Monday, 1 October 2012

We Need More Cake

Well, it's a while since you had a cake recipe from me (I was aware there was a lot of cake there for a while, so I did make and effort to do more "dinners" for a bit!) so I reckon we could cope with more cake...

Boston Cream Pie
Anyhow the cake in question is Boston Cream Pie. I've been reading this particular recipe for over 12 years - my first ever "bakery" book that bought back in the day, Nigella Lawson's "How To Be A Domestic Goddess" has a recipe and a drool-inducing picture on page 17. 
Last year, the DinnerBabies got Lilly Higgin's "Make, Bake, Love" for my birthday (rapidly approaching again, in December - and this year is a biggie, gulp!) and I instantly recognized the cover picture as none other than a Boston Cream Pie. So it seems like I was being given a message, and that this was a cake I had to make.

Firstly, for those of you unfamiliar with Boston cream pie, it is pretty much the same as the doughnut of the same name that you get - a sponge cake, covered in chocolate with a sort of  custard cream in the centre (think "middle-of-a-crème-brulée" type consistency and flavour here). Nigella tells me that the filling is actually crème patissière and topped with a chocolate ganache icing. Crème patisserie is something that sounds quite scary - like the sort of thing you see the frankly amazing cooks on "The Great British Bake Off" whip up with ease and a slight nod to fear... But in her introduction, Nigella Lawson says "the idea of making crème patissière might seem daunting if you've not done it before, but it really isn't hard - and remember, the flour really does stabilize it, so it's nowhere near as tense-making as custard." I've made custard a few times now - it's a little tense, but as it's never curdled on my (yet!) I thought I'd like to give this a try.

So, I had a couple of recipes and I needed to decide which one to use. Nigella Lawson's recipe suggests Victoria sponge - I've never actually made Victoria sponge before (I usually just do "all-in-one" method, so handy) and I had actually tried the Nigella recipe many moons ago, to very little success (it was, in fairness to me, my very early days of baking but left me very nervous). So I thought that the best thing to do when in any sort of doubt is to check out Delia Smith. I was a little concerned that Delia stipulates 7 inch tins and I only had 8 inch... But off I went. 

The Victoria sponge is a far bit more of an effort - I must admit, I was doubtful that all the faff would be worth it. Not least when I started to fill the tins and realised that the extra inch was a potential dealbreaker - there was in NO WAY enough mixture to fill two tins! So I hurriedly scraped all the mixture into one tin and bunged it in the oven, and got started on the crème patissière. All the while the Galway hurlers were getting into more and more bother in Croke Park, so I found it extremely useful to keep myself busy with only the odd brief glance at the TV, while my sister and husband were glued to it - I was glad of the distraction!

So, here's the recipe, step-by-step. The Victoria sponge is definitely worth the faff! An all-in-one sponge is light and airy ... but the Victoria sponge; wow, it would nearly float away! It is definitely worth it though for this confection, as the filling and topping are so rich, the lightness of the cake really offsets it.

A classic Victoria sponge just has jam and cream (and fresh fruit too, if you like) filling and just icing sugar as a topping and it is, of course, great to have a good recipe to use on it's own, and of course everyone needs a recipe for a chocolate ganache, I use it to ice a lot (for a regular all-in-one chocolate cake, I would usually fill with chocolate butter cream and top with ganache - then stud with smarties, for the children... always goes down a treat!).

One last note - in light of the tin size disaster, next time out I think I will increase the cake recipe to 3 eggs and 6oz of flour, sugar and butter, but listed below is the "2 egg" recipe as that is the one I used yesterday. I know it's annoying to switch to ounces when I use grams for everything, but for cakes it's so easy - 2 eggs, 4oz everything else or 3 eggs and 6oz and easier to see on the scales, so I use ounces for cakes. But I've given grams too!

Victoria Sponge (by Delia Smith)

