This weekend we celebrated my dad’s birthday. When I asked him what he wanted, he said it didn’t matter. Birthday’s aren’t important to him because growing up they were never celebrated. To me that’s all the more reason to want to celebrate now. At the very least, a birthday needs a cake.
I was eventually able to get a request for cake with pudding out of him. I had originally planned to make a chocolate pudding tart, but when my mom came home with raspberries those plans changed to a Charlotte. Charlotte’s are molded cakes filled with mousse or custard and surrounded by cake or lady fingers. They are relatively easy to make and look very impressive.
I say relatively because I had a really, really hard time getting the Lady Fingers to stand up. I read several recipes from blogs, cook books, magazines, they all gave the same instruction: stand the lady fingers around the mold. None of them explained how to get them to stand. In the end I cut them in half to give them flat bottoms, making them more balanced.
I filled the Charlotte with a layer of Grand Marnier flavoured pastry cream and another of whipped cream, then topped the whipped cream with raspberries. To tie the flavours together I dipped the Lady Fingers in a Grand Marnier simple syrup. The result was creamy and decadent; the raspberries added the perfect touch of freshness.
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (divided)
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 tbsp Grand Marnier (divide)
- 1 package store bought Lady Fingers (or home made)
- 250 ml whipping cream
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 pint raspberries
- Make the pastry cream: In a heat-proof bowl whisk the egg yolks with 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Whisk in the flour and cornstarch, the mixture should look like a paste. Set aside. Heat the milk and vanilla in a medium sauce pan. Heat till just before boiling (there will be some small bubbles popping up). Pour a small amount of the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk to combine (this will temper the eggs). Pour in the remaining milk, whisking constantly. Return the custard to the saucepan, turn the heat to medium and whisk constantly until thickened. Stir in 1 tbsp Grand Marnier. Pour into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap then set aside to cool.
- Place the Lady Fingers: In a small sauce pan, heat 1/2 cup water with 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tbsp Grand Marnier. Let cool slightly. While cooling cut some the Lady Fingers in half, you will need enough to line the inside of a 9 inch springform pan. Lightly dip one Lady Finger in the simple syrup, then stand it up in the closed springform pan; the flat bottom of the cut Lady Finger should help it stand. Repeat until the entire rim is lined, then fill the base with dipped Lady Fingers. Pour the pastry cream into the springform pan. Refrigerate until set (about an hour).
- Once set whip the cream with the icing sugar. Spread on the pastry cream, then top with the raspberries. Refrigerate until ready to serve, then remove the springform mold.
Boston Cream Pie and I have a long and happy history. I’ve mentioned before that my family used to rent a cottage in Vermont. Way back in the day, we would head over the to Grand Union in Newport for our weekend groceries. To be honest, I don’t really remember enjoying grocery shopping as a kid, probably because my parents wouldn’t buy the variety pack cereal. That’s not to say they never bought me treats. This particular Grand Union had an in store bakery, and in that bakery were the greatest Boston Cream doughnuts I have ever had. Those doughnuts were the highlights of many weekends. The Grand Union closed years ago, but Boston Cream is still my first choice when a selection of doughnuts is around.
Since my doughnut experience is pretty limited, I decided to try the original Boston Cream Pie for my friend Frank’s birthday. Frank is one of the few people I know who loves custard/pastry cream as much as I do. Clearly we were meant to be friends. This was my first attempt at it, but all of the elements were familiar to me. It’s just sponge cake, pastry cream, and ganache. I used this recipe from Gale Gand. It tasted wonderful. I really liked the sponge cake, it had a great texture to it. I did have some issues though, the biggest being the cream oozing out of my cake. I could tell it was going to be a problem as soon as I poured the chocolate on. I snapped a picture as fast as I could, then watched in horror as I lost about half the cream. I’m not sure if there was anything I could do to prevent it, other than adding gelatin to the cream. The other issue I had with the recipe was the quantity of ganache it made. I had at least a cup left over, 8 ounces of chocolate is much too much to cover a 9 inch cake, so in the recipe below I cut the quantity down.
Boston Cream Pie
Recipe by Gail Gand
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup cooking oil
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out
- 6 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 ounces white chocolate, melted (optional)
- 1 tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)
- 5 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 2/3 cup heavy cream, boiling
- Make the pastry cream. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla to boil. Remove from heat and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together, mix in the cornstarch making sure there are no lumps. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the warm milk to temper the eggs. Stir in the remaining milk. Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan. With heat on medium, whisk until the cream has thickened. Mix in the butter, white chocolate, and Grand Marnier. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely cooled ( at least one hour)
- Make the cake. Preheat the oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour the milk, egg yolks, and vanilla in the well. Beat until well combined. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Fold the flour/egg yolk mixture into the egg whites. Pour into a 9 inch pie pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
- Make the ganache. Cut the chocolates into chunks. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is shinny and smooth.
- Assemble. Slice the cake in half. Spread the pastry cream on the bottom half of the cake. Put the top half of the cake on, then pour the ganache over the top. Cool in the refrigerator until the chocolate has set.