Papa Eclair

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

   Inclement weather aside, I have been keeping busy the last few weeks- visiting family, working, planning for next year when I officially start my new residency... that last one tuckers me out just thinking about it! I'm looking forward to a (hopefully) quiet weekend.

   But it isn't working on my application or studying for work that is most important- most important is all the fantastic recipe testing that I've managed to squeeze in! There have been Spicy Black Bean Burritos, Coffee Rubbed Pork Tenderloin, Gougeres, Creamy Corn with Swiss Chard and Kale (a keeper- I need to recreate this, write down the proportions and share with all of you), The Infamous Turkey Chili, Chocolate Chip Cookies and- my favorite- Boston Cream Pie.

   Now, I don't remember when my love of Boston Cream Pie began, where I was when I first tasted it or who baked and served that first fateful slice. I do, however, know what I thought of the first time I tasted it: eclairs. Eclairs and all things Pate a Choux, hold a special place in my heart, and a slice of properly made Boston Cream Pie is like an eclair on steroids. All soft, sweet cake, creamy delicious pastry cream and a tantalizing ribbon of mysterious, dark chocolate... it doesn't get much better than that.

   Several years ago a good friend of mine and I made eclairs and, I don't remember why, we decided to zest a lemon into the pastry cream. I credit that heavenly pastry cream for her dad's subsequent renouncement of his diet for the afternoon.  I've never gone back to plain vanilla pastry cream- the tangy presence of lemon is welcome in any and every recipe I've used pastry cream with since.

   As a testament to the fabulousness of this cake, Steve has decided it is his new official birthday cake. And people, if you've ever seen that man with his carrot cake, you would realize the magnitude of this endorsement. It's that good.

Lemony Boston Cream Pie
Adapted from Gale Gand 
   Note: as a bonus, this recipe makes quite a bit of pastry cream and I ended up with about a cup extra. Apply to breakfast toast or warmed and spooned over ice cream to your heart's content!
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 milk
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil (I recommend canola)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
   Pastry Cream Filling
  • 2 cups milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Chocolate Ganache
  • 8 ounces high quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream 
   To make the pastry cream: in a medium saucepan, bring the milk, vanilla bean with seeds and lemon zest to a simmer over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 to 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Very slowly whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture (you want to slowly bring the eggs up to temperature to avoid scrambling them).
   Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, discarding the vanilla bean. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat, scrape into a mixing bowl and stir in the butter. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. This step can be done up to 24 hours in advance.
    To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch round cake pan with butter and coat with granulated sugar.
   In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. 
   In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium to high speed until soft peaks form. Set aside.
   Add milk, oil, egg yolks, and vanilla to the dry cake ingredients. Mix with a rubber mixing spatula until well combined and very smooth. Fold in egg whites.
   Pour the batter into your prepared cake pan.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Invert the pan onto a wire rack. Cool for 15 minutes then remove from the pan and cool completely on a cake rack.
   To make the ganache: place the chocolate in a mixing bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a bare simmer over medium heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate and gently stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is very smooth. Set aside to cool until you are ready to assemble the cake.
   To assemble: cut the cake into two even layers with a long serrated knife. Place the bottom layer on your serving dish. Spread as much pastry cream as you desire over this first layer (I used enough to get about a half inch of pastry cream between the cake layers). Place the second layer atop the pastry cream and press gently to secure it in place. Spread a thin layer of ganache atop this, spreading it so it drips down the sides in places.
   Cake will keep at room temperature for up to 2 days. 
   Serves 8


  1. Wow! Two great ideas to help your father and me get through the weekend as well. We will go through empty nest , again, since your brother and sister return to college on Saturday! The Boston cream pie will be a far cry from the boxed mix I've used through the years! I'm so excited!! I'll send a picture that will hopefully look something like yours! Love you, mom

  2. Sounds like you need comfort food this weekend- chili and then Boston Cream Pie for dessert! Love you too