  • 4oz/ / 110g butter (must be soft - room temperature)
  • 4 oz/110g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4oz/110g self-raising flour
  • Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3
  • You will also need two 7 inch (18cm) round cake tins, at least 1½ inches (4cm) deep, greased and the bases lined with greasproof or silicone baking paper
  1. In a medium sized mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until you get a pale, fluffy mixture (an electric hand whisk speeds this up considerably, but a wooden spoon will do - although there is a fair bit of beating to, so electric is a bonus)
  2. In a separate bowl or jug, beat the eggs thoroughly together, then add them a little at a time, beating well after each addition. For a beginner, Delia Smith recommends just a teaspoon of egg at a time: if you add it like this, it won't curdle (it curdles when some of the hidden air that is beaten into the mixture escapes if the mixture "breaks" and - as the air makes it light - curdling like this will make it heavier). I had the eggs in a measuring jug, so I just poured in small increments at a time, with the electric whisk on the whole time 
  3. When the eggs have been incorporated, take a metal tablespoon, which will cut and fold the flour in much better than a thick wooden spoon. Have the flour measured out and hold it high, adding about a quarter of it to the mix - holding it high will add air to the mixture. Now gently and lightly fold the flour into the mixture (if you beat it with the whisk, you will loose some of the precious air). Repeat until all the flour is incorporated
  4. Now all the flour has been added, you should have a mixture that will drop off the spoon easily when you tap it on the side of the bowl. If not, add some hot water - one or two teaspoons, or, if you are using medium sized eggs, you might need a tablespoon more.
  5. Divide the mixture between the two prepared tins, place on the centre shelf of the oven and bake for 25-30 mins (I found my larger single cake took closer to 35 mins)
  6. When the cakes are cooked, the centre of the top of the cake feels springy when touched with a fingertip, and no imprint remains - it is absolutely crucial to be patient and not to open the oven for a peek halfway through, as the sudden rush of cold coming into the oven can cause the cakes to sink
  7. When cooked, remove the cakes from the oven and leave in the tins for about 1 minute to cool slightly. Then run a palette knife around the edge to loosen and turn out to a wire rack (to let air circulate), peeling off the paper bases as you go.
  8. Leave to cool completely while you get on with rest

Crème Patissière (by Nigella Lawson)Start this while the cakes are baking

  • 125ml full fat milk
  • 125ml double or whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla pod or one teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 15g plain flour
  1. Warm the milk and the cream in a saucepan along with the vanilla pod, split lengthwise. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat, cover and leave to infuse for 10 minutes (if you are not using the pod, then there is no need to infuse and just add the extract later, when you've combined all the ingredients).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar until creamy (I used a balloon whisk to start, then transferred to the electric hand mixer) and then beat in the flour
  3. With the point of small, sharp knife, scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and into the milk, then add this warm milk to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth (again, I used the electric mixer here). If using the vanilla extract, add it now
  4. Pour back into the saucepan and stir or whisk gently over a low heat until the custard thickens (think the consistency of a cold crème brulée, quite gloopy)
  5. Remove from the heat and let the custard cool by pouring it into a wide bowl and tearing off some greasproof paper, wetting it, then covering the bowl with it. This stops it forming a skin. Don't put this in the fridge: something goes horribly wrong with the texture if you do, and you want utter, smooth voluptuousness here (says Nigella)

Chocolate Ganache Icing (adapted by Sarah Hassell from Nigella Lawson)Wait for the cakes and crème patissière to cool before starting this step

  • 150ml double or whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 150g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  1. Warm the cream, vanilla extract and butter in a small but heavy saucepan over a gentle heat
  2. Bring the cream just to boiling point, and remove from the heat
  3. Add the chocolate pieces, stirring gently but purposefully (you don't want to treat it too harshly, but you want to work quickly) til all the chocolate melts into the cream and it becomes a smooth cohesive whole
  4. Leave to cool a little before icing (although you do want it runny enough to ice with)

To Serve

  1. Tear off four strips of foil or baking paper and place under the edges of one of the cakes on a serving plate (to catch the icing drips, they can then be removed to reveal a perfect cake) 
  2. Spoon the cooled crème on top of this cake and spread out and top with the second cake
  3. Dollop spoonfuls of the chocolate icing on top, letting it spread and drip down the sides
  4. Remove the paper strips from under the cake and serve on a now drip-free plate

PS - I nearly got into a spot of bother when cutting the cake - I had made a deep nick in the side, so I would be able to realign the top and bottom of the cake (a trick learned from my late mother) but once the cakes were cut... i couldn't see the bloody nicks! So I got two cocktail sticks and stuck one in each "tranche" of cake before finally separating them, phew, crisis averted!). Another reason for making a larger cake next time, would be to avoid having to cut the cake in half as there would now be enough mixture to make two separate cakes

Sorry the photos are a little blurry, in our haste to tuck in and taste this gorgeous pile of yumminess last evening, no one would wait for me to get the "perfect shot"


I would like to point out that this is now the TOP (and indeed, only!) contender for the significant-birthday-cake. If you can't blow out on your 40th, when can you?! There has already been a mini-row here this evening, with the mini's scrapping it out over the tail end of leftover cake, I'm sorry now I left my sister and brother-in-law home with a quarter of it, I was far too generous...

Sarah xx

PS - One year later.... Making another Boston Cream Pie today, a year on, give or take, from that first one. I've made a few in the intervening months, and I now use double the Vicky sponge recipe. So that is FOUR eggs, and 225g each of sugar, self raising flour and butter. And honestly - they are much prettier now, after a little practice! Also higher, as I use this larger recipe. And absolutely still the number one tip top favourite cake in our house.

1 comment:

  1. Is a Boston Cream Pie REALLY a Victoria Spinge recipe or is that just an adaptation? I'm looking for an authentic recipe, but all the US recipes are in cups!!