'll use it again.


Vanilla custard (adapted from

1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups water
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix nonfat dry milk, cornstarch, and sugar together in a medium sized saucepan. Stir in a mixture of water and egg yolks gradually, until smooth. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and smooth. Continue to cook while stirring over low heat for one minute longer. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Allow custard to cool before using.

White cake (also adapted from

2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter
4 eggs
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 2 9" cake pans.
In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.

Chocolate ganache

8 oz. semichocolate chips
¾ cups evaporated milk or heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. brandy (optional)

1. Melt chopped chocolate chips in evaporated milk.
2. Add butter and brandy (if using) and mix until smooth and shiny.
3. Cool slightly then dip biscotti or pour over cake or tart.

